The Basics of Music Producing | Seth Mosley | Seth Mosley | Skillshare

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The Basics of Music Producing | Seth Mosley

teacher avatar Seth Mosley, Grammy-Winner Teaches Songwriting for Free

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Intro to Full Circle Music


    • 2.

      The Basics of Production Intro


    • 3.

      Fundamental 1: Gear


    • 4.

      Fundamental 2: Engineering


    • 5.

      Fundamental 4: Mixing


    • 6.

      Fundamental 3: Editing


    • 7.

      Fundamental 5: Mastering


    • 8.

      The Basics of Production Outro


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About This Class

This class provides a birds-eye-view of the basic formula the pros use for producing hit records. It doesn't take as much as you might think to get going. Find out more.

Meet Your Teacher

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Seth Mosley

Grammy-Winner Teaches Songwriting for Free


GRAMMY award winning producer, Seth Mosley is one of the most awarded and in-demand songwriters and producers in the Christian Music industry today. Along with receiving a GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album "RUN WILD. LIVE FREE.LOVE STRONG" (for King & Country) this year, Seth also received the 2014 SESAC award for Christian Songwriter of the Year. In 2013, Billboard Magazine named Mosley the #1 Christian music producer and the #3 Christian songwriter; and Seth was the writer of 28 charting radio singles, resulting in 14 SESAC awards for top radio activity.

Known for hits like, "You Are I Am" (Mercy Me), "Born Again" (Newsboys) & "Words" (Hawk Nelson), this past year has been stellar for Seth with eight #1 songs: "Fix My Eyes" (for KING & COUNTRY), "He Knows... See full profile

