How old are your ears? Take this hearing test

I wrote it already few time here, the most important and often overlooked skill of every professional music producer is the ability of listening.  Human hearing can detect frequencies between 20Hz and 20kHz. As we grow older and also due to prolonged exposure to high sound pressure levels, we often lose the extreme ends overhearing spectrum. SO how your hearing compare to other average person your age? Take this video test and verify how old are your ears. And if you cannot hear the highest frequencies, don’t panic: You can always train your ears to hear special nuances and details in the music. It is not all about frequency hearing. Good music producers are able to listen music in more detailed and open way. I remember my college days, where I had a teacher who was deaf in one ear: however, he was able to produce a gorgeous music. And the good news is that everyone can learn to hear this kind of depth of perception in his own music production.  Someone calls it the color hearing, because it is like seeing the picture in black/white and then seeing the same picture with oversaturated colors post-processed in photoshop: the difference is huge. All you have to do is to have patience to culture your ear (train your ear regularly every day) to gain the ability to zoom into music and add depth to your listening. 

IMPORTANT: Watch this video in 1080p, because resolution settings can affect audio. Don’t forget to pick up the headphones.

Music production tutorials that will help you with mixing

music production tips and tricks

Let’s face it out,  Grammy Award winning mixing engineer Dave Pensado is not only great music producer, sound engineer and mixer responsible for countless hit songs played on the radio charts (Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Pink, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, etc…), but also with his weekly show PensadoPlace which is dedicated to mixing & engineering techniques he is a great tutor and teacher.  For those who haven’t seen his show so far, it is a MUST! You will love this guy.

His weekly show consists of two parts; from episodes – interviews with many famous and prominent people behind the music industry (mixer, sound engineers, artists, etc…) speaking about various angles of music production and Into the Liar section, that is something like How to guide – he shares and explains there various mixing techniques, tips, tricks, hints and other aspects of his work in details. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to learning music production, this is definitely the place, that will keep you busy for a few weeks/months. Dave is a very humble guy and shares basically everything what he does in his work. I learnt a lot just by watching them and always when I’m frustrated with my dull mixes, just by watching these videos it always gets me inspired. Here is the selection of my favorites Daves Into the Liar music production videos. You can start with these videos, and then check out more when you have time! 

 

Working with low frequencies

This is alfa and omega when you want to have a nice and clean mix with readable and powerful low-end. You have to learn how to work with low frequencies.

I don’t carve frequencies, I just mess with it until it sounds good

Dave explains his tips in these great videos: working with low frequencies, using filters when mixing bass and how to get great bass track. More bass tips >>

 

Using Compression

Sometimes it is a good idea to use instead of compressor tape emulation or saturation. However, if you don’t know where to start, you have to watch this video about compression techniques and  advanced parallel compression technique.  Dave also recommends you to experiment with presets as a starting point – advantages of presets are, that usually they are designed by professionals, so there is a big chance you will get them work in your music production. This is another great music production tutorial about compressions and audio compression ratios.

Always focus on emotion and energy in your track, rather than the technical aspect. Be careful with compression, because when used in a bad way, it can take your track down.

Using EQ in front of the compressor you will get a good clean signal to work with. To tune the color of the material, use EQ after compressor. Read more on compression here >>

 

Train you hearing, use reference mixes!

When you are new to music production it is a common thing that you will struggle with understanding or hearing compression, EQ, applying reverberations. Usually it takes a long time to learn how to hear the difference. Dave once told a story that he started to mix as a older guy – in his 30s, but first 3 years of his job he was dedicating 2-3 hours daily only to listening others mixes. Sooner you start with training you ear, sooner you will be able to use it in a proper way. Don’t get discouraged – every skill is trainable.   Inspire yourself by watching these 2 Dave’s videos about ear training. Also remember, it is important to listen reference mixes while making your own music production. It is always good idea to place reference song within your project, so you can quickly access it and use A/B comparison. Use your own invention! Don’t try to simply copy/paste your reference track. Reference track is a good for use of checking the levels of various elements, looking for the dull spots in the song, etc…

Referencing is a short cut way to taking a break. It refreshes your brain because we tend to get used to what we hear, and lose objectivity in the process.

Learn how to use reference mixes from Dave.

 

On PensadoPlace there are many other short episodes, that can help you with your mixing skills. Which is your favorites one? Share your thoughts in comments.

