Vocals -  Effects -  Going commercial -  Production of Audio CDs - 

I know everything :v) - what next?

The essential thing to remember when you're at this stage is that everything must be professionally done, whether it's sampling, tracking, and use of effects, absolutely everything must be at top quality. Take your time over your tracks, and make sure that they are as perfect as you can get them.


Chances are that some time or other you are going to want to incorporate some sort of vocals into your music. This can be very hard, and there are two important things to remember: the vocalist, and the words. Both should be of equal importance in your mind. A good vocalist singing crap words sounds unprofessional, the same goes for a crap vocalist singing great words. Few people can sing well, and even fewer can write respectable songs.
Your best chance of getting good vocals is to find someone who is willing and able to write some lyrics for you, and then hire a studio and a vocalist for a couple of hours. The main reason for hiring a studio is that it'll probably have VERY expensive and VERY nice microphones. They'll know all about using them and have the best environment to record in. Remember that you'll probably want to take a recording of your tune with you so the vocalist will have something to sing to! You can then sample the vocals and incorporate them into your tune. Obviously you'll have to check that the studio has a sampler that can save onto disks that you can use. The actual sample format isn't too important as there are plenty of converters around.
An alternative method would be to find out if the studio has a CD- Recorder. You can then record the vocals direct to CD and rip or sample them at your leisure. The same goes if you have a DAT machine, you could record to DAT in the studio and then sample the vocals when you want.
Using vocal samples does have a number of drawbacks. One, your modules will instantly increase in size. We’re not talking a few hundred KB here, more like a good few megabytes, depending on the amount of vocals used.
Another problem is one of performance. Although this may not bother you. If you’re playing a song to an audience and there’s no-one singing it, the performance will look quite strange!



Get Your Frequencies Sorted Out - by XRQ

Imagine the following: you are listening to some music, every instrument has the same volume throughout the frequencies (from 50Hz up to 20kHz). The result would be a noise that one could hardly call "music", and, on the other hand, it wouldn't be possible to differ the instruments, all melodies would be melted into "peeping, shouting, roaring mass". Therefore, the instruments should be separated by frequencies. I'll make an example.
Let's say that we're planning to have some vocals and let's say that that particular vocal sounds best if we let all frequencies near 8kHz out on a speaker and suppress all other frequencies a bit. So, we've situated vocals on 8kHz. If we wanted to put a guitar next to the vocals we should force some other frequency for it - 6kHz e.g., and so on.
Every instrument will have its own "major" ("capital") frequency, they will all be "frequent neighbours" ("neighbours by frequency"), there must be no frequency occupied by two instruments.
Even if a situation occurs where two of them MUST be on same frequency, make a compromise, put one a bit higher than the other and kick them apart in panorama (left and right instruments) or make one of them more leading and push the other on some insane frequency (very low or very high or which would be an "uninhabited" one). This is extremely important. It'll sound better. You'll experience a difference which you will not believe.
This is to be done in some sample editor by EQ settings or Parametric EQ's or...
You know what I mean, I've given you the goal, but the choice of a tool is yours.

EQ - in Theory and in Practice - by DNATrance

EQ is very important to make individual sounds in a mix fit together like one big happy family. Usually you have EQ on each channel of a professional mixer or you can use your favourite sample editor to EQ your samples to go into a tracker or sampler.

Basically, an EQ is a filter which has the following characteristics:

Frequency : Low frequencies are bass, high are treble.
Gain : The amount of volume you wish to cut or boost the frequency by.
Q(Resonance) : The bandwidth (amount the filter spreads out from the centre frequency both up and down equally)

A low or high pass filter is the same, only the frequencies above or below the frequency of cut or boost are lost as well.

There are usually the following on an EQ:

Low cut off - The lowest frequency of your sound which gets past.
Low gain - How much you want to cut or boost your bass frequencies.
Low frequency - At which frequency you wish to boost your lows.
Mid gain - The amount you want to cut or boost your mid frequencies.
Mid frequency - At which frequency you wish to boost your mid frequencies.
Mid Q - The bandwidth at which you wish to boost your mid frequencies (can also be called resonance).
High gain - How much you wish to cut or boost your highs.
High frequency - At which frequency you wish to boost your highs.
High cut off - The highest frequency of your sound which gets past.

