It’s time to look at the online music production tools we have at our fingertips.

We’ve done analogue, we’ve done digital, now it’s time for the ‘online’ music creation tools, it must be, right?

For years we’ve had great tools like SoundCloud to showcase our sounds, and recently, Landr for AI mastering (sighs) but there’s never been that much for online music creation, has there? Think again.

Here, we’ve run down the top tools you can use to help you create online, from chord suggestion tools to sequencers, it’s all here.

 

  1. Autochords – Chord Progression GeneratorAutochords - Online Music Production | Mastering World

Regardless of what you might be thinking, ‘where’s the creativity in that, man’, but we all suffer from writers block, and this is a cool suggestive tool. One of the simplest yet most helpful online music making tools.

Auto chord suggest chord progressions dependant on the key and feel you are after. You can suggest the key, whether it’s major or minor, the choice between guitar and piano and you can randomise it completely, if you’re wild like that.

It’s a good tool for when you’re stuck in a jam and need a little kick to get where you need to be, it’s pretty useful.

 

2. onlinesequencer.net

onlinesequencer.net - Online Music Production | Mastering World

If you hadn’t guessed by the URL, this is exactly what it says it is, an online sequencer.

It’s pretty useful, and works like any other piano roll would. These things are super helpful if you’re listening back to mixes and don’t have your DAW open, you can quickly sketch out a pattern or chord progression in no time.

The other cool thing with this tool is that if you’re not trying to map something out you can just bash at your keys on your laptop whilst you’re travelling, just make sure you’ve got headphones in.

You also get a choice of instruments, from a french horn to an acoustic guitar, a synth pluck and other general sounds. There’s also a wealth of pre-made sequences, over 30,000 to be exact. Want some inspiration? Take a look through some of these.

 

3. Typatone

Typatone - Online Music Production - Mastering World

Ever wondered what melody your name would be? Or how swearing might sound nice? Try this guy out for size.

This is a great little creation that allows you to type any word, phrase or insult and it will play it back to you. You’d be surprised how many utterly ridiculous words sound just beautiful when it’s transformed by this guy.

Like many of the other online music production apps/products, this is good for ideas, and it is really fun. If you’re having a rough day and can’t get any ideas? Get your anger out by becoming a keyboard warrior on Typatone, you might even get a half decent melody for your next track. To be honest, even if you don’t, you should be less angry now, and that’s at least one positive from the situation.

Once you’re done with your new blurb on typatone, you can simply leave, or download it (this does cost 99p, though) or send it your loved one.

 

4. Loop Labs 

Loop Labs - Online Music Production | Mastering World

This is like any looping software, think back to the glory days of eJay. It’s the same principle, a really easy to use interface, a wealth of sounds.

One of the best things about this? You can search for sounds based on genre and then by instrument, this makes it very easy to use. You can add tonnes of tracks, just click on the loop of audio on the right hand side, the new track is added and then you just loop, or don’t loop it and build up your track. It’s a great and simple way to create tracks, we do miss eJay.

You’ve got a few options when you first get on to the site, you can either start a track from scratch, remix a popular track or there’s the illusive ‘inspire me’ button. Loop Labs lets you collaborate with others.

 

5. Soundtrap.com

Soundtrap - Online Music Production | Mastering World

This is slightly different to the rest of the online music creation pieces mentioned so far, this is more of a DAW, and a fairly robust digital audio workstation considering it’s online.

What do we think? Genuinely impressed. This is a pretty useful online tool. One very cool feature is the fact you can upload your own audio files. On top of that, you can also map out midi, and change midi instruments (the drum engines are actually pretty good).

On top of that, you can add in simple effects such as reverb, there is even autotune!

If you’re stuck, you can then collaborate with other users, if you wanna get help on your track that you’ve made almost all of the elements for online.

Every man and his dog has the internet, cats have their own Instagram accounts and are way more famous than me. All of this data is easy to understand because we see it in day to day life, it’s everywhere. Because we search, we give up data, and it’s interesting to see what our musical recording habits are.

So, what does our search data tell us about our musical recording habits?

This year, November has been the most popular month for people looking for ‘Online Mixing’.

Last December was the highest search for the term ‘Online Mastering’.

‘Online Mastering’ in November this year? Absolutely nothing, does that mean we can follow last years peak for December?

Looking at the year long data, it’s clear to see how out online music production habits play-out, from recording, to online mixing and online mastering.

 

And everything inbetween? Well, it’s been a fluctuating sea of music production, the habits of our digital music habits are clear to see. How do we know? Well?

Here you go:

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Looking at the data we see that throughout the year our digital online music habits flitter between mixing and mastering. This is really interesting to see as during the peaks and troughs, the opposing line either increases or stays parallel

So what are the most popular months of the past 12 months for mixing online? February and November.

