Any engineer will tell you that its the quality of instruments you choose as well as the recording that will contribute to a good mix. Early on in the recording process there quite a few techniques artist can use to get the studio quality sound in their recordings. But in order to achieve the sound you want, you'll need to know the basic fundamentals of the recording process. And knowing when to apply certain effects to your vocals. In this article I will be going over the top ten audio effects every recording artist should know.
1-Compression- Keeping the low parts loud and the loud parts low of your vocals can be achieved with compression. Another alternative would be to use automation on the volume control of your vocals. But if you're looking to use compression to alter the tone of your vocals, or tighten them up in the mix. You can do so by adjusting the threshold below the average level of the vocals. This way the compressor will be most active during the louder parts of the performance like singing. The audio will sound overly compressed at first but using a longer attack setting will fix this. However if your looking for a more up front aggressive presence for your vocal mix. The desired compression settings are threshold -2db, ratio 4:-1-6:1 ,attack 1rms, release to about 40rms and adjusting the gain output so that it matches the input level. At this output you'll need to add a considerable amount of of gain to compensate.
2- Equalization (Eq)- Boosting ,reducing and sometimes attenuating a signal this will allow you to clean up vocals by removing unwanted frequencies. Eq is one of the most important tools you'll use. Knowing where to cut and boost is vital part to achieving good sounding vocals. When applying Eq to your vocals its best to start by removing unwanted frequencies. When cutting from the low end its anywhere from 75HZ to 100Hz. Removing “boominess” and small room resonance ranges from 100 Hz to 150Hz. This will depend on the vocals your working on as the frequencies range can sometimes be used to add warmth and fullness by boosting in 100Hz to 150Hz. For lyric clarity you can either boost or reduce in the 800Hz-1k range. For open presence boosting in the 3k-6k range. For brightness 9k-11k range. For air you can boost or reduce in the range of 12k.
3-Reverb- Used to add space and depth in the mix. The idea behind using this effect is to create a natural sounding environment and space for each of the sounds in the mix. Think of live music performances and how the instruments along with the vocalist are positioned on stage. Lead vocals
will be in front of the band along with any accompanying lead instruments. Every instrument being played needs its space. When applying reverb keep in mind that subtlety is the best approach. Bring the input level of reverb effect to where you want it and bring it back down to about 2db-4b lower then you initially intended it to be.
4-Delay-Like reverb this effect is used to add space and soft instruments and vocals in the mix. Delay can be used with or without reverb to add a bit of depth to your vocals. As reverb tails can cause clutter issues in the mix if applied excessively. Whereas delays and echoes can dissipate quickly, giving you a cleaner sound.
5-De-esser- Think of it as a frequency compressor allowing you to keep harsh noises at bay. Preferably used on vocals and sometimes lead instruments. Great for removing sibilance from vocals. An extremely useful tool when mixing your vocal and keeping them clear of unwanted noise caused from speech.
6-Limiter- After applying compression for tone and compression once again for dynamics. At this point the vocal volume should be consistent. But for a more commercial sounding feel you can take the extra step and add a limiter to grab any peaks that may have gone noticed during the compression stages. Subtly is key when adding a limiter to your vocals.
7-Exciter-The idea behind this effect is to add controlled distortion also referred to as saturation, to vocals, instruments and an over all mix. There are many types of saturation that can be applied varies frequency areas of your mix. For example if you wanted to add some saturation to the highs or mid frequencies of your vocals. This effect can be achieved in one of two ways the first would be to create a copied track of your lead vocals. Using a hi-pass filter to isolate the highs while removing the low and mid frequencies of the copied vocal track. At this point the sound will be extremely thin and low so to compensate for this you may need to add a limiter or compressor to add some presence to the copied track. You'll then need to bring the level of the copied track into the mix once you've applied the effects. The next approach would be to create a bus track or an additional fx track from your main fx track. This is done because the saturation signal coming from the exciter plug-in can be extremely harsh so with that being said you'll want make that you're adding too much of it. Remember subtlety is key.
8-Pitch Correction- Primarily used for correcting notes that are sung by vocalist. Most DAWS may have some form of pitch correction but for those that don't. Can look into plug-ins like “Celemony's Melodyne”,”Izotope's Nectar 2” And “Antares Auto Tune”. The idea behind this effect is to correct notes that were sung out of key by moving them in the right key.
