• Philip Marsden

10 Quick Production Tips | #2

1. Never Mix Without a Reference Track

Checking your mix against another track can help to no end when it comes to getting the balance perfect. It can be a song with a similar sound to your end-goal, or just a track that you’re really familiar with. Be sure to level match!


2. Learn the Rules (But Only so You Can Break Them)

Learning how compressors work, learn how EQ’s work, learn the rules of editing. Once you know them, and only once you know them, begin to break them! This is how you make exciting music. 


3. Keep That Volume Down

I don’t want to sound like your old next door neighbour, but seriously, don’t produce too loudly. Not only will you damage your ears (permanently), but your perception of the sound will be skewed. 


4. Vocal Recording with Ease

If you’re recording yourself, you need to stay stress free, while keeping the momentum going to capture your best performance. Here’s how I structure vocal recording (adapt it to your own workflow):

  • One warm up take, set up the mic gain and headphone mix with this take so you can focus on the performance later.

  • 4-5 takes, all the way through. Don’t break up the song unless you absolutely have to - it can drag you in into a wormhole of overthinking.

  • Sit down and piece together the best parts from each take. This is called comping. 

  • If there are any lines you’re not happy with, record them individually and edit them in.


5. Always Use a Pop Shield

It sounds obvious, but I often see this forgotten about. Get in the habit of throwing up a pop shield every time you record, your mix engineer will love you for it and your songs will sound way more professional - remember all of the little things build up! 


6. Pull Samples From the Lead Vocal

If you need some new sounds in your song, whether it’s a lead melody or some ambient parts, try pulling some samples from your lead vocal line and manipulate them to your heart's content. It will sound cohesive, but unique. 


7. Start Your Track with Something Interesting

A wacky sample or gripping drum fill right at the start of your song is a great way to instantly grab your listener’s attention. 


8. Use Notching

Notching is a great way to make your recordings sound better. Open an EQ and set a band to a high Q-factor. Then, hunt out nasty resonances by slowly sweeping through frequencies and pulling down anything that sounds particularly bad. On vocals you could use this to remove some low, muddy room resonance. On electric guitars, it can remove harsh top-end. Just try not to overdo it. 


9. Bass That Cuts Through

Here’s an easy way to make your bass cut through the mix, even on smaller speakers.

  1. Send it to a bus channel

  2. On the bus, apply a high pass filter to about 150hz

  3. Saturate the sound (Softube Saturation Knob is a great free tool for this)

  4. Blend this with the original bass sound

For best results, don’t do this with the bass solo’d. Do it in context with the rest of the track. 


10. Free plugin - Brainworx Subfilter

This free plugin is great for fattening or tightening your bass sounds. I love it on kick drums or synth bass lines. Here’s where you can get it!


Want to get better at producing vocals? Download my free guide - Vocal Production Start to Finish