As I always like to say: the finger drummer is the new drummer. It’s probably the single best skill worth learning for modern electronic-based music composition. And to this end, we came across a series of fine finger-drumming demonstrations/tutorials put out by appsformusicproduction.com. The best way to learn is by watching, so check out these videos and start practicing!
Record producers are always trying to get an edge over competition and will try any trick in the book to improve the perceived quality of their recordings. Witness the mastering limiter, SA-CD, surround sound, exciters, et al. All of those either lost favor, never took hold, or became self-limiting in the case of the loudness wars (wonky engineering pun intended).
Now we stand at a crossroads in regards to the next great leap in sound technology. It could be argued that the last great leap was the development of the MP3 file compression format back in the mid-90’s – which was a step backwards from the trend of increased recording fidelity. Naysayers aside, the leap that came before the MP3 – the almighty CD – was the last great leap forward. Proponents and naysayers alike agreed that the qualitative shift that occurred from records, cassettes, and 8-track (google it) to CD was vast. It was not a technology that was difficult to sell. You did not have to be a sound engineer to notice the difference in quality that CD could bring. To the average music-listening public it was a “no-brainer.”
One of the most aggravating things to deal with when writing a song is coming up with proper transitions, usually between verses and choruses. However, transitions can also occur as key changes, progressions, and tempo changes. This is not an exhaustive tutorial on the subject matter but rather an overview of some of your options.
Regardless of what kind of change you are dealing with, you should always consider an intermediary change, or bridge. Yes, this adds yet another change and must now also be connected with, both, the preceding AND succeeding parts. However, the intermediary part is usually a lot less musically dense, so it should be easier to lead in and lead out of than simply conjoining two completely disparate parts. Sometimes this bridge is as simple as a stripped down drum break, or even easier, a 1 or 2 bar sweeping effect. That is usually the best option if the chorus (for example) contains elements familiar to the preceding verse. If your chorus sounds a lot like the verse, there is no sense in drawing-out the suspense and tricking the listeners ear into anticipating some sort of big event (which will likely be a letdown if it sounds much like what was preceding it).
Most of us have heard of or seen what is known as a “Photoshop disaster.” You know what we’re talking about: a model with a missing hand, or an airbrush gone wrong. In other words, a completely un-natural and off-putting effect originally intended as an enhancement.
I would submit that the corollary in the world of music would have to be the misapplied Autotune, either as an overt effect, or a botched enhancement. Everyone knows about Autotune by now. It has become ubiquitous in all forms of pop music and is probably the most spammed effect in the modern music era. Just like previous signature sounds of an era – like gated snares in the 80’s, or overused guitar feedback in the 90’s – there will come a day when it becomes unofficially blacklisted for fear of sounding retro.
So, you’ve actually recorded your own music and gone through the arduous, though fulfilling, process of mixing it yourself… “so far, so good” you think. But now for the finishing touches, the dreaded MASTERING phase of your recording. Ah yes, the arcane yet fine art of polishing a, hopefully, already good sounding mix (rather than polishing a turd, one hopes?). The one stage of the recording that, rumor has it, even the most hardened DIY masters don’t dream of doing themselves. Dr Dre, Tiesto, Trent Reznor – none of them even come close to grappling with the mysteries of mastering, favoring instead to hand off their carefully considered mixes to, often, an anonymous engineer – crossing their fingers while putting their baby in the arms of a stranger. “WOW!” you exclaim to yourself, “If producers of that calibre don’t trust their ears at that stage, it must involve some kind of dark magic that a lowly unknown producer like myself shouldn’t even attempt!”