May 10, 2019

How to prepare your music for release

I'm excited about sharing some tips with you. I hope you are.

Before we get into it I like to first share with you a video that has really useful information that is still relevant today.

This interview with Travis O'Guin who is the CEO of Strange Music, talks about how he met Tech 9 and how he helped take him over the top.

He also points out useful information and tips about the music industry which I know can be very helpful.

A MUST SEE for all Indie Artists.

OK. Now what I want to talk about is HOW TO PREPARE YOUR MUSIC. I've had many artists ask me this question and it's probably one of the most important part of your career.

You have to get your music to sound great. This is probably one of the steps that many artists rush on.

The need to release tracks out ASAP is really not the way to go. Especially if you're starting out.

Remember quality over quantity. However, I wouldn't recommend releasing 1 song per year. It is important to be consistent and persistent.

Find a balance in release time. Don't disappear or overwhelm your fans. So let's talk about going over a few key factors that will take your songs to the next level.

Recording Vocals

Make sure you are well rehearsed before going to the studio. Physically comfortable and under no psychological pressure. It's best to go in there with no distractions. I recommend the engineer, producer and you in the studio.

Use a good microphone. It doesn't have to be anything too special. But avoid low cost bargain models if you're recording at home. Bottom line try to use a good microphone.

Always use a pop shield between you and the microphone. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in pops, clicks or "b" and "p" sounds that can't be fixed afterwards.

Also if you know a mic that suits your voice, request it. But lots of times engineers will know what to use. Just give them more info on what kind of singer or rapper you are. Such as your tone and voice.

Singers with thin and excessively bright voices may actually sound better with a dynamic mic. While those needing more of an open sound would benefit from a capacitor mic. Rap vocals can benefit from a condenser mic.

If possible I would try a test with each model and see which works best to your voice.

Use the right mic pattern. Most studio vocal recordings are made using cardioid or unidirectional mic, as these pick up less sound from the sides and rear.

However, an omni mic of the same quality pick up a more natural open sound and can be useful if a singer tends to sound boxy.

Distance from you and the mic is very important. If not put at the right distance such as if you get to close to the mic, you'll increase the risk of popping and the level will change noticeably every time you slightly move.

If the singer is too far away from the mic then the reflection of the room will colour the sound. Making it seem remote and boxy. A rule to follow, a mic distance of around 6-9 inches is ideal. I would experiment different distances.

Most studios will have a booth where you record your vocals. They would have prepared the room to record vocals. Keep away from the walls as the mic picks up both direct sounds from the singer and reflected sound from the room.

Don't settle for anything less then the best vocal performance you can get and don't expect to get it all perfect in one take. Sometimes the engineer will have to punch in and out around phrases that need re-doing. You can also do the whole song several times and then compile a track from the best parts of each take.

For best results, make good raw recordings without adding effects to your vocals yet. If your vocals sound great raw, just imagine how amazing they will sound once you add a little bit of reverb, delays, eqs, etc. In other words, don't rely on the effects too much to cover bad recordings.

Make sure to layer your tracks. Again don't do it all in 1 take and record 2 tracks of your vocals and call it a day. At least 4-8 tracks is ideal if you're solo. The more the better. I did a recording session where I had the artist layered each of his verse, chorus, etc about 5-6 times. We went back and recorded those sections 5-6 times. Now if you did great with less tracks and are happy with the results, then that's fine too.

Not to get confuse of duplicating the same track. Each were new recordings of the same verse, chorus, etc...  

I know all this information is technical and on the engineering side of it. But it's good to know that just by mic placement and the quality of the mic, it can make a difference on the quality sound of your vocals.

Mixing and Mastering

This is a very important step in post production and can make or break your song. I won't go too much into this topic. But first off let's talk about why is good mixing and mastering essential. Mixing refers to the process of putting multiple layers of audio together to make one final track or modifying an existing track. Mastering refers to the process of optimizing the final track using all sorts of mastering elements such as compression, equalization, stereo enhancement, etc. Basically it polishes the song to give it that last boost without peaking.

