How was old music produced and recorded
The 14 Music Production Secrets Everyone Should Know
The magazines are full of new equipment, musical instruments and all kinds of gadgets that we would like to have. But no matter how much we buy and no matter how much we seek advice - the sound of our own productions just doesn't want to get better. This is where we begin to go around in circles.
What you prefer to keep silent about: the secrets of music production.
By Carlos San Segundo
Secrets of music production that nobody talks about
Unfortunately, it's not (always) as easy as buying a new guitar or a better audio plug-in. Getting a great sound out of a production is hard work and requires a certain amount of experience. Just like with an instrument, you have to practice and, at some point, practice effectively.
Acquiring the right skills can be difficult. Many of us learn from specialist magazines such as delamar or videos on the Internet. These are full of first class information, but the learning doesn't happen according to the curriculum like a book - rather, it happens in random order.
And then there is usually still a mentor missing to distinguish the important from the less important lessons for you. Therefore, in the following you will find some secrets of music production that everyone needs to know - but that are not always talked about.
Mastering comes at the end
Audio mastering is an art in itself and can add a lot of shine to a music production. At the same time, it is not magic that can create gold out of everything.
But for me it's about something else - mastering is the last phase in music production, it only comes after mixing. And even if your computer is full of great mastering plugins: You have to be strong and save them until the song is actually finished.
Great sound comes from the source
Anyone who picks up a kitten shouldn't be surprised if no lion can be heard on the recording. And even later, no one becomes of it anymore through effects.
I would like to point out that you have to make sure that it sounds great in your recording room. No compromises on the sound of the guitar, the drums or the positioning of the singer in the room. Make sure it sounds great as you record and then you can even polish it later.
Also read: Audio Engineer Training
You don't need an arsenal of microphones
As a true microphone lover, I find it very difficult to write this point down. Yet it remains true.
It is fantastic when you can fall back on many microphones and their different sound characteristics. But that is not necessary. A single microphone is sufficient to record a whole band (preferably one after the other). And the results can be heard.
In fact, for the beginner, having too many options to choose from is counterproductive. It takes time to hear a microphone and its character, and to learn how to use it. It is better to first try out a microphone on as many different sound sources as possible.
The same goes for plugins
There is a plugin for every purpose. And there is also a fantastic billion free VST plugins that we would all love to try out. Now. Right away. No.
In essence, it's all about making great music. And trying too many tools makes it difficult for us to find the right tool - or even know how to use it properly.
Wouldn't it be much better if we used the time to use one plugin correctly?
Mono is your best friend
It is difficult enough to set up a microphone correctly. If you want to make stereo recordings, it will be a lot more difficult. Because then the talent not only has to be correctly positioned in front of the microphones, you also have to position the microphones correctly in relation to each other. When you have gained a little more experience with it later, you can switch to stereo microphone (if necessary at all).
But even when mixing, you can start with a mono mix in order to find the right volume balance. Reverb effects don't all have to come in stereo either ...
Also read: Amp miking & recording
Get there faster with the operating instructions
I'm an impulsive person and whenever I have a new tool, I turn all the controls, press the buttons and try everything out. You also? Well, we're both real rebels. And it's more fun to discover things for yourself.
But: It takes much longer to try everything out yourself and find out what the cryptically labeled button is for or what effect a controller has. You can save time by reading the operating instructions - it's faster. And that means more time to make real music with the new tool.
Pro tip: I know a musician who has his own black book in which he writes the most important tips for using plugins and hardware. For reference, so that he can refer to it more quickly later if he forgot.
Resist the marketing of the manufacturers
Ah ... that one plugin, tool, instrument, music software - you'd swear it would make a huge difference to your production. Forget it, you should resist. It probably won't make much of a difference, let alone that the music listener would care.
Use your time and financial resources to improve your skills.
Learning takes time
Speaking of improving skills - you should reserve your own time blocks for this purpose, in which it is only about learning new techniques or know-how. Here you can try new things without the pressure to succeed, check new tools or get input from other musicians and sound engineers. Most importantly, you don't need to worry about making any mistakes during these study blocks.
In addition, at some point pure doing comes up against a kind of upper limit that cannot be ignored. Dedicated learning sessions help to keep pushing the boundaries upwards.
Recording is not mixing
A good way to avoid getting lost as a one-man show is to split up the individual production steps: songwriting, recording, editing, mixing and, at the end, mastering. While you're recording a song, you don't have to worry about mixing down or polishing the tracks. Nor is now the time to do a vocal comping - it just takes time and energy away from the actual task.
The better you can focus on a recording session, the better the results will be - technically and in terms of performance.
Also read: The process of a music production
In the interviews with producers, the exciting stories are always explained - how a guitar was doubled 20 times, that the reverb was recorded with an old cassette recorder in the stairwell of the school or how the synthesizer sound comes from a complicated matrix of patch cords and Euroracks. These are cool stories and are great for marketing.
The other tracks and songs were usually recorded or produced in an old and simple manner, even if they were boring. So if you're mixing, mastering, or recording your own music, you're welcome to stick with the traditional methods. In the end, what counts is the song and what the result sounds like: not how it came about.
Equalizer, compressor, delay and reverb
These four effects are usually sufficient for mixing a song. With them you can achieve most of the sound. Of course there are tons of other super awesome effects. Especially at the beginning you should be very conservative with the effects and not fall into a typical amateur trap for musicians: Overproducing a song. Or even worse, wrecking the sound completely.
No Maggi fix for the mix
No, unfortunately the mistake cannot be corrected in the mix - even modern music software is not a sewage treatment plant. Shit in, shit out. If you are not satisfied with the basic sound, the performance or the preset used during recording, change it now and record the passage again.
If something is wrong, do it again. And right.
Organization is half the battle
I can still hear my parents and their words very well ... how important tidying up and organization is. Well, it turns out they were right. Those who organize and plan their projects well will a) achieve the goal at all, b) achieve the goal faster and c) usually with better results. And yes, exceptions prove the rule.
If you group your tracks in the DAW software, put them in folders and mark all the same instruments (tracks from drums, bass, guitars) with colors, you will find your way around better. And those who find their way around look less and have more time to polish the song.
And of course that doesn't just apply to mixing, but to every single work step.
Reference tracks & ear reset
Perhaps it is not openly discussed, but the professionals also use reference tracks. This is not about copying. It's about calibrating your own ears against reference material. Otherwise we always think how incredibly awesome our music sounds - until we hear a track on the radio.
It's best to take a break every now and then to listen to a reference track and let it affect you. This helps with songwriting as well as mixing and mastering. This is how you learn what makes the music genre or a great sounding mixdown.
Also read: Reference Tracks: The Secret Ingredient In Mixing And Mastering
The most important secret of music production: It's never too late!
You are never too old to learn anything new. Some started at 15, others became successful at 50. Today is a good day to learn something new and start a new song.
So if you want to produce music, start doing it today.
Not tomorrow. Now!
What secret of music production have I forgotten? Write me in the comments!
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