10 Ways to improve your production

Becoming an accomplished music producer is a long process, whether you’re aspiring for the top notch studio or simply wanting to get the best from your home studio setup. The paths to becoming skilled at your craft are diverse, but there are some common pitfalls to try and avoid. The following set of music producer tips will look at 10 simple ways to improve your music production and avoid sounding amateurish.

1. Learn About Compression Techniques

A common mistake that prevents amateurs from getting a full sound is not filling the “box” that is volume, panning, and frequency. The typical dilemma is this: as more sounds are layered together, the audio may start to clip. And so you turn the gain down on the each channel of the mixer. But then it sounds quiet. In order to fix this, you need to learn about compression and mixing. If used properly, compression reduces the variations between one audio channel’s highest and lowest gain levels throughout the track, which allows you to turn the volume up without clipping. If you want to learn more about compressors go here.

2. Reduce Muddy Sound With EQ

Removing the frequency below say 30-40Hz on your track’s elements is a good idea. This frequency range essentially offers nothing to your mix other than a low end rumble which will quickly clog up your mix as you add more and more elements within this frequency range. By using an EQ to “roll off” this range on each element in your track you’ll end up with much more space and clarity.
When too many frequencies are overlapping in a mix, the result is also “muddy”. To prevent mud, you must consciously keep in mind what range of frequencies you are adding with each new part. Inevitably, frequencies will overlap, no matter what instruments you choose. For example, two bassy sounds on top of each other will interfere, resulting in weird phasing issues. If you want to use two instruments that use up the same frequency spectrum, you’ll want to carve out the highs on one and carve out the lows on the other (through the use of EQ, you will eliminate too many overlapping frequencies and clear up your mix). The end result should consist of many different parts that all cover different ranges of frequencies, which all add up to a full, clear sound.
Learning to “roll off” where necessary and “notch out” space in the mix for each element is something that takes time, and it’s a good idea to learn the process with the help of a Spectrum Analyser. By adding one to each channel of your mix, you’ll see where things need to be rolled off, and where that specific element is most prominent in the frequency spectrum. Then you can EQ out the other elements in that range, allowing it to breathe in the mix. By doing this for each mix element, you’ll end up with a cleaner mix.
Most DAWS come with adequate spectrum analysers, but many plugin companies also make their own which often offer improved visual feedback and other features. You can check out the range of free, value and premium Spectral Analysers at Plugin Boutique.

3. Beware Of Stacking Big Phat Presets

Presets are a great place to start and some of them are ready to slot right into a track with great results. However, many VST instrument plugins have presets that are designed to sound fantastic on their own, but can create problems when thrown together with other big phat sounding presets.
This is because many of these presets fill up much of the low and high end as well as often unnaturally filling the stereo field (for example, big wide bass sounds). Unless you carefully carve out the clashing frequencies in these big phat sounds using EQ, you may get a muffled, muddy sound when throwing these types of heavily processed presets together. Alternatively, you may get an unnatural sounding stereo spread.
As a result it’s also useful to learn to modify the presets by taking the time to learn how to program a synth. I find myself dividing music-making time into at least two different tasks: patch programming and sequencing. Programming can consist of long hours in front of a synth, twisting knobs (or virtual ones) and fine-tuning the sound to perfection. It may seem boring to some people, but one of the keys to succeeding in your music is to be original and find your own sound. Taking the time to create your sounds from scratch (or at least modifying presets to suit your track) can make all the difference.

4. Don’t End Up Awash In Reverb

A common mistake amongst novice producers is to use too much processing and overload on the effects. While this can yield creative results when done methodically, slapping on the effects heavy-style can eventually lead to a muddled and hectic sound.
Reverb is a very commonly abused effect. If you do use reverb, a good general rule is to tone it down so you can’t really notice it’s there. The key to knowing if you’ve got it right is when your average listener WILL notice when you take the reverb away, but they won’t notice it’s presence until you do. Tracks that are drenched in cheap reverb almost always sound amateurish.

5. Be Aware Of Over-Limiting

While limiting is a valuable tool, it’s often something that the novice will abuse. This has become even more of a problem with the “loudness wars”, where everyone is fighting to get the loudest track out there. The result of over-limiting a track is that the bounce ends up in a file that looks like a brick wall, with no peaks and troughs and very little dynamic range. It may be loud, but to the brain it sounds unnatural. Learning to achieve a balance between loudness and dynamic range is important.

6. Learn Home Mastering Basics

The opposite of over-limiting is a weak and low-volume track, another sign that the track is not properly mastered. A weak sounding track is going to struggle to excite the listener so it’s important to get a grip on the basics of making your track relatively loud and punchy.
These days, a lot of producers are mastering their own music with software such as Wave Arts PowerSuite, izotope Ozone, PSP Vintage Warmer, Waves MaxxVolume, Sony’s Wave Hammer, etc. These plugins can really improve the overall loudness of your track and when used properly can deliver professional sounding results.

