All the hard work you've been putting in for your mix-tape from the recording and mixing will be for nothing if you fail to plan. Don't let your best efforts go to to waste from poor planning. This article can be used as a guide for aspiring artist based mix-tapes.
- Commercial beats- In this day an age of the internet there's no excuse for an artist not to use original beats. If your in need of beats you'll find hundreds of thousands produces online who are selling beats for exclusive and non exclusive purchase.
- Using tagged beats- Having a producer tag that can be heard playing throughout your songs is a bad move. It not only shows that you didn't pay for the beat you’ve recorded over but a blatant disregard for your craft.
- Poorly Recorded songs- Just because its a mix-tape doesn’t mean you should skim on quality. Take the time to learn new recording techniques that can help improve your sound quality. If you hear something that needs to be fixed or improved do it.
- Recycling Songs - Take the extra time to record new material. Putting songs from a previous project because you felt they didn't get enough exposure.
- No Budget – You can't put out a project without a budget. The producers who's beats you've used need to be paid as well as the engineer who will mix your songs , the graphic designer who will be doing your art work and last but not least the Dj who will host your mix-tape.
- No Dj- Technically it’s not a mix-tape unless a DJ is hosting it. Without a DJ its simply an album and not a mix-tape.
- No Promotion- All the time and energy you've spent recording your work shouldn’t go unnoticed. Paid promotion is something to consider investing in as it can boost your reach and increase the possibility of being discovered by new fans.
- Poor presentation- The art work representing your mix-tape is crucial to the extant of a potential fan considers to listen to it. There are many graphic designers online that create quality designs.
- Too Many Songs- The average listener has a short attention span and will nit sit through a lengthy mix-tape. As an artist you have about 5-6 songs to make an impression on your listener before they start to lose interest. Keeping the number of songs down 10 if its your first mix tape keeps the listener wanting to hear more especially if its your first tape.15 songs is usually the standard across the board.
- Too many features- If its your first tape you may wanna avoid having too many guest artist and give the listeners a chance to hear you as a solo artist. Now I’m not saying you should avoid having other artist on you mix-tape but more conscious of how your tape represents you as an artist.
Ok so the other day I was on SoundCloud searching for new talent to work with and I was amazed at how many poorly recorded songs existed on the web. Now these mistakes can cost you potential opportunities but there’s hope.
Too much movement and loud headphones can contribute to a noisy environment during the recording process. You’ll want to invest in some closed back cans (headphones) so audio from the instrumental isn’t bleeding into the microphone as you’re recording. Another offender is room noise. This can be described as an "eco" like sound on the voice from either poor microphone placement or bad room acoustics. You’ll want to record in a neutral, dry room. Avoid cavernous rooms where reflections and reverberation of sound is notably present. As this will affect the recording quality and will leave you with less control later on in the mixing stages.
2. Too close to the microphone.
Being way too close to the mic will only lead to poor results. When the Vocals sound distorted and filled with Plosives (pops). Finding a good distance from the microphone can be achieved by placing your hand in front of your mouth and the mic from thumb to pinky (shown below).
The spread hand technique used to measure distance from the vocalist and the microphone.
Standing at least 5 inches away from the mic will be enough space for recording. Using a pop up stopper (filter) helps with the Plosives by placing it between you and the mic.
3. Uneven vocals.
Maintaining an even and clear vocal level throughout your song is important. Keeping the soft and hard (louder) parts at bay can be achieved by using either compression or automation. Now this tends to be a common problem amongst beginners when it comes to using compression correctly and not over doing it. Placing automation on the volume fader is the safest and effective technique that can be used to maintain even vocals. This method allows you to have more control over your vocals while you’re edit/drawing in the changes where you need necessary volume adjustments.
4.Over using plug-ins.
Now we all have our favorite go to plug-ins for certain task but knowing when to apply them makes a world of a difference from natural to complete harsh and unrealistic sounding vocal mixes. Too much processing is never a good thing.
5. Timing Issues.
If your vocals are off beat then chances are it may not only be you but your audio interface settings. Adjusting the audio settings of your soundcards latency makes an impactful difference for the recording process. Reducing the latency can increase timing but will lead to other errors during the recording process such as clicks and pops you’ll want to avoid doing this. Instead try increasing the buffer size settings to gain a stable balance. This varies across sound cards and processing power on PC’s.
6.Overuse of reverb.