How about mastering online? Well, you’s be looking at August and May/June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For years, I’d always referred to dance music as, well, dance music. Then at some point in the last few years something changed, dance music became something entirely different, it took on a new look, a new face. EDM.

So, when did EDM become the norm? Simply, November 2013.

Over the years the phrase dance music has been steadily decreasing in search volume, and as such ‘EDM’ has take over, in spectacular style. It has continued to increase in popularity over the past 3 years.

Is there a difference between EDM and Dance Music?

Is Justin Bieber EDM? Is Ellie Goulding EDM?

Music producers have a lot to answer for, and it’s not their fault, but our pop music of the last 5 years is very driven by, you know it, electronic dance music. This is where part of the issue lies with the term EDM. Put simply, a lot of music (even if it isn’t really EDM, or dance music) these days can be chucked under that umbrella. Are Jack Ü and Justin Bieber EDM? Maybe? Do we actually have a differentiation between these?

 

EDM and Dance Music Trends

 

EDM was, at one point in time an umbrella, a catch all term for anything from House to techno and drum n bass. Now it’s simply become a genre and essentially pop music for an entire generation.

 

We’ve all been there, getting creative sometimes comes easy, but not always.

 

Check out our top ways of boosting your creativity from making (differently) to meditation, it’s all here

1. Meditate

Meditating is great, it gives you time to stop and not think about anything to do with your day, or with music. Had a bad day at the office? That’s probably not good for you, especially not good for being creative. Take 5, meditate and think about what you’re trying to achieve from a relaxed and totally creative state.

2. Don’t follow your roots

If something works then why fix it? This is a true statement, but we get stagnant if we do this, just generally bored. If I’m writing, I want it to be something people will enjoy and not get bored of, so if I do the same thing over and over again, it’s gonna get very annoying for me, and for the people listening to my music.

Open up a project, listen to something that is out of your comfort zone, take an idea, a rhythm, a syncopation, anything and try and build something from that. It can still sound like you, but a more interesting and thought provoking you.

3. Stop drinking coffee and other totally legal drugs (the illegal ones are bad too)

I’m a hypocrite, I don’t think there’s an hour of the day where there isn’t a coffee in my hand. But, I know this is bad, bad for me, and bad for my creativity. If you’re constantly wired, your brain will be working in overdrive and your thought processes won’t be as creative as they could be.

Not to sound too much like a hipster or a health freak, but switch this out for a shake, you get tonnes of energy from shakes crammed with veg and fruits. We all love kale and avocado, right?

4. Go for a run, but don’t listen to your mix.

Running is good, I spend the whole time concentrating on getting home and I don’t have time to think about much else. If I do think about things, it’s never really about creative stuff, ‘what am I going to do tonight?’, ‘what kind of unit should I get to go in my utility room?’, the list goes on. Your brain switches from doing the normal thinking to thinking about totally different stuff, unless you want to think about your mix, but I doubt you would really want to be thinking about this right now.

Take a run, listen to some music and switch off from your normal brain. You’re concentrating on your pace, your breathing and your stamina. Once you’ve excercised your body releases endorphins, the feel good hormone into your blood stream. You’ll feel much happier, and hopefully relaxed, this is perfect for your creativity.

5. Lower your expectations

You’re not going to create a banger in an hour. Relax your thinking about something, if you have an idea, get it down and play around with it, but don’t expect it to be finished within a day, it’s not always that easy. We do wish this was the case.

6. Relax

Great ideas don’t come from stress. When you’re relaxed, creative ideas come naturally and you will have more of a flow. When people are stressed, the brain struggles with decision-making and this can seriously hinder your creative outputs.

When we are stressed we will spend more time fixated on one aspect of a project. We should think rationally, if it’s not working, explore other ways, but when we are stressed we get suck in a loop where we should be completing the project and moving onto the next.

Part of being creative is that we are adaptable to change, so embrace it and don’t get stuck on the smaller things.

7. Read

Reading, for the very little bit I do, is very relaxing. It puts you into another state of relaxation. My brain still goes on and is still being creative, reading lets your brain paint the picture, but at the same time you’re not over-stressing or thinking about how your kick drum sounds through an iPhone.

Reading actually reduces stress more than music, and if your music is stressing you out and stopping your creativity then this is a sure thing that will get you to chill out.

Reading also improves your concentration and focus, when living in a 6 second Vine (RIP) world, is really important.

8. Don’t beat yourself up

We’ve all been there, and we will still go there again. Something’s not working out and you do anything to try and get it to work, but it does’t. Just don’t be so harsh on yourself and expects things, it makes creativity so much easier.