7. Tighten Up Your Timing

If you aren’t the tightest at banging out beats, basslines and the like, you’ll probably end up with slightly loose rhythm parts. This problem is amplified if the latency on your audio interface adds a delay from when you hit a pad or key to when the sound is generated. In this case, it’s probably a good idea to turn to your friend “Quantize” and also a good idea to look into the best way to minimize and account for latency in your set-up. Each DAW will have a section on this in your manual, and while it might be a little boring, getting this sorted out in your auto-load template will save you plenty of trouble down the line.
Regarding quantization – I’m not saying that you should quantize everything, unless you are going for a mechanical, computerized drum track. In order to retain the human feel, many people only quantize to 75%-90% and you should be able to find how to set the quantize value fairly quickly in your DAW’s manual.
Also, sometimes you may need to quantize certain groups of midi notes on their own, apart from the whole drum truck. You’ll need to do this when you have triplet notes, for example. Some quantize menus will have “1/16 + 1/16 T”, which means it will quantize to the nearest 16th note or the nearest 16th triplet note. If you have this option, you can apply quantization to the whole track.

8. Don’t Get Stuck In The Loop

Loops have become an integral part of modern music, and there’s no doubt that some of the most memorable tracks in the past few decades have been the result of that oh-so-addictive loop!
However, the repetitive overuse of loops in your tracks can lead to a stale, uninteresting track if the loops aren’t used properly. If you want to use the same sample over and over, consider looking into ways to transform it, modulate it or shape it somehow so to get some variation and keep things interesting for the listener. Slice it, dice it, pitch it, reverse it, flange it, phase it, you name it. Another creative way of getting more from your samples is to create interesting variations of the same loop with follow actions.

9. Treat Your Room

One of the most common problems for bedroom producers is a room that lacks any accoustic treatment and includes things like bass traps. It’s something we’ll all deal with to some extent if you’re making music out of your home and not in a top end studio. However, there’s plenty of information online about how to improve the accoustics of your room with simple and cost-effective accoustic treatment. You’d be surprised what a few carefully placed rugs, hanging blankets etc. can do to help you get the best mix out of your space.

10. Master What You Have First

We live in a world of abundance when it comes to audio production tools and software, but sometimes the choice can be paralyzing. Part of becoming a better producer is mastering your kit – and that’s nearly impossible to do if you are constantly moving on to the next big thing. Learn to use your gear inside and out and when you do you’ll realize what you actually need to take it to the next level. Consider starting out with some of the great free software out there to learn processes, and then as you improve your knowledge consider moving on to more premium versions with a strong foundation of knowledge.
This also includes styles of music. By all means experiment and keep an open mind – but if you’re making X this month because it’s the next big thing, by the time you figure out your own sound there, you’ll likely be compelled to move on the next trend. Be yourself!

Mixing with headphones

Maybe you’re on the road, maybe you can’t get into a studio, maybe you’re just making a rough mix for someone. If you absolutely must mix with headphones, here are some tips to help avoid the biggest mistakes people make.

Keep it dry

Headphones don’t contribute much acoustic information to the sound you’re hearing because they’re so close to your ears.  Everything sounds very close. You’ll be tempted to make things sound deeper, wider, and more lush than you should with headphones because of the flatness of the soundstage.

The best advice is to keep it dry because you have no frame of reference.  A dry mix is far more likely to sound good on speakers when mixed with headphones than one with a lot of delay and reverb.  Otherwise you’ll run the risk of a washed out sound devoid of impact when you add the acoustics of an actual listening environment and distance from speakers.

Keep it Simple

Fancy effects such as flanging, phasing, and their ilk will sound very different with speakers because their positioning will contribute natural phase shifts.  If you start messing with phase in your headphone mix you have no way of knowing what will happen when you add speaker distance into the equation.  Again, play it safe and keep things simple.

Use the whole stereo image

While this is true when mixing with speakers, it’s especially true with headphones. Headphones are two points of sound which typically generate three major lobes: left, center, and right.

These lobes will be loudest and things will sound especially huge when panned into these positions. Remember that you have all the space in-between those lobes to use and that headphones will probably sound most impressive with things panned  hard.  Be aware of that and avoid the temptation to make everything live there.

Use multiple references

The same rules that apply to mixing with speakers apply to headphones: the more references you have the better.  In addition to your standard headphones, check on something very different.  Don’t forget consumer-grade headphones like plain white iPod earbuds!  If it sounds great on all of these, you’re more likely to have a solid mix.

If there’s any way you can mix on real studio monitors, do it. Otherwise follow these tips and you just might be able to pull of a slammin mix with your headphones.

What is a music producer?

For those looking to consider starting music production as a hobby or career, it’s good to know what exactly that entails. So, what is a music producer? What do they do?

Music producers sit a lot. They stare at a computer screen for long periods of time. They meticulously program sounds in certain patterns or arrangements. They also have the power of creation and sound design.

‘Production’ in and of itself is a fairly vague term that can mean a lot of different things. In today’s day and age, the most common understanding of a music producer is someone who creates a song from scratch using various song elements or instruments. They are essentially the backbone of pop, R&B, hip-hop and electronic music. A lot of times a single person is behind major pop hits that you hear on the radio.

In the realm of rock, jazz, country and more acoustic or live settings, their role is shifted a bit. They are more responsible for controlling the mix during recording and providing advice to musicians about how to better utilize the space and structure of their songs. Many times the greatest producers are those individuals who exude patience and the ability to see the big picture.

The question is, does this sound like something you could be interested in?

