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10 Secrets Of A Top Producer (Part 2)

mixing recording May 23, 2018

Last week I revealed the first 5 secrets that I picked up from recording an EP with top producer, Dave Eringa (Manic Street Preachers), which if you haven’t seen already you can find here: 10 Secrets Of A Top Producer (Part 1).

This week I’m going to share the final 5 secrets you can use to improve your home productions!

5. Maintain excitement through the arrangement

A good song arrangement is key to keep the listeners attention from the first note to the last.

A good way to keep the song engaging is to introduce new parts and sounds in each section so that the song grows. For example, chorus 2 might introduce a new guitar part to make it sound bigger than chorus 1.

For the EP we had access to numerous vintage synths such as a Juno 60 and Korg M1. Once the main instruments were down, we experimented with crafting supporting sounds and parts to embellish the production.

Don’t just pile on tracks

Be careful though – with unlimited track counts it is easy to fall into the trap of layering up sound after sound which can create a muddy mix.

Using fewer tracks will help avoid sounds fighting in the mix, and will usually produce a bigger overall sound.

Experiment with changing parts and sounds in each section of your song to keep the listeners interest.

6. Re-Record it

Most DAWs have the capability to amend the timing and tuning of tracks, but just because it’s there doesn’t mean we should always use it. If you have the option to re-record a part, this is almost always the best solution.

There is no denying that software has come along way in recent years, but editing a take is never going to sound as natural as when it is performed in time and in tune.

Don’t over edit tracks

Over processing can also remove the emotional content and groove from a performance.

There are occasions when editing is fairly standard practise, such as time aligning drums, or to nudge a couple of notes in tune on an otherwise great vocal performance. But as a general rule in your home studio, choose to re-record parts rather than settling to edit later.

7. Keep the session flowing

Keeping the session moving and maintaining focus and energy is key. If you’re struggling with a specific track or achieving a specific sound that you have in your head, then move on and come back to it later.

This one is difficult because it can creep up on you without you realising, and before you know it you’ve spent an hour on a keyboard part that no one is going to even notice in a busy mix.

Treat your time as if you’re paying by the hour

In our own home studios we don’t pay per hour for our time, and so we can easily find ourselves tweaking sounds for hours but making little progress. Sometimes it can help to think more like a commercial studio where time is money. It can help to ask yourself questions like “Is that one tambourine hit really worth an hour of my time?!”

Don’t get bogged down for too long on one part – move on and keep the momentum going.

8. Keep a clear mind

This is a tip you are likely to hear a lot in interviews, but for whatever reason we struggle to implement for ourselves.

Take regular breaks

We only have so much objectivity, and taking regular breaks to refresh yourself is key to maintaining perspective. This is not a one size fits all scenario and you should find what works for you, but aim for at least a 5 minute break every hour.

If you implement this you will find that you come back with more clarity around what is or isn’t working, and what you need to focus on next.

Taking regular breaks applies to every stage in the record making process.

Some people go as far as setting a timer on their phone to remind them to take breaks. While you don’t need to be this regimented, I recommend that you find a routine that works for you, and don’t overlook the power of a 5 minute break!

9. Create a vibe in the studio

When we turned up for our recording session the live room and vocal booth had been decorated with fairy lights and atmospheric lighting. While this didn’t technically improve the quality of our recordings, it did have an impact on our performances, and I let myself go in a way that I might not have done if I was singing under bright office lighting.

Make your space inspiring

Our home studios tend to be in spare bedrooms and often are uninspiring spaces with bright lights and white walls. While some people are more affected by visuals than others, hanging a few atmospheric lights may help push your performances to the next level, improving the emotional connection of your tracks.

10. Enjoy the process!

Let’s face it, as creatives we can be quite intense when it comes to making our music and sharing it with the world. We can easily get bogged down with the smallest details and forget that we’re supposed to be having fun!

We live in exciting times when recording and mixing commercial quality music is more accessible and more affordable than ever before.

The fact we can record and release our songs to the world from our bedrooms is pretty amazing. So above all else, make sure you're having a good time!!

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