Essential Music Production Vocabulary

Xavier Capdepon Music Production TipsXavier Capdepon has been producing music for almost 5 years now, so he has had to learn the vocabulary to improve his discussion quality with other producers and more importantly improve his own production abilities. As a music producer, it is vital to know the vocabulary that the best in the business use. Below are some essential music production vocabulary that all music producers should know.

  • Fade in/Fade out – This term refers the the increasing or decreasing of the volume on an audio clip. This typically occurs at the beginning or end of audio clips, as most music software allows you to automate fades at the beginning or end of audio clips. This allows for a smother transition between your audio clips.
  • Compressor/Limiter – These are standard music production audio effects that allow the producer to control the dynamics (intense swings in volume) of their audio recording or musical performance. A limiter is set in place to limit certain volumes of sound. A compressor is closely related to a limiter, but there are options to make the volumes coincide with other track volumes.
  • Reverb – A reverb is a popular audio effect that are added to audio tracks to simulate sound bouncing off the walls in a small room. This is a way to increase the space of a particular sound and keep it from sounding too flat. A reverb is defined as amount of time it takes an audio signal to bounce off of a wall (or something else) and return to the listeners eardrums.
  • EQ (equalization) – Different sounds have different frequencies. For example, bass sounds have lower frequencies, and melody sounds tend to have higer frequencies. EQing adjusts the amplitude of audio signals at particular frequencies, and producers use this to get rid of certain unwanted frequencies on various sounds. 
  • Mixing – mixing is used to distinguish each sound on a different track. A mixing console is used to mix sounds of various microphones that you would have set up in a studio. Producers want to have audio coming from multiples sources so they can mix them together and make them sound clear. The different channel strips assigned to the various microphones allow the producer to arrange the volume and tone of each channel.

To read more about how Xavier Capdepon sets up his production schedule, read more on his last blog post here.

5 Crucial EQ Tips to Clean Up a Muddy Mix

Even a perfect composition will sound bad with a muddy mix, so corrective EQ tactics are absolutely essential to getting the right sound. Follow these 5 steps to cleaning up your mix and getting each track to shine through with clarity.

Xavier Capdepon music production EQEmphasize What Matters: Open up your equalizer and figure out where the meat of each sound sits. You’ll notice that your sub-bass peaks at the very low end of the spectrum so any high end frequencies you let through are not serving a useful purpose. In fact, they’re just taking up space and competing with your other sounds. Similarly, any low frequencies you let through from your hi-hat track are just going to interfere with your lower sounds, resulting in a muddy mix. Go one by one through your tracks and carve out unnecessary frequencies to give each track its own space to shine.

Roll Off Highest Frequencies: Even sounds that are supposed to live on the high end of the frequency spectrum can use some high-end roll-off. The idea is to take away some of the very highest inaudible frequencies that can make things muddy. Here, less is more — you don’t want to roll off important high frequencies that might add to the atmospheric feeling of your song. Just roll off enough until you can start to hear the difference and then back off slightly.

High-Pass (Almost) Everything: The more room you leave in your low end of the spectrum, the better your sub can break through the mix. It’s really as simple as that. A hi-hat lives in the upper frequencies, so don’t let low-frequency audio fragments compete with your sub bass. There’s no hard and fast rule for high-passing everything, but you can roll off the lowest 60 Hz on most tracks without a problem. Of course, your hi-hats will need more roll-off while your vocals and bass will need less.

Notch Out Problem Frequencies: Within the important range of a sound, there are often “problem frequencies,” or tiny frequency bands that give uncomfortable resonances. Use the notch band in the EQ like a surgeon would and cut out those problem frequencies to give your audio a fresh makeover. The easiest way to do this is to play the track and then slowly sweep through it with one high peak in your EQ until you get to something that makes you cringe. Notch that frequency out and move on to the next one.

EQ Tracks in Tandem:  Arguably, the two most important components of any EDM song are the bass and the kick. If those two aren’t sitting well together in the mix, no amount of work will make your song sound good. But getting sounds to mesh well together is as much an art as it is a science — you’ll need to experiment by subtly boosting some frequencies and lowering others until you get the right feel. I recommend doing this at the start of your track before you move forward with the rest of your composition and finer details.