Jun 19, 2010, 12:34

Producing a music track is akin to directing a motion picture in that one of those many decisions made on the set will become a huge factor in the editing room……but it’s difficult to know which one. It takes extraordinary skill to be immersed in the technical complexity, creative options and personalities of a production and constantly keep the end product in mind. Spielberg and Soderbergh can do this. Others can’t.

Genius notwithstanding, every creative process involves a step where spaghetti must be thrown at the wall multiple times to generate strong raw material. During a film shoot, or in this case, a recording session at Brad Long’s house on a Friday afternoon, individual elements are created and judged fairly quickly. How it all fits together is to be decided another day.

That day came when I had to mix our recorded elements (Fender telecaster through a Pod, a set of live Fibes drums, a Roland Fantom X6 keyboard and several Logic 8 software synths) into what is now the track titled “Personal Hygiene”. This is track is part of our Free Music collection, which is available free-of-charge for use by schools and educational institutions. In our last installment of this blog series, I described how the drums and bass were mixed into what uber-engineer Russ Fowler would probably call a “nice warm bed upon which the other instruments would sit.”


Two guitar parts were stacked. Normally I would have panned these hard left and hard right, but after comparing the stereo separation in my initial mix to Mark Krunowski’s track I decided to run them both up the center to make room in the stereo field for other instruments.

Both guitar channels were bussed to dedicated effects channel with (in order) hard compression, then tempo delay, then EQ notching 744 Hz down about 3 db. Again, the idea is to preserve the best parts of the guitar track while making room for other instruments. The goal is to create what is called a “transparent” mix where everything can be heard clearly.

Here’s the unmixed version:


And here’s the mixed version:



Creatively, I think this particular vocal part is well sung and very cool, but I ultimately thought of it as extra seasoning. Not very meaty, but welcome to the party.

Although originally recorded during the first A section, I left this part out of 1st pass because I thought the track stood on it’s own without them (I’m still not sure if they’re in tune-comments welcome). From an effects standpoint, I surprised myself by putting massive delay on the left channel and absolutely none on the right. Kinda strange but it worked. Both channels have some chorus/flanger mixed in via aux send channel.

Here’s the unmixed version:


And here’s the mixed version:



Mastering is a discipline with the music profession for which I have the utmost respect and the least amount of proclivity. Therefore I rely heavily on preset patches in tried-and-true software programs. I used a preset mastering effects chain in WaveBurner (“Rock Mastering”) which used (in order): linear Phase EQ, compressor, and a limiter

Here is the unmastered version of the track:


And here’s a link to the final mastered version


This blog series focused largely on the mechanics of creating royalty-free production music and frequently referenced the idea of just trusting “the muse” and taking a risk. The Longenberg project entailed more than just musical risks:

Brad and I had played live music (at an Atlanta mega-church) quite often together but never had collaborated in the studio. That was new.

As Shawn Napster can attest, giving away free music on the internet can yield some very unexpected usages of that music. We have no idea how schools and educational institutions will use this music.

I had never mixed music with Pro Tools. That was very new.

Brad and I are proud of how these tracks turned out and we hope you’ve gained something from this detailed outline of how they were created.

To donate your own tracks to our Free Music page, drop me a line at the MusicRevolution contact form found here.


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of http://www.musicrevolution.com, a production music marketplace where media producers and business owners can license high-quality, affordable music from a online community of musicians.

One Response to “How to Write Tracks for Music Libraries – Part III: Finishing Touches”

  1. Thomas Says:

    I went to school at PAVI for audio recording, I now work in the industry. Going to school really helps place you better in the industry.

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