Thinking about making music? Here are some of the most important tips and tricks that will help you in your Music Production.
1. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
A DAW is the tool that will allow you to create, edit, record and mix your music. Comprised of different Elements a DAW is your best friend. Choosing the right DAW can be difficult but check out my previous blog to help you choose what’s best for you. https://www.redjproductions.com/post/which-daw-is-the-right-for-you
2. Study Your DAW
YouTube, YouTube and more YouTube. There are a vast amount of tutorials out there on every DAW that will aid you in the learning process, I can’t stress this enough, the more you know you're DAW the easier the process will become.
3. Music Theory
Once you have a basic idea of how your DAW works and how to create new clips, instruments and basic mixing, this were your writing process begins. Having a basic idea of Music Theory such as Chords, Melody’s, Bar Structure and Keys Scales. Will allow your writing to harmonize in a way that even tho your groove and timing might be off the music will always have a balance between notes.
The Simplest way to apply groove to your song is Drums. Drums are what keeps the listener interested, keep it simple but allow for change ups. For example we will say you have written a nice 4 bar loop with chords, melody and bass. Its then time to add a grove to your song. Kick Drum, Snare, Claps, Hi Hats and Cymbals. Remember when first starting out don’t over complicate things, keep things simple, sometimes the best written songs are simplistic. Check out this link to help you apply groove to your song.
5. Arrangement/Song Structure
Arrangement for me was the hardest part of creating a song. You can have a brilliant 4/8/16 bar loop but it arranging it in such a way that creates a song, a vibe, a Feeling of an overall story can be tasking. Once you have a loop in place that you feel is groovy or banging. I recommend copy and pasting the whole loop from the beginning to the Desired length of your song. Then start to cut elements of the song out. What this does is give you a perspective of journey. What do you want as the beginning want to you want as the hook what elements keeps the song flowing. Bear in mind songs are usually structured in sections. For example Hip-Hop at 98BPM typically has an Intro of 8 Bars, then a verse of 16 Bars, Chrous/Hook of 8 Bars, then another verse of 16 Bars, Chrous/Hook again, maybe another verse of 16, then Chorus/hook as your Outro. Do you see a pattern? Sections of songs are typically divided up into 4,8, and 16 bar sections this allows for a sense of structure, expectation, repetition and change.
7. levelling and Panning
After you feel you have a good structure for your song in place. My recommendation would be to adjust the pan on the individual tracks in your song. By giving sounds their own space in a Song allows for a more enjoyable stereo sound. But bear in mind that some instruments do not need panning such as the kick, typically stays centre. Levels/volumes always comes after panning for me.
As by panning an individual track changes the overall level of the track. Finding a nice balance is key to an overall good sounding mix. An easy way to start would be to reduce every individual track to zero. Bring your lead sound up to a desired volume. My recommendation would be between -12dB and -8dB although this might sound quiet at first loudness can always be added in the final stage's i.e Mastering, it’s good practice to do this as you have to allow what we call headroom for a sound. After your lead sound is at the desired volume start adding other elements slowly such as bass, guitar, piano, etc I would leave the drums as the final elements to add, as if your drums are too loud, you will always tend to turn things other elements up in volume if the drums feel overpowering. Once you have a nice balance in your instruments you can move on. 6. Layers
Layering your instruments and elements in a song can be an important piece of the puzzle. By doing this it can add body to your sound, a sense of fullness, as there are some sounds that just sound thin. But be careful in your technique as you don’t want your sounds to overpower any other Elements and make the song muddy!
Adding FX or Transitions into your song helps blend the structure together, think about in terms of a movie when a big scene happens in a movie you will see a transition from that moment to next, it is the same in music. When for example as explained earlier going from an Intro to a verse adding FX such as a riser or a cymbal reversed adds a sense of change to the listener, by then adding FX such as a down-lifter or Cymbal on the bar that changes can add energy to the change that will appeal to the ears of the listener. Just a quick tip in doing this get the volumes correct for balance.
8. EQ (Equalizer)
Each individual sound you choose for your song wont be perfect, even though you may have everything blended and sounding good. Using EQ to cut and boost individual frequencies of a sound can be used in such a way to help balance the sounds together within the track. It is good practice to understand the different frequency ranges of different instruments which will help you greatly in this process.
By adding effects to your sounds can change the whole overall sound of your song. Effects such as reverb, delay, chorus and flanger can add something in which I call glamour to a sound. When sounds are dry in a song it tends to sound boring or static. But by adding effects to your sounds, really can bring them to life, the best example of this are on Vocals with and without reverb. Sometimes this can be added in a negative way also by just adding to much of an effect to a sound, so use with a pinch of salt to get your desired effect. Remember the more you know the better you will become so study your craft. 10. Final Bounce and Master
The final bounce or the mix down of the song is the final step to comprising the whole song together in one file. Once you have this done it’s then time to add the polish, master the track. My recommendation for anyone starting of is, don’t focus to much on the mastering as you can use tools such as Ozone that come with good presets or online sites such as LANDR that will do this for you. I’d focus more on the mixing of a song rather than the master because without a good mix the master can only do so much.