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Producing Music That Sound Professional
By Bob Speer

Many artists are self taught engineers when it comes to tracking, mixing, and mastering their own projects.  Everyone who
records wants professional results.  All too often, artists make the mistake of trying to do more than they are capable of.
They try to be engineers as well.  Now that's not a bad thing.  There's nothing wrong with artists learning all they can about
their craft, and that includes engineering.  However, most artists are professional musicians, not professional engineers.

There Are six Basic Elements In Producing music That Sounds Professional

1. Inspiration   2. Arrangement   3. Performance   4. Recording/Tracking   5. Mixing   6. Mastering
                                           
Think about what happens when an artist tries to accomplish each of the above elements on his/her own.  Once motivated by
inspiration and completing the arrangement, they give a professional performance and record their own tracks.  Then they mix
their project.  After attempting to apply some mastering techniques, they decide their project doesn't sound as professional as
they'd like.  So, what's the next step?  They send the project out for professional mastering.  All to often, when they get their
project back from the mastering house, they can't understand why it doesn't sound like the "Rolling Stones Greatest Hits."  The
question is, why doesn't it?  The answer is simple.  It's because only the first three elements above were a professional effort.
The other three elements, 4, 5, and 6, are the weak links that prevent the project from achieving that professional sound.  More
often than not, the mastering will be blamed for the inferior sound.  After all, mastering is the last step.  It's supposed to solve
the problems that weren't taken care of during the previous steps of production, right?  That's a misunderstanding of mastering.

Mastering is about quality control and adding the appropriate amount of polish.  That's it!  Mastering is not remixing, nor is it a
fix it stage designed to correct what went wrong during tracking or mixing.  For a CD to truly rival a commercial release, all the
above elements must be performed by professionals.  Artists with home studios that send their projects out for mastering will
always have to settle for whatever their tracking and mixing talents are able to produce.  The final product may fall a little short
when elements 4, 5, and 6 are not performed by professionals.  Mastering is always mix dependent.

If you're an artist with a home studio, don't despair.  Never quit trying to learn all you can.  Think about how long you practiced
your musical instrument before you became proficient.  It takes time to become an accomplished musician.  It takes time to
become a proficient audio engineer as well.  Equipment dealers may sell you the latest digital work station with all the latest
audio production software.  However, what they can't sell you is the years of engineering experience it takes to obtain
professional results.

 
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