12 of the biggest mistakes most music producers make

Not everyone has what it takes to be a music producer. You have to have the right technical skills, mindset, and maybe even some natural talent to break into the music production scene. If you’re a beginner at music production, there are several mistakes you can make to significantly slow you down and prevent you from producing the kind of music you want to be known for producing. Be sure to avoid these thirteen common blunders:

SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME TRYING OUT NEW TECHNOLOGY

The best producers learned how to make music by working with a few different tools and a limited amount of technology. Music technology has multiplied like crazy over the past few years, but that doesn’t mean you should be using every new app or device that comes out. It’s best to invest in a few, high-quality tools and get really good at using them.

NOT SCOPING OUT THE COMPETITION

Thanks to all that music production technology and the lowered costs of music production, home-based music producers are a dime-a-dozen. Chances are, you probably have a few music producers you admire and try to emulate. Make sure you’re staying on top of all of the novice producers you might be competing against for competition. You can learn from what they’re doing and improve upon it.

NOT TESTING YOUR MIXES IN MONO

If you’re only testing your mixes with headphones, they might sound pretty bad on a mono playback system. Always test them to make sure their stereo width is balanced and they have mono compatibility.

OVER-EMBRACING HIGH FREQUENCIES 

To the untrained ear, high frequencies might not seem that bad, but you’ll immediately use all of your credibility if your mixes are rife with ear-piercing high frequencies. Watch out for this.

FORGETTING TO KEEP TABS ON YOUR BASS

Inexperienced producers often rely too heavily on bass in their mixes or don’t keep their bass in check, which makes for messy-sounding tracks. Make sure bass sounds aren’t overpowering your music, and be sure to use your EQ’s as well as compression appropriately.

MAKING YOUR TRACKS TOO LOUD

This is a big mistake, especially if you’re just starting out. A track isn’t automatically better because it’s louder, no matter how appealing turning up the volume seems.

AVOIDING THE PRESETS ON YOUR MUSIC PRODUCTION SOFTWARE

They’re there to make your life easier, and using them doesn’t mean you’re less original or creative. It just means that you value your time and want to create a polished product using the best technology available to you.

THINKING YOU’RE AN EXPERT AFTER A FEW MONTHS

It often takes years (at least!) for producers to become really good at what they do. You have to dedicate several hours a week for at least a year to expect to be good enough for someone to possibly notice. Even then, there aren’t any guarantees. Just put the time in, improve your craft, and know that you always have new things to learn.

RELEASING YOUR WORK TOO EARLY

Don’t try to distribute your work online to the masses until you feel absolutely confident it’s ready. There’s just no point in doing so. There is no shame in asking your peers/mentors for feedback. But try to make your official releases as professional as possible. And if you’re not sure if your work is ready take it to a seasoned professional and have them check/mix it for you.

PRODUCING WITH THE LIMITER ON

It’s a telltale sign of being a novice producer. The problem is that if you produce with a limiter, it’s almost impossible to make changes to the track later on down the road that sound good. As a general rule, a limiter should probably only be used right before mastering.

EXPORTING CARELESSLY

It’s very common for the end of a track to get cut off or the beginning of a track to get messed up during the exporting phase. Make sure you’re triple-checking to make sure your entire audio file is being exported the way you want it to.

STAYING DISCONNECTED FROM OTHER PRODUCERS

There are so many online communities dedicated to music production. If you don’t know any producers in real life, it’s a great idea to explore these communities and make connections. Having people to answer your questions, help you pick up new tricks, and listen to what you’re making can be invaluable in your development as a producer.

 

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AudioBox iTwo: The interface for producers on the go

The AudioBox iTwo is the most versatile bus-powered audio/MIDI interface, providing two combo mic and switchable line/instrument inputs with a high-performance mic preamplifier. In the studio or in the field, it’s great for recording synths, guitars, and anything you can capture with mics. Compact and ruggedly built, AudioBox iTwo is a complete solution for mobile musicians, sound designers, and podcasters.

Studio One 3 Artist makes recording a breeze

No other entry-level recording and production software is this easy to learn and use, yet is capable of creating studio-quality output. Studio One® 3 Artist lets you work quickly and stay focused on your inspiration, offers unlimited tracks and plug-ins, and delivers features not normally found in entry-level DAWs. Access powerful editing tools without wading through menus. Load and save audio clips, MIDI files, and effects by drag-and-drop. Studio One makes it easy!

Record on the go with Capture Duo for iPad

Based on Capture™ live-recording software for StudioLive® mixers, Capture Duo lets you record two stereo tracks with up to 24-bit, 96 kHz fidelity using the AudioBox iTwo, another MFi audio interface for iPad, or the iPad’s built-in mics. You can wirelessly transfer recordings directly from Capture Duo to a Mac or PC running Studio One, then edit, sweeten, overdub, and mix with the power of a world-class DAW. If two tracks aren’t enough, purchase the low-cost, 32-track Capture for iPad to create a truly mobile professional recording system.

Capture every nuance with the M7 condenser microphone

Get your mic collection off to a good start with the M7 large-diaphragm condenser microphone. Condenser mics are the overwhelming choice of recording studio professionals, enabling you to capture musical details, harmonics, and subtle nuances that would get lost with dynamic mics. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones, like the M7, tend to “warm up” a sound, making them the go-to microphone for recording vocals and a wide range of instruments.

