Introduction to Audio Production: "For Newbs"

Updated: Dec 30, 2019


Ok… So you came up on some beats, wrote some lyrics, and now you’re ready to start recording. Maybe you will be recording your music with a “Do It Yourself” approach using your own home set up.


It is important to understand that the quality of your music production can make or break how potential listeners react to it. Some artists have budgets, allowing them to invest into a professional that will give them a solid product. Other artists might not have any budget at all to invest into themselves, resorting to recording projects on their own even if they don’t have any knowledge or experience doing so.

A lot of artist with no recording experience don’t know the steps in which a professional record is made, leading to a poor quality project that can deter potential listeners from becoming fans. I can’t count how many times I've skipped music by random artists that pop up when I’m streaming music just because the quality of the product was hurting my ears.


If you’re just starting off as an artist with no budget and are recording yourself, this should help you feel a little more confident about it.


First Things First: "The Process"

There are three steps to music production before there is a finished product to send off for distribution to be released: Post Production, Mixing, and Mastering.


Being new to the recording process it’s easy to think that all you have to do is set up a microphone, turn up the pre-amp, record your vocals, adjust the fader, and then call it a good days work. Unfortunately, there is a lot more that goes into a professional quality project.


Lets break it down…


Post Production

Post production is the recording process, making it the first step. This is where you make sure to capture all your best takes and any other layers, sounds, or effects you want in your music. You know, ”The Money Take”.


If you were to work with a producer during this phase, they would record the same parts over and over again until they feel they have gotten “The Money Take”. It can be frustrating if you’re the artist behind the microphone but it’s necessary to achieve quality so if you’re recording yourself, do the same thing!


Don’t sell yourself short by accepting a mediocre performance. If your recording demo’s as apart of the writing process of your music then it’s acceptable to run through recording quickly to get your ideas out. But if you’re recording a project to release and share, put in the time and effort to capture the best version of your music possible.


It is important that your happy with the end result. The last thing you want to do is work backwards by deciding you need to record new vocal takes during the mixing phase of the project because you don’t like the way they sound, setting the production of your music behind schedule.


Mixing

Mixing is the process that follows post production where the engineer uses volume, panning, processing, and effects to create the perfect balance, evoking the emotion from your music.


Mixing is very subjective to us as individuals. Each genre of music has different focal points that are focused on when mixing a specific genre. For instance, rap and hip hop focuses on low end and drums with the vocals being placed up front as focal points. Rock music focuses on the energy of the guitars and vocals as focal points instead of low end and drums. Take that into consideration when you’re researching and learning mixing techniques to use on your projects.


More experienced artists most likely have a budget to hire an experienced mixing engineer. If you are inexperienced with mixing, and you are able to invest into yourself, then this is what I personally recommend. There will be a lot less headaches and you’ll get a product you can be proud to release. Even if you recorded the project yourself, send your music to a mixing engineer! Unless mixing is an ambition of yours then practice makes perfect.


There are a lot of engineers offering affordable services out there on fiverr with a wide range of prices. You can also always type “music mixing services” in a search engine and see what shows up. Just remember that if you do hire some one to mix your music, make sure they are capable of mixing your genre. You don’t want to hire an engineer with nothing but rock projects on their portfolio if you’re a rap artist.


Mastering

When you have finally approved a final mix, the session gets bounced down to a stereo track (sometimes two stereo tracks) and then sent to a mastering engineer. He will be responsible for the finishing touches of the mix that will be sent off for distribution as the finished product.


The goal of this process is to glue the song(s) together using processing like compression, limiting, and EQ. These tools help add color, create space in the stereo field, tame problematic frequencies, adjust loudness levels, etc., etc., resulting in a professional quality sound.


This final stage in the production process is a whole different form of art so if you’re able to invest into getting your projects mastered by a professional do it!


Even if you don’t have money to invest for post and/or mixing, this is the step I would recommend you make an investment into, if you could invest into anything at all.


Once again, fiverr has a lot of engineers offering these services at affordable prices.


There are also online mastering sites that master your music for you on the spot that are reasonably affordable: LANDR and eMASTERED


These two sites are very popular with independent artists and offer multiple plans to choose from based on what you are able to afford. You can get your first song mastered for free to sample their services.


I only recommend these sites if you are releasing music regularly because you will have to purchase a monthly or annual subscription.

BandLab is another online mastering service similar to LANDR and eMastered and the great thing about them is that it’s free to sign up! So if you can’t afford spending money on mastering use this site!


The site give’s you four styles of processing to choose from with the free version but I have mastered a few songs using this site and I was quite impressed.