Depending on the EQ, you may not get all of these features. For example, the low frequency may be pre-set, or you may not have a mid control at all, like a conventional hi-fi with only pre-set frequency on bass and treble (high) with only gain controls.

Possibly the best is a parametric equaliser which has many filters to alter the characteristics of the sound.

Anyway, what you have to do to get your mix sounding professional is to EQ sounds as a mix. So if you have a bass and a kick drum, boost them at separate frequencies to make them fit together. You may wish (and is advisable) to lower the volume (gain) before EQing.

A bad habit of trackers is sometimes to make the kick drum too loud. This is because the other sounds in the mix have far too much bass in them, and all the sounds except the actual bass and kick drum, should not have a lot of bass in them. It might sound like nothing. Just one instrument with bass in it, but when you add the rest of the mix with toms, etc. it can add up to make a 'mushy' mix.

If you don't have a mixing desk, don't worry. If you use hard disk recording, you may be at an advantage, because when you apply EQ to a section of a sequence, you can usually 'see' which parts the EQ is effecting. Although, your ears are the final judges - the most important tip I can give you.

You may like to turn the gain up full and play with the frequency to hear or 'feel' where the resonance of the sound is more easily, then turn down the gain to a lower setting. Remember that 3dB doubles the gain, and 6dB is much louder, because it works on a logarithmic scale, depending on the type of scale on your EQ (it may be linear which has much less of a steep curve)

EQing the high hats so that it's only the high you can hear might sound like a good idea, but try moving the frequency down a little and you might be surprised at how much less tinnier they sound, and have more of a tuned sound.

Going commercial

Releasing commercially when you use a tracker is nigh on impossible, due to the lack of respect trackers have from 'proper' musicians. There have been, and will be, a lucky few who have done it. Names that I know of are Bjorn Lynne (Dr. Awesome), Dex + Jonesey, Eric Giesen (Sidewinder), Vivid, Ganja Man, Holy Ghost, Oona, Assign, Blue Adonis, Purple Motion, Mark Knight (The Dark Knight), Allister Brimble.

There are two ways of getting paid for your music. Selling it commercially, and/or getting it used in computer games. Tracked music still plays an important role in games, as unlike CD Audio it can be altered while it is being played. This allows for context sensitive music, where the music changes to suit the action on screen. Even MIDI files cannot easily be used in this way.

The main problem with getting your music released is the output format. Here's a short table to determine whether or not you'll have this problem.

     Soundcard quality       DAT machine     CD-Writer       Problem?
     -----------------       -----------     ---------       --------
     Good, with digital        Yes             Yes             No
     Good, with digital        Yes             No              No
     Good, with digital        No              Yes             No
     Good, with digital        No              No              Yes
     Bad, no digital           Yes             Yes             No
     Bad, no digital           Yes             No              Yes
     Bad, no digital           No              Yes             No
     Bad, no digital           No              No              Yes

Basically, as long as you have a CD-Writer or a good quality digital output and DAT machine, you won't have a problem getting a good quality recording. Which means you'll be able to produce good quality demos without the need to hire a professional (!) studio or mastering company.

Something else to consider when you're going professional is the quality of your samples. The number of times I've heard a tune good enough to be released that has been spoiled by bad samples is ridiculous. Drums are generally the culprits, especially those with high frequencies in them. Synthetic hi-hats and cymbals pitched up too far lose their distinctive sound, and get changed back into what they really are – noise. Don't settle for anything less than CD-Quality, unless you specifically want that "lo-fi" sound.
Try not to overdrive samples simply to increase their volume. This can result in a loss in quality as the sample loses definition. Instead, reduce the volume of the rest of the samples being used, and up the playback volume on your sound system.

Production of Audio CDs

Audio CDs are one of the most popular formats for the production of high- quality demos. Although the initial outlay for a CD-Recorder is quite a large amount, one should last for a good number of years if it's only used for the production of CDs - and not for general use as a CD-ROM drive.