Hear every detail with HD7 professional headphones

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PreSonus AudioBox iTwo Studio includes everything you need to record demos, rehearsal sessions, podcasts, sound effects for video, and your next hit record. Available for sale at The Music Home: 00961 3 911 087

Glossary of music production terms

We have been getting a lot of questions as of late on the “technical” side of thing so we dedicated a day of our lives to making this for you! Enjoy!

A – D

  • Ableton: Ableton (Live) is a popular brand of DAW used to compose, produce, arrange, mix, and master music. This DAW also functions as an in depth and programmable live performance interface.
  • Academy of Sound Engineering: An academy of sound engineering is any music education based website, which specialize in teaching audio engineering, music production, mixing, and mastering. A great example of this is The Music and Recording Arts Academy.
  • Acoustics: Acoustics are the characteristics, dimensions, or properties/qualities of all rooms and/or buildings (otherwise known to be called ‘spaces’) that resolve how sounds are diffused in it.
  •  Acoustic Treatment: Acoustic Treatment is sound-absorbing material used to remove everyday acoustic issues such as echo, standing waves, trapped low end, attenuated frequencies, and much more. Acoustic treatment is highly recommended for rooms of all sizes and shapes.
  • Additive Synthesis: Sound produced by adding the output of multiple sine wave generators.
  • ADSR: The ADSR is an acronym standing for: Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release. ADSR represents the four subdivisions of a sound’s envelope.
  • AIFF: An AIFF is an uncompressed and high-resolution digital audio file structure, developed by Apple and used only on Mac systems.
  • Amplitude: The amplitude is the overall volume of an audio wave. Amplitude should be noted that excessive peaks in amplitude can/and most often would cause unpleasant sounding digital distortion or clipping.
  • Analog: The term analog concerns signals or information symbolized by a uninterruptedly variable physical capacity such as spatial position or current.
  • Analogue Hardware: Outboard gear is another name for analogue hardware. Analogue hardware is found in most small and large music production studios spanning from vintage to modern.
  • Art: Art is a tangible expression of ones creativity, passion, and being.
  • Artist: Everyone is an artist in some way. Some people cook meals while others draw designs for clothing. In the music world, an artist is someone who best expresses himself/herself through the universal language of music.
  • Attack: The attack is the duration of time it takes for a source signal to reach maximum amplitude.
  • AU: Audio Units are a plug-in architecture provided by Core Audio in Mac OS X. AU format is Apple’s equivalent to what is commonly known as a VST, and Avid’s equivalent to what is commonly known as RTAS/AAX.
  • Audio Engineering: An audio engineer is someone who works with the technical aspects of recording, manipulating, mixing, reproducing, or mastering sound.
  • Audio Interface: An audio interface is a hardware device, which allows you to plug in instruments (including microphones) and speakers.
  • Audio Pros: A term often used in forums and other online communities to describe people who earn a significant living from music, or have a considerable amount of knowledge to share with others.
  • Audio Production Jobs: Someone earns a living doing audio engineering and music production related services. This could be as intense as mastering or as simple as creating beats and selling direct to artist in need.
  • Bandwidth: Bandwidth describes the alteration amongst the highest and lowest frequencies from which any electronic device can emit.
  • Bass: Bass can be best defined as the “low-end” of the frequency spectrum. The scale of where Bass becomes Mid is somewhat subjective, but we feel it is around 400 hertz.
  • Bitrate: Bitrate defines the quantity of ‘bits’ which can be conveyed per second, characteristically measured in Kbps. It is generally the case the higher bitrate settings produce better audio quality but come at a cost with bigger files.
  • BPM: BPM is an acronym for beats per minute.
  • Chill Music: Chill music can be best defined as music, which is relaxing and soothing. Chill music can be anything from piano instrumentals to melodic dubstep. Chill music has an ambiance and vibe, which often brings listeners serenity within. When found online in search engines people often search for: Chill music, chill music vibes, and chill vibes twitter. Search these phrases for pinpoint results during your next relaxation period.
  •  Chillstep Music: Chillstep music is a branch of Dubstep music that has a melancholy vibe. Chillstep music offers driving melodies, serene vocals, and simple drums to provide a landscape of sound which has subtle dubstep elements fused into the track for emotion.
  • Chorus (Modulation): Chorus is a modulation effect, which delays an audio signal. This delay causes the source audio it to be heard as more than one piece of audio (best heard making a mono file sound stereo). The chorus effect occurs through rhythmic flanging and vibrato. Chorus is a music production secret for adding depth and space to a mix.
  • Clipping: Clipping is an audible, and most often unpleasant distortion of an audio signal. Clipping is an audio engineers worse nightmare when working ITB (in the box). Input levels being too high renders clipping. As an music producer learn to keep yourself out of the red when working on productions to avoid clipping.
  • Compressor: A compressor is an electronic unit that reduces the volume of a signal or amplifies a quiet sound. A compressor does this by altering the dynamic range of the source audio.
  • Compression: Compression can be a music producer’s best friend or worst enemy. Compression alters the time and feel of a source audio. Compression has both the ability to reduce peaks or raise the noise floor depending on how the compression parameters are set.
  • Community Music: Community music is music, which has been known to unite people. Music is the universal language of the world and exists to vibrate us all into a place a harmony, community, and peace with one another.
  • Condenser Microphone: A condenser mic is highly accurate and sensitive microphones.  Condenser Microphones require phantom (48v) power due to their low volume output.
  • ContinUum: ContinUum is a recording studio, community based on vibration, and a company, which thrives on human connection and interaction through art, passion, and heart.
  • Cubase: Cubase is a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) developed by Steinberg.
  • DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): A DAW is any software/electronically designed system which has the ability to record, edit, and playback digital and analogue (if converted) source audio.
  • Decay: Decay is the audible decrease in volume (in time) that occurs after a sound has fully attacked. Decay should not be confused with release. Release has to do with sustain, where as decay is more the tail end of the attack.
  • Decibel (dB): The decibel is the standard unit of measurement for expressing amplitude, volume or loudness.
  • Delay: Delay is a time-based effect recognized as an echo. Other terms associated with delay are ping-ping, stereo enhancement, and space.
  • DJ: A DJ is someone who plays music as a profession or hobby. DJ mixing is the craft of taking multiple songs and stringing them together to fuse a “DJ set.”
  • DJ Mix: A good DJ mix is one that sounds like a continuous song and takes the listener on an epic journey driven by highs and lows with smooth transitions.
  •  Digital Recording: Digital recording is the act of recording audio or MIDI information, which can be done on any DAW. It is highly recommended to use an audio interface for best audio quality.
  • Distortion: Refers to any and all types deformation (digital – unpleasant and harmonic – pleasant) of an audio signal compared to its input.
  • Dubstep Music: Dubstep music is a genre of EDM (Electronic Dance Music), which plays at 140 BPM. Dubstep music fuses energetic and upbeat drums with screaming synths. Dubstep music and Dubstep songs are provide a listening with a high vibration and are often driven by aggressive sound design. Dubstep is known for being less melodically driven and more rhythmic.
  • Dynamic Range: The ratio of the softest and loudest sound in any given audio track.