Drowning your vocals in reverb does not yield good result. Instead try using a more subtle approach by applying less reverb to the point it is unnoticeable and not bearing an unnatural presence in the mix.
7.RECORDING OVER AN MP3.
If you’re thinking about putting out a project (e.g., Mix Tape, LP, Ep or album.), you’ll want to record over the best quality format available to you. Most producers nowadays offer single wav file “Premium leases” to Artist who are serious about the audio quality of their work. A wav file is an uncompressed audio format that should be used throughout the entire recording process. This is vital to the overall recording process to help preserve audio quality. When all recorded tracks have been mixed and sent out for mastering, a 16 bit (sample size) at 44.1 KHz (Sample rate) and 1411 kbps (bit rate) stereo wav file is sent out for distribution. Recording over .wav is standard practice for best audio quality. Because of its low file size, reduced quality and its unique ability to sound like the original uncompressed audio .wav file for most listeners. Mp3 is the preferred audio format for consumer audio web and video streaming. Choosing a .wav file to record over an Mp3 to makes things easier for you and the engineer who will be spending time mixing your song.
8.Clipping in vocals.
Few minutes after the mic has warmed up, take the time to make sure that your mic levels are not in the red. Keeping the vocal away from the red will keep your levels from peaking (also known as clipping).
9.Choosing the right bit rate.
Selecting the right bit depth is important when it comes to having enough head room for your recordings and mix. You’ll want to select 24bit or 32bit instead of 16bit depending on your DAW(32 bit may not be available to you). This will allow more headroom in the Recording and the overall mix.
10. Relying on the mix for corrections.
If you hear something noticeably wrong early on in the recording stages, don’t wait later on during the mix to fix it. The sounds you start with are what make good mixes. If the vocals have an unwanted noise to them either from the room or movement from you, simply do it over.Jun 022017
Putting together a home studio for the first time isn't as complicated as it may seem. And it doesn't require any extensive research either. In fact it's a lot simpler then you think. Once you understand what the basics essentials are. You'll be able to move forward with confidence and enjoy the process at every step of the way. Understanding what your needs are earlier on can help determine the direction of your budget. Will you be building your recording setup for future expansion? Or will you be building a setup for your current needs? Building for current needs is fine when your just starting out. As it will take you some time to learn and develop techniques. As for building for future possibilities may depend a bit more one your budget. To give you an idea of what you'll need to get started. I've put together a list of the top ten home recording essentials for beginners.
1.Computer-This is the most important component to a studio set up and is easily one of the most costly additions as well. We all know the benefits to having a fast and responsive computer at your disposal. But in most cases today whether its mac or PC virtually everyone owns one and it's just enough to get you up and running. Before spending any cash on a new one I'd recommend checking your current system specs and comparing it to the latest DAW requirements before moving forward.The chances of you running an updated system are pretty fair and should be enough to get you started for now.
2.Digital Audio Workstation- This is where the recording, editing, mixing, mastering and beat making process takes place. You won't have to spend too much on a DAW in the beginning. If your buying the entry-level version of a program like Studio One 3 Artist. Where the price ranges from $99 USD for Artist (entry-level)and $400 for the full version. Other programs with similar pricing are Propeller head’s Reason, Steinberg's Cubase , cakewalk sonar and Cockos Reaper .
