We’ve all heard the phrase ‘fix it in the mix’ and all too often questions like ‘how do I master my track so it sounds like xyz’, but often the real key to getting a track to sound sonically delicious gets overlooked. It’s all in the arrangement you see.
Traditionally songs were composed for specific instruments that were often arranged in tried and tested ways i.e. an orchestra or a rock and roll band. Now, the ‘instruments’ are often created as part of the composition stage, so it’s important that you create a palette of sounds that work together sonically.
Whether you are choosing an instrument to record, a certain synth preset or what sample to use (let me know if you need some good ones, I know just the place!) – the sounds you use are the building blocks of your track and will determine the overall sonic character. Choose wisely.
So you’ve got yourself a Steinway grand piano and decided to record it at Abbey Road Studios. You’ve bagged yourself some super crunchy drum samples from Samplephonics and things are looking good. You’ve just been granted the rights to use some unheard Michael Jackson vocals! This track is going to sound amazing. So now what? Well, you have to actually write some music. And this is where people often overlook the sound part of their track. Too many notes not enough time – let’s sort out the sound in mixing or mastering, right? Wrong! There’s one more thing that’s going to have a big impact on your sound…
Whether you want loud, warm, driving, spacious, thick or bright, the real secret to getting the sound you want is to write your music right in the first place. You could have the best musicians, the crispiest of samples and a mastering engineer that practices witchcraft – but without getting the arrangement right, nothing is going to make your track sound good.
The actual notes you choose, how the different parts interact and fill out the frequency spectrum is key. Spend time getting to know your sounds and write music that allows them to compliment each other, don’t force it. Think of that orchestra again and consider your sounds as the instrument sections, then go write your symphony!
It is! But with so many options at our fingertips, its easy to overlook the fundamental components that make up our track. There are so many plugins that offer so many promises, but the real balance, clarity, loudness, fullness or whatever you are trying to achieve, should come from the arrangement and your source sounds. Get this right and mixing becomes a breeze and master processing, in some cases, can become obsolete. Get it right at the beginning and you’ll save yourself hours of tinkering later.