Most tracks you hear these days are conceived and realised totally within the digital domain. Today’s computing power allows for advanced synthesis to create sounds, improved cpu architecture to manipulate and process these sounds and advanced software techniques that allow you to make the final mix as loud as any other release you’ll hear.
All the computing power in the world is useless if you don’t know what you’re doing, or in fact what you’re hearing so a pair of decent monitors is also essential. Writing, producing, engineering and mastering are all separate issues each with there own unique methods. Just like writing and producing, engineering and mastering is a never-ending learning curve for all artists. The best starting point is having the right tools, this is where these tips try to assist.
A powerful computer is the most important thing. A decent sequencer, audio editor, loop slicer and processing plug ins is all you require. A P4 or MAC G4 is sufficient by today’s standards. Logic Audio v6 is the most comprehensive audio production package on the market today. Aside from its sequencing and editing facilities, its inbuilt Multipressor and Adaptive Limiter used correctly are ideal tools for boosting every frequency range in your mix and finalising at optimum levels. Try the soft and hard linear settings on the multipressor and leave the ad limit settings as they are. Always ensure that your levels are not clipping at any stage, bypass all of your inserts/plug ins and reapply them one by one to ensure that the levels never strike red. Adjust the output volume on each of your plug ins to ensure that you leave enough headroom for the final stage (limiting), loudness is something you should not worry about until the final stages (mastering). The process of compresing each frequency band individually and then applying a limiter over the entire mix is an important part of mastering. These principles are applied at the very last stage of recording your track, the engineering process of eq, compression and effects come before this and are extremely important in having a well-balanced mix before you begin your mastering process.
There are many sequencers on the market including Cubase, Sonar, and Reason. Peak and Soundforge for the mac and pc are the most powerful stand-alone audio editors available. Recycle and the new Phatmatik/Phatt Factory are loop editors that allow you to chop up and manipulate any loop instantly and accurately.
Reason is a great tool for creating concepts. An all in one sequencing software which incorporates a basic sampler, fx units, compressor, synth, drum machine and hundreds of excellent sounds makes Reason the most instantly accessible and popular of all ‘dance music’ sequencers. The ability to use Reason together with Logic or Cubase via rewire make this a very powerful tool that is used by most artists.