 

Learn Music Production Online for Free

top music production schools

In old days music education was very expensive, and it was often the privilege of a few accredited schools and universities to offer music production courses –  for big $$$. With the internet age everything is becoming more and more simple and to become a really good music producer, you don’t need to spend whole life savings for some piece of paper – at the end of the day it is very questionable that this kind of “diploma” would help you to get a job in a music industry.  Take a chance and learn music production online – let’s have a look in our collection of free music production courses.

Free courses from the TOP Universities

This is the HOT HOT stuff. Lets have a look

  1. Learn music production with Coursera – recording, editing, and mixing. If you are nice place to start. You will get introduction to every aspect of music production
  2. Introduction to Sound Design – fundamental principles of sound and how we precieve it.
  3. Audio Critical Listening for Audio Production. If you read this article about ear training, you are now probably looking for possibilities how to train you ear. This is a great course!
  4. Learning music online with Berklee – Of course that Berklee won’t throw out complete courses for free, however recently they released 30GB of free educational material – most of it is just a  promo intro to their paid courses. Anyhow, you can still find there a lot of useful information.
  5. successful music producer it is important to have strong music theory foundation. If you want to learn how to write a hit song, this will definitely help you out!
  6. Classical composition. You never know when you will need it.
  7. Fundamentals of Audio and Music engineering. Go into the detail of sound, vibration, perception.

 

Improve your mixing, mastering with other music producers

  1. David Pensado and his famous online mixing school. This is my favorite one, however you can find a little bit lost there. So many information…
  2. Advices on music production from producer and audio engineer Graham Cochrane. Very helpful site, this guy got a talent when educates the others.

 

Learn music production on Youtube

In recent years, Youtube channels. Of course, if you find that there is missing something, let us know!

Tutorial videos on electronic music and live performance using Ableton Live

Short tutorial for Ableton beginners. If you just decided to learn Ableton, this is the great place to start.

Ableton tutorials, artist portraits, tips and tricks. Good for any skill level

Dubstep Electronic Music, produced in Ableton, Cubase. 

Tutorials and tools to help you with producing EDM – Electronic Dance Music. 

Learn to produce hip hop, trance, electro, house or to make hot sound design in Ableton / Logic / Cubase. 

Great introduction into Logic Pro X. Very nice webinar.

 

More sources

Here comes a selection of other websites which deal with music education.

  1. Reason Tutorial.  If Reason is your favorite DAW, this is the place for you. If you just thinking about Reason, don’t forget to read our Review on Reason 7.
  2. Listening to music.  For advanced music producer. If you want to understand Western music – from Bach and Mozart, to Gregorian chant and blues. Develop your aural skill of listening music!
  3. Music production step by step tutorials and tips for creating electronic music from Next Step Audio. All levels, all DAWs. Must see website!
  4. Learn Music Theory with Dave Conservatoire. If you want to be the TOP, this course will enhance your basic foundation.

 

Missing something ? Let us know!

Cover photo by “College” by 401(K) 2012

 

 

List of essential books written about music production and audio engineering

mixing secrets for small studios

Hey guys, school or work can really teach you lot of new things, however nothing can beat the holidays….time where you can catch up with your favorite topic – music production. Over the years I’ve read plenty of audio engineering material,  and I decided to pulled out some decent books for you, that stand out from my collection. This is the list of all-time my favorite books written on music production, recording and audio engineering, books that I couldn’t have lived without when I was starting my career. 

101 Production Tips for Computer Musicians

If you are looking for one reference book – manual for mixing, producing and recording this is the ONE that should be in every home recording studio. Only 27 pages, but you will find there everything you need to improve your results in creating and mixing music. (Get it from Amazon)

Behind the Glass: Top Music Producers Tell How They Craft the Hits

top music producers37 of the worlds top music producers share their insights and secrets on how to make hit music production – from the practical to the artistic. Definitely this book will guide you through numerous interviews with some of the big names in music industry, from the producer/arranger to the producer/engineer to the producer/musician. George Martin reveals the technical and musical challenges of working with The Beatles, while Phil Ramone, producer for such artists as Billy Joel, discusses studio wall treatments. How to make great music production? Learn from the greatest one. (Get it from Amazon)

audio engineeringAudio Engineering 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Music Production

Another excellent book for beginners for starting out in the recording industry. Covering all you need to know about music production, recording process and marketing your music.  (Get it from Amazon)

music productionThe Art of Music Production: The Theory and Practice 

First kind of book that comprehensively analyze and describe the role of the music producer in creating successful music recordings.The definitive guide to the art of music production. (Get it from Amazon)

How to produce music

This beginner guide book discussed easy-to-understand method on how to start producing music in this generation. Every chapter talked about each important elements you should learn or have in developing this skill. Great book for everyone thinking about producing own music. (Get it from Amazon)

