The development of music production software has made it easy to compose songs and tracks. However, it is critical for professionals and aspiring music producers to learn the step by step process of creating music. The essential components of any song are the instruments, i.e., the drums, guitar, keyboards, bass and vocals. Learning how to mix and arrange the sounds of these individual components constitutes the production process. It is a five-step process. We won’t go into the nitty-gritty of each step, but we will highlight essential tips to help you execute every procedure.
The process involves getting external sounds into a computer. You can do it by pointing a mic directly at a piano or using record members of a band simultaneously via an audio interface. Since most machines are not equipped for audio or other forms of recording, an interface allows the guitarist, drummer and vocalist to plug the equipment directly to the computer and record. Here are tips to help you during this process:
- Get rid of distractions: Your work station should have minimal distractions. Ideally, a music studio should have a soundproof feature to eliminate noise within and without the workspace. If working at home, switch off your televisions, smartphone or smartwatch.
- Use a high-quality interface: It affects the quality of your recordings and those of the instruments. Professionals recommend starting with high-quality recording to reduce the amount of work required during the mixing stage.
- Enhance your input signal: If recording several vocalists use mic preamps to ensure the signal is good enough. Audio interfaces come with built-in mic preamps to help increase the signal to the recording requirements.
This aspect enables your track to sound full, unique and professional. For example, if you are stacking five sounds to create a chord, think about its uniqueness to listeners. The best way to achieve this is to ensure there is a variation in the ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release) of each sound. As such, if a sound has a slow attack and a long release, layer it with another sound with a fast attack and a short release. It ensures each layer is constantly changing, morphing and complimenting the other. The following tips also come in handy:
- Avoid selecting similar sounds: Different sounds with unique timbers create a fuller, head-turning tracks.
- Integrate atmospheric sounds: It can be a recording of laughing children, bass drones, a constant hum in a big city or another unique sound. It creates a significant impact on the production process.
- Less is more: Ensure each layer has a unique purpose and rarely need to use two layers to play the same role.
Many companies produce readymade midi packs with drum loops, instruments, beats, vocal lines, basses and leads of every genre. Such sample collections provide quick fixes, but it is essential to know when to quit a track. Melodies are developed as a result of the sound design. You can test them out alongside a piano to identify good and bad sounds. If a sound is good as a piano, it will sound good on an instrument. Alternatively, consider altering midi packs samples to make new progressions. Since it is illegal to copyright a chord progression, you can take the sequences of an existing track, swap out the chords and perform some inversions to create an entirely different one.
This stage determines how the song spreads across the stereo spectrum and the frequency range. Mixing also determines how much bass is used on the song. The rule of the thumb is that the bassier the track, the more sound-full it feels. Additional points to note when mixing include:
- Ensure you mix the tracks at low volumes
- Turn up the bass
- Listen to the track in different environments
- Integrate saturation plugins
This step begins once the mixing process ends. It involves taking the final piece and delivering it to the end-user while taking into account features like the track length, noise reduction and codes. Mastering is not meant to correct the many problems in your mix but to highlight, accentuate and make the final piece prominent. You may use a range of mastering equipment, including EQ, stereo spreading, and compression to make the mix sound highly professional and commercial. A fresh set of ears also comes in handy.