E – H

  • Effects: Effects are usually used to add character or interest after a sound has been devised or recorded. Effects can be anything from saturation to reverb. The purpose of effects is more for excitement and appeal than anything else.
  •  Electronic Music: Electronic music is music, which is most often created with a computer. Electronic music can have actual instruments are part of the composition which are organically recorded. Most often, electronic music is made ITB (in the box) and done solely with a computer and/or MIDI controller.
  •  EDM: EDM stands for Electronic Dance Music. EDM Training: EDM training defines a subset of online academy based institutions which focus their curriculum on teaching EDM principles, song structure, sound design, music production, digital audio engineering, mixing, and mastering. A good example of an EDM training institute is The Music and Recording Arts Academy.
  •  Envelope: The envelope visual representation of the ADSR. Some call this a time graph vs. amplitude.
  • Equalization (EQ): EQ application is the process of adding or subtracting gain in various frequency bands. These bands can be narrow or wide depending on the ‘Q’ adjustment.
  •  Fader: A fader is a vertical volume control lever. Faders can be both digital in DAWs and analog on mixing boards and consoles.
  •  Filter: The filter is an EQ that affects specific desired frequencies. Low pass filters leave the lows and affect (cut/boost) the highs. While high pass filters leave the highs while affecting (cut/boost) the lows.
  •  Flanger: A flanger is a modulation effect that mixes a delayed signal with an original. This alteration of sound causes some frequencies to be out of phase in a tasteful manner. This phase issue is called combing and can be quite desirable if applied correctly.
  •  FM Synthesis: Synthesis, which is driven by frequency modulation. The timbre of a simple waveform is modulated by an additional frequency triggering the waveform to alter and convert to a more complex and diverse sounding entity.
  •  Frequency: Frequency is the number of cycles per second in an audio wave travels in time and space. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) or kHz. Though the frequency spectrum goes very high and low, humans can only hear/feel 20Hz-20kHz.
  •  Fundamental: The fundamental is the principal (or lowest) frequency in a musical note or sound source.
  •  Gate: A gate or noise gate allows a signal to pass through when it registers above a certain threshold. Gates can be adjusted to respond to certain frequencies. Gates are best suited for cutting out background noise or sharply cutting off source audio.
  •  Genre: A genre is a musical category of music. Some example of genres are: Dubstep music, Trance music, Chillstep music, Hip Hop music, Rock music, House music, Acid Jazz music, Indie Pop music, ect.
  • Harmonic: A harmonic is multiple of a fundamental frequency. If the fundamental is 400, then 800Hz will be the first harmonic, then 1600Hz and moving upward from there.
  •  Headroom: The amount of space in your audio level below the 0dB point. Crossing the 0dB point is not recommended. More headroom most often equates to clearer audio.
  •  Hertz (Hz): The time by which frequency is measured and specified.

I-L

  • Input Gain: The input gain is the volume at which a signal travels through a processor such as an EQ, a compressor, an ITB plugin, an OTB mastering processor, or reverb unit.
  • ITB: ITB stands for In The Box. ITB means to produce music and engineer audio within a computer. No analogue hardware is used other than an interface. Artists with mixing plugins and mastering plugins do ITB mixing and mastering.
  • Kbps: Kilobits per second.
  • Level: The volume of sound in the listening atmosphere, articulated in decibels.
  • LFO: LFO stands for Low-Frequency Oscillator. Used to affect audio signals. Some examples for LFO use are: Dubstep wobbles, Effects that pulsate, noise sweeps, and pitch risers.
  • Limiter: A limiter to a compressor but with an infinite ratio. The output level will never pass the threshold. Limiters are best used to make sure a source audio file does not peak past 0dB.
  • Logic Pro: Logic Pro is a DAW made by Apple. Logic Pro’s most recent version is called Logic Pro X.
  • Loudness: Loudness is defined as the intensity of sound. Loudness is subjective. Loudness meters exist in software form to show these values, which are calculated by algorithms.
  • Loudspeaker: Any tangible form that translates electrical energy of an audio signal into acoustical energy or sound.

