Write A Chart Hit – The Step by Step Guide: Good Production

We’ve gone over the core basics of starting your journey towards writing a chart hit. Now it’s time to get into the details some step-by-step guides to getting the most out of your music. Be sure to read part 1 before wading into these tutorials.

chart hit

Side gating the bass using the kick

This is a great technique to get energy in a track, this also makes your tune sound bigger on little phone speakers. This works on bass, pads, synths and FX. Warning – don’t overuse, as it can sound fatiguing!

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1. Make a trigger track using a kick sample with a very fast transient.

2. Make a Bus/Group – I call mine ‘Inst’ – add a compressor, route the kick trigger into the sidechain of the compressor. Check out my settings for a good punchy sound!

3.  For the example, I have recorded a pad down as an audio file (orange). Send this into the ‘Inst’ Bus/Group for instant sidechaining! Below (yellow) I have mixed down the result to show how the sound is altered.

Resampling a vocal

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1. Place hit-points at the start of transients or during held notes in a vocal line. Cut the audio on these hit-points.

2. Drag the cut-up vocal into a sampler like HALion or Kontact and select the option for the vocal slices to be assigned across the keys chromatically.

3. Play the track and use your keyboard to trigger the samples: think more along the lines of making rhythms out of the cut-up vox. Use the pitch wheel to get the riffs twerking away.

Mastering chains

There are many ways to master a tune – here is one such good method.

1. Make sure your master stereo out is peaking up to -4dB to prevent any clipping. Use an imaging and exciter plug-in to widen and bring harmonic colouring to areas of your mix if required.

2. Shape your mix with EQ, mastering is all about small changes adding up to make a big impact, so use gentle EQ sweeps to shape the mix. On most music, there is a hump of energy around the bass and then the energy slowly curves off up the frequencies.

3. Use a multi- or single-band compressor to bring weight and presence into the mix; don’t squash the hell out of it at this point! Maximise the mix using a brick-wall limiter, you can set your max level to -0.1dB to prevent clipping. Adjust your threshold till the sound is getting distortion artefacts and then back it off slightly. Make sure the sound is dithered to the sample rate you are mixing down to. 16-bit 44.1kHz WAV or AIFF is CD-audio standard.

Vocal production

1. Here are some useful ideas to make your vocal take shine in the mix. First add some EQ and compression. In the example, I’m using Eventide’s UltraChannel. I gave the vocal a boost at 8kHz for some ‘Air’ and have also added a high-pass filter to remove any rumbling or ‘P’losives. Next, add gentle compression, a ratio of 2:1 to 4:1. Adjust the threshold to get about 5dB of gain reduction on the loud passages. I’ve also added some Micro Pitch Shift on the UltraChannel, which gives the vox some stereo width and modulation.

2. Control the sibilance (‘S’, ‘T’, ‘Sh’, ‘Ch’ sounds) with a DeEsser. Don’t push it too hard or the air will be lost. I love Steinberg’s Quadrafuzz to add some selective top-end tape distortion to lift the vocal out of the track.

3. Make the vocal sound EPIC with a touch of reverb and delay. Here, I have used Eventide’s UltraVerb and the Cubase standard delay. Experiment with the tools in your DAW to get your perfect sound or invest in specialist software like iZotope’s Nectar.

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