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1. Intro to Full Circle Music: Hi, My name is Seth. Mostly my company is called Full Circle Music. You could find a song line at full circle music dot You can find our work worldwide on countless Grammy winning albums, Dove Award winning albums and at the top of Billboard charts and all kinds of TV way probably have 20 Number one radio singles. Full Circle Music is a collective of producers, songwriters and creators, making music at the highest level. We always strive to be at the cutting edge, yet embracing the familiarity that makes a hit. I was fortunate and blessed to when these 2013 billboard Richard the Year War sacks on out of the year award Grammy Award for double awards. We're always looking to expand our team and work with best artist self. Who knows you might be one of our next producers. 2. The Basics of Production Intro: thanks for joining us. We hope this is the spark that you need to chase your dream of being a professional music greaser. We're gonna cover fundamentals of modern pop music production, things like gear engineering, editing, mixing and mastering. We hope you walk away from this course with a bird's eye view and a better understanding of why certain tricks are used time and time again in countless pop. It's there's an element of production that you just have to be a natural at it. But there's also a big element that can be learned over time, and I find that that's probably even more important. Practice 10,000 hours and all of that stuff that you here. It's really important about working at it consistently for a long time. As I sat down to create this course, I had no idea how hard it would be to take 10,000 hours or more. At this point of experience and still it into one introductory course, I could spend hours on a single topic, like editing or drum programming, or even break it down more specific than that on a good kick drum sounds for different kinds of editing so I don't want you to think this is by any means gonna be a diving deep, comprehensive forces since the introduction. But my hope is that you walk away with again a bird's eye view on what modern pop music production looks like and most important from mills. 3. Fundamental 1: Gear: So I want to begin this section by talking about a few of the fundamentals that you'll need for doing a basic recording. I don't want to stress you out and make you think that you have to go out and run up your credit card and buy $25,000 worth of year to make a professional sound recording. That's not the point at all, either, to some very basic tools that at the baseline level, you will probably need at some point Teoh record audio and to do programming in basic mixing and editing functions. The first thing you'll need is a decent computer, some kind of decent computer. There's really no way around that. I personally use a Mac, and I really prefer a laptop because it enables you to do what you do anywhere to take your rig on the road. We do a lot of that now it iss, but if you have Windows, it's perfectly OK to there's really no right or wrong. What I like about Mac is that it comes stock with a really great powerful production tool called Garage Band enables you to record multi tracks. It enables you to program, mix at it and kind of even master your tracks windows. There's some similar tools out there. Things like audacity to throw one out. There is a really good place to begin if you don't have the budget to go. Spend on a program like Logic Pro, which is $200 comes with really everything you would ever need to do. Modern production number two The thing that you'll need is a decent interface again. You can go from super cheap to super expensive on this part. I'm not saying that you have to start at the top, but you need some kind of interface. And simply put, all UN interface does is it connects the sound source like the microphone or the guitar or whatever else you're plugging into it to the computer, and it gets the sound from here into the box. You don't have to spend a ton to get a great interface. Nowadays, that is the beauty of modern recording technology. Number three. A decent microphone You can go all the way from a $20 microphone to a $20,000 microphone, But just know this Michael Jackson recorded thriller on a Shure sm seven, which is a $349 microphone that might be expensive for some of you guys out there. It might be not that much at all, I don't know, but you need some kind of microphone to get your voice into the computer. Number four cables will make a PdF, which breaks down exactly what cables you'll need to connect, what toe what. And I'm not even gonna dive into that because cables is the boring part. It's the part that nobody likes to spend money on, but you just have to have them and they get tangled up so cables are the annoying part. But they connect your microphone to your interface, from your interface to your computer, from your interface to your speakers and all the rest. Number five headphones and or studio monitors. Headphones are great because you can work again anywhere. Just plug into your laptop. I know a lot of great records that were made in program, just using literally a laptop and headphones. You listen to any of the new E G. M. Stuff. A lot of guys air, literally just programming without a midi controller there just use a a laptop in their headphones. So having somewhat of a decent set of headphones, this kind important you want to know, you know what you're hearing is somewhat accurate. I'd say, you know, have something maybe a little nicer than, like the stock apple, uh, your buds, for starters. But again, you can find some great headphones for 40 $50 that you don't have toe break your break your wallet over a sfar a studio monitors, goes studio monitors air Great if you're collaborating with other people, because then everybody in the room is hearing the same thing to the last you to crank it up and show it to people Pretty self explanatory