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Production Tutorial

Production Techniques & Strategies: Is My Track Finished?

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37 Videos | Length: 1hr 25min 45sec
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  • Introduction 0:58

    Introduction

    Adam welcomes you to the course and talks about what he will be covering.

  • Headroom 3:18

    Headroom

    Most people don't leave enough headroom, and I can prove it. Learn what headroom is, how to set it using ceiling on a limiter, and why (with proof!) we need to leave at least 1dB on our master files.

  • True Peak Headroom 3:10

    True Peak Headroom

    Again, most people don't do this correctly. And again, I prove it. Find out what True Peak is, and why we actually need to leave 1dB of "True Peak" headroom. I also show how to set "True Peak" headroom.

  • Loudness 4:08

    Loudness

    Every playback platform adjusts for loudness, and so we need to check loudness, to see how a platform might turn our track up or down. I explain why. In this video I introduce LUFS, roughly what levels to aim at, and a plugin to help us with this called "Loudness Penalty".

  • DC Offset 2:45

    DC Offset

    What is DC offset? Why can it be a problem? And learn a few ways to remove it.

  • Check the Waveforms 2:22

    Check the Waveforms

    Visually check the master file waveforms in as many softwares as you can. At a minimum, in your DAW. But if possible, using colored waveforms such as you see in TRAKTOR. You can see compression, each instrument's level relative to each other, and the tonal balance / EQ balance for that genre.

  • Sub Bass Level 2:29

    Sub Bass Level

    In mastered tracks, the sub bass level (in a spectrum analyzer) is always between about -4dB and -8dB... which you can check by eye.

  • Tonal Balance / Mastering EQ 3:59

    Tonal Balance / Mastering EQ

    Take the guesswork out of mastering EQ, by measuring the tonal balance (the "EQ balance"). Compare this to a reference you know is perfect. I share some specific tips for choosing and comparing your track to this reference.

  • Check It in Mono 1:16

    Check It in Mono

    Some places (e.g. clubs) combine the L and R channels into a single (mono) channel, so check to make sure the track still works. I show the simplest ways to do this.

  • Vectorscopes & Phase Correlation 4:23

    Vectorscopes & Phase Correlation

    Here's an introduction to vectorscopes, and the most important things to check for when looking at them (L/R balance, and the phase correlation meter). As I prove, phase correlation checks for mono compatibility issues. I also share my vectorscope "secret weapon"... an external device called a "Clarity M".

  • Low Pass Filter Check 1:39

    Low Pass Filter Check

    This is the best way to make sure the low frequencies are doing exactly what you want them to do. When listening to just the lowest frequencies, is the rhythm clear? Is the melody clear? Is it clean or messy? Can I tell where I am in the arrangement? Is the kick subtle, or heavy?

  • Mono Sub Bass 5:12

    Mono Sub Bass

    People say to make the sub bass "mono".. but why? We should, and I show the easiest ways to do so, but why is this such a fundamental rule in music production? I prove it.

  • Vocal Compression 3:08

    Vocal Compression

    Learn how to visually check to see if the vocal is sufficiently compressed for the genre you're making. The human voice is naturally too dynamic for electronic music, and so it must be compressed. I show this visually, and audibly. I also share my "secret weapon" for compressing aggressive vocals.

  • Sixteenth of Silence at the Front 1:07

    Sixteenth of Silence at the Front

    Add a sixteenth of silence at the beginning, to make sure the first kick doesn't get faded in (softening it's impact). I explain why, and show visually what happens if you don't.

  • DAW Specific Checks 5:07

    DAW Specific Checks

    Each DAW will have a series of technical details to check, that you should check, before bouncing to audio or exporting. They won't individually make a big difference (otherwise you'd clearly hear them), but they do make a difference. 50 of these subtle differences will make your track much better. I share two specific ones in Ableton, fades, and the "beats" warp mode.

  • Dithering 0:39

    Dithering

    Don't forget to add dither if you export at a lower bit depth e.g. 16 or 24bit. This video says (without justification in this course) how to easily do so.

  • Backup Plug-In Presets 2:09

    Backup Plug-In Presets

    Don't just backup the project, manually save (backup) the individual plugin presets, as often times these don't save correctly the project. And so you may lose them when coming back to the project later in the year, say. I show how, and a nice little workflow tip for taking note of "factory" plug-in presets.

  • High Quality Modes 4:34

    High Quality Modes

    It sounds obvious, but don't forget to make sure everything is set to"high quality", before bouncing to audio or exporting. Sometimes the buttons aren't labeled as "high quality" though, as I show in a few common examples. I also explain when "high quality" isn't necessarily best.

  • Solo & Check for Clicks 0:50

    Solo & Check for Clicks

    Solo each element and check for subtle clicks and tails, problems you might not hear as easily in the full mix. I share a perfect example, and how to fix it.

  • Wait for It... 2:26

    Wait for It...

    Play the song to a friend, in person, and make a note of what you say.. If you say "wait for it.. wait. wait.." the track isn't finished, and you know precisely where to make changes.

  • Can You Remix It? 2:01

    Can You Remix It?

