The process a song goes through from inception to completion can be a long one. It’s important we understand what each of these stages involve.
The inspiration is the initial inception of a song or idea. It’s the moment where you think to yourself, “There may be a song in that”. It’s extremely important to immediately record these inspirations, to anticipate their possible use later and at any time during a songwriting session.
This is where you continue with a piece of inspiration you have previously had, or start with something new. This could either be a co-write (written with either another individual or group) or by yourself. Here at Talent College we always recommend trying to find others with whom to write.
Pre-production is the process a song goes through before the ‘production’ phase. Pre-production was brought into the process to alleviate the pressure of the actual production time. In the past, studio rates were extremely expensive, upwards of $1000USD a day in some cases. Pre-production is a great way to use a cheaper space, such as a room, to rehearse. This enables the band and the producer to eventually walk into the actual recording studio with clear direction and confidence.
This is the process whereby all of the different music elements are brought together.
In production we decide on the arrangement and what instrumentation needs to be used. Section by section is built until we feel that the song has everything it needs. Sometimes a simple piano and vocal is enough. Sometimes we need much more. In modern pop songs, there are sometimes upwards of 150 individual tracks. It is totally dependent on the song you are creating. Production also includes the editing processes with added effects.
Once we feel the production is reaching a stage of completion, it’s time for the mixing stage. Mixing is the process whereby all of the individual tracks are balanced together. These tracks need to be balanced down to a stereo left and right track. 90% of the music consumed is in this format. Mixing can be quite a difficult job as sometimes 150 individual tracks are to be balanced down to just two. This takes a lot of skill and dedication, so much so that professionals, called ‘mixing engineers,’ make this their full time job.
Mastering audio is the final step of the creative process and is also the first step into the distribution side of music. It’s the creative job to use EQ (equalisation) and compression (explained in more detail later) along with other tools to do any final balances to the mix. Often a single song will be part of a greater project or album. In this case, the artist may want each song within that record to feel part of a family. The mastering engineer will use his tools to create cohesion across the entire record. They will then deliver the final file ready for printing and/or digital distribution.