Studio monitors air just high end speakers, so they're designed to accurately portray the audio that you have in your computer. Number six, a midi controller. Simply put, a MIDI controller is just a keyboard, like a piano that has a USB or FireWire or Thunderball output that goes right into your laptop, and you use it to trigger software instruments to program drums to do all kinds of functions. It be really hard to be a modern producer, not have some kind of small MIDI controller again. You don't have to necessarily go spend a ton of money for one. And a lot of people have gotten really good. It literally just using the the laptop keyboard for programming, so you can totally get away with that, too. It's just all personal preference. Number seven a D a W D. W stands for digital audio workstation, and that's basically the software that you'll use to record program mix, arrange and put your productions together. Things like logic. Pro Pro tools que base digital performer Those are all different D. A W's some of the free ones or GarageBand and audacity. Like we said, those were great to start until learn recording basics and fundamentals. So you need it. You need a decent D a WRC, at least some kind of DW to get started. And number eight is a mic stands. I'm not even going to spend the time to say what it is because you know what ISS holds a microphone again. I don't want to get lost in the gear pit because there's a lot of websites you can read about. Will this gears better and you need this gear and you need that year, and I have this high end x r 27,000 thing that sounds better than the 24,000 and you can get lost in that. It it's really not about the year of the year to some point is important, but it's more important to know what you have into master what you have and get really good at that. We've actually created a package to get you going with some of our recommendations for gear pieces. You can buy some of it, all of it, none of it. But click the link for that. We've got a PdF that has some has that in a list format that could just give you a good place to go out and get started. 4. Fundamental 2: Engineering: engineering recording, tracking whatever you wanna call it. It's about getting the ideal sound and capturing the perfect performance from the performer . Not just about being perfect, but about capturing emotion and inspiring great performances. The performances need to be believable. They need to be pro sounding, and they need to be convincing. And that's what your job is and engineers to do. A lot of you guys, you'll just be engineering yourself. So that's a little bit of a different job. And that's actually how I got into recording First was just by recording my own songs in my Parents basement, so you get a lot of engineering practice and sort of self editing practice as you go on that it's about both capturing audio, your voice or your guitar or keyboard or whatever the audio sources. But it's also about knowing the right sounds to use when you're programming, for instance, a piano part or a drum sound. It's about knowing the right sample to use for a kick drum or whatever you're going for. One important fundamental is gained structure. If you set your gain too low, you're gonna wind up having tons of noise and is that compounds over lots of tracks or just have a really noisy track. You said the gain structure too high and you get distortion, which sounds not very good. So you want to make sure that your gain structure is right from the beginning on interfaces . That's pretty easy to do with, literally just a trim knob usually or something like that. So just spend the time to get that right. Obviously, if you're recording a quiet part on your guitar that's really intimate finger picked, you probably want to turn to gain up a little bit. If you're going to town strawman on Mumford song, you probably want to scale it back a little bit, so it doesn't sound like your speakers there exploding unless that's what you're going for . Of course, it's also important to have the right kind of recording room environment, especially for vocals that could be important. If you're doing a pop track, you want the room to be pretty dead sounding, but this is achievable simply by creating a little booth out of blankets and putting them around you. Some of our first vocal booths, that's all they were. Closets that were just lined with blankets and clothes and whatever else we could find that would dead in the sound. If you're going for a more roomy sound and want a little more natural reverb, it's OK if you're recording in a room that's a little more live. But what winds up happening, as we'll find out a little bit later in the production process is when you get in the mixing, you start using a tool called compression. And what compression does is it makes it sound like if you sound like you're in a little bit of a cave to your own years. By the time you get get compressed, it'll sound like you're in underground tunnel. So you want to really take the time to the, you know, get some basic room setting and also for your listening environment to If you're on headphones, it doesn't really matter as much, but make sure that your studio monitors in the room that you're at as much as you can control it, that there's not tons of echoes and reflections. Obviously, you don't always have control over the situation. A lot of our modern productions are done in buses and green rooms and dressing rooms and wherever the artists air out on tour. So you obviously can't control it all the time. But as much as you can, it's a good thing to one tip that I can't overstress enough is don't be afraid to be a perfectionist. I think the longer I do it, the slower that I get, because sometimes to get that perfect take, you've got to sing the line or have the singer single on 25 times and don't be afraid of that. I always think it's better to get it right on the front and did not have to edit it or tune it or time it later