Mixing Secrets for Small Studios

mixing secrets for small studiosThis book is a fantastic resource that will dramatically improve your mixing abilities. Mike Senior, regular contributor to Sound on Sound Magazine will explain all important issues that small studios (and even larger ones) users face and how to address them. Book contains a lot of practical exercises to really hear and understand the concepts described. This book is one of the best-written guides to mixing that was published by this day, Mike Senior writes with hard-earned wisdom. (Get it from Amazon)

Modern Recording Techniques

modern recording techniqueThis is the recording bible. If you want to get one book that has a broad overview of everything you need to know, this one comes closest. I grew up on the fifth edition, but I believe the 8th is now out. It can get quite technical at times, but don’t get put off by the equations. Most of the info in this book is easy to understand, and the techniques are easy to implement. Ideal for the practicing or aspiring any recording engineer and music producer. (Get it from Amazon)

Mastering Audio:
The Art and the science

audio engineering mastering audioKatz is an authoritative and opinionated writer who believes in meaningful standards followed by good taste. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn some essential tips and tricks as well as the fundamentals of mastering audio. All the best theory for audio mastering in one book, you can find there also the history of this important step in the musical production and a really good definition of all the process necessaries for mastering music in your bedroom studios. (Get it from Amazon)

The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook

mixing engineeringThe Mixing Engineer’s Handbook is a goldmine of great mixing information. Book packed up with plenty of information about getting you proper mix ready to master. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand what are the attributes of the great mix! It will really help you out, because it lays everything down in simple to understand terms. He is covering variety of mixing styles, styles of arrangements, how to build up the mix, magic frequencies and much more…(Get it from Amazon)

Audio Production and Critical Listening: Technical Ear Training

music production and critical listeningAnother great book if you want to improve your ears and hearing. Book and audio CD cover in separate chapters all important properties of great music production like equalization, reverberation, compression, distortion detection, digital audio editing, etc. The content is deep and accurate. If you want to master this subject, it is all there for you. Master your aural abilities, the most important skill for every successful music producer.(Get it from Amazon)

Home Recording Studio:
Build It Like The Pros

home recording studioWell-respected author Rod Gervis share his tips and advices on building your personal home recording studio. Great resource, everything you need to know about noise reduction, construction techniques and materials, sound absorption, and diffusion. Everything is covered here and in language anyone can understand. If you are interested in building your own home recording studio, don’t forget to check this case study and also some theoretical application.(Get it from Amazon)

The Art of Mixing:
A Visual Guide to Recording, Engineering and Production

art of mixingThis book has an amazing and unique approach to mixing, by using visualization. It has LOTS of illustrations that are very clear, concise, and just totally chock full of useful information. If your mixes are muddy and you are more visualize or „left-handed“ guy, pick this one up. If you want to expand your recording techniques, by reading this book you will learn what your recording equipment does and how it all works together in a simple, visual manner. Gibson has mapped out everything that can be done to create various effects in all standard mixes by covering all various musical styles.(Get it from Amazon)

The Art of Producing

art of music productionThis book is a great step by step guide on How to produce music from beginning to end, using step-by-step procedures for music production, whether it be for a band, group or record company project. I personally favor the section of the book called, “Composition of the Elements”, it is mind-opener to utilize everything around you as inspiration to use in the dynamics of your singing, colors in your compositions, and overall creativity when writing and producing music. (Get it from Amazon)

Master handbook of Acoustics

home recording studios acousticA good overview of the field of acoustic treatment for various rooms, halls, etc. Acoustics is definitely one of the more important things to get right in your studio. If you’ve ever struggled to find good information on acoustics and wondered where you could really find the truth about it all — your search is over. Build your own acoustic environments such as recording studios, control rooms, and home listening rooms with the help of the acoustic experts (Get it from Amazon)

Moulton Laboratories: Golden Ears

audio engineering courseAn audio ear-training course for recording engineers, music producers and musicians. If you want to learn how to produce music, this is an essention skill you have to develop: audio critical listening. With this book you will learn to analyze different frequencies, signal processing changes, application of delay and decays, using of reverb. Must have audio course, if you want to be master. (Check out the website)

Instrument and Vocal Recording

reference music productionUse this book as a reference book whenever you’ve forgotten how to approach a specific recording situation. Instrument & Vocal Recording goes into details of how to record the most common instruments, such as drums, vocals and guitars, breath instruments. There are many solutions for different scenarios, for example how to how to record drums if you only have one microphone. Get this book if you want to know how to make your recordings properly. (Get it from Amazon)

Mixing with your mind

mixing and producing with mindGetting right sound in your home studio is art and science. This is very nice approach to mixing – mixing based on your feelings. Every operation and action in your studio use other part of your brain. Open you ears and inner yourself and mix with your intuition. The authors mind works in an unusual way – he may even have a touch of synesthaesia – the ability to ‘see’ sound, as colours or smells. This is a delightful book about resisting convention and using your own intuition when listening to music while recording it.Michael Stavrou did a great job on this book. This book can help you get outside the box when thinking about how to visualize invisible sound waves.(Get it from Amazon)

 

Still don’t know where to start? Check out our FREE E-BOOKS collection.

