Things have certainly changed in the world of music production.
It used to be that you needed someone with a huge amount of resources and connections to notice your band if you hoped to get something recorded.
That’s just how expensive recording used to be. Today, there are more outlets for an independent musician to get their music recorded in pretty good quality. If you’re ready to sit down and record your first song or first album, you have that option fairly readily available to you.
But do you know how to produce a song? Just because you have the ability to do so doesn’t mean you are ready to. Read on, and we’ll walk you through what you need to know about producing music.
The Modern Recording Process
We have a lot more technology today than we did in the past when it comes to the recording process. This can be both a blessing and a curse. It used to be you would have just a few microphones and you would recording a performance live.
Nowadays, it is much more common that a producer would use a multitrack system and record everything separately. That means even one person alone could put together a track that would at one point take many people to do. It also means that producers and songwriters now have maximum control over their work, being able to tweak each element individually.
It also means that there are so many possible options open to a producer. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s very easy to get lost. The process gives you more flexibility, but it can also take much, much longer to do. And who knows what else the future might bring!
How should you go about it to ensure your success? How can you avoid getting stuck in the weeds of songwriting and recording?
Create A Guide or Scratch Track
If you’re recording all of your instruments separately, you need to find a way to keep everyone in rhythm with one another. The easiest way to do this is to pick one element to use as a guide for all the others.
This could be something as simple as a metronome. This keeps time and keeps everyone working at the same tempo and rhythm. If the song you have in mind has one key instrument that runs throughout, laying that down first as a base can also serve as this guiding track.
You can also produce what is known as a scratch track, which is a less refined or messy recording of the song in question. You can then replace each instrument, one at a time, in this track with proper hi-def recording.
Proper audio production can quickly become complicated, so ensuring you have a proper guide to follow through the process can be key.
Start With The Rhythm Section
Once you’ve laid down the base of your recording process, start with the rhythm section of your song. These instruments (usually the bass and the drums) lead a song. They keep everyone else on pace. That’s why it is important to record them first.
Recording drums can often be the hardest part of the process. Getting a good drum sound can be difficult, as unlike many instruments, there is no direct electrical input. Experiment and try to find the best way to achieve drum recordings with the mics you currently have.
If the song in question isn’t going to have drums or bass, you should start with another rhythmic instrument like an acoustic guitar.
Get The Chord Structure and Melody Down
Once the main rhythm of the song is down, it’s time to put the harmonies in place. That means implementing the main chord structure that your song is based around. Yes, that means something like G C G C D, for example.
You can do this with a rhythm guitar, with the piano, synths, or even vocals. Once the chords are in place, you should start hearing your song for real for the first time. The combination of rhythm and harmony is the main bones of your song.
What do you do then to bring it to life? It’s time for the melody. In most songs, the melody will be the lead vocals, sung by a person. A song might not have a singer, however, so it can also be synths, horns, or whatever you have in mind.
Make sure to record the lead melody first before you start playing around with extra harmonies and other such things. It’s easy to get lost if you go about things in that order.
Color The Details In
With the previous details, the main form of your song should be in place. Now all you need to do is spruce it up with more details! Percussion fills, additional instruments, and sampled sound effects can all expand a song’s palette and make it feel full.
You can balance the different recording levels in many available computer programs, and even add effects to make things sound different or distorted.
Today, there’s no excuse not to just make a song on your own: the tech is out there, you just need to teach yourself how to use it.
How To Produce A Song On Your Own
Today, it doesn’t make thousands of dollars to make a song. You can learn how to produce a song all on your own with a shoestring budget. It’s not impossible.
Need more advice? Want to know what to do with your song once you have it? Check out our blog for more information.