3.Audio interface -This is what will be processing your audio signals to and from your DAW. Can cost you any from $99.00 to $4000.00. The more you pay the more features, I/O's and audio conversion quality you'll have to work with. PreSonus AudioBox USB -$99.00 / SaffPro40-$399.99/Motu - AudioExpress-$395
4.-External Hard drive- Losing all your sessions can be a nightmare. So its important to save your work to more than one hard drive. In the event of hard drive failure you'll want have a back up of your sessions. Having a few external hard drives comes in handy when preventing data loss. Amazon/Newegg/sweetwater
5.-Reflextion filter – Providing helpful absorption that would likely reach the back and sides of the mic. As well as it catches and absorb sound from a vocalist, while keeping unwanted reflections echoes or reverberant sound from the mic signal. Reflection filter -$99.00 ,
6.-Microphone- The type of mic you decide to get will depend on the type of music you'll be making. If your going to be recording instruments and vocals then you'll only need 1 or 2 microphones. Since most people start with recording vocals a good mic to start out with : Rode NT1-A $229.00
7.-Headphones- Starting out you'll be spending most of your time recording by yourself. And you'll only be needing one pair of headphones. There are two types of headphones for the studio use, open back, and closed back headphones. These two are designed for specific use, with open back you get optimal sound quality at the expense of lesser isolation used for mixing. While closed back headphones offer the most isolation at the expense of lesser sound quality ideally used for tracking. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, 250 ohms /Audio-Technica ATH-M50
8.-Studio Monitors- In most home studios mixing is done on headphones,but in pro studios mixing is always done on near field monitors. What speaker size should you choose? With speaker sizes in 5, 6, 8 inches choosing the right one will all depend on your room size. Krk rp5 with stands
9-Pop Filters/Mic stand -You'll be able to find combo deals with these items. Pop filters are important to the recording process. This helps by Keeping plosives from being picked up in the recordings. you'll also need a mic stand to hold your microphone in place. Mic stand/ Pop filter
10-Audio cables -Finally make sure you get cables for your monitors, Microphone and instruments.Audio cablesJun 022017
No matter the skill level of your artistry it's always a good idea to invest in yourself. As an artist finding your sound is a lot easier with original beats then it is with instrumentals of popular commercially released recordings. Developing your own cadence and melody oppose to going with ones that everybody knows. Is what will help you as an artist grow and stand apart from the rest that choose to put out low quality mediocre music. Even if you're doing it as a hobby and its something you truly enjoy doing. It's always a good idea to invest a little in yourself. Whether its learning to paint or playing an instrument you'll still need to invest. For today's aspiring artist who are unsure or unaware of the benefits to buying beats online. I’ve put together 10 reasons why Artist should buy beats online.
1.Beat selection: When you buy beats online you get access to a wide variety of beats in different genres. From pop, trap, EDM, experimental, R&B, Hip Hop and more. And the best part about it is you get to take your time and listen to as many as you like.
2.Instant delivery: You receive beats you've purchased instantly whether it's a lease or exclusive rights. It's all automated and ready to be sent to your email with detailed instructions. A quick and easy process that allows you to begin your song creation as soon as possible.
3.Deals & special offers: You can expect to find some sort of deal online buying beats. Usually around the holidays like anything else you'd buy online will have a sale. Like a buy one get to free or a 30% discount code you can enter during the checkout process. The online shopping experience for an artist has come a long way.
4.Access: There are a ton of producers to choose from online all with different levels of experience, and sound quality. You can and will literally spend hours listening to the many different styles out there. And you can buy at anytime of the day without having to contact the producer, unless there's an issue with you receiving your order which doesn't happen too often. But in the event that it does most producers are easy to get in contact with and will gladly assist you on the matter.
5.Royalty free: When your leasing beats there will be no royalties unless your buying beats for exclusive rights. Most producers will often include a contract telling you what your limitations are.
6.Affordable: Buying beats online can be cheap if your leasing them. The most you can end up paying is anywhere from $ 25 USD to $ 60 USD and up. As I mentioned before you can always find deals or pricing that works with your budget. But if your buying exclusive rights it can cost anywhere from $250.00-$2000.00 and up. Now this depends on what the producer is comfortable with selling his beats for. The reason exclusive rights will cost more is that the producer is giving you the full rights to use his beat without any limitations and will no longer be able to sell it once you've purchased it. It will be marked as sold and if he or she was leasing it to others before you bought it won't affect your agreement because leases have limitations and expiration.
7.Tag free: As soon as your payment is received all voice tags are removed and you are able to enjoy a tagless beat.
8.Saves time and Reduces cost: As a producer, engineer studio time with artist can vary upon the artist. As far as time spent on writing and recording songs. The process can normally take anywhere from an hour or more depending on the artist. As for the mix engineer working on your song can take quite some time. The turnaround time for completion can take a week and if it's an entire project a month. This process cannot be rushed as it is vital to the sound quality of your songs. If you're expecting your producer to make your beats on the spot. The process can take any where from 30 minutes to an hour or more depending on the producer. This time can be better spent going through a catalog of beats online. Especially if your working on an entire project. This allows you to begin the songwriting process at your own pace. From my own experience working with artist. I can tell you that the recording process tends to go a lot smoother when the artist already has the beat and lyrics written prior to recording. The artist will by then have time to memorize and develop a flow for their song. Once it's time to lay their vocals down. And if you're an artist that can do your own recording then you'll only need your songs to be mixed. Saving you time and money that would've been spent on booking studio time. Be advised doing the recording yourself will require you to have a good quality microphone, preamp and audio interface to have near studio quality. You'll also need to be able to edit your own vocals and more. Just something to consider before opting out and doing it yourself.
