The initial songwriting begins with a blueprint. Your lyrics are like the blueprint of a house. It has the details of what you are attempting to build. It looks great on paper or in your head but it is still a concept. In building a house, you have a general contractor in songwriting you have a producer. Like a general contractor that directs his crew while conferring with the homeowner to make their dream house, a producer confers with the artist to make sure the song stays true to the artist image and vision.
A general contractor is responsible for delivering the house on time and on budget. Same with the producer. The first thing to get built for your house is the foundation. You have to create a solid foundation so the house can stand for years to come. Same with your song. The foundation of your house is built with concrete. The foundation of your song is melody. The tools of a contractor are everything from heavy equipment to a hammer, machine operators to carpenters. The tools of a producer are their ears, engineers, musicians, songwriters, arrangers and composers.
The foundation and walls being built or the framing through drywall phase are like the recording process. You follow a set of rules to develop the song. Now the fun stuff begins. The homeowner decides to change the layout of the kitchen a bit, make a room an office, etc… this is like arrangement and mixing. The cabinets are going up, the paint is happening and the flooring is going down. Carpet or hard wood? many choices. Same with mixing. More bass, more guitar, less drums, etc… Just like you need to be able to see all of the rooms of a house, you have to be able to hear all of the parts of a song.
Now lets say we have completed the inside of the house. The rooms are perfect, the floors are the way the homeowner wants them, bathrooms are fit for royalty. But we haven’t touched the outside, landscape, etc. Now comes curb appeal and the finishing touches to make the outside as beautiful as the inside. In music, this is where mastering comes in.
Mastering is the curb appeal of your song or record. It is what the listener hears first to decide if they are going to listen further or open the front door. This is a step most indie artist miss or mess up. If they don’t like the curb appeal of your song there is no reason to (open the door). This is where a new team of people attack the house. Stucco, paint, trees, flowers etc… start to show up. Paint colors are chosen and textures are incorporated onto the house exterior. Same with the record. This is where the mastering engineer is listening in fine detail to the sonic qualities of your mix. The mastering engineer is looking for spikes, low areas and using various tools to correct these things. The goal here is to polish your song into a record that is ready for radio. Don’t get me wrong, the mastering engineers job is not to make a hit record but to polish the hit record created by the producer and songwriter and composer, etc… If the mastering engineer is given a turd to begin with the best it will ever be is a shiny turd.
by Kimo Kaulani for Audio Blueprint