When making music, layer in your chords and percussion first - followed by your melody idea, bass, supporting instrumentation, and a pad if desired. Then replace your melody idea recording with a vocal comp, doubles, harmonies, and BGVs before performing a quick mix and master, or preparing the tracks for mixing.
Before we start talking about making music, I want to quickly share the idea that music production - or the software we use to make music is becoming an instrument in and of itself. Music always closely follows the technology of the time, for example, rock music followed the availability of electricity, etc.
We’re in a time now in which computers, and the tools they provide have created genres and new sounds in general. With that said, I’ll be showing how to make music as it relates to music production - with midi, loops, plugins, and other modern instruments.
Having some chords and a chord structure is often the start of a song - for my session I’ll with a chord trigger, a midi velocity compressor, and use Massive X as the instrument. I’ll then create a 4 chord structure - again utilizing a chord trigger to help me out.
Alternatively, you can start with the drums, which is the more traditional way of starting a production - since drums establish the timing of a song. But since quantization is available, starting a track with the percussion isn’t necessary.
With your chord structure and beat, now is a good time to record in a vocal melody - even if you haven’t written the lyrics. The reason being, as we start layering in additional instrumentation, we need to ensure nothing clashes with the vocal melody - which is difficult if one isn’t present.
So, even if it’s rough, record in a melody you like to hold the place of the vocal or play it on the piano if you prefer that.
Depending on the genre, bass can be at the forefront of the song’s hook, or it can be more of a supportive instrument. In this track, we’ll use 2 bass tracks, one as a synth playing a lower octave, and one on the bass guitar as a higher octave.
This way the 2 don’t overlap too much or cause an overpowering and muddy low end.
Next, start layering in instrumentation - maybe you can include son supportive acoustic guitars that accomplish support both for the chord structure and percussion. Or you can introduce additional riffs or a lead to compliment the lead vocal’s melody - it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Regardless of what that instrumentation is, this is a good point in the production to record it.
At this point, my track is just about done excluding the vocals - one optional step is to use a pad or other instrument with a slow attack and long release to fill the gaps in the performance. This keeps the production from sounding empty but won’t be too noticeable.
Its role is to stay in the background and create a layer between the noise floor and the rest of the production.
With the instrumental finished, let’s record multiple vocal takes - then we’ll listen to these takes and decide which clips go best together to create the strongest lead performance. Sometimes 3 takes is all that’s needed, but more can be helpful if you want more options to choose from.
Try to pick takes that have the best pitch, most desirable timbre, and ones that flow together well.
Next, we can focus on our vocal doubles, harmonies, BGVs, and any other vocal-related instrument we can layer in. The double will give the lead some support, the harmonies will make it more varied and interesting, and the BGVs can make a chorus or bridge sound full.
We just released a video on this concept called How to Layer Vocals, so check that out for a more in-depth look.
With everything recorded, we can now mix the track - or we can export the session and send it to someone else to mix and master. If someone else is mixing the session, be sure to export consolidated tracks, or tracks that start and end at the same time.
This way the mixing engineer can properly align all of your instruments for their mix session. If you want to mix the track yourself, please check out some of our other videos, where we cover multiple mixing and mastering related topics in depth.