on. It always sounds better if you get the performance right up front and don't feel embarrassed. If you do have to sing the line 25 times to get it right. Nobody's perfect, really. I can't think of any singer that we've ever worked with that we've just pressed record and the first take was it. There may not be a singer nowadays that can even do that, so don't feel embarrassed or insecure. If that's the case, we're all on the same page with that. Another tip is this. Don't be afraid to record your song to engineer it in sections. Focus on the versus focus on the courses. Get those right, then move on to the bridge. You don't have to feel like you have to press record from top to bottom, and that's it. You know you'll get used to punching in, and punching out is the technical terms we usedto when you press play, you hit record. That's a punch in when you hit record again. That's a punch out, and over time you'll get quick it that. But don't be afraid to record the song in sections. Most of the pros do it. We do it every day. Nowadays, there are so many chief and free samples online, and having the right sample sounds can save you a ton of time, especially if you're like me. And you don't like to sit there messing with a kick drum for weeks to get it just just right. There's one we wanted to give a shout out to in particular and there a company called that Sound there actually based here where we're from in Nashville, Tennessee, and are making some of the highest quality samples that you're hearing show up on every pro record nowadays. Check it out. It's I want that sound dot com. You can get their banks for Sochi, and it's unreal how quick you can get going with drum sounds for your tracks. Last tip As a reminder, it's always best to get it right on the front and rather than try to fix it on the back end . 5. Fundamental 4: Mixing: mixing. This might be one of the most subjective parts of the entire production process. I can't stress that enough. Each person is going to have a different taste when it comes to how they like to hear a sound. I'm gonna hear a kick drum maybe differently than you would hear it. But simply put, mixing is taking all of your sounds. It's balancing them. It's painting them, adjusting your levels, using e que compression automation and other effects to take the listener on a journey from the start of the sign of the end of the song. It's also highlighting the important parts of the track in creating the right amount of space for those the best mixers I know really take their time and listen to the song they mix with song in mind. And if it's a country song and it's about a story, they're going to make sure that the lyric is the thing that you're focused on. You're not gonna be focused on the tambourine over on the left side unless the tam brain is telling the story. Of course, mixing is a hard job because if you do it well, you sort of just disappear into the music and no one really knows you're there, and no one really knows what you did. But it's a hard job because if you do a bad job, people definitely know where to point the finger. And they know that something just does not sound right. I don't say that to discourage. I just say that to say that mixed with song in mind. And don't ever be afraid to be ever evolving and ever developing your craft of mixing the best mix. Engineers that I know are constantly learning constantly using new tools. I was just with one today, actually, and when I was there a month ago, his tool set was completely He's revamped it, so don't be afraid to be constantly changing and evolving your craft. Like I said before, mixing is very subjective because the way that you hear vocal might be completely different than the way I hear it really is an art. And it's the place that you can leave your signature on a production. A bad mix can distract the listener from what's actually going on in the song. A good mix is just like taking a picture and putting it in the perfect frame and staying out of the way, some mixing basics to leave you with number one e que short for equalization or equalizer. And that's essentially balancing the lows, the mids and highs to explain it very simply, if a kick drum is sounding too study, you're probably gonna turn the highs up a little bit. If the vocals sounding too harsh, you might during the highs down a little bit. It's a lot more complicated than that, but that's the basic overview of what e. Que is and does. Number two is compression and limiting, and that falls under a big subheading of what you would call dynamics. Compression essentially brings up the quietest parts of your signal and squashes down the loudest parts. So it's instead of like this, it's a little more a little more level. The pros know that it's okay to squash things, but also know that using too much compression and limiting can take the humanity out of a performance, and it can make it sound dead and lifeless. Limiting is also how the records today can sound so loud. People are not afraid to clamp the limiter down and just make it slam and hit like a brick wall. That's kind of a Touchstone of modern pop Music is how loud it is, and people achieve that through creative compression and creative limiting. Number three is reverb and delay. This is a tool that can at space to a track it can advise, and it can have style to it. This might be the biggest difference, from genre to genre, of how people use reverb and delay. If you go back and listen to a lot of the eighties records, they were not afraid to turn the river about 2 11 And if you go listen to Taylor Swift, 1989 her new record on her vocals, The reverb is loud and clear. The delay is loud and clear, and don't be afraid to do that. But then you might go over and listen to giant cash. I don't know that his last record used any river if I could be completely wrong. But there's different types of reverb. There's different types of delays. Um, some examples of those are spring reverb. There's gated reverb plate, reverb, hall re verbs and room river verbs on delays. There's tape delays, digital delay, stereo ping pong delays and slap back delays. Ultimately, each one of those things kind of just creates a different vibe, and a lot of people use a combination of all of them in their mixes. 