M – P

  • Master Channel: The master channel is often called the 2bus. The master channel is the stereo fader that all the tracks in a project are summed into.
  • Mastering: Mastering is the final process in music production and audio engineering. Mastering happens after the mixing process is complete. Mastering audio is concerned with EQ, compression, balancing, widening, and preparing for audio for distribution.
  • MIDI: MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and is the standard for transmitting musical data between electronic devices.
  • Mixing: Mixing is the art of gelling all tracks in a project to fit together to make a song. By the end of the mixing phase all the layers in the project should play as one big left and right mix which any listener can enjoy. Mixing is not making every layer heard at all times, but rather sculpting the project to be a symphony of sounds, which takes the listener on a journey.
  • Mixing Plug Ins: Mixing plug ins are software algorithms which model analogue hardware. Mixing plug ins are everything from compression units to mastering EQ units. Mixing plug ins are an essential part of the ITB (in the box) workflow and have the ability to make any artist sound very professional.
  • Monitor: A monitor is best know as a ‘speaker.’ When choosing studio monitors it is best to select a pair with a flat response to avoid coloration or alteration of the sound.
  • Mono: Mono is a single source audio sound, which does not have stereo width.
  • MP3: A MP3 is the most common audio file format. MP3 files can be played on both Windows and Mac systems.
  • Multi-track: A device or DAW that can play multiple source audio files at once simultaneously.
  • Music: Music is the universal language that connects all humans.
  • Music Artist: A music artist is someone who expresses himself/herself through the universal language that connects us all.
  • Music Download: A music download is a piece of music which can be digital transmitted to ones computer or other electronic device.
  • Music Education: Music education can be anything from eBooks, to online video course, to trade school programs. A great example of a fine Music Education system is The Music and Recording Arts Academy, which has been serving the greater Sacramento Area for years.
  • Music Production: Music production is the process of arranging parts within a composition to flow together and take the listener on an emotional journey. Music production focuses on both the little details of the song and the big picture.
  • Music Production Schools: A music production school is one that teaches music production and audio engineering skills in multiple genres. Music production schools offer DAW training; sound design, mixing, and mastering related courses. A great example of a Music Production School is the Music and Recording Arts Academy, which has been serving the greater Sacramento Area for years.
  • Music Theory: Music theory is the education of the practices and possibilities of music. It generally derives from observation of how musicians and composers make music, which involves key structure, modes, and much more.
  •  Near-Field Monitoring: Near-field monitors are generally small speaker system intended to be close to the listener. The close proximity of the monitors reduces reflected sounds from the listener’s room.
  • Normalization: Normalization is the process of increasing overall audio volume.
  • Octave: An octave is a sequence of eight notes. These ascending and descending series of notes are called octaves.
  • Oscillator: An oscillator generates an electrical waveform.
  • OTB (Out The Box): OTB (outside the box) refers to audio engineer and music production processes which happen outside of the computer. Analogue hardware processing is an OTB (outside the box) process.
  • Overdub: An overdub is the recording/rerecording of a part on top of an existing section of recorded audio
  • Overtone: An overtone is a multiple of a fundamental frequency. The first overtone is 2x the fundamental. The second overtone is 3x the fundamental.
  • Panning: Panning is the movement of an audio signal to different points in the stereo field.
  • Parallel Compression: Parallel compression is also known as New York compression. Parallel compression encompasses mixing an unprocessed dry signal with a compressed form of the same signal.
  • Parametric EQ: A parametric EQ is able to alter frequency, bandwidth, also known as ‘Q,’ and gain by means of cutting or boosting.
  • Patch: A patch is a sound produced, most often from a software based sound generator and/or synthesizer.
  • Peak: A peak is the point of highest amplitude in the audio.
  • Phase: Phase is the difference between two waveforms, expressed in degrees. 180 degrees produces phase cancellation. During phase cancellation frequencies will be inaudible.
  • Pitch: Pitch is the value of a sound managed by the rate of vibrations producing it. Pitch is the musical analysis of frequency.
  • Plugin: A plugin or plug in is an software program installed to a DAW which allows for digital processing of source audio.
  • Polyphony: Polyphone is two or more notes playing simultaneously.
  • Production: A production is a music score that has been arranged in detail and encapsulates a full spectrum of ideas and emotions.
  • Pro Tools: Pro Tools is a DAW made by Avid. Pro Tools most recent version is called Pro Tools 12.
  • Post Production: Postproduction often refers to mixing and mastering to prepare music/audio for distribution.

