You’ll probably hear the term “Zeroed Out” at some point in your music career, regardless of what you do in the industry. Let’s talk about what it is, what it does, and why it’s important!
What does Zeroed Out mean?
When you zero out a track (or file, or stem), you flush it so that it starts at the beginning of the song. For example, as a session singer, my vocal part rarely starts right away. There is usually a song intro, and then my vocals come in. Zeroing the track means the space before my voice starts is included in the stem. If I didn’t zero them out, my voice would start right away and the mixer would have to move it to the right spot.
Why is it important to have zeroed out tracks?
You don’t want to annoy people you work with, for obvious reasons. If your part isn’t supposed to start right away, you should always make sure your tracks are zeroed. When you send someone your files, they should be able to just drag-and-drop them right into their session (or DAW) and get to work on mixing. If the files are screwed up, they have to spend time figuring out where they should go. They might call you for clarification or to ask you to resend it. If you don’t know what they are talking about, there will be more confusion and time wasted.
How do I make sure my tracks are zeroed out?
Depending on your DAW, you might not need to worry about it. Some do it automatically. The old-school way to zero them out is to record some blank audio (you can mute it later) and place it at the beginning of the song, on the same track. Then merge the two together. You can also just start recording from the beginning of the song and come in when you’re supposed to. The easiest way is to export your track as an audio file. This will start each track at zero. Every DAW does this a little differently, but here’s a video I made showing how to export from Logic to iTunes:
This zeros it out automatically. Play around in your DAW and see how to export to iTunes or export as an audio file. Hopefully this helps! If you have any specific questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help you find an answer!
I need to mention that exporting to iTunes will automatically make your file 16 bit. This may not matter, but if you want your track zeroed out and 24 bit, you’ll simply highlight the track, then go to File > Export > 1 Track as Audio file. You can then select 24 bit as an option.