6. Fundamental 3: Editing: editing. This is where the magic happens. Call it evil. Call it awesome. It's auto tune, its melody line beat, detective vocal. I'm flextime, comping, quanta, izing. Whatever you do, it's all part of editing. It happens on every modern pop record, and in fact, I would wager to say it's really what's gonna make your productions stand out and not sound like amateur productions. Obviously, at the beginning, you're not gonna be amazing editor right out the gate. But over time you'll get better, and your production will just start to sound a little more pro. This is where you take those 25 awesome vocal Tex that you'd sang before caught them together. Literally. Don't be afraid to go word by word even. There's a lot of times that we do that, um, and you make sure that once you have a Copt, that it's in time and that once it's in time that it's in tune. That's the process of doing vocals, and it's the same on guitar tracks or audio. But obviously you're not using the tuning feature. You're just making sure it's all in time and in pocket feels good, obviously, from genre to genre and from style of music you're gonna do. Some records are gonna be tighter than others, and ultimately, that's kind up to your personal taste. If you listen a lot of the top 40 stuff, it's on the radio now. It's very tight, and it's very important that it's on the grid, so to speak, so timing. You can use that and do that to your taste. Many instruments are a lot easier to edit, since it's all in the computer, you're not dealing with manipulating audio. You can use a feature that we call Quanta izing, which is essentially taking. If my hit is here in the grid is here. It just flips it over so it makes it line up right so you can do that really easily with many. So if you're primarily a programmer, you're gonna be probably a little quicker than somebody who's maybe based in just audio stuff. But there's there's no right or wrong way. It's just having a good understanding of the whole process again. Spent a lot of time getting this right. A lot of amateur recordings. This is where the songs just Fall flat is in the editing face and a lot of people are scared to make the record sound too over produced. But here's the truth. Not very many people are genuinely talented enough to press record and sing a song or play a take from top to bottom and let that take. Just be it, unless that's specifically what you're going for and you're trying to capture some really raw, human sounding track. But the real fact is, Adele might be one of the few exceptions, and even on her new record, it sounds like there's maybe a little bit of tuning going on there. But I just say that to say, Don't be afraid to use editing and use it liberally. Each D A W, which we talked about before, has a different set of editing tools, but the basic sexually use a lot is cut, fade, cross, fade, stretch and move. We'll go into more detail on each d aaw because each of them kind of function differently. And the way that the shortcuts work is different. But we won't spend a whole lot of time on that now. I just wanted to cover the basic tools that you'll mostly need to to have an understanding of a few tips. Whatever D aaw you're working in hit save Often, I wish I would've learned this a long time ago. Hit, save and even hit Save as often. When you're in this the editing phase and you especially for your new editor, you might do something that in five minutes you think that didn't sound so. If you hit, save as and save a new version, you might end up with 21 versions of the song by the time you're done, but you'll have the freedom to go backwards if you want to undo, so to speak and revisit a former version. A lot of the D. A. W's have a auto save feature, which we use pretty religiously. I think ours this set every two minutes on pro tools, so hit save very often. Tip number two. If you're working with a mix of program material and recorded audio, a lot of the times that is a recipe for what we call flam ing where there's a sample that's right on the grid, and then there is a kick drum that's recorded live. If it's slightly off, it's gonna either. It's gonna either sound like a flam, which is like, as opposed to, and it won't be title sound out of phase. So usually as a rule of thumb, you're going to want to operate a little bit tighter on audio. If you're using a mix of recorded audio and programs. Software samples Tip number three. If you're producing another artist or singer, the part where you start editing the vocals can be a good time too soon. That singer out on a coffee break, it could be a little bit unnerve ing to sit in a studio. Listen to your voice and all its imperfections being played back over and over and over again, and it can often make singers second Guess. Is this a good takers? This song getter? Am I even good at all? Because let's face it as artists and as creatives were all pretty insecure about ourselves . So do yourself and the artist to favor and send him out to lunch. Part of what we stress in our company is being able to have some degree of editing as you go, and this obviously requires a great deal of speed and efficiency when you're when you're tracking and editing at right after you do a take edit it. So it gives the singer against sense of what the finished song is gonna feel like. It's a little more inspiring to listen to in the last tip. Don't be afraid to start slow. You will get faster even if it takes you all night to stay up. Editing one line of one vocal track. Don't be afraid to put the hours in and just do it. 7. Fundamental 5: Mastering: mastering. This is the final part of the production process, where you take the