I learned two valuable lessons when studying Music Production at a University that shall not be named. The useful lessons that our lecturer told us all were that “if you want a good drum sound, get a good drummer!” and my personal favourite, “you can’t polish a turd“. Tuition money well spent I’d say. He was referring to recording and audio quality of course, and funnily enough, he was right. You really can’t polish a turd. So here are 5 things to consider to achieve the best sounding recording you could possibly have ready for Spotify and iTunes.
1. Don’t fix recordings in the mix
“We can just fix it in the mix”. “No god damn it, you fix it there and then”. Mixing is great and all when tweaking minor aspects to get that killer sound, but it should be used to enhance sound not fix it. If you’re recording your parts in and there are some minor issues that you could potentially fix in the mix, it’s always better to resolve the issue there and then and get a take that you’re proud of, not one that you’re quite happy with. It will make life easier.
2. Record a lot of takes
There will most likely be one part of a take that you’re not too keen on or could do better. If you record several takes then you should be covered, you can chop and change and get that killer take. Don’t just settle for two good takes, settle for 4-7 great takes and then the choice is yours!
3. Don’t over compress!
The loudness war may be coming to an end with the streaming and download stores playing everything at the same volume, but dynamic range still speaks volumes (no pun intended… okay maybe it was). It’s what makes your chorus – you know, the main focal point of a track (90% of the time) – be the standout section of the song just by simply allowing natural dynamics to do their thing in the mix. You wouldn’t want the whole track to be on the same level for 3 minutes 30 seconds now would you?
4. Don’t over compress…again
Be wary of the fact that the streaming platforms compress every track that is sent to them so that all tracks play at the same/very similar volume. There are two things that you can do to prepare for this:
• Similar to point 3, avoid over compressing the master as the stores are just going to compress on top of that.
• Make sure that when recording, the track is as loud as you can possibly get it without over doing it. If your track is super quiet, God only knows how much compression and gain will be put on that track by Spotify.
5. Never bounce to an MP3
And last but not least, bearing in mind that “you can’t polish a turd”, never ever bounce tracks or convert to an MP3. You may be able to convert an MP3 file to a WAV or FLAC so that it fits our upload requirements, but does it have the sound quality of those superior files types? Well, the answer is NO, it’s an MP3 in disguise. It’s always best to bounce from a DAW to a WAV or FLAC straight away, then, in that case, you always have the best sounding file.
So there you have it, 5 important things to consider for the best audio quality. Simple!