1. Include some variety in your production. If every track is bursting with
instruments, solos, and vocals, try a simple accompaniment of only one instrument.
If the CD consists mostly of simple tracks, try adding a live drummer, horn,
or percussionist for extra color and pop.
2. Try to include a live instrument or two if your production consists mostly
of synthesized and sampled sounds. Keyboards donít have the variance of
pitch, timing, and sound complexity that acoustic sounds have, so the result
can be a smaller, closed-in type of aural space. Just a few real-time performances
can breathe a lot of life into a track.
By Jack Lee
3. When recording your master vocals, make sure your microphone is of the very
highest quality. It is the most crucial part of the recording chain, and no
fx or equalizing can make up for a poorly recorded vocal. If you find that popping
your tís and pís is a problem (even with a pop filter), raise or lower
the mic just a little bit to avoid singing directly into the capsule.
4. If you are working with the EQ of the voices and instruments during mixing,
itís always a good idea to ďsubtract first.Ē Find the frequency
band that sounds indistinct or ďmuddyĒ and lower the gain. Remember
that an instrument that sounds great when heard on solo might not sound as good
when all the other tracks are playing.
5. Always create a instrumental-only TV track. After the mix is completed,
turn off the lead vocal and record the instrumental track only. You never know
when this track will come in handy. Perhaps it could be used for lip-syncing,
or maybe part of the track could find another life in a different context, like
background music, a jingle, or source music for film or TV.
6. Make sure your song sequence is working to maximize the impact you want
your music to have. Arranging the order of your songs is a minor art form of
its own! Because most people listen to CDs from the beginning, make sure your
first three songs are among the strongest you have. Avoid successive songs in
the same key or tempo. Songs in keys that are only a step or half step apart
can sound discordant. You can change the order even after mixing and mastering
is complete. Try getting a dub with different sequences and ďlive with
itĒ for awhile.
7. Donít skip the mastering step. By adjusting song levels and tweaking
the EQ, mastering could improve your project 10-15%. Itís a good idea to
find outside people who specialize in mastering, as they will have fresh ears
on the project and are used to thinking about a CD as a whole.
8. Make sure your CDís graphics look professional. This is the main clue
that consumers get about the time, care and passion you put into your project.
And, if you are going to charge as much money as the big kids, make sure it
looks like money. Also, be sure to include the bar code, as many retail stores
will insist on this.
9. When arranging your manufacturing, know the difference between reproduction
and replication. Reproduction is duplicating your master CD onto a pre-existing
disc in the same general way as you do on your home PC. It is the quick and
affordable choice for small runs (under 1000 copies), but sometimes has a higher
failure rate than replication. Replication involves a glass master and produces
the same type of CD youíll find at your record store.
10. Donít forget to promote. There is nothing like the stimulation and
inspiration of expanding your audience and getting your music heard. Give your
audience a chance to buy your music and learn more about you online. Offer your
CD at your website and with web music stores like CD Baby. For promotion, itís
the best deal going.
About the author: Jack Lee is a producer/muli-instrumentalist who specializes
in working with independent artists. He played lead guitar for Atlantic recordsí
Mother Earth and then toured as a piano player with Country Hall of Famer Earl
Scruggs before deciding to come off the road. After moving to LA, he established
his own studio and production company and has worked in the studio with many
artists including Kenny Loggins, Albert Lee, John Doe & Exene, Jim Messina,
Jeff Pevar, David Crosby, and many others. Lately he has concentrated on recording
independent artists, often contributing instrumental parts and arrangements.