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  • Writer's pictureElvis Graholskis

3 Secrets to Music Production on a Budget and Mistakes to Avoid

A piece of music must always go thru production process to ever see the light of day. If we step back and look at different parts that are involved we can find more about things that we need to pay attention to and also find spots where we could save some time and money when producing our own songs.

Rule 1 - Bad Song Is a Bad Song No Matter the Production

It is important to understand, that the only songs you see from the Green Day, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons are the good songs they've made, not the bad and mediocre ones they abandoned. I can't speak exactly for the Green Day, but bands have usually around 40 finished songs that are then cut to less than 12 to make an album. All the mediocre songs are thrown away. There are also songs that get a lot of production, but then are not included in the end, because they just don't meet the standards of the best ones in that album.

There is always a post scriptum, when the cut song eventually sees the light of day, like the new Linkin Park - Lost which is a great song, but was not released at the time, probably because of the reasons I just mentioned.

That is just the fact of the matter. Not every song that an artists makes is released, and the earlier you can spot a bad song in your production the more time and money you will eventually save. You should put your focus on the good songs.

Rule 2 - Bad Recording Will Always Be a Bad Mix

Every artist should understand - if the song is poorly recorded meaning -

  • band is playing out of time,

  • instruments are not tuned properly,

  • there is too much bleed and unvented noise in the recordings,

  • not enough instrument parts were recorded to make the song full,

  • vocal performance is not adequate,

  • one instrument track or one vocal track were recorded at different days,

  • guitar tracks or backing vocal tracks were copied and not recorded in separate takes

it will always result in a bad song even if you hire the best mixing and mastering engineer in the world.

Paying attention to the recording process costs you nothing except a little bit more time and focus, but this will greatly improve the final song. And do you know what the biggest lie is? "It will sound much better when we mix it".

I am not going to lie, the best records that I've mixed, did sound amazing before I came in to mix them. Mixing and mastering is just a final push, a final polish with more depth and air-candy, not the re-doing of the complete song to make it sound professional. "Fixing it in the mix" just doesn't cut it when we want to aim for that high standard and competition that is on Spotify.

It is important to note, that fixing issues with the recording does cost a little bit more time and focus, but it does for a person who is already skilled and knows how to properly record a song. Skilled music producer or a recording engineer knows when the vocal take is not right, knows where the unvented noise is coming from and how to fix it and knows how many and what takes to record to paint the full picture.

If you are not great at recording and producing, you must spend more money to get the right person. You will benefit more on making sure it is recorded right rather than, record it poorly and then pay more to mix and master it.

Rule 3 - Bad Mix Can Break a Song

From time to time I encounter really great songs that were ruined by a mixing engineer. It does happen and it is sad when it happens. Maybe sometimes people want to save money and think they are good enough and can mix their own song without a professional experience. Being a jack of all trades can make things worse and take away from parts that were done right.

Bad Mix can definitely ruin everything. That is the reason why you should be avoiding places like Fiverr where the platform is build in a way where the people must compete with price. If you are on a budget, than sure the Fiverr is a great place and if you are lucky, you can find a right person who knows what he/she is doing.

On the flip side, there is obviously a point of diminishing returns. Meaning a $400 mixing engineer would not sound much worse than a $900 mixing engineer. When only the skilled listener would compare those, then they would tell if something is bad, but the mix is usually fine for the most people.

For example, one of my favorite artists, Wolfgang Van Halen released Mammoth WVH: Goodbye which is a great song and I love it, but the mix is a little off for my ears. I don't like the mix and find it scratchy and compressed at times, but I think it is doing just fine and people love it.

In summary, there are a lot of things that need to be accounted for when producing a song and making sure it sounds great in the end. Obviously the more experienced people are involved, the better a final product can become AND the less of a loss it would be in the end. Think about it - when the one part of the process fails, like a bad mix for example, the whole songwriting and recording is for nothing.

If you want a great mix and master, hire me and I will make sure your song sounds great. There was my shameless plug and I hope you learned something by reading this article.

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