9. Listen to music

But, listen to music you don’t think will influence you, or get your mind whirring. As musicians and music producers our brains are wired differently. When I’m out shopping and hear something playing, and I like it, I always find myself ignoring the shopping, ignoring whoever I’m with and thinking ‘how’ve they done that?’ or ‘wow, I would love to write a track like this’, then proceeding to write it in my head. It’s easy for us to fall in to this, because it is just what we do naturally.

I tend to listen to hip-hop, or soft jazz or something like that, it gives my head a break from thinking about structure (especially if I’m listening to jazz).

Conclusion

Obviously, if you did all of these things instead of being creative, you would never be creative. Take one of the above essential tools for helping your creativity and take a break from what you’re doing. Spend time relaxing and letting your mind be creative. For some people, it might even be worth figuring out what time of day you are your most productive and creative. For me, this is 5:30 am any morning, until 7:30 if I’m working or 10 am if its a weekend. After hours of stress of a work day, I can’t switch off unless I’ve unleashed the stress somehow.

Analysis, not the best way to describe something creative is it?

But, that said, it is really important to know your mix before you think about mastering. Why? If there’s something in your mix you aren’t sure of, or sticks out to you, then the mastering engineer will probably pick up on it.

There is nothing wrong with this, everyone wants to sometimes just finish what they have started, but sometimes it can be a really good idea to completely step away from your track and its mix for a few days.

I’ll be honest, I’m one to talk, I forever check mixes and how a song sounds in other places, but sometimes you need to give yourself a break from all of that.

So how do you get the best out of your mix?

  1. Take a break from it: Fatigue is a bitch, and so are bad mixes so give yourself some headspace.
  2. Surround yourself with other music, don’t just listen to your mix on repeat. It’s also good for the ideas pot, you could hear something that will just make your mix work.
  3. Turn the thing down. Once again, I can’t talk, I crank every mix up I do loud, and I know I shouldn’t, but your ears tire of this, so make sure you’re mixing at a reasonable volume.
  4. Hydrate yourself – Don’t lock yourself in a room, you still need to keep your body going. This is so important, keep yourself hydrated.
  5. Be time critical – If you’re working on someone else’s material, time is money. If you’re working on your on stuff, this then becomes harder. Set yourself targets, put the track to rest for an hour and come back to it. Don’t spend too long.

The online music streaming service SoundCloud has partnered with online digital mastering platform, Landr.

For a long time now, SoundCloud has been the go to place for musicians, producers and DJ’s to host their tracks, remixes and DJ sets.

Now, they have begun a partnership to bring a bit audio consistency to their platform.

Don’t SoundCloud use loudness normalisation?

You would think so given that Apple Music, Spotify, Beatport and other similar platforms do utilise some sort of loudness algorithm but SoundCloud currently don’t do this, although it is bound to happen at some point.

For many years, people uploading their music to SoundCloud will do so without mastering it, or mastering it in a very simplistic manner.

The new deal between the two companies will allow users to access a free ‘Optimised for SoundCloud’ mastering format. This new Landr option will ‘master and enhance the quality of songs streaming on the platform’.

Users will be able to upload their tracks using Landr and share it straight to their SoundCloud page. For users that have already mastered songs using the online mastering platform, they can still export these straight to their SoundCloud page.

What do we think, I hear you ask?

We aren’t here to judge an online mastering tool that uses algorithms, we’re here to make good records sound incredible which is something that Landr can’t do.

For producers or musicians wanting to just ‘bump up’ the overall level of track then this tool will suit them fine, but it doesn’t have the human intervention mastering engineers have, and no matter what, an algorithm can’t hear, engineers can.

The one benefit that this feature does have, in my personal opinion, is the ‘Optimised for Soundcloud’ feature. This can be seen as one of two things, this is SoundCloud’s alternative to a ‘loudness normalisation’ algorithm, or a genuine attempt to improve the quality and consistency of the audio on their platform.

dynamic range day logoIt’s upon us once again, Dynamic Range Day.

Friday 20th May sees the return of Ian Shepherd’s Dynamic Range Day, a day made to recognise the joy that dynamics bring to music.

Every year this gets bigger and bigger, and this year is no exception.

There is a challenge every year, and there is a big ol’ competition for you to get involved with.  The challenge is all about dynamics and what they bring to music, so it’s something that is very close to every mastering engineers heart! Want to find out more about the challenge?

What’s up for grabs this year?

$6000 worth of gear, that’s what.

Two SSL 500 format modules

CNX Network Streamer

Loudness Toolkit 2 plugin suite from Nugen Audio

10x 1-year passes to the Pro Tools Expert Premium Platform

2x MeterPlugs Dynameter & Perception bundles

TC ElectronicLM6n Loudness Radar Meter

Roswell Pro AudioMini K47 condenser mic

Lifetime membership of David Glenn & Warren Huart‘s Pro Mix Academy

Joe Gilder‘s Understanding EQ & Understanding Compression 2

2 mix consultancies with producer Russell Cottier

The complete AudioIssuesMusic Production Strategies, Recording & Mixing Strategies

Warren Huart‘s Produce Like A Pro community lifetime membership

FabFilterPro C 2 compressor

Mix consultation with Lij Shaw from the Recording Studio Rockstars podcast

Fancy entering the competition? Head over to the Dynamic Range Day competition page to enter the competition. 

