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  • Philip Marsden

10 Quick Production Tips | #7


1. It’s okay to use presets

Plugin and instrument presets are there to be used. They don’t make your work any less authentic. Although the chances are a preset isn’t going to be perfect for your song right away, they’re often a great starting point and will help you to focus on creativity instead of tweaking parameters.



2. Finalise your mix bus processing tomorrow

When I’ve mixed a song, the last stage is usually to finalise any EQ or compression on the mix bus. However, doing this at the end of a long session can be a nightmare, so I always do it either the next day, or after a decent break. This way, I have fresh ears, a clear head and I’m more intentional with the processing that needs to be done.



3. -14 LUFS is not a target

If you master your own music, you’ve probably read a ton of information online saying you should master to -14LUFS because that’s the “target” for streaming. This is not true. -14 is simply the level that Spotify sets the playback level to if normalisation is switched on. You can master your song to be as loud or as dynamic as you want, it’s all about doing what sounds best for the particular track and the end goal.

4. Be intentional every step of the way

Speaking of the end goal, you need to keep this in mind all of the time. Every decision you make from the writing stage, all the way through to the mastering stage, affects how well your song can hit your final vision. Be intentional with every note you play, every instrument you layer, every bit of processing you do. If you’re adding plugins or layers for the sake of it, or just because you think you should, you could be creating more problems than you’re solving. Before everything you do in the production process, stop and think, “how is this moving me towards my final creative vision?”



5. Embrace failure

Failure is a good thing. It means you're moving forward! Every time something doesn’t quite go to plan in the production process, don’t be frustrated, be present and ask yourself what you can learn from it moving forward.



6. Automate before you compress

On dynamic vocals, it’s often a good idea to automate the level of each line with a gain plugin before you compress. This way, any compression you add will be consistent and won’t have to suddenly clamp down on louder words or phrases.



7. Referencing is important, but don’t take it too seriously

Referencing other songs that are similar to your end goal is a great way to check your balance and make sure you’re on the right track, but always remember that you recorded using different mics, different instruments, a different voice, in a different space with a different set of ears. Your track is never going to sound 100% like your reference and it never should, it’s art and therefore unique in every way.



8. Colour code everything in your DAW

Get into the habit of colour coding your tracks and instruments so that you can see what’s what at a glance. This will speed up your workflow a lot, leaving more of your brainpower available to focus on creativity.



9. Use your earbuds

Every now and then, it’s great to check your mix on some Apple earbuds. 90% of your audience will probably listen to your music on these, so you want to make sure it translates onto them well.



10. Free Plugin - Slate Digital Fresh Air

Based on modded Dolby-A noise reduction units, Fresh Air is a harmonic exciter than can add a crisp or airy top end to your mix. Although best used in small doses, I think it’s an awesome tool to have. Check it out here!




Read the previous instalment here.


Want to get better at producing vocals? Download my free guide - Vocal Production Start to Finish



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