So if your vocals sound flat then this is the process of mixing. You can add a EQ and brighten the vocals or add a reverb to make it sound fuller. If you want the strings to sound lower during the verse and then turn up the volume during the chorus, this is the mixing and automation of the track. If you feel there isn't enough bass to your kick drum, a low boost around 40-100hz normally does the trick.

These are just a few ideas that go on during the mixing phase and there's so much more to do during mixing.

Now, the track sounds better but there's still quite a lot of work to do. It's time for mastering. You can really bring a track to life and spice up the sound. You can make the drum more dynamic, the vocals in your face, the piano more soft and maybe boost the bass frequencies of the piano a little bit as there is no bass.

So as you can see just by going over a little bit of this process, it can make a huge difference on the final track. Make sure you invest in this process and have it done by an experienced engineer.

Master your craft

I like talking about this because I have talked to many people in the music industry and they all said the same thing. "Work on your craft, master your craft". This is very true and it applies to everyone. As a producer myself, I still practice on my craft and always like to find tips and techniques to help me improve. I have taken many courses on how to create beats, how to mix my own beats how to mix vocals and piano lessons.

PRACTICE
This ones probably obvious , you've got to practice. You've got to be able to do what you want, when you want. By having strong execution skills, you can do more than before. You need to push yourself to your limits, because as you get better you expand your talent. Practice everyday if you can. I know this can be very hard as you may have other priorities.

FIND A VOCAL COACH OR MENTOR
I would highly recommend this. A vocal coach can teach you ideas and techniques that can help improve your singing voice. If you're a rapper, try to find a mentor or a coach as well. He/She can show you the ropes to improve your rapping skills and lyrics. Then use this knowledge and practice, practice, practice. If you already have one then great. You're really serious about your craft. A coach can also help you with your tone, pitch, how to use your body when you sing, etc. This can take your career to the next level. This is very important to master so when it's time to go to the studio and record, your vocals will sound good and so will your music.

Check out this video I found below. It talks about how to control your pitch. If you don't have a coach, you can always find one locally at www.thumbtack.com

FOCUS
Stay focus on your craft. Your style can only continue to get better. Either your're learning from mistakes or making changes that are refining how you express yourself creatively.

The more time you dedicate to developing your craft, the more you will learn about what you are capable of. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn from them and know what to avoid in the future.

Your self confidence will increase, as long as you are growing with time spent and mistakes made. The more honed your craft is, the more you will stand out in your field. Honing your technique, your skill and your style will feed into your uniqueness as an artist.

Always feel that you can get better.

Staying focus is key. Don't forget that the Journey is the reward.

Music Production

A strong career starts from quality songs. All songs start with music productions. It's the foundation of every quality song. Haven't you ever heard a song to where you only liked the beat? As you can see just the production is a big deal. Going back to what I mention before about releasing tracks too soon. Many think quantity over quality will get them notice fast. Well that is a perfect way to think if you want to have a short career.

You will NOT stand out that way.

I would suggest getting about 10-15 quality songs and pushing them for a year. Along the way you might have new ideas and want to record more, but you need to KNOW what your best songs are and push them.

No need to have 30 mediocre songs. You're just wasting time. I rather have 8 good potential songs then to have 25 so so songs that won't go nowhere.

Be honest with yourself. Not all of your songs are hits. Pick out and create 10-15 solid songs and then move on.

Must production should never be overlooked. Your lyrics may be good but without music production, people don't even begin to listen.

If you're serious about creating quality songs, you will have to get beats done by a professional producer. I can't stress that enough. I have many artist come to me and say they have their friends do the productions for them for cheap or free.

But can't rely on them anymore for producing more beats on a professional level. You may save some money and the beat might sound good. But then you have to think about if your friend will continue to make beats for you. Is he using quality sounds or equipment. Is the mix industry standard. Does your friend have years of engineer experience. Or the ear for it. These are things as an artist you should think of.

Whether you work with me or not, I just want you to have the right mindset and set of tools as you progress in your career.

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