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Some Easy Ways To Lay Down Tracks

Apr 13, 2008
If you want to put together and arrange a recording, you might need something a bit different than simply putting a band together and then mixing all of the music in. Today, you have options available so that you can put together your songs and make sure that everything is hanging together just right.

Tip #1: Use patterns and repeats. Everything in music is built off of a pattern or motif. If you have these types of patterns in your song, don't rewrite them over and over again. This is especially unnecessary if you're not playing live. Simply create a loop with the specific musical pattern you want, so that you get what you want for much less time and money.

Tip #2: Find those loops. Most recording packages have premade loops that can be used for just general patterns. This is effective if you need a simple beat or general rhythm pattern. Loops should not be your songs' foundation, but they can provide a general background.

Tip #3: Layer. It doesn't matter whether you're recording live, using loops or patterns; you still need to think in layers. Start doing this when you start with an arrangement of the song and continue it throughout production and mixing.

Tip #4: What should you put in first? It doesn't always matter how you put your tracks down, but there's usually a way that is both logical and effective. Start with a rhythm track if you can, because you can use both a repetitive loop here and you'll also help keep everything pointed in the same direction. Then, stack from low to high, starting with bass, then going to mid range, and then finally, high range.

Tip #5: Your "icing" is the vocals. Performing live, usually, the singers are at the front of the stage, but when you record, they're in the back. Before you bring vocalists in for a recording session, have your layers of instrumentation completely finished, including your mix. You can put the voice in last so that it will be compressed and will blend well with the rest of the instruments.

Tip #6: Make sure you know your way around more than one program. Most recording studios prefer to use one particular program or set of programs for everything they record. For you, the more adaptable you are and the more you know your way around various recording software packages, the more capable you will be of finding just the right arrangements and sounds, as well as the capabilities within each kind of software. Familiarize yourself with software so that you know which software is best at what task.

Tip #7: Know the background and foreground. One of the biggest mistakes those new to recording make is that they have the balance and the back arrangements as their foreground. This can be managed if you use a volume control in your arrangements. Research to see what standards are for each setting in volume before you start your recording.

Tip #8: It's harder to get softer in volume than it is to get louder. When you just start your mix, start at a low volume. Test each instrument or pattern before you change anything. Start with a volume of about -6.0. If you need to, you can move up. However, don't go to zero when you're recording, especially before you bring the vocals in. This can cause the sound to be too loud so that waves will make it peak and it will be unbalanced.

Tip #9: Test, test, test. Use volume control when you test each of your sounds. Each instrument should stay below a yellow or red zone. The volume itself should be at a nice halfway point with each instrument. Some may need to be higher than others for the mix itself, but staying within the mid-zone is the general rule. If you keep in mind, you have an easier time keeping the instrumentation together in terms of its volume.

Tip #10: When should you preset? If you're going for a certain sound, or if you know what needs to be put together or compressed in a certain way, do that before you start playing. This is especially important when it comes to the mixing. However, don't experiment unless you're willing to lay the track down several times using different settings.

By utilizing these tips, you can put pieces together in less time and more effectively. When you know what you can use and when with your computer, and you'll get the exact sound you need. This is also true when you know what settings you should use.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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