- Include some variety in your production.
If every track is bursting with instruments, solos, and vocals,
try a simple accompaniment of only one instrument. If the CD consists
mostly of simple tracks, try adding a live drummer, horn, or percussionist
for extra color and pop.
- Try to include a live instrument or two if your production
consists mostly of synthesized and sampled sounds. Keyboards
have the variance of pitch, timing, and sound complexity that
acoustic sounds have, so the result can be a smaller, closed-in
type of aural space. Just a few real-time performances can breathe
a lot of life into a track.
- When recording your master
vocals, make sure your microphone is of the very highest quality.
It is the most crucial part of the recording chain, and no fx
or equalizing can make up for a poorly recorded vocal. If you find
that popping your tís and pís
is a problem (even with a pop filter), raise or lower the mic just
a little bit to avoid singing directly into the capsule.
- If you
are working with the EQ of the voices and instruments during
mixing, itís always a good idea to ďsubtract first.Ē Find
the frequency band that sounds indistinct or ďmuddyĒ and
lower the gain. Remember that an instrument that sounds great when
heard on solo might not sound as good when all the other tracks are
- Always create a instrumental-only TV track. After the mix
is completed, turn off the lead vocal and record the instrumental
track only. You never know when this track will come in handy.
Perhaps it could be used for lip-syncing, or maybe part of the track
could find another life in a different context, like background music,
a jingle, or source music for film or TV.
- Make sure your song
sequence is working to maximize the impact you want your music to
have. Arranging the order of your songs is a minor art form of its
own! Because most people listen to CDs from the beginning, make sure
your first three songs are among the strongest you have. Avoid
successive songs in the same key or tempo. Songs in keys that are
only a step or half step apart can sound discordant. You can change
the order even after mixing and mastering is complete. Try getting
a dub with different sequences and ďlive with itĒ for
- Donít skip the mastering step. By adjusting song levels
and tweaking the EQ, mastering could improve your project 10-15%.
a good idea to find outside people who specialize in mastering,
as they will have fresh ears on the project and are used to thinking
about a CD as a whole.
- Make sure your CDís
graphics look professional. This is the main clue that consumers
get about the time, care and passion you put into your project.
And, if you are going to charge as much money as the big kids,
make sure it looks like money. Also, be sure to include the bar
code, as many retail stores will insist on this.
- When arranging your
manufacturing, know the difference between reproduction and replication.
Reproduction is duplicating your master CD onto a pre-existing disc
in the same general way as you do on your home PC. It is the quick
and affordable choice for small runs (under 1000 copies), but sometimes
has a higher failure rate than replication. Replication involves
a glass master and produces the same type of CD youíll find
at your record store.
- Donít forget to promote. There is
nothing like the stimulation and inspiration of expanding your audience
and getting your music heard. Give your audience a chance to buy
your music and learn more about you online. Offer your CD at your
website and with web music stores like CD Baby. For promotion, itís
the best deal going.
author: Jack Lee is a producer/muli-instrumentalist who specializes
in working with independent artists. He played lead guitar for Atlantic
recordsí Mother Earth and then toured as a piano player with
Country Hall of Famer Earl Scruggs before deciding to come off the
road. After moving to LA, he established his own studio and production
company and has worked in the studio with many artists including
Kenny Loggins, Albert Lee, John Doe & Exene, Jim Messina, Jeff
Pevar, David Crosby, and many others. Lately he has concentrated
on recording independent artists, often contributing instrumental
parts and arrangements.