The structure of a song:
Best things first: The only rule is there are no rules. Record whatever you want and use it as a sample. Automate effects in ways never imagined before. Mix rhythms and genres to create beats no one could have ever imagined! Nevertheless, just because you can do anything in music doesn’t mean you should. Because no matter what type of music you are makeing, you want it to be good music. You want other people to enjoy listening to your tracks, to hear the patterns clearly and to not be distracted by a bad recording or weak mixing. Important is that you understand the process and tools at your disposal, so it will be easier to construct a quality track that delivers your message and vibes as intended.
Let’s start by chopping the process of music production by separating it into six stages: Songwriting Arranging Tracking Editing Mixing Mastering These are by no means set in stone but working in steps can be really helpfull for beginners.
What is this mysterious songwriting all about? Let’s say that songwriting is the process of putting musical ideas together to form a larger structure of coherent melody, harmony and rhythm. It’s the process of brainstorming ideas and patterns that results in a beginning, middle and end. And what makes a song a good song? Let me try it: A good song will depend on the listener and what they’re drawn to. It’s totally subjective in my opinion. However, a good song in terms of craft or producing can be identified more objectively, and will usually have all the elements listed above (i.e. melody, harmony, rhythm, structure). And it will be put together in a way that’s pleasantly recognizable while still being creative through its playing. A good song will develop as it goes along. Thats why music is taking us on a path spiked with surprises along the way to make sure we’re still listening. The melody (what the singer sings) will fit with the harmony (what the guitars, bass and synths mostly play) in a way that’s pleasing to the ear. To do so producers are using repetitions to help the listener get used to the chord progression before transitioning to the next section where they use a different set of chord progressions. Additionally a good song will also have a good rhythm. It should make your foot tap with the groove, whether you’re a professional drummer or not. There are different ways to songrwitre even though there are always the same questions to be answered: Are the melody and harmony catchy enough to stay in your head? Does the track keep your attention with new ideas as it develops? Does it groove? Get this answers right from the start and the rest will roll out with ease.
When a song has a good beat and melody but gets too repetitive after a while, you have usually a problem of arrangement. It’s the arrangement that makes a song interesting and flowing. Arranging is perhaps the least understood and most neglected part of creating a track, while its role is one of the most important. To put it in very simple terms, the arrangement of a song refers to the selection of instruments playing in each section. You have to get an idea on how the sections themselves are arranged within the larger timeline of the song. Lets pretend you’ve written a great verse and chorus. It’s not enough to just play them over and over again. There needs to be a buildup of some sort. For example, the 1st verse only has lead-guitar and the vocal, while the 2nd verse adds the bass and drums, and the 1st chorus adds the synths and vocal harmonies. And just because you introduced an instrument doesn’t mean it should stay there the whole time. Sometimes you only want a certain instrument to change from pattern to pattern. The possibilities are endless. What’s important is to keep things moving. Keep in mind that even subtle additions can add a lot of interest for the listener.
The goal of “tracking” is to capture a performance of the song. A song is just a collection of musical thoughts. Playing a song live would make it communicable, but it wouldn’t be tangible as the song would disappear when it’s over. Tracking is the process of recording the various instruments that are used to perform your song. Usually, a song is recorded one track at a time. Every time you record a new track, you hear all the other ones you’ve recorded as well. This is the process of multi-track recording. Although you have many editing options for fixing made mistakes, there is a limit to what you can do. So when you record, give the performance of your life and think about nothing else.
The possibilities of digital editing are endless. When it comes time to editing, you should treat this as a separate stage for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t want to be editing while you’re recording. Focus on those stages separately so you don’t lose the vibe each time you stop to correct something. Leave the editing to a later stage. And second: You don’t want to overdo it with editing or your song will begin to sound too “chopped up”. People can hear if your song is “over-edited”. If it sounds good, then it doesn’t need editing. Remember, the aim of this stage is to get the performance sounding as good as possible, nothing more.
Lets pretend you’ve written your song, recorded the parts, and now it’s time to sit back, relax, and mix. This means we turn this track into a masterpiece. Knowing how to mix well is an art form that takes years of learning and practice. But that doesn’t stop anybody from doing it, and you should feel free to dive right into it. Learning by doing. Mixing is the process of combining all the instruments you’ve recorded into a stereo 2-track mix. A good mix will let you hear all the instruments clearly and with detail. It will have depth and motion. Mixing is a world unto its own and the final mix has an enormous impact on the way your song will be interpreted.
Mastering is the process of making all of your used songs sound coherent and part of the same album. A good mastering engineer has impeccable ears and equipment. He or she will correct any minor deficiencies in the mix that the mixing engineer might have missed due to the sound of his or her room. He’ll also raise the level of all the tracks so they’re even in volume. There are many software tools that allow you to master your own tracks e.g. iZotopes Ozone. As with anything, a professional is always going to do the job best. But you can “fake it” with a good chain of plugins and experiences. Remember: Music production is simply the process of making music. The more comfortable you are with the process, the easier it will be for you to make the music, and to make it sound good.
Original article by Moritz Mörch (musicproductionsinfo.com)