Learning music production. Pre-production phase.

learning music production

Knowing the right mixing techniques will help us to get most out of the song we are working on. Although this stage in music production is very important, we have to bear in mind that producing music is not only about mixing. Each new production you undertake provides challenges that will require careful attention. Good music producer is usually responsible for many roles behind the music production process – just to name a few: audio recording, processing, editing, mixing, mastering….And although nowadays on the internet there are way too many sources on how to learn everything, never forget that The best education is just doing it! Make music in whatever way that you can is the best way how to learn music production. Study the work of music that you love.

 

First stage of music production: Composition. Pre-production phase.

How I said before,  music production consists of several stages. To see this big picture clearly, you have to learn to listen music in a different way. Every production begins with the music composition and song arrangement. Often music is constructed in two or three parts/section and is divided into verse, chorus and bridge. To refer to these parts we usually use capital letters. There are many successful and often used song forms like for example AAA song form, 32-bar form (AABA song form), verse-chorus form (AB song form) or 12-bar blues form (AAB song form).  However there are many other song structures available, and as a music producer you shouldn’t be limited – it is always worthy to experiment. In 21 century it can be said that everything has been already recorded, so if you want to break through with your new tune, you have to be creative.

Your ears should be open to listening music in a new and creative way in order to make right decision in the pre-production stage. Music is a piece of art. You have to learn to listen music as a musician (artistic point of view) and as an engineer (technical point of view).

As a musician you have to clearly know the answers for the following questions:

  1. analyze song arrangement. Is the song form used in correct way?
    Isn’t this music composition way too boring?
  2. what parts of music are not working together
  3. where is the climax (climax is a part of a musical composition where music reaches its highest tension.),
  4. how we are getting to the climax – gradation
  5. intro – isnt it too long?
  6. etc….

From technical point of view we are trying to hear the following:

  1. Pitch of individual instruments – The relative lowness or highness that we hear in a sound. Before recording, it is always helpful to analyze whole frequency spectrum of the composition and find its weakness points.  For example if we can hear that song is a little bit dull, probably we are missing high frequencies there, and shaker or tambourine will solve this problem nicely. Through detailed spectral frequency analyzation we can fix a lot of smaller but also bigger issues in our production. Lot of engineers will tell you that this can be done in the mixing stage, but in my opinion if you have a chance to think about it in pre-production process, you will have less work during mixing.Pitch is based on the frequency of vibration of the sound and the size of the vibrating object. We will focus on frequencies in some other article, for now it is good to know that the slower the vibration, lower the pitch – if we take for example double bass, we can hear that is lower than that of the violin because the double bass has longer strings.
  2. Timbre – tone color. Timbre refers to the quality of sound and it clearly distinguishes one instrument from another. Every tone comes with its overtones. For example if we play on piano A (440Hz), in this A (fundamental 440Hz) we can hear also 880Hz (1st overtone), 1320Hz (2nd overtone), 1760Hz (3rd overtone), etc… Some musical instruments produce sharper of flatter overtones and this inequality contribute to uniqueness of their sound (and also to the high price). Timbre of the instrument (or vocal) is determined by overtones which are emphasize.
  3. Texture – looking for “thickness” or “thinness” in our song. Musical texture describes the individual layers and specifically it refers to the number of parts used in our music (in vertical direction). Musical texture can be monophonic (single melodic line),polyphonic (two or more melodic lines) and homophonic (a main melody accompanied by chords).
  4. Loudness – degree of softness and loudness and overall change in volume

All above is part of the big picture of currently produced song and it is always good to think about it before we jump into a recording room.

Even if one can think that musician and audio engineer point of view are overlapping, they are totally different stories. It is like with building house. To build a great house, we need to have the spirit inside to get an emotion we want. But also we need to use material that is durable and firmly in the basics. Material that will emphasize the spirit of our building/song.

Cover Photo by Pinna college

To be continued.