9.Track outs for better mixes: As mentioned earlier the process that goes into putting your songs together weighs heavily on the quality of your recordings. The stem files are the kick, snare, strings ,piano etc, of a beat. These files are extremely important to have and should be handled by an experience mix engineer. This allows you the most control over your sound then it would a single Wav file. The difference in quality is noticeable and can be observed when comparing a mix tape to an album. 2 track recording is used for mix-tape recording which consists of a single wave file and vocals. As for albums the process requires having access to tracked out stem files for optimal sound quality.
10.Negotiation: Buying exclusive rights can be expensive because the producer is giving you the full rights to the beat. But in most cases a lower price can be negotiated. Depending on what the producer is comfortable with selling you their beats for, will play a factor in the deal.Jun 022017
For today’s aspiring artist who are looking to invest in their craft. Buying beats online can be a bit overwhelming at first. Not knowing where to buy or how much you should spend are some of the most common concerns amongst artist. As well as understanding your buying options with terms like leasing rights, exclusive rights and knowing which of the two are best fit for you. To help ensure you're getting the best value for your money. here are 10 things to know when buying beats online.
1.Free Download - This option allows an artist to audition tagged instrumentals before buying them. This is common practice amongst producers, as it creates advertising opportunity. For other potential buying artist who will hear the vocal tag announcing their brand throughout the beat.This is a system that helps artist who are just starting out and may need some time to develop their sound. You'll be able to download free beats and display songs that you've recorded. As long as you agree to use them for non-profit in exchange for giving the producer appropriate credit. For those who are making a full-time living with their music this option wouldn’t be as beneficial as it would to an artist that is just starting out.
2. Discounts and special offers Now if your left feeling uninspired with the style of beats available to you as free download. Then its time to narrow your search and look else where. There are tons of producers with their own web sites that have a mailing list. That you can sign up for and receive info on special offers and discounts available. Find a producer or two with beats that will inspire you. And most important keep you updated with emails when they've uploaded new beats.
3.Where to find good producers -Finding the right producer can be a bit of a struggle if you don't know where to look. To help narrow your search. You can start out on you tube and enter an artist name whose style may appeal to you. For example if you're looking for beats that resemble a similar sound to Ryan Leslie. Type in “Ryan Leslie type beat” and start your search from there. As you'll find a wide range of producers who are selling beats and will likely to have links to their websites.
Another approach would be to go through some of the more establish third-party sites like “Soundclick, “My Flash”, “Beat Stars” and “Soundgine”. As most producers with their own websites have a profile selling beats on each of the sites mentioned. Each of these sites have a chart system showcasing the top producers. This will give you an idea of who's bringing their a game.
4. Using trusted websites -While buying beats online can be convenient three’s always the risk of having a bad experience. This goes for anything you buy on the web. Always contact and try to get a feel for who you're buying from. For example when I come across a new website the first thing that I look for is the frequently asked questions or the contact form. Now the websites I mentioned earlier are all reputable beat selling sites. When it comes to a producer's website you may want to contact them and take it from there. You'll usually come across sites with embedded players from either “Myflash”, “Beat Stars” and “Soundgine”. Where the transactions are fully automated with payment processing that is done by “Pay pal” “2checkout” or “Stripe”. All of which are secure payment processing companies.
5. Beat prices -You won't have to pay too much for beats if your leasing them. You'll find leasing that will usually range from $20.00 USD- $60 and up on online. The only time you'll spend more buying beats will be on Exclusive rights, which can cost anywhere from $250-$5000 and up depending on the producer.
So if you're putting together a project and not sure whether to spend $20 or 60 for a lease, then here are a few things you should know. The price of a beat lease will determine the quality and permission you'll have with the audio file you'll be receiving. Every producer will have their licensing options with detailed descriptions of what is offered with a particular lease. It will all depends on the type of Artist/ song writer you are and your needs. An Artist who is putting out their first mix tape /project might go for a $20 mp3 lease. And an artist who is putting out their 2nd or 3rd project will usually go for the $60.00 and up Wav leases for the best quality.
