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The Music Producer Guide

Here we will give 108 practical tips on music production, separated by category. Enjoy!




Recording


01. The recording must be done very carefully. Be aware that a good mix doesn't save a bad recording and vice versa. So be patient and help the interpreters do their best. Check that the instruments are in tune and adjusted.

02. Know the microphones, their timbre, the use of each one and the instrument's capture positioning. Try different microphones with a vocalist you don't know, as each voice has a unique timbre.

03. Record the same sound with different microphones, so you can choose the best one later, or mix the signals in stereo. Keep cables in good hands, otherwise unwanted noise and clicks may occur.

04. It can be nice when recording to insert return effects that improve performance, like a reverb or compressor in the voice for example, but if possible, so you can change it later. With guitars and basses, use a DI to pick up the separate signal separate from the microphones.

05. Provide musicians with comfortable headphones with a balanced mix for their performance. And be careful not to leak the sound from the headphone into the capture, even if the musician insists on wanting a louder return.

06. Master your preamp gain, what we want is a signal as high as possible, but without breaking the 0db. Always record in 24-bit, sampling rates above 44.1 kHz takes up more HD space.

07. Acoustics is a complex subject, but avoid hard surfaces near microphones. If possible, record in separate rooms and be careful about fan, air conditioning, and computer noise. If there is no professional treatment, improvise with cloths and foams.


Editing


08. Listen to all the different playlists / tracks recorded from the same interpretation carefully to choose the best one. This is one of the most tiring processes, but extremely important in the final product. If organized, name them as tracks.

09. Clean up everything before and after the recording, don't leave noises that don't belong to the music. In the case of acoustic drums, beware of children leaking into the various microphones and see what is worth cutting or not, depending on the interpretation. It usually cuts the leakage in the tonal ranges, for example.

10. Don't forget to fade-in and fade-out to smooth out incoming noise from all recorded clips/events, but it's not necessary to do this with samples.

11. Before using a compressor, get your hands dirty and manually compress the wave, leveling the overall signal through volume automation or no mixer / individual gain of the clip piece / clipped event.

12. Don't forget the timestrech function, it can be useful for stretching a note or voice sync error.

13. Try making small cuts / "mutes" on instruments, especially on drum rolls, or even on the master. Silence is often one of the most successful tools in music.


Layers


14. Doubling a sound and pitching it up or down an octave with pitch/transpose can really help a sound stand out. This duplicated track generally doesn't have to be very loud in volume to make an impact. In fact, subtle is probably better.

15. By duplicating sounds in layer and editing with reverses, reversed phase etc, you can often get clean sounds that were previously obscured by bass or vocals.


Mixing


16. Mixing is an art, a technological instrument. Knowing how to mix is ​​knowing how to interpret the message of the music, highlighting what is beautiful and important, and eliminating what doesn't work.

17. When mixing a song, it's good to hear all the instruments together, otherwise you'll mix individually too loudly and not notice how each part is affecting your overall mix. By the time you finish mixing the last instrument, the first instruments you tuned will sound very low, which can become an endless loop. Try to avoid the "solo" button.

18. Check your mix in mono often. This will help you recognize phase cancellation and also help you find locations in the panorama that make a clearer sound in the mix.

19. It's usually best to start with drums and bass and then mix the other instruments 1 at a time. If the groove is compromised or the bass loses its punch, consider reducing, modifying or removing the track.

20. When considering what to keep in a mix and what to throw away, consider instruments in terms of frequency zones. If you have too many instruments in one zone and not enough in another, you may be able to solve both problems by playing one instrument in another octave. Otherwise you need to sculpt with EQ so that each instrument has its own little zone, or add/remove an element to balance.

21. Keep in mind that your brain considers the sound with a faster attack (stab, punch) more important than a slower attack, similar to a "fade in" (pad). Try decreasing the attack of background instruments to smooth the mix.

22. Each musical genre has a culturally established mixing pattern, people who listen to that type of music already have their ears used to that sound. Listen and search for the place of instruments of the genre you are working on to have a reference in your mix.

23. Don't stop the volume of your instruments. For example, if in the overall mix with the vocals, your guitar has to be a little further back, maybe in the intro where there are no vocals, it might be a little louder.


Panorama


24. In general, it's a good idea to shift your instruments before equalizing. This is because an instrument's sound can change not only by its placement in the stereo field, but also by other instruments in the same panning area. Sometimes panning can resolve conflicting frequency issues without the need for an equalizer.

25. Although some instruments generally sound better in the center (kick, bass, vocals, snare), it can be useful to adjust the pan very discreetly. For example, I could put my snare 2 or 3 to the left and kick 2 or 3 to the right.