    Can you easily remix it? This question allows you to determine if the track has identity or not. Does it have a unique "something" that you could build a remix around? If it doesn't, the track isn't finished.

  • Can You Hum It? 2:18

    Can You Hum It?

    Can you hum or sing the song? Even if the "main bit" is chords, or a series of dubstep basses.. can you sing it? If not, the track isn't finished, it needs a more memorable, or a better defined melody/something to listen to.

  • Headphone Listeners 3:35

    Headphone Listeners

    Learn about the differences between listening on headphones vs at a live venue, and how this impacts how you mix the track, consequently, determining if the track is finished or not. Is there enough detail/ear candy for headphone users?

  • Plug-Ins Make Mistakes 2:29

    Plug-Ins Make Mistakes

    Bounce everything to audio to make sure the plugins haven't made a mistake. You'll hear obvious errors, but check for subtle ones too.. I share an interesting example to illustrate this.

  • The Corridor Test 1:36

    The Corridor Test

    Listen to the track from the corridor.. Does the main spirit of the track, the main reason for it existing, the reason people get excited by it, does that translate, does that work, when listening through the doorway in a different room?

  • Bar by Bar (What Should They Listen To?) 0:59

    Bar by Bar (What Should They Listen To?)

    Bar by bar, write down what the listener should listen to. This not only helps guide the mixing process, but it'll also show where there may be unwanted "filler" sections, or maybe sections with too much happening at once.

  • Better, or Just Different? 2:35

    Better, or Just Different?

    Are you making the track better? Or just different? If "just different".. the track is finished. Let me explain why.

  • Can You Articulate What's Missing? 0:59

    Can You Articulate What's Missing?

    Can you articulate what the track is missing? Does it need more energy? More variation? More uniqueness? A cleaner mix? A better second half? if not, the track might be finished.

  • The Impulse to Adjust 0:50

    The Impulse to Adjust

    Can you play the track, from beginning to end, without feeling the impulse to jump in and make an adjustment? If so, the track may be finished. (Assuming it connects with you emotionally, and fulfills its "purpose" too).

  • Work Towards the Primary Rhythm 1:22

    Work Towards the Primary Rhythm

    Does every element work towards the same primary rhythm? Every subtle sound? Every tiny bit of percussion? Every delay? The rhythm built into a sound effect riser? The timing of a vocal? If not, fix it.

  • The TV Test 1:54

    The TV Test

    Play the track in the living room, with a sitcom playing in the background. Does the track still work? Or is it too dependent on a small detail (maybe a subtle harmony, or nuanced background layer) you need a perfect listening environment to hear?

  • Try It in a Mix or Playlist 0:56

    Try It in a Mix or Playlist

    This is a simple, but effective way to establish if your track is finished or not. Try it in context. If it's for DJs, try mixing with it. If it's for general listening, play it in a playlist, in a situation someone would normally listen. Does it fit in? Or does it stand out as being "unfinished"?

  • Variation 2:54

    Variation

    Before finishing a track, ask yourself this.. is there something changing every 1 or 2 bars? Even if it's subtle, the track needs to be evolving the entire way through. This is one of the main differences between amateur and professional tracks.

  • Check at a Quiet Volume 0:45

    Check at a Quiet Volume

    Make sure the track still sounds good when played back quietly. Remember, some people first listen at a quiet volume. It will only sound better, louder.

  • Bounce to Group Stems 2:18

    Bounce to Group Stems

    This is a great trick to discovering your track is finished, when you thought it wasn't. When you have a massive project and keep making small changes (as there are thousands of places to make changes) bounce to group stems, to more objectively evaluate if the track needs more work or not.

  • The First Few Seconds 1:40

    The First Few Seconds

    Learn why the first 4 or 5 seconds are the most important part of the whole track. You're not finished until these seconds are 10/10, and absolutely perfect.

  • Come Back Later 0:55

    Come Back Later

    Finally, it sounds obvious, but it's easy to forget, and needs to be mentioned.. if you're having a hard time evaluating if the song is finished or not, wait a few weeks, and come back with fresh ears, and a more objective perspective.

Product Overview


In this large assortment of priceless production help video tutorials, studio guru Adam Pollard aka Multiplier gives you tons of info to help you be confident that your tracks and productions are finished. Learn enlightening ways to test your mixes and song arrangements to determine if all your hard work is done, and will pay off big!

Adam welcomes you and then gets right to it, covering the basics of Headroom, True Peak and Loudness and why it's important to consider their values for your mixes. Next you'll get into making sure your Sub Bass is set right, Tonal Balance and EQ comparisons, the benefit of checking your mixes in Mono, using Vectorscopes and Phase Correlation, and more.

Next Adam gets into Vocal Compression do's and don'ts, how to make sure your track doesn't loose any punch when starting its playback, why you should use Dithering and back up plug-in presets, using Hi Quality Modes, and many, many, more videos showing creative ways to test your mixes and arrangements out, so you can feel confident about releasing them into the world!

See the individual tutorial descriptions for more info. If you're new to mixing and producing music, or just want other ideas for testing the mix and production quality of your existing tracks and songs, stop right here… Watch “Production Techniques & Strategies: Is My Track Finished?” today!


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