9-Chorus-While having the longest delay out of all modulation effects. The chorus effect is commonly used to create vocal doubling.
10- Auto tune- I'm sure by now you've heard of this effect and what it does to your vocals. But for those that don't, it's an audio processor that alters pitch in vocal, instrument recordings and performances.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the various digital audio workstation options available to you
in today's age of cutting edge music creation. I've put together a list of the ten best DAWS for music production in 2017. Although there are quite a few more DAWS to add to the list these are the ones that i've had experience using in the and present.
1-FL studio – This is one of the most popular used DAWS amongst songwriters and producers. The learning curve makes the music creation process for this program more user friendly for most beginners. As its interface is pretty straight forward there are some hidden features that can be found by through trial and error or youtube tutorials. Audio engine sounds great on a scale of 1-10 i'd rate it 8.5. FL studio works well with out board units like a compressor or keyboard workstation and easy to set up. Extremely affordable with prices that range from: $99.00-$299.00 and free upgrades for life. Read more at their website here
2-Studio One – Amazing program that allows the user to customize its keyboard functions to map to your liking or of your previous DAWS. This program is filled with its own its own useful plugins that help give your music a professional sounding mix. Works well with outboard gear such as EQ and Compressors etc. If you decide to expand your setup to a more hardwear/ softwear based workflow you can. Read more at their website here
3-Ableton Live - Widely used by producers and DJ's in the edm / trap genre this is another great program to make beats with.Packed with the usual DAW standard features unlimited midi/ audio track counts and ect. The seamless midi sequencing software and hardware integration is what makes it truly unique. You have to option to use ableton live controllers or any other standard controller will do.With over 50gb of sound library files you use if you don't already have your own sound library to work with. Read more at their website here
4-Reason- This is another amazing DAW that doesn't get enough praise when it comes to beat making. What sets them apart from other digital workstations earlier on was the fact that there were no Vst integration and you had to rely on solely rely on the devices within the program itself. With the creation of rewire allowing you to use reason with another DAW. This was the common workaround to get your beat in an audio format and access Vst's. With a large and unique sound library that was a few gigs and if that wasn't enough you were able to buy sound bank refills from their website or authorize retailer. With devices like Nnxt and NN-19 gave its users its endless creative possibilities. Both devices have there own sound banks and doubled as a sampler giving more control over your sound creatively. They even took it a step further with a device called Dr. Rex that allows you to play loops of your own or from their sound banks. Since then Reason has come a long way since it's release in December 2000.From version 1.0 to 9.5 which now supports vst. The features of this DAW have improved greatly over the years with newer devices such as thor, kong and rack extensions. This digital workstation is a powerhouse. Read more at their website here
5-Cubase -Great program, widely used in the music industry. In Fact you'd be surprised at how many studios running this DAW in their setups. Cubase a powerhouse with the type of control it allows its users to have over their compositions is truly amazing to say the least. Every DAW has its learning curve and for this program its pretty steep. Its also filled with a large sample library and a device called
sonic se that has a ton of useful settings. Read more at their website here
6-Logic pro x– Another great DAW (Mac users only). Packed with a ton of its own vsts and devices to help you create your music. Great program to produce and mix in as well.i've traced out several of my older sessions in the past just to mix in the program. Over all well rounded program for producers on the mac. Read more at their website here
7- Reaper- Another Amazing DAW with features and capabilities to help you conjure up something special. Giving you customization control over the functions and layout to your needs for better workflow. Fully integratable with outboard gear with multitrack audio and midi editing capabilities as well as mixing and mastering. Read more at their website here
8-Calk walk- Great DAW that allows you to do it all from mixing to mastering and anything else you can think of is there for you to create music. This is a windows only based DAW. Read more at their website here
9- Magix Acid- Great DAW to get into if your just starting out simple and easy to use. When I was just starting out this wass one of the many few digital workstations I had a chance to use and found it very useful for sequencing as I was tracking my own loops and sounds from a keyboard workstation I was using at the time. Read more at their website here
10-Pro-Tools- The most used DAW by industry professionals. Powerful features make its use great for mixing , editing, recording and song mastering making it an industry standard DAW. This program is not for beginners recommended user level is expert and above. Read more at their website here
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.