Q – T

  • Quantize: Quantization is used to correct timing errors, add swing, etc. Quantizing elements too strongly can take the humanness from recordings.
  • Recording: Recording is the process of getting source audio into a device, which captures the audio files. Recording can be done in the digital domain as well as in the analogue domain.
  • Recording Arts: Recording arts are loosely defined as the skills and crafts needed to make music on a professional level. Recording arts involve: music production, audio engineering, mixing, and mastering.
  • Recording Software: Recording software is usually what people call their DAW. Examples of popular recording software platforms are: Ableton Live, Logic X, Pro Tools, Reaper, Cubase, and BitWig. Recording music can be accomplished on Mac or PC. Recording music Mac is somewhat preferred in the industry for when it comes to recording software music.
  • Release: The release is the amount of time it takes to return the signal to an unprocessed level.
  • Remix: A remix is an alternative version of a song. The core artists to watch in this day and age all make remix songs. Remixes are a great way to get noticed as a DJ and artist.
  • Resonance: A strengthening of signal produced when the incoming frequency is equal to the natural frequency of the acoustic or electrical system, which it passes through.
  • Reverb: Reverb is a time-based effect used to create space in the mix. Reverb has a continuous sound and differs depending on the type. The most common reverbs are: Room Reverb, Chamber Reverb, Plate Reverb, and Hall Reverb.
  • Sample: A sample is most commonly known to be a sound used as a musical source like a synthesizer or sampler. Samples can also be pre-recorded snippets of audio.
  • Sample Rate: The number of samples taken per second by an A/D converter defines the sample rate.
  • Side Chain Compression: A form of compression that uses an external audio signal to affect the compressed sound.
  • Signal: The electrical current that carries audio information.
  • Sine Wave: A sine wave is the purest waveform, which contains no harmonics.
  • Song: A song is an arrangement of music parts, rhythmic elements, and often vocals.
  • Sonic Maximizer: A sonic maximize is a processing tool that often restores clarity and harmonics to the low and high end of a sound.
  • Sound: A sound is anything that is audible by the human ear.
  • Sound Pressure Level (SPL): The decibel rating of acoustic pressure of a sound wave.
  • Spectrum: The distribution of frequencies in any given sound.
  • Stems: Stems are individual tracks of audio that make up a full song.
  • Stereo: Audio in stereo contains exactly two tracks. It’s a two-channel system feeding left and right speakers.
  • Sub Bass: Sub bass is felt rather than heard. Sub bass frequencies usually start around 100Hz.
  • Subtractive Synthesis: Subtractive synthesis is the method of creating sounds by using some of the overtones from the complex original waveform.
  • Sustain: If a note is played at a length, sustain defines how loud the note will be after the decay has finished.
  • Tempo: Also known as Beats Per Minute (BPM). This can be best described as the speed of a song.
  • Timbre: Timbre is the colour of a sound.
  • Track: A track can and often does refer to a finished recording, or stem, or multi-track recording channel. A track can also be a digital fader insider of a DAW.
  • Transient: A sudden, high-amplitude signal peak that decays quickly.
  • Tremolo: Often confused with vibrato. Tremolo is a rapid cyclical change in volume level, causing a wavering/wobbly effect.
  • Tweeter: A tweeter is a speaker designed to reproduce high frequencies.

U – Z

  • Unison: Using two ore more dissimilar instruments or voices to play an identical musical line.
  • Velocity: Velocity is the speed at which a note value is pressed.
  • Vibrato: Vibrato is alike to tremolo, but has a cyclical change in pitch instead.
  • Volume: Volume is the common term for sound pressure level (SPL).
  • VU Meter: A VU meter shows in volume (SPL) in units.
  • Waveform: A waveform is a visual depiction of the way a sound wave varies over time.
  • White Noise: White noise, and other types of noise, are non-tonal signals that has even energy distribution across all frequencies.
  • XLR: An XLR connection is a three-pin grounded and lockable audio connector designed for professional use in recording studios.

How to choose a USB controller?

A good way to narrow down the field of potential products is by figuring out exactly how you will use it. For example, keyboardists who plan to use their controller for recording MIDI parts into their DAW or playing software instruments will prioritize the keyboard itself. They would choose one that has the type of response they prefer with enough keys that they can play parts comfortably without using the octave button too often to reach the upper and lower notes they use.

In addition, having extra keys allows you to utilize the lower octave for keyswitching, so you can easily switch between sampled instrument articulations in many libraries—very handy! The downside is that a controller with many octaves and weighted keys is heavy and takes up more space then a controller with only one or two octaves.

In contrast, musicians who will play simple melodies and bass lines need only an octave of keys and can get away with a smaller, lighter, and less expensive controller.

Of course, controllers can provide other functionality, as well. If the device has knobs and sliders, you can map them to different aspects of your software synths and DAW. In the most obvious case, knobs can control panning or EQ in a software mixer, while the sliders control the volume faders for each channel.

Musicians who make beatbased music will want a controller with pads for playing drum machines and samplers. The most useful ones are velocity sensitive and have Aftertouch, so you can play more expressively.

Many devices offer a mix of these controllers. The trick is to anticipate your musical needs in the future so that the controller you buy now will have the functionality you need later.

PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL: Advanced 18×18 USB 2.0 Recording System

When you’re recording a full band, you need an interface with enough I/O to handle the challenge. For these sessions, the AudioBox 1818VSL USB 2.0 audio/MIDI interface has you covered with six mic/line inputs and two mic/instruments inputs, each with a crystal-clear, high-headroom XMAX preamp. Want to track the whole band at once and send to multiple sets of monitors, headphone amps, and outboard gear? Connect a PreSonus® DigiMax™ D8 or DigiMax DP88 8-channel preamp/converter via ADAT Optical and a digital device via S/PDIF for a total of 18 inputs and 18 outputs.

