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Tips For Home Music Production

Oct 14, 2007
With the advent of digital technology, musicians can mix their own music at home. A plethora of computer programs gives you the tools that you need to make professional sounding mixes from at your desk. Curious about how to best do your own home music production? Here's some information that will help.

Tools For Home Music Production

In order to produce music at home, you'll need to have a high quality computer. Older machines are fine for Internet use or word processing, but music mixing puts some significant demands on many systems. Make sure that your computer has plenty of available memory, so that it doesn't slow down or crash in the middle of production.

You'll also need to have the right software. Exactly what you require will depend on the type of production you want, and the use of the end product. There are a lot of options available, including some quality free programs available through the GPL. However, as with many other things, you may find you get what you pay for with free software. For many people, it's a good springboard, but they'll end up buying a high end professional product later. Experiment with various programs and see what works best for you.

A CD or DVD burner that can reliably produce quality, playable discs is important if you want to distribute your music in that form. If you're planning to do distribution online, you may not need this. However, you'll find that many people still prefer having a tangible disc that they can own.

Having good speakers is a must. If your computer speakers are tinny, too quiet, or full of distortions, you'll find it impossible to get good playback, or to tell what's wrong.

Of course, you'll also need music files. This means either creating your music on the computer using a program suited to that, or recording what you play in digital form, using a recorder capable of this.

Making Your Music Sound Right

Listen carefully as you work on your files. If something sounds "off," you'll need to work to correct it. Listen to commercial recordings that you like, and analyze what's going on in them to figure out the kind of mixes you like. Watch the levels carefully for clipping, and be sure that recording occurs at a constant, even level. If you have the right recording software, you'll be able to monitor and support your levels from within. However, other software won't allow you to adjust the input levels at all, and others will expect you to have a sound card that can do so.

EQ is a popular effect, to the point of being over used. It can be used to enhance a mix and make it more attractive over all. However, if the mix itself isn't any good, no amount of EQ will hide that fact. Remember that when using EQ to equalize portions of your mix, the general advice is that you should cut, rather than boost. Most people will want to boost the weaker portions of the mix. However, that can lead to overboosting. Cutting the parts that are too strong is the better choice.

If you do boost, remember that boosting also increases the amount of noise, which can "dirty" your mix. Also, keep an eye on the output meter as you work. Boosting EQ increases the gain, which makes it easy to accidentally clip output, creating distortion. Listen to all tracks that you've worked on in relation to the other tracks to make sure that they match in feel.

Compression is useful is you want to even out variations in volume and control sound attack. Fast attacks accentuate the body of a given sound. Slow attacks increase definition. The areas that benefit the most from compression are the bass, vocals, and kick drums. However, some other areas might do well with it as well. Be sure to listen to all tracks with and without compression to figure out what will work the best.

Pay attention to settings on the compressor. They can significantly affect the results that come out in the end. Compression can also raise background noise, just like boosting EQ, and can accentuate "s" sounds in vocals. You may need to use what's called a "de-esser" after using compression, if there's too much sibilance.
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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