26. Atmospheric reverbs can be directed to the extreme left and right to give your music a wide sound.

27. For intensive use of panorama (guitar sometimes comes to mind), we do what we call stereophoning a mono signal. Duplicate the track, play one sound to the left and one to the right, separate one of the sounds in the timeline for about 10 ms or until you hear the separation more clearly.

28. The panorama is a question of balance, always try to play with the highest instruments, playing one to the left and one to the right, keep sub/bass frequencies always in the middle.


Equalization


29. Use a hi-pass filter (or a low cutoff) at approximately 80-120Hz on every instrument other than kick or bass.

30. For offensive frequencies (frequencies that hurt your ears or pop out), increase the gain in a narrow frequency band and scan. When identifying an offensive frequency, decrease the gain until it sounds better.

31. In general, it's better to lower frequencies rather than boost if you want a richer sound and a cleaner master.

32. When boosting, it is better to use a wider frequency range ("Q") . Narrow ranges when reducing gain.

33. You will often have multiple parts that struggle to be heard on the same frequency. It's best to choose which sound will bring out the lower mids and which higher mids. By scanning the frequencies, you can find the dominant frequencies and choose a different area for each sound. Whichever frequency you decide to raise in one sound, be sure to lower that frequency in the other.

34. Sometimes adding a little distortion or tape saturation to a sound can do a better job than the equalizer. Or sometimes a combination of both. Just don't distort sub frequencies. Leave these clean.

35. A slight boost at 12kHz and above can give your music a good glow or air. Be very selective if you are doing this on individual instruments.

36. A small increase in the 1-6khz range can help bring sounds forward in the mix, while lowering frequencies can put a sound a little further back.

37. On vocals, that famous radio voice is done through an aggressive low shelf, and a discreet high shelf.


Compression


38. Start with high ratio, strong threshold and your release all the way down. First adjust the attack, looking only for the "click" or "click", disregarding what comes next. Then adjust the release to help emphasize the pressure and body of the sound. You will now have an extreme setting for how the compressor is affecting your sound. Lower the ratio to a level that seems reasonable to you and bring the threshold down until you're happy with the results.

39. Kicks and bass can generally use stronger compression than other sounds, but be careful if you're using samples that have already been compressed. No need to do it again.

40. Parallel compression can give you the best of both worlds by maintaining the original sound and its transients, adding a compressed layer. The best approach for this is to add a compressor to a send/return track. Set threshold to around -50dB, attack as fast as possible, decay at 250ms and ratio between 2:1 and 2.5:1. Then you'll be able to add a little bit of this effect to any instrument you like.

41. Not everything needs compression to allow certain parts to breathe deep. Choose your lead and background instruments wisely.

42. You can send a group of instruments to a compressor with a light setting (1.5: 1-2: 1) to help them blend together.

43. Dynamic compression can be a good ally to adjust timbres, especially for vocals that seem to have no way with just EQ.


Sidechaining


44. Sidechaining is a great way to keep your kicks clean and give a rhythmic "pumping" feel. To do this you will need a compressor or gate plugin that is capable of sidechaining. You'll drag the plugin to the track you want to pump the sound to and then you'll route the right path to the sidechain via a send. It is common to do this with the bass, so that it compresses your attack the moment the kick enters.

45. Sidechaining can also be a great mixing tool. Let's say your guitar and vocals are fighting over frequencies. You can simply activate the sidechain with the "gate" or "compressor" plugin for the guitar so that anytime the vocal comes in, it lowers the guitar volume or conflicting guitar frequency. This trick can really be a lifesaver for cleaning up your mixes.


Reverb


46. ​​It makes good sense to add the same subtle reverb to all of your main drum instruments, so they sound like they're played in the same room, even if you use a long reverb in a certain piece. But be careful with the kick, avoid the reverb on it. You want your kick as clean as possible.

47. Reverb can be used to help give your mix greater rhythmic impact. The trick is to set the decay to disappear just before the 1/4 of the next note, or when the 1/2 enters. This will create another element of rhythm and can have a dramatic impact on the groove of your music.

48. Use a predelay to give your instruments dimension without losing clarity, or as an interesting delayed sound. Works great with drums/tones.

49. For most sounds that you add reverb to, you'll want a hi-pass filter to remove low frequencies from the reverb. It's always good to keep bass frequencies as clean as possible.

50. Reverse reverb can be a really cool effect and it's not hard to do. Just dub and invert a sound. Apply 100% wet reverb to the reverse sound. now mix the two

51. Your "main" reverb for the loudest sounds in the mix should be adjusted to have brighter reflections and a shorter decay.

52. In the "background" reverb for backing vocals and lower instruments in the mix, go for a darker sound, dampening the high frequencies and having a longer decay. You'll still want a hi-pass filter set to 100-120hz.

53. There are several types of reverbs and each one plays a different role and gives a different sound. There is digital and convolution (which uses more processing and simulates real spaces). It is important to know the characteristics of each one: plate reverb, spring reverb, chamber reverb, hall, room, etc.


