There’s and old saying in real estate that the three most important aspects of a house are location, location, location. I have a similar saying that the three most important parts of a music recording is quality, quality, quality. While this advice is not particularly specific, it should drive every aspect of your recording session, from the songwriting to tracking and into the mixing. Peeling the layers back on this concept, there are some specific aspects that you can measure for each part of the music recording process…
Quality Aspects of a a Song
- A Hook: The song needs to stick in someones mind after they hear it. Does it stick in your mind, or do you have to hear it 20 time before you remember it?
- Structure: People like to hear a verse followed by a chorus with a bridge in between. The song should tell a musical story with a build to hook. Also, If the song rambles or doesn’t “hook” the audience within 30-40 seconds. The audience is gone, and the idea is to keep them around and coming back for more.
- Style: The song should ideally anchor in one style. Sure it’s cool to mash up styles, and adding overtones of a secondary style is a great musical tool. However, adding more than two styles into a song is typically a train wreck.
Quality Aspects of a Recording
- In Time: All tracks must be played in time. Many times musicians think it’s all about notes, speed and scales. It’s not. It’s about setting a groove and getting people to nod there head in-time with the music. Inspecting the waveform’s alignment with the timing grid is the best way to ensure you’re instrument tracks are in-time.
- In Key: We all know how it feels to cringeb over a wrong note or a out of tune instrument. Always tune your instrument between takes. Also, singers should monitor there tonality with an autotune plugin and correct it with a new take or by applying the plugin.
- In Style: Some people say the like mood music. All music is mood music. A great recording creates a vibe that triggers emotion. Make sure your track vibes with the overall style to embellish the mood and not bust it.
Quality Aspects of Mixing
- Mixology: Creating a smooth mix is both an art and a science. It’s all about adding the right compression, setting equalization, including the right effects and automating the faders. If you don’t know who to do this, there are plenty of tutorial videos and books on the subject (such as Secret of the Pros). It may also be a good idea to collaborate with a mixing engineer to get the best possible result.
- Lend a Helping Hand: The mixing engineer’s job has migrated over the years. It used to only be about the mixology. However with the onset of non-linear editing, mixing engineers have become the Quality Assurance department. Synchronizing tracks manually or with some quantization, and auto tuning vocals is often required. While this may sound like heresy to the purists, the fact is that the average listener has become attuned to these things and has high expectations when it comes to tracks being in-tune and in-time.
- Mastering: Mastering is the final icing on the cake. When done properly the music recording “travels” well such that it sounds good on most any stereo system. Mastering also helps create a smooth, tigh final sound. It’s much like putting grout into tile or finishing a wood floor.
These are essential things to keep in mind while recording music. The best part about collaborating on GrooveZoo is that other people can bring their skills and perspective to the table – in turn creating a great recording.
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