What do professionals do to perfect their music?

Hey guys, I’ve been using Cubase Elements for almost a month now. I have recorded a few tracks, they sound alright but nowhere close to professional quality. Which brought me to this post, what do professionals do and or use to make their music sound good and to perfect their recordings? What are some of the tricks, methods or equipment do you guys use to perfect your music?

Cheers

It starts with the Recording itself, the performance you’re capturing must be professional, and also capturing your equipment properly (proper gain staging).

Assuming those things are sorted (performance and levels) then the professional polish is down to how well the song is mixed and mastered. I’ve left production out of the equation to keep the explanation simple because even a four track song (Vocals, guitar, bass, drums) simply recorded well can be made to sound a professional record via mix techniques.

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You can’t contain an answer like that in one post, and probably not even a thread (even if it’s very long). People take years to learn this. It’s editing/mixing/mastering.

If you’re new to this then I would recommend a basic approach just starting with the basic, included tools that you find in Cubase. Learn how to improve your music using panning, stating levels, automation, EQ, compression, maybe gates… just the basics. See how far you can get.

Then you can post examples of your music and ask for general input, or ask for solutions to specific problems…

Generally speaking, give up your day job and become a professional ie. gain experience. By this I mean track & mix 40-60 hours each week for a couple years. There are no shortcuts. Some people learn faster than others. Volunteer as a gopher/intern somewhere. Maybe a commercial studio, maybe a performance hall.

If for commercial release, don’t master your own material. IMO few people can do that because you really need objective ears in a professionally designed sonically engineered room with expensive speakers. For non-commercial “finalizing” tracks I suggest Wavelab Pro, and use it as a learning tool for things like error recognition, listening to delta files so for example you can actually hear what compression or EQ is doing, different types of shaping, dithering, quantizing etc. You really can learn a lot about audio just by some of the features in Wavelab Pro. Ultimately, remember it’s the song that counts. If the song is a turd, mastering will only polish the turd.

Avoid being seduced by software tools of the month. For a beginner, most of the tools are included with Cubase Pro. Really LEARN them. That will most likely take months. Eventually, you will find gaps depending on your objectives, but wait until you really see what you need. Just one example might be Wavefactory Trackspacer, but learn and use the Cubase factory tools first until you feel you really need 3rd party tools. Do some initial research about tools, then buy them, and really LEARN them. By learning each parameter, I mean know in your head, the expected audio change/objective before you even move the parameter. Push each parameter to the extremes and listen and learn.

Tricks: I don’t believe in magic. I believe in illusions, and they can be found everywhere. Forums, subscription sites such as SOS, and Youtube. Subscribe to the good tutorials, and avoid the bad ones. Greg Ondo for Cubase specific issues, and Dave Pensado for general topics are a good start.

Methods: Most forums has a “production techniques procedures” type sub-forum. Again you will recognize the good contributors, and this may be genre dependent. Learn how to mic. Gain staging, Compression…series and parallel…when and how to use each. Know the basic EQ linnear/phase/dynamic. Know M/S for EQ and compression, and IMO never rely on a limiter for very much gain unless for effect such as used in EDM. Get your dB’s prior to feeding the limiter.

Equipment: Decide the hardware you need vs. software. In the software realm, avoid the tool of the month. There will always be something bigger and better next month. Competition has become tight, and that’s good for the consumer. But it also includes a lot of potential marketing bs “magic” false and misleading advertisements. IMO increasingly 3rd party developers today are having to create your desires telling you what you need and where your problems lie, where as in the olden days, the basic tools addressed them…sometimes very creatively. Of course there are numerous exceptions, but addressing your basic question…stick to the basics.

A general seduction is “owning” way too many VST tools, and then you never are able to really LEARN them. Avoid “shootouts” unless you want to admire your tools instead of actually completing tracks. Usually free is not as good as paid ones, but there are exceptions. There are some tools that the developer could sell, but has chosen to be free. Finally, always remember these are just tools. Get a good hammer and stop looking at your neighbors…at least until you smash your finger. :laughing:

Good luck!

PS I’m not a professional. Most of them are too busy for forums.

A great many spot on points made in that post, greggybud. This one , however, is my favorite. :slight_smile:

Thank you Scab. I’m sure you are aware, I didn’t make that one up. But plenty of us have had too much experience polishing them.

https://producelikeapro.com/
He has a load of free videos on YouTube, many aimed at beginners, and what is important.

https://youtu.be/x_Zsn8wq5Js

You need to reconsider this. If everyone was to wait on the perfect song to record then every single person on this forum would be doing something else rather than hanging around waiting for inspiration, maybe take up knitting. Also, everyone is not necessarily writing their own stuff. I don’t see anyone with a client saying " I’m not recording your song because it’s just crap. I just don’t need the cash. Thanks. I’ll wait on a client with a great song then I’ll learn to record)"

If you are writing and recording then you need to do both at the same time or you will never learn anything.

I firmly believe that to be incorrect.

So you really do think that you need to write a great tune before you learn to record it? Mmmmmm!

When did I say that? :confused:

You really need to stop misinterpreting things.

Let me make this clear for you. I agreed with the fact that when you polish a turd … you get a shiny turd. This comment caused you some type of emotional unease. It still doesn’t change the fact.

Now, because I believe one can improve his skills by focusing on individual elements, you take that to mean everyone should wait until he has the perfect song in order to record it. I just don’t get it.

Anyway, this is getting way off topic … and the OP seems to have vanished.

“Ultimately, remember it’s the song that counts. If the song is a turd, mastering will only polish the turd.”

You really need to read this sentence again and have a longer think on it. Here it is a second time just in case you missed it.

“Ultimately, remember it’s the song that counts. If the song is a turd, mastering will only polish the turd.”

Oh, right. I think I get it now. Mastering can transform a turd into a diamond. Thanks for clarifying.

Thanks guys. I’m going that route for my fiance’s engagement ring. Hope she likes it!

Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time. It is quite a labor intensive process. I’m sure she is worth the effort! :laughing:

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A track sounds professional because the sound engineer who produce it has several years of experience behind him.

If you wish to increase your learning process, my advice is to take some lessons with a professional. He will help you to progress very fastly.