The AudioBox 1818VSL records and plays back at sampling rates up to 96 kHz, with remarkably low noise. It features the same Class A XMAX microphone preamplifiers as our StudioLive AI mixers, which are found in recording studios and live venues the world over. The result is clean, pure, audiophile-quality sound.

The AudioBox 1818VSL’s two combo mic/instrument and six combo mic/line inputs make it extremely versatile, enabling you to use it with microphones, guitars, keyboards, DJ gear, and more. But that’s just the start: The 1818VSL is loaded with features that make it suitable for almost any studio situation and on the road.

Whether you’re just getting into recording or are a veteran producer who wants to go mobile, the AudioBox 1818VSL will give you great sound in a rugged chassis that’s ready to hit the road when you are. The perfect companion for any recording software, the AudioBox 1818VSL comes equipped with Studio One Artist to provide you with a complete recording solution right out of the box. Check out the AudioBox 1818VSL and Studio One at your favorite PreSonus dealer.

10 music production tips for the aspiring producer

Becoming a music producer is a process that manifests differently for everyone who tries it. Some spent hours learning in their bedroom while others went through online music production program to learn the ins and outs of the business. Whether you’re new to the home studio environment or consider yourself a veteran of the craft, self-taught or schooled, there are tips and tricks to save time and cash and kick your game up a notch.

Never before has home music production been so accessible and affordable. For many, that low bar of entry results in a clumsy stumble into the world of self-production. This list of ten production tips might give you a fighting chance.

  1. Check your mix at very low volumes. When you listen quietly you should hear what is most important in the song.
  2. Listen to pop music. Leave your ego at the door. One can learn something from anything. There is something to be said from learning from music that millions of people listen to. You didn’t get in this business to record music for yourself.
  3. Use a sample or a loop. Sampling or looping doesn’t make you any less of an artist. It’s the song that matters. It’s the music. It’s the emotion.
  4. Listen to music you don’t understand or like. We bet you’ll find something in there you like and eventually you may really like that artist.
  5. Use whatever DAW you want to. At the end of the day, it clearly doesn’t matter.
  6. The final song is what is important. Not how it was made or what compressor or preamp you used. The emotion and energy of the song is what’s most important. Find it. Exploit it.
  7. Find a rule. Then break it. Learning the rules are a fundamental. But mastering rules are knowing when to break them.
  8. Don’t worry about analog or digital. The only one who knows the difference is you. Some amazing records were recorded with analog gear. Some amazing records were recorded with digital gear. The song will be good or bad on it’s own.
  9. Pick up a book on music theory. It’s not the end of the world to not read music. Hell, Paul McCartney can’t read a note. But music theory is a language. And you can communicate better knowing some.
  10. Know when to say when. At some point you hit diminishing returns. Recognize that feeling. Embrace that feeling. And move on to something different.

PreSonus Eris E66: Dual 6.5-inch Active MTM Studio Monitors

Expect accurate response, a wide frequency range, and exceptional stereo imaging with PreSonus Eris E66 powered studio monitors. With a single silk-dome tweeter positioned between two woofers, Eris E66 monitors create a large sonic sweet spot with smooth on- and off-axis response which will help you make better mix decisions. And with acoustic tuning controls to compensate for proximity to walls or corners, these monitors will sound great in just about any room. Whether you position them vertically or horizontally, PreSonus Eris E66 powered monitors are outstanding in their class.

Dual-woofer design for larger sonic sweet spot

The Eris E66 is designed with its 1.25″ high-frequency tweeter between two 6.5″ Kevlar drivers for low- and mid-frequencies. The Kevlar drivers run in parallel and cover the same frequency range. PreSonus explains that this gives the Eris E66 improved off-axis response and spatial resolution. You can expect highly detailed sound that won’t fall apart when you move your head a few inches away from your mix position.

Acoustic tuning compensates for nearby walls and corners

We’ve helped design countless studios here at The Music Home, and we know that room anomalies and bass buildup are big challenges in small mixing spaces. Even if you’re forced to put your Eris E66 monitors close to a wall or corner, acoustic tuning controls on the rear panel help reduce muddiness and smeared stereo imaging.

Position vertically or horizontally to fit your mix space

PreSonus designed the Eris E66 to serve up accurate sound and wide stereo imaging, whether you set them up vertically or horizontally. Whichever orientation works best for your studio, you can expect true sound from Eris E66 monitors.

PreSonus Eris E66 Active Studio Monitor Features:

  1. Active studio monitors with 140 watts of Class A/B bi-amplification
  2. Dual Kevlar woofers provide solid lows and detailed mids
  3. Wide sonic sweet spot with smooth on- and off-axis performance
  4. Can be aligned vertically or horizontally with equally impressive results
  5. Acoustic tuning controls help compensate for unwanted bass buildup due to room characteristics
  6. Continuously variable HF and MF controls (-6dB to +6dB) help further fine-tune the sound for your room

Detailed stereo imaging is yours with PreSonus Eris E66 studio monitors! Call us for more information!