“The main reason we get stuck is because we have the ability to do everything at once. This is basically multitasking. Back in the days, bands used to hire different engineers to record, mix, master music. It’s hard to separate music production stages because we can do them all at once and they can easily overlap. But doing this gives us the ability to experiment and study the “technical” side of music production. Get to know the tools/plugins we use, read manuals, watch tutorials. If you still get stuck, try this workflow as exercise. It doesn’t mean you need to do this all the time from now on, but it’s gonna help you progress and create your own sounds.
First you need to collect material, bounce things to audio, if you found some presets, save it prepare everything in advance. It’s not new, just look at other professional producers, that’s how they do it, they create whole palette of sounds to work from. Good examples of this are Bass Music producers, like Noisia, Spor, Pendulum, Mefjus etc.
You can separate music production in Four following stages.
Making your instruments, collecting your material, making sample pack for your track. Back in the days, producers used hardware & synthesizers, and they didn’t have luxury to go back and forth and edit sounds constantly, or browse presets, instead they had to record it. I think that’s the main reason people get stuck nowdays, they have too much choice, and can’t make decisions. It doesn’t mean you need to create every sound, but your main elements should be done and ready, it’s ok to preview your sounds together when sound designing, but make sure you don’t go further, if you have ideas for melody, try to make lots of variations of that melody and save the project or clip, what I like about DAWS like Ableton Live, Studio One & Logic Pro is that we have option to save the midi clips/music loops with instrument and whole fx chain, this is very handy for this workflow.
Recording/Saving Loops & Midi Clips
Just think of this as playing your instruments and making loops, patterns, melodies, saving midi clips. If you bought sample packs, you can see they are separate it in different sections. Drum Loops, Synth Hits, Fx, Licks, Riffs, Synth Loops. Try to organize your sounds the same way.
In Ableton Live you can easily lay down your ideas in session view, where you can lunch your midi & audio clips fast, you can start there with the core of your track, forget about automation first get this done, if you think you got something, drag or record the clips to arrangement session. now you can start to go deeper into automation, making edits, create more sounds if needed. Making rough mix as you go is good, like setting levels, making low cuts, but further mixing shouldn’t be your main focus. You want to get arrangement done, not waste hours on mixing.
Mixing & Mastering
Mixing – Now after all the arrangement is done, you got whole track, now you can go deeper into mixing, try different things to make it glue together, use EQ to make space in the mix, making things pop more, you need to have really good sounds to begin with, if they work we’ll together you get a better mix down, and then final master.
In electronic music the ability to develop your ideas and sounddesign skills are very important, if you get this nailed, the mix and mastering doesn’t need to be top notch.
Mastering – In electronic music it’s very common to bounce stems, and then do what it’s called stem mastering, it’s actually mixing & mastering together, it’s really handy because, you have all these separate elements, if you need to fix a problem, or want to add “color” to the mix, you can always go back and do that, therefore you get better master. Loudness is not in mastering, is all about the mix and source sounds.
For electronic dance music you can separate stems into groups for ex.
7. All other percussion
8. Sound Effects
More about Stem Mastering & Mixing
Stem mixing/mastering services are great for producers and engineers who mix their own projects but want fresh ears after spending many days or weeks on a project. Rappers or singers who buy beats & instrumentals, and only have access to the stereo instrumental file and their vocals. For example in beats making some producers, just make arrangement, record vocals, no mix down whatsoever, bounce stems and then send it to mixing/mastering engineer, and he does it all for them. If you plan to release your music and want a second ear, check this out, but make sure they do it for Electronic Dance Music.
Separate mixdowns/ mastering for one track
Good examples are anthems where they use orchestra/cinematic sounds. Hardstyle music is really loud, distorted, high rms, the “drop” of the hardstyle needs different mastering/compression. To make whole track sound good it’s common practice to make seperate master/mixdown of let’s say more dynamic section in your track, like cinematic music, and then glue them together, this is common practice in stem mixing/mastering.”
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