The A-Z Of Music-Making: The C’s – From Clipping To Criticism


(For the best of each definition, click the title.)

1. Channel


An audio channel is what your audio passes through from source to output: one channel for mono and two for stereo. In modern DAWs, a channel will have many features to help you manipulate your audio, such as EQ, inserts, sends and a volume fader.

2. Clipping

Distortion which occurs when input levels are too high. Make sure you have some headroom on your master channel to avoid the audio clipping through your DAW. If your project is too hot, select all your audio channels, link them and and lower the volume down until you are getting about -4dB maximum peak levels on your master fader.

3. Collaboration

One of the best ways of getting ahead in the music industry. Every time you work with a collaborator, you soak up their ideas, ways of working (and contacts!). This is a great way to increase your network and increase potential opportunities to further your career.

A great way to collaborate with songwriters is with equal splits in the music – too many people get upset about splits. Collaboration is not only about songwriting; you could also collaborate with a magazine, TV station, clothes retailer or even the local council… Just find a win-win situation. The bigger the network you connect with, the bigger your success!

4. Compression


Compression makes your audio louder by reducing the level of loud sections and then increasing the overall volume. This means the loud parts are still loud, but now the quiet parts are louder. The threshold is the point at which the signal becomes affected by gain reduction. The ratio sets how much the additional level will be affected.

A 2:1 ratio means that a gain increase of two will be reduced down to one. Low ratios are subtle and high ratios are more aggressive. An infinite ratio is called limiting, and caps the level of the audio signal.

Attack adjusts the time it takes for the compression to take place and release adjusts the time it takes for the compression to end. Make-up gain makes the overall level of the compressed signal louder, to compensate for the reduction on audio peaks.

5. Controller

Devices to input data into your DAW – keyboards, drum pads, sustain pedals, expression pedals and MIDI control surfaces.

6. Criticism

There are three main types of music-making criticism. Firstly, there is constructive criticism: given sensitively – but honestly – with ideas on how to move forward.

The second and most common type is given by people who feel better by putting others down around them. Best to ignore this and these types of people.

The third type is self criticism. Don’t derail your aspirations by being under-confident… all the greats had to learn their craft through trial and error.