Making original music for artists: Our process

Swapneel Arenavaru
Sound Engineer-Sonic Harbor

As fun as it seems, there are a number of things involved in making this process smooth and enjoyable for both, the artist and us! Especially while working with a new/upcoming artist who has never stepped in a studio before. It is rather challenging to meet the expectations of the artist in terms of the quality of the output, and we have standard a structure that we believe is important to get the best out of the artist and his/her work.

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The Foundational process: 

Knowing the artist: It is very helpful to know what kind of artist they really are. What kind of music inspires them, what are they looking to achieve with their song, what kind of sound they are looking for, and most importantly, their expectations.

Identifying their limitations: Every artist has a certain limitation and it is perfectly alright. We try our best to guide them through it, or if it seems unachievable at the time, we find a way through it mostly by highlighting their best skillset.

Making them comfortable: It is crucial to provide and maintain a friendly and comfortable environment to the artist (especially for someone who is new to the studio space) because it can hugely affect the performance and productivity of the artist as well as the flow of the whole process. Obviously maintaining the professional discipline is also crucial for the process, basically the balance between a friendly and professional nature of work plays a huge role in developing trust and comfort in the artist throughout the process.

The Technical process:

1. Getting the vibe of the track: Identifying the overall vibe of the track and deriving references for ideas or providing inputs about the same to the artist. Getting to know their references and inspiration for the track.

2. Setting the structure: Setting the whole structure of the composition determines the length, and also gives a set boundary for improvising. (The structure can be played around with)

3. Recording the Scratch vocals: The scratch is a rough vocal recording for reference around which the whole arrangement of music is done. 

4. Music arrangement/production: The melodies, countermelodies, rhythm is constructed and are determined by the genre and vibe of the track. Obviously, it has to cater to the needs of the artist as well. It also involves choosing the right sounds, instruments for the same (very important).

5. Recording actual instruments: The track may require some actual instruments to be recorded like a guitar, drums, etc. (because programming cannot replicate human error). This decision is totally dependent on the artist because he/she may not always have the budget to hire a professional session artist. (The session artist may need some time to practice his/her parts before the actual recording)

6. The final vocals: Because we cannot cheat and treat the scratch vocals as the final vocal recording. LOL! Giving the vocalist the time for practice before the final recording day is crucial in making the recording process smoother and dramatically improves the quality of the recording. It ensures that the artist and the recording engineer are not drained and there are fewer retakes. And obviously, in the studio, every second counts!

7. The post-processing (Mixing and Mastering): The step where the track is shaped and polished, basically the garnish! Can’t skip through this process! The mixing engineer is the one responsible to enhance the track and create a sense of space within the track. The mastering engineer smoothens the rough edges and makes the loudness of the track consistent for you to listen to it anywhere on any device. 

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