“ I’m always keen on producing music which will be able to connect with people and the community. Pop music is still the biggest industry driven genre but you must be silly not to appreciate disco. Truth is, making music isn’t complicated and we produced If I Could using minimal gears.
I favour gears from M-Audio. Not only they are affordable, yet easy to operate! Combined with Logic 9, be ready to take upon the world.
What’s Included in the Download Pack?
and everything else you’ll need to follow the tutorial smoothly having ALL the project & source files under your arm launched in your computer. Get the files we worked on and read on!
Breaking down the producing stages
If I Could a song by Daniel, which he composed some time ago. Un-recorded, the song was only played during gigs with a guitar and voice. We heard potential when we heard Daniel play his composed song and decided to choose his song for VividProject.org
Once that was done, Daniel’s vocals were next. After a couple of vox takes through the song we settled for the third recording through. A harmony track was also sung, improvising every best little way Dan was able to come up with. All seem well and we now have our guitar and two vocal tracks ready.
Using audition’s stock audio restoration worked well on our tracks. All we had to do is to select a noise profile and process the entire audio track to remove unwanted noise. For our case here, we had a low humming noise and some room noise in the vocal track removed.
With that we have a guitar and vocal only mixdown of If I Could.
Listen to Recording Mix 1.mp3
Taking a break from the recording session, we played what seems to be the rough mix, listened to it again and couldn’t help to notice that the song was flat! Way really flat! We wondered what sort of music arrangements should be made for the song. And we’re about to use samples and loops to fill the song up!
The first thing to be balanced is the guitar and the vocals. So we put in a compressor to with a moderate threshold but no gain. We used a separate gain for the guitar and we are just taming the peak levels here. A slow attack as we didn’t want a too punchy feel in the guitar and we rolled off the EQ from 80hz and below with a slight dip at 200hz killing the muddiness.
Two vocal tracks now, the lead and a harmony. Daniel’s vocal wasn’t perfect on spot, though good, had some minor pitching errors. Firing up the pitch correction plug-in setting the key to a G major scale with a moderate response of 247ms. Not to hasty, or we’ll have that T-Pain vocals. Not for this round, please. Again, compressors with little gain to balance the two vocal tracks. On the lead vocal I used a plug-in by Izotope, the Alloy adding some exciter and EQ to the track. I made the harmony vocals come in only during the chorus creating more variety in the song.
The harmony vocals were mixed rather subtle and we cut some low end but boosted the highs on the EQs for the harmony vocals.
Listen to Vocals without edit.mp3 & Vocals with edit.mp3
Having a pre balance of the guitar and vocals, here’s where the extra arrangements starts.
Using Logic’s Muted Electric Bass we recorded a simple bass line. Coupled with a bass amp plugin, compressor, goldverb and EQ we achieved a rather warm sounding bass to backbone the song.
Using the lower end keys, we also added in a bass slide at the end of the final chorus. Once we go that down, we look into the drums and percussion arrangements of the music.
The drums (in pink) we programmed on If I Could were straight out from Logic’s samples. We didn’t use other patches from anywhere else.
Using the hyper editor in Logic, editing the programmed drums can be a lot simpler. Use the line tool in hyper editor and bring the velocity of the midi to be a constant for the drums for instance the kick or snare.
We made different tracks for each parts of the drumset; snare, hi hat, crash, kick and so on, so we can tweak and pan every parts to our liking. Main effects used here are Compressors, Equalizers, Panning and Reverbs.
We didn’t want our percussion kicking and punching through the music, so we kept them tame by using a decent compressor attack speed and decent threshold levels. A sweet music flowing music we’re after!
A little reverb to the percussions, so it sits behind the main melody and clog the whole mix. Also some EQ for all the tracks. A safe thumb rule; rolling of frequencies below 60Hz.
In this round of mixing I didn’t group the instruments together in buses nor the effects. So to keep things constant I copied and paste the effects settings like the reverbs and such.
Coming up to this point of arrangement, I muted the percussions, played the sequencer and played a piano along to it. Then we thought the song sounded very lounge-styled out of a sudden!
Anyway, you’ll notice the piano is soft in the mix and only prominent in fill-ins. The piano and pad came after the 1st chorus making the song fuller. Using some bigger reverbs on the pad where some basic chords and movement were recorded it holds the song making it warm.
Quantizing the notes to a swing mode made our piano sound a little robotic. But with the whole song put together, having a little overly perfect timed piano sounded fine.
Again all our patches are straight right out from Logic. Listen to Quantized Pianos
In my years of arranging, I often find guitars to be the hardest to fake. Err, I mean imitate; using virtual guitars & making them sound real. The case was similiar for If I Could, but we took up the challenge.
We used three types of guitars here. The 12 string acoustic chord, twangy electric & dobro slide.
The 12 strings acoustic will strum a guitar chord when you hit a key on the keyboard. Top octaves minor and bottom octaves major. Sounds good. But to fake a real guitar? Sucks, if you asked……
The guitar chord strums comes in only during the final chorus to fatten. Mixed softly and panned left in the mix it sounded fine.
The twangy electric was also panned left supporting the lead vocals with some melody riffs and a slight delay effect on it. Nothing too bright here, EQ was cut at the top and bottom of the spectrum.
Initially I heard a glass guitar slide playing in this arrangement. Well I mean I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. But up to this point, I didn’t have someone to record it so I substitute it with the Dobro Slide, which has the slide effect if you hit the keys hard enough.
Sounded a little too bright so an EQ was added to slice the brightness. To balance with the other guitars, the dobro was panned right. Subtle chorus and delay effects were used to fatten up the guitar.
Note again, every effect and sound for the guitars are all stock in Logic. Hear the fake guitars at it’s best; Fake Guitars.mp3
Yes mixing and soft mastering. We took a few days to come out with a mix that we would like having all the arrangements together now. That includes volume balancing, panning and some cuts here and there.
We pictured a pop country styled song, so we made sure the song wasn’t too punchy but yet not too weak sounding by not overdoing the compressors.
But, truth to be told. When we were done with our mix the next anybody would want to do is to maximize the loudness! Yeah you would want to make your music the loudest ever possible and win the loudness war. After all, for those of you that does not know, louder music always sound better!
We did not use a separate arrange window to master the track for it’s loudness, opposed to what many other producers would do. Then again, there’s no said rule that you must. We made sure our mix does not clip and then we just used some plugins on the master track.
What we used:
On the master track, we used a compressor to compress and make the music louder. We used very low attack speed and release speed to avoid coloring the song. Gaining about +3db, with threshold set about -6db & we had a low ratio of 1:8:1.
Next up we used Ozone 4 and did much effect processing here. We added some brightness on the equalizer, very slight mastering reverb and boost the song louder with the loudness maximizer.
We only used a little of the exciters and expand stereo image for the top frequencies.
The Channel Equalizer were also added to basically roll off the lower end rumble below 50hz and again we added a pinch of brightness here.
Listen to Main Mix without Soft Master.mp3
And Main Mix with Soft Master.mp3
Using simple recording, editing, arranging and mixing using the very minimal gear list is not an obstacle. We’ve created a piece ready for the commercial world; being loud enough & mastered correctly whereby our listeners can accept.
However having to look and study the source files are even more enriching and everybody will learn and discover more! (That’s why they give you the textbooks in school!) Learn how we do the arrangements, what we played, what effects we used, techniques and many more.
Buy the source files for “If I Could – Daniel C” now. Included with the download source pack is everything we used to produce the song.
If I Could – Daniel C
Available in iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/if-i-could-single/id461067219
Available in Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/If-I-Could/