Raise your hand if you’re a musician who isn’t a big tech person!
My hand just shot up along with hundreds of other people, I’m sure. Today I’m going to break down a complicated, techie term that goes over a lot of musicians heads: Bitrate.
What is the bitrate? How does bitrate impact a song? Why should you even care? Let’s discuss!
What is Bitrate?
Bitrate (or bit rate) is the term for the number of kilobits per second of the song. Boring stuff if you’re just a musician and don’t care about the tech side, but it can definitely impact your final product so it’s worth noting!
When you work with a studio or session musician, they will record and export their stems at a certain bitrate. 128 kbps is generally what music on the radio sounds like, while iTunes uses 256. Generally, it is recommended to use 160 or higher.
How do I set the bitrate?
Every DAW is slightly different, but it’s usually in your preferences. I use Logic Pro X, so I would go to File – Project Settings – Audio and change it there. Logic also allows you to set templates so that every recording has the same settings. This is a great time-saver and I highly recommend it!
To set a template in Logic Pro X, open a blank project. Create an ideal setup within Logic, including bitrate, effects, or anything you prefer. Go to File – Save as Template.
Again, every DAW is different and I can only speak for Logic, but it should be similar in all programs!
Why is the bitrate important for me to know if I’m not a mixer or producer?
If someone sends you a track in a different bitrate from what you are currently using, it will sound weird. That’s the main reason, and the reason I included it as a term in my book (see it here). Many people (myself included, to be honest) don’t bother to ask what bitrate the client wants. I assume you have a standard and I have one, and on the very rare occasions something sounds off, that’s usually a quick fix to get it back on track. I included it here just to make you aware of it and to check there first if an issue arises! You don’t have to be an expert on it (I certainly am not), just be aware of it and know that you might have someone ask what bitrate you’d like.
Your DAW probably gives you the option to record at 16 or 24 bit. I would always do 24, just because 1). it’s higher quality and 2). it’s easier to have one standard across the board. People LOVE to debate music stuff like this though, so there is no easy answer! Don’t sweat it too much, just know to check your bitrate if a problem occurs.
This blog does a good job of breaking down the different bitrates.
So how do you feel now? Are you any more confident about this term? If so, please tweet me and let me know!Now I know what a bitrate is and can use the term with confidence! Click To Tweet
This article was originally posted on May 26, 2016.