It was a week ago when I attended an introduction workshop to music production at KeyMusic Eindhoven. This workshop was given bij MusiCasa, who also gives courses and training for music production, DJ production and software programs. An ‘introduction’ might sound like it is too basic when you already know your way around a bit, but still I have learned new things. The workshop was about equipment, software, EQ, compresison and dynamic leveling. Let’s take a further look.
At first, you need an Audio Interface to record instruments or microphones. Also you need to be able to hear the sound through speakers, so you can hear the sound yourself. There are a lot of different Audio Interfaces, like the small M-Audio Fast Track Pro that I have. Like many aspects of music production, there is no golden rule for selecting equipment. It is important that you pick a device that supports your needs (inputs, outputs) and it has to fit your budget.
Microphones themselves are of course important if you want to record acoustic instruments or vocals. The micrphones found in professional studios could go up to several thousand euros (like the Neumann U 87), but expensive microphones don’t have to be the best. A cheaper microphone, like the Studio Projects B1, can be a perfect microphone for recording sound in your studio.
Next to the recording equipment, you will need monitor speakers to listen to your music. Why these special monitor speakers and not my home audio system? Well, that is because these monitor speakers are designed to give an honest representation of the sound. Consumer speakers are ‘coloured’ and might have a boosted bass, which gives a diguised representation of your music. Honest sound might not be the best to listen to, but it is the best for producing music.
Next to the hardware, you need a software program in the form of a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). You could use analog devices and equipment to record as well, but these days computers are powerful enough to process a lot of signals. Also, the DAW’s existing today have so many functionality that you can do anything you can imagine with it. There are a lot of different programs with their own pros and cons. However, in the end you have to choose a program that you like the best.
If you have recorded a piece of music, EQ is a good way to create a good total overview of the music by balancing the frequencies. For example, a just recorded drum passage sounds ‘dry’ at first and can sound flat or out of balance. With EQ you can then boost the snare to give it a more clear and crisp sound. The workhop presenter showed an example of a bass guitar passage, which was a bit dull. With EQ, he boosted certain frequencies in such a way, that is sounded more aggressive and shrill more. Combined with the drum passage this sounded good and was very different from the dull sound. An important matter in EQ is that it can be good to filter out lower frequencies. Low frequencies cannot be heard by the human ears, but it takes a speaker a lot of energy to produce these frequencies. This energy is used at the expense of the mid and high range frequencies.
Something that I did not know yet was compression. Compression is used to reduce the difference in loudness of the weakest and strongest signal. You can imagine the difference in loudness between shouting and whispering. With compression you can reduce this difference. Loud passages in a piece of music become less loud and vice versa for not so loud passages. This technique is applied broadly in mastering of music.
Withing a song, the volumes of different instruments of vocals can differ. This might not be what you want for the final mix for a song. If this is the case, it would be nice to have something to change the volume levels of different tracks in a dynamic way. This is possible with the help of Read & Write automation, where you can adapt the volumes of tracks while playing back the song. This will then also be applied when you mix down your song. Now you do not have to re-record sections of your song to get the volume right.
It was a very nice workshop and it tought me a lot. If you are thinking of getting into music production, I highly recommend this workshop. We will also take a better look at all these subjects later on.
Stay in tune!