6.Leasing Rights- This is the most affordable option for an artist who is either just starting out or looking to build a buzz. Leasing rights is when a producer grants an artist limited usage rights to their beat(s). This will often include a detailed contract agreement of what your limitations are using their beats. A preview of what most producer's have for licensing options:
- Standard mp3 lease $25.00 $30.00 Premium wav lease $50.00 Pro mix.Wav
- High quality mp3 Higher quality wav file Highest quality wav file
- sell up to 5,000 copies sell up to 10,000 sell up to 15,000
- No Ownership No Ownership No Ownership
- No voice tags No voice tags No voice tags
- The more you pay for a lease the more time and less limitations you'll have to use their beats.
7-Exclusive rights - This is expensive because the producer is giving you full unlimited usage rights and ownership to a beat.As a result the producer will no longer be able to lease or sell the beat to anyone else and will be marked as sold. If the beat was leased to other Artist before you bought it. This will not effect your agreement with the producer because lease agreements have limitations and an expiration. So when you obtain exclusive rights you'll have complete freedom to do whatever you want except resell the rights to the beat. Opportunity’s with song placement are now possible. You'll be able to get the song you've made with the beat placed in films, Tv, radio, video games and more.
You'll also receive track outs of the beat also known as stem files of the beat you've purchased. Theses are the individual wav files such as the kick, snare, piano, strings, etc of the beat. This is extremely important to have as it will allow you to have full control over the quality of your sound. With these files you can have your song professionally mixed by an engineer.
The producer who sold you the beat will often include a contract that states their entitlement to royalty percentages. This is common practice amongst Artist and Producer to have an agreement to where percentages of royalties are split. There's never just one person that takes credit for a great song. The idea, inspiration, had to have been evoked by something and in most cases it's the beat. Song creation isn't just about lyric writing. It also has to be produced well to compliment and complete the idea of the song. Even the mix engineer will want to receive back-end compensation from the work they contributed that helped complete your song, but it has to be in writing. The producer will want you to succeed with your song so that they get their fair share of royalties.
8.-Sampled based beats - Now if your leasing beats that contain samples for mix tape purposes and will only be released on a promotional basis. Then there's no issue especially if you're not expecting to profit from it financially. But when you obtain exclusive rights, this is where it becomes an issue. The rights to the sample need to be cleared before its commercially released. It's always a good idea to ask the producer if they used any samples in the beat you plan on purchasing. Getting as much information as possible on the beat you plan on buying exclusive rights to that contain samples are vital. In the event that your song becomes a great success and you begin to make serious profits. You don't want the owners of the original song that you sampled from to take legal action against you over of an uncleared sample. The legal repercussions of this can be draining financially and mentally for an independent artist. As for Major labels that will have better resources and connections, have an easier time clearing samples then an independent artist would.
9-As I've mentioned earlier with leases the more you spend the less limitations you will have. This also applies to the quality of your songs. When you purchase a Wav file over a mp3 file you'll have more control with the quality of your recordings. Then you would with a mp3, do to the nature of its intended use. Because of its low file size, reduced quality and its unique ability to sound like the original uncompressed wav file Mp3 is the preferred audio format for consumer audio, web and video streaming. This is what the consumer aka your fans will be listing to. Throughout the entire song creation process from beat making to vocal recording, the format that is used is Wav. This is how songs by recording professionals are made. Now you'll want to know that your hard-earned cash is being put to good use. Then you'll want to go with the best audio quality available to you. Most producers understand the importance of sound quality and will offer either stem files or the UN mastered mixed single Wav. File as a leasing option. Something you definitely want to consider if your serious about the quality of your sound.
10.-Professionally mixed Beats While we're on the subject of quality. Make sure the beats you're buying or leasing are well mixed. Poorly mixed beats will affect the quality of how your songs will sound. Now if you're not sure what to listen for when a beat is poorly mixed. Here are a few characteristics that will let you know a beat is poorly mixed: Muffled or cloudy sounding mixes. Either the producer didn't take the time to properly EQ the bass frequencies in the beat or didn't use any EQ at all. As result leaving you with muddy and un detailed sounding mix.Unbalanced mix is where the instruments sound like they're competing with each other. Now a well mixed beat will have balance and clarity with instruments sitting in their own space. Another way to identify a good mix would be to compare it to a mainstream beat. Now it won't be as loud or as full as a mainstream beat but the characteristics should be present amongst the two beats you are comparing.