Delay


54. Replacing some of your reverbs with delay can help clean up the mix as the delay is less dense. The inverse also holds if too much delay is used.

55. Like reverb, it's best to remove low frequencies from your delays to keep your mix clean.

56. A long delay followed by a filter with an LFO changing frequencies can create interesting ambiences for your music. This works best as a send/return or automation. You'll also want the bass frequencies removed.


Vocal


57. Cut the bass down to approximately 80hz at all times, there is nothing below that relevant. Raise treble for more brightness in your voice. In backing vocals cut bass to taste, to place them in a secondary background to the main voice.

58. The "P" puffs can be diminished by adjusting the volume on its attack, or by removing bass only in the part of the wave where it occurs. The "S" can also be lowered in volume, cutting the treble between 7khz and 13khz, or using a de-esser plugin.

59. The cuts or shortening of breaths and retakes can clear the mix, especially in the choruses, but be careful not to lose the artist's interpretation.

60. Sometimes when recording the voice, there is a natural human delay, try to return 1 or 2 milliseconds of the vocal track in relation to the instrumental, and watch the singer's tempo/flow become sharper.

61. Stereophonize creases, throw the pitch down to make a monster voice, or up for a funny effect. Play with effects like auto-tune and melodyne if you match the music or you need to get the pitch right. It is very common to use distortion, even if discreetly, to create a dirt on the tone. Play acapella on your pads or pickups and try to create something new with a performance.


Bass


62. The bass is one of the most thankless instruments. When it comes to mixing bass, louder is not necessarily better. If you raise the bass too much, you will lose clarity in your mix. If you play the mix in your car and you can't hear anything but "bum" "boom", you know why.

63. Using down pitch on 808 kicks and the like can make a great tone for a sub-bass. Experiment with a slower attack too.

64. You usually don't want too much sub on both your bass and kicks if they're playing at the same time. It's better to equalize one for the sub and one for the higher bass frequencies. This will bring a cleaner mix and a much better low-end.

65. For basses without attack, try adding a wood or metallic click track that plays into the bass note entry. Percussion samples with a very fast attack and decay do the trick. Slight variations in click can add more realism as well.

66. If you're using bass samples, make sure you have a solid signal to start with. Trying to equalize won't help if there's nothing there to start on the original signal. This is also true for a poorly recorded bass.


Sound Design


67. It's much better to master one or two synths than just knowing about 50 synths. Take the time to pick one and go deep with it. The same goes for effects.

68. Remember that complex sounds are made from simple sounds and layers together. When you get to know your waveforms and the different ways you can change them, sound engineering will become easier. The sooner you embrace the basics, the easier it will be to get complex tones. Use multi-instruments.

69. Spend time with a synthesizer or virtual instrument just having fun, so you'll find original tones and interesting melodies sooner or later.

70. An LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) can add another shape to a previously boring sound. LFOs can control volume, pitch, filter and many other parameters, changing at a chosen speed. Subtle amounts of LFO can add complexity and richness while the most extreme adjustments can create completely different sounds.


Automation and Momentary Effects


71. It's very common to play with the panorama through automation, so that the instrument doesn't stay in place, you can invert them or walk with them unobtrusively, that's where your creativity goes.

72. By automating effects or applying them to a specific part of the clip/event, interesting phrases can be created. Try a delay just at the end of a vocal rhyme, or an automation with reverb or distortion, where the parameter only increases in the most stretched vowels.

73. Try filter automation with harmonic instruments in the intro, turn, or end of the song.

74. Automation can be used to change the EQ over time. For example, at a certain point in the song where the singer forces his voice more, undesirable mid/high frequencies may appear, at which point it may be worth reducing them. This can also be done through dynamic EQ plugins.


Others


75. To get a more vintage tone from older hardware samplers, try reducing your sounds bits to 8 or 12 bits with a sampling rate of 10-20khz.

76. Don't worry about a sample being cleaned. Dirty is good. If this sounds good to you, use this.

77. While it's good to have quality samples, it's also good to create from an mp3. It will generally sound better than old, worn vinyl anyway. Just make sure most of your instrumentation is in professional format to balance the end result.

78. When using sample repeating, especially on drum sounds, it's important to add a little bit of variation in volume, velocity, decay, and pitch.

79. Sample everything that inspires you. Movies, spoken word, the sounds of nature, factory machines and old music. Reusing sounds is an art in itself. No matter where you get your ideas, that's where you take them. Worry about the legislative side of things after you create something.

80. Send/return allows you to add the same effect to multiple instruments in different amounts. It also saves CPU usage since it is just one effect that is running for multiple tracks. Good for reverbs, especially. For tracks with the same treatment it might be a good idea to use a bus, where you route the entire audio signal from several tracks to the same channel.81. Quantizing can be a blessing or a curse. If your DAW of choice has a randomization feature, use subtle amounts to give it a more human feel.

