The key to a great-sounding release is the quality of the audio material used for the mix.
Sounds obvious – however, there is a whole host of aspects to this that need to be taken into account before the actual recording. Let’s take a closer look at the individual steps that lead to a release.
The production of a track essentially comprises 3 steps
- production of a demo/pre-production
- final recording/production
Here applies: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.“
A poorly planned production phase, e.g. when recording an album or an EP for a band, can quickly lead to an unsatisfying end result and frustration. Often, you realise during the recording that the songs are not quite finished, that the key of the song is too high for the singer or the recording of an entire song takes longer than planned. If the mixing, mastering and release phases are also not well-planned, this can lead to long delays and the production does not achieve the desired quality and does not get attention it deserves.
Sounds familiar? This doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. Unfortunately, this is a fate that happens to many ambitious bands and could be avoided with good planning.
When a well-planned album is finished, there is usually less exhaustion and the album also sounds fresher than an album produced over many months – and is possibly over-produced. This is important because the completion of an album does not have to be the end of a process, but can be an start to a thrilling new phase.
So – what is the secret to a great sound?
In our HOFA-College online studio workshops, we always find that the search for the optimal sound is one of the primary challenges and of the greatest interest to music creators, which is reflected in many vivid discussions.
For an optimal end result, pre-production is an often neglected but extremely effective – and cost-effective – step. It can help to avoid negative “surprises“ in the production process and is essential in preparing a great sounding recording.
- selection of songs
- rehearsing the songs
- creating a demo
Recording a demo is still an important step in preparing a good release and offers the following important advantages:
- The parts of the individual instruments can be matched to each other: Does the bass drum pattern match the bass pattern? Do the guitar parts complement each other well? Is the key of the song chosen appropriately for the vocals? Etc.
- A demo allows you to assess the timing of the band, the coherence of transitions between individual song parts, etc.
- It is possible to optimise the arrangement: Do the individual instrumental parts fit the song parts or are there already too many? Is the build-up to the chorus good? Does the tempo fit the song?
- The individual parts can be rehearsed so well that they harmonise perfectly with each other and a playful approach to them becomes possible; this results in less stress during the actual recording (due to limited time) and creative ideas can be implemented more easily and quickly
- External feedback or even coaching is possible: possibly by a producer, musician friends, etc.
- From a financial point of view, pre-production is by far the least expensive process of a production
Note: Well-rehearsed bands are able to deliver a live performance,
that is not very different in quality from the studio recording.
For whom is pre-production important?
- The greatest benefit of good pre-production is for music that is created in the interplay with other musicians, i.e. music that is organic and based on performance. This applies primarily to bands or smaller ensembles.
- A good pre-production and the creation of a demo can also make sense for solo producers and songwriters, especially if, as is the case today, many productions are created via collaborations over the internet and various musicians are involved in a project.
- An exception may be the production of electronic music, i.e. music that uses pre-programmed sounds and samples. In electronic music production, the mix is often created during production and the songwriting and arranging sessions are also the recording sessions.
However, if recordings are to be used for the produced tracks, e.g. vocals in hip hop or EDM, a demo can greatly help to optimally prepare the final performance.