Hafod Mastering Studio

There’s nothing better than finishing a mix. Nothing is more complicated than explaining mastering, except for mastering itself.

Mastering is a misunderstood and confusing art. When I first ended up at a mastering studio 4 years ago I probably couldn’t have told you exactly what mastering was, in fact, I definitely couldn’t have.

Mastering is all about making your tracks sound incredible, and as good as everyone else. The art is to finely smooth out, warm up, clean and add sparkle to your mixes.

Most people who send their tracks to a mastering studio are amazed at the transformation just from a stereo .wav file. In fairness, it is pretty cool what you can achieve with just the stereo mix file, you can completely change the feel of it, which is awesome.

How do we do it? 

Well, it’s a mixture of things really. Mastering engineers have an arsenal of tools at their disposal to get you that sound you want. It’s usually done with a mixture of EQ, compression, stereo adjustment and limiting. What makes an album stick together is the mastering, it glues the tracks, and helps make everything sit well and be consistent.

Is it all analogue?

Not all of it. The majority of our work is done through the analogue chain, I’d say about 95% of the work is done here. Digital equipment has its uses. The great thing with digital is you can totally hone in on one frequency and tame it, you don’t have the same versatility with analogue solutions. So, using some cool tricks with digital equipment and a nice analogue chain, the masters have that refined and polished sound.

These days, is mastering important? 

Definitely.

At my desk right now, two of us write and record music at home or on location, and we’re pretty okay at it, but could we get a good master at home? No. Luckily, we have use of a studio.

Mastering, done properly will really make your mixes shine.

Mastering World Logo

Wales’s leading dedicated mastering studio have begun a partnership with Cardiff based record label Golden Boy Records.

Golden Boy Records consists of vocalists, songwriters, DJ’s and producers, Cardiff’s new hub for musical talent. Earlier in 2015 we spoke with record label MD Tej about mixing and mastering, and drafted in the mixing wisdom of Hafod’s good friend and client Adam Whittaker.

Adam lives in central Europe and does all his mixing projects from his mix room ‘Bald English’. Adam works with clients from all over the world on a wealth of different projects, one of these being Golden Boy Records.

Hafod’s mastering engineer, Gethin John is the engineer behind the projects through the partnership. Gethin has worked on some great projects and albums, he also works as a mix engineer, so this comes in handy when you’re working in a collaborative environment like this.

Check out some of the great tracks from Golden Boy Records when they are released later this year – twitter.com/gbr | twitter.com/hafodmastering

Golden Boy Records Logo
Hafod Mastering Logo

Record Store Day 20§6 Logo

Record Store Day 2016

Another year, another unfeasibly long list of records being released especially for the nostalgic, vinyl loving elite (which is now everybody), Record Store Day is almost here.

For a mastering engineer, anyone mentioning the word ‘vinyl’ will more than likely get a hug when they want an album mastering. Contrary to popular belief, vinyl records aren’t preferred because we are all super-hipsters, it’s because music just sounds that bit better on a record. How does it sound better? Essentially, in short, it’s just not as loud, which means that the dynamics and other bits of niceness shine through more.

If you want to find out more about mastering specifically for vinyl, and want to know what the difference is, check out this post on mastering for vinyl. If you’re not interested on the other hand, carry on reading to see what the guys at Mastering World have picked as their best buys for Record Store Day 2016.

For Record Store Day, we like to get a good mixture of possible releases to whet your appetite. After all, the Record Store Day list is quite extensive, this one’s a little easier to digest. Check out our top 20.

Here’s some of the staff picks for Record Store Day 2016.

Chase & Status – London Bars – heavyweight 12” vinyl
Doctor Who – Genesis Of The Daleks – Pressed on Blue Vinyl
Ian Brown – Solarized – Limited edition single heavyweight vinyl
Mungo’s Hi Fi – Jump in line – Black dinked vinyl
AIR – Casanova 70
Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove
Johnny Cash – All Aboard the Blue Train
Manics -A Design For Life
The Orb – Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
Clutch – elephant riders
Deftones – B sides & raritiez
Glen Hansard – a season on the line
James Bay – Chaos and the Calm
Run The Jewels – VRTJ
Nirvana – Live on Kaos-FM Seattle 1987
Circa Waves – Something Like You
Foals – Rain/Daffodils
Motorhead – Bad Magic
NOFX – Sid & Nancy
The Weeknd – The Remixes