This page is dedicated to demystifying the process of making a song from start to finish, with limited interruptions. This is intended to fill in any gaps of knowledge. This is the typical process I follow when I'm working with someone. Before we get into the steps, here are some roles it's important to understand in this process.
Artist - The person/band who's name is going on the record.
Producer - The person who works with the artist in all steps of the recording process.
[Recording] Engineer - The person in the studio working the microphones and studio gear when recording.
Mixing Engineer/Mixer - The person mixing the recordings.
Mastering Engineer - The person mastering the mixes.
- WRITING -
This feels obvious, but in order to record songs, the song needs to be written. Deciding on structure, lyrics, melodies, chords, and instrumentation is common in this step.
- REHEARSAL -
After you know what you're going to record, it's a bit boring but practicing the songs is very important. Making sure you and all the players are confident in how the songs are supposed to go and everyone feels comfortable in their role in service of the song(s).
- SCRATCH/DEMO TRACKING -
After everyone knows their parts, the primary instrument(s) and vocals can be recorded. This is usually done to a click track/metronome that will be recorded over. Sometimes, if there's a full band involved, the whole band might do this together. This provides all the players with a template that they can play along to.
- TRACKING RHYTHM INSTRUMENTS -
Next the rhythm players will record over the scratch/demo. Typically that would mean the drums and bass parts. However, it's not uncommon to track additional instruments (including vocals) in this step. The primary goal is to get a very solid foundation for the track.
- TRACKING REMAINING INSTRUMENTS -
If there are other instruments essential to the song that were not tracked in the previous step, it's ideal to get those laid down here. This would typically be chordal instruments such as guitars, pianos, synths, etc.
- TRACKING VOCALS -
This is (stereotypically) the most difficult part of the process. Hearing your voice recorded is a disorienting experience. When rehearsing and performing, the environment is forgiving. When tracking a vocal, you're typically wearing bulky headphones while in a sound absorbing room and it can be really uncomfortable. There's two things crucial to nailing this step. First, communicate. If you're feeling anything, tell the engineer/producer. They are there to help. Second, don't give up. It's incredibly common for Beyoncé and Billie Eilish to record hundreds of vocal tracks for their songs. So, be prepared for the long haul of it.
- OVERDUBS -
After the major portion of the tracking is completed, it's common to take a little break from the music. Come back after a few days and listen with a fresh set of ears and try to make any final production decisions. Are any of the parts too in the way or sticking out? Are the songs dynamic/interesting enough? Are there any points in any of the songs where you lose interest, why? You would then re-track and get rid of anything to try to solve those problems here.
- ROUGH MIX -
The producer/engineer will typically go through and make a rough draft mix for each song. Working quickly to get all of the songs sounding as best as they can.
- MIXING -
The producer/engineer will send the recorded tracks of each instrument off to a mixing engineer (if applicable), who will use various tools to balance and manage each instrument in each song to get the song sounding the best it can. This process typically includes rounds for revision, where the mixing engineer will take feedback on the mixes and adjust accordingly. This is where the artist should focus on the mood/feeling of the song. If any instrument or section of the recording gets in the way of that, the artist should tell the mixing engineer.
- MASTERING -
Once the final mixes are agreed on by everyone, the mixing engineer/producer will send the individual songs off to the mastering engineer. At this point, no individual instruments can be adjusted. In mastering the whole mix is able to be adjusted using EQ, compression, and other techniques. Essentially this step is quality assurance to make sure the songs all fit together and are ready to be consumed by the masses. There is usually a round or two of revision here, but if everyone in the process has executed and the communication is clear, this should be minimal.
At this point, the recording process is done. You should have songs that are ready to share your message/feeling with the world. However, there's still more work to be done!
- MARKETING/PROMOTION -
While steps 9 & 10 are being completed, it's a good idea to build your marketing plan. Is there anything special/different about these songs that you can use for merch designs? Reach out to as many blogs/publications as you can and ask them to review your songs. Are there any specific people you want to hear these songs? If so, reach out to them and ask them if they're interested in hearing a preview and if they like what they hear, would they be willing to share it with 5 other people.
- PROMOTION CONT'D -
This may sound jaded, and maybe it is, but in today's streaming world, setting up as many dates as you possibly can for gigs playing the songs from the album and selling merch at those gigs are the most common ways to make money as an artist. This is true at all levels. Major label artists tour to make their money, so start planning & practicing for your shows!
There are A LOT of steps to making a record and it can be overwhelming. To add another layer, these steps are not always the same depending on who is involved and how you decide to record. There's good news though, every person who's ever made a recording has gone through this long process. It's not uncommon to begin to dislike the material after you get through any steps of the process, especially towards the end. That's why it's important you like the songs you're recording. More importantly though, don't give up. Part of this process is all the frustrating, boring, and fun parts. It's all of it. It is incredibly meaningful to have a record of your creativity at the end of all of this. And that's why we do it. If you have any questions or are interested in working with me on this process, Please Fill Out This Contact Form.