finished to track stereo mix that you have an apply final e que compression and limiting to that track to bring it up to something that's competitive with other material. It's out there today. It really is just the last most of the time. The last 2% of the process mixes nowadays are pretty hot and pretty pre mastered, so mastering engineers have a lot less to do than they ever did before. Mastering is also about making sure that your entire record and this is talking about after you had multiple songs produced. It's about making sure the entire record flows sonically so that one song What, what, what what will happen. A lot of the Times is different. Producers will do different songs on the record, and they'll be different mixers and sometimes different players. So it's really taking the overall curve there, not having control over. Return the guitar after the drums up or anything, but it's just an overall paintbrush over the stereo mix and making sure that it flows like one. Concurrent records don't get too hung up to start with on mastering. It's often a bit of a black arts where if the mastering engineer did his job well, you don't even really know what he did. And a lot of the average untrained listeners would not even know what happened. But it's something to practice over time and don't feel like you have to overuse e que and compression and limiting and mastering. It's really just something that's meant to be the last little polish on your mix. Mastering is also the part of the process where you decide what your album sequence will be . That's deciding which songs go where and what order. It's sort of like arrangement, but just for your whole record. So it's also deciding fades and gaps in between songs how much space there is, if any, in between songs, it's also where the mastering engineer has to create I. R S C codes, which is essentially just a bunch of mumbo jumbo that we won't get into now. But it's part of the clerical side of of mastering, and you won't really have to worry about it too much right now, but it's really just forgetting your song. On a pressed CD or on iTunes or in a specific format that distributors require. The big picture I want to make is this a B A B A B. Don't be afraid to reference other songs that are out there. All of the pros do it. In fact, I've seen a lot of processions where, at the bottom of the session they'll have another song in there. For example, I saw the pro tools sessions for the fund song We Are Young, which was a big hit a few years ago. Jeff Bhasker produced it. Amazing Producer, and on that whole fund record they had, I think it was three references. They had a Kanye West track. They had a queen track, and then they had some other hip hop track below that, and they were constantly going back and forth listening to their stuff. Listening to that stuff does are low and hit like there's does Bizarre Foot. Are are vocals as biggest the Queen vocals, so don't be afraid to do that in mastering Especially, it could be important because what happens is when your song is in a listener's playlists. A lot of the times people are just listening to it in a singles environment nowadays, so they might listen to Taylor Swift. And then they might listen to your song. You want to make sure when your song comes on, they don't have to turn up the dial just to hear the thing. And you also want to make sure it sounds competitive. You also want to make sure it doesn't sound too loud to where it's just smashed and has no life. So mastering is really about a being, making your stuff competitive, making it appropriately loud and putting the final polish on it. 8. The Basics of Production Outro: Here's the last point I want to make the best piece of gear in the best production tool is a great song. It doesn't matter how expensive your gear is. It doesn't matter how nice the studio is. It doesn't matter how cool the track sounds. If your song is mediocre, doing a great production on it is still gonna be a mediocre song. And a lot of the time. If a song is great, there's really not much you can do to make it ungrateful. You just have to not mess it up. So a lot of time that's our job. As music producers were tasked with getting these songs that already sound grade, they have great demos. The lyrics are great. The melodies of great Our job is kind of just to stay out of the way and put the picture in the best frame, so to speak. Don't get too hung up in the weeds of all the little stuff of it, like the editing and the engineering and the mixing in the game structure in the gear, you're going to get that stuff over time. What I stress for producers is just make sure the song is right on the front end, and a lot of the time that means going back in and sometimes helping rewrite. Of course, if the artists are open to that, always be sensitive to that fact. But just make sure the song is right before you even dive into that. And in a perfect world, song writing is one thing. Productions. One thing. You finish this and then you move on to that, a lot of how we do it at our company and a lot of how I think a lot of other people do it. The two are kind of constantly blending in and out of each other, and you don't really get to say, OK, now we're done with the song writing process because you might get into singing vocals. And then you might change a lyric once the singers in the booth or you might change the melody or you might take a section out of a song. But I say all that to say the song is always king and make all of your production decisions based off of what's best for the song The class project that we want you guys to you to take that song that she wrote in Class War. For those of you guys who didn't see class one, it was a song about the one person or thing that you love most. Take that song, introduce a demo of using whatever you w, whatever. Here, whatever, and upload it to the MP three. Those lyrics, if you can. I'm really excited to see what you guys end up coming up with.