82. If possible, play some instruments manually without quantification. Human beings are used to imperfection as long as there is balance.

83. In most DAWs these days, you have the ability to analyze the drumloop groove one or a few bars of a song and apply it to your own work. Groove can strongly impact the swing or vibrancy of your music. It's not something you can hear, but you definitely feel

84. Long pitch-up or pitch-down sounds, filters, LFO's, bass drops and drum tones in a twist can add drama and anticipation to a chorus or punchline. As with the entry of these, a dish or EFX is interesting.

85. Re-amplifying the signal in the mix process can be a good idea to gain a new tone or get “warmer”, especially if you have a quality preamp.

86. Even when everything seems ready, think about what can be improved. Record an acoustic instrument instead of a digital one, search for new samples, insert a sound effect that matches the lyrics, invite a child or choir to insert a backing vocal, or a dj to make a scratch intervention, everything is valid.


Mastering


87. In today's mastering, culturally speaking, we want a very compressed dynamic range, at the top, bordering on 0db, but never bursting. Everything in the digital world is distorted when exceeding 0db. Try using a limiter if that's the case.

88. It may sound extreme, but try modifying the tempo, swing, or pitch through the master's pitch/transpose, and see if in any case the music becomes more interesting.

89.Maximizers are often used in mastering to give that final force/pressure, sometimes replacing the compressor. You can also use an "imager" to manipulate the overall picture.

90.It is quite common to cut bass and treble to enhance the mid frequencies in the master, as it is what is reproduced more clearly in low quality speakers and headphones.

91. When mastering a cd, check the volume and sound pressure of all the tracks and make sure they are similar, as well as the ambience, bass and volume of the voices. Sometimes it's better to lower a master to even things out, in order to avoid distorting too much by raising the others.

92. Check your master on various sound systems, in your car, amps, headphones, and mono sources like in your cell phone or tablet case, before considering it ready. Be sure to compare it to a high-quality reference song that is similar to your sound.

93.In many cases there is not much to do in mastering. Avoid compressing too much, let the music breathe too. In music production, knowing when not to mess with anything is a virtue.


Efficient Work Tips


94. Worry about your work environment. Get a comfortable chair, a big screen to edit, turn on the air conditioning if necessary, turn off the television, and let everyone in your house know you're working. Oh, and forget about laptop touch, buy a mouse!

95. Close browsers and turn off the internet when working on music. That way, when you get distracted and try to jump to Facebook, you can quickly remember you're in work mode and get back to task.

96. If you have trouble staying focused, work in times like 30 minutes or 1 hour.

97. Ghost tracks are a common secret among producers. The basic idea is to take a loop or piece of a song you like and start playing along. Keep adding more of your own tracks, soon you'll be able to delete the original song and continue to build your music with the essence of the ghost track.

98.Use inspiration to capture sounds outside the studio, such as exotic drum samples, etc.

99. Don't start every song from scratch. Create effect presets and a project template/template with settings you'll always use.

100. Don't judge yourself by the opinions of others who don't understand your art, but absorb criticism with humility.

101. Don't think that adding instruments to your track will solve your problems. If the basics don't inspire you, you'll probably want to rephrase this before adding something new.

102. Be relentless. Avoid getting married to a track just because you spent a lot of time on it. If it's the weakest link, don't use it.

103. There is no magic plugin. There is magic between you and the plugin. Your own limitations are what make you sound like you.

104. Take time to make the first elements of your music sound inspiring, whether it's adding little details to your drums or coming up with a big chord structure. This is important, as the rest of your melody will be inspired by these parts. Not doing this can result in you realizing that no matter how much time and how many tracks you put into a song, it won't move the listener. And don't get lost early on with things that should only have your attention at the end of the song like effects adjustments etc...

105. Don't just listen to the style of music you work on. Original ideas come from outside influences. Try taking the time to listen to a complete album of a different genre of music once a week. You're sure to have a much richer musical palette from which to draw your ideas.

106. Collaborating with other artists is one of the best ways to boost your knowledge and gain some production techniques. It's better to work with someone who is more knowledgeable than you, if given the opportunity.

107. Work on one song at a time. Don't cut a sample that sounds good and then drop it to start another idea. You'll never finish anything, and finishing songs is all anyone cares about, not how much time you spent in the studio. If you don't force yourself to complete projects, deadlines, and obstacles, you'll never gain the skills you need.

108. Today the world is getting faster, people consume and discard music day by day. And they get tired easily. So avoid long songs with repetitive content and no variations. Make quick intros, create lots of dynamic twists, and don't take too long to show the chorus. Think of your arrangement like a mathematician and create moments of tension for the climax.


And remember, all rules are meant to be broken!



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