Below Are 27 House Production Tips To Get You Well On Your Way To Producing Club-Ready House Records
Many producers use lots of different reverbs for different tasks within their DAW. This can work, however if you are looking to keep cohesion within your mix then it is a better idea to use one or two reverbs with different decay times on a return track. This will make the simulate the sounds coming from the same space and will help gel your mix. You can test if this is working by pushing the input gain up on your master limiter to really bring up the volume of the reverb to make it easier to notice any inconsistency
Get out of the bad habit of blindly copying compressors and other plugins from one channel to the other without tweaking their settings. Every channels audio will be different and should be treated accordingly. The best way to learn and understand the different parameters of any given device is to use it over and over again, practice is paramount to learning. Also don’t fall into the trap of using the same plugins in the same order. Just because a certain effects chain sounds good in one channel doesn’t mean it will work for another.
AT THE OPPOSITE END OF THE SPECTRUM
Save channel presets that are often used on almost all your channels. For example having a gain device, saturation, EQ, compressor and utility turned off (to save CPU) but ready to go by default when the track loads up can save you precious time in the long run.
It’s often the case when synth preset surfing that you will encounter several sounds you love but that are unsuitable for the current project. Store such presets for each synth and start building your own library of presets and samples. Categorise them by sound type and try to incorporate them into other projects to find your own unique sound
PANNING TO ADD MOVEMENT
A good way to generate some movement and stereo imaging within a mix is to use auto-panning and auto-filters on channels with similar sounds and harmonic content such as two pads playing the same notes.
Also try changing the offset starting points of the LFO waveforms as well as their phase to enhance the stereo image further. It’s important to keep an eye on the phase and balance of your whole track whilst doing this and by checking mono compatibility on the master.
When writing and arranging house it can often help producers to envisage the end track and help creative flow of a compressor or gentle limiter is placed on the master bus. This pulls the disparate parts of the track together to form a cohesive whole. However we highly recommend removing these plugins before the mixing phase so you can get a true representation of what your individual channels are doing for a more accurate mix down. Then the stereo mix can be sent without these plugins on the master channel so the mastering engineer has plenty of headroom to do the job professionally.
DUCK AND PUMP
When using side chain compression for ducking and pumping you can also use multiple side-chain busses for extra control. (One for ducking one for pumping) or use alternative side-chain sources for interesting rhythms and patterns. This gives you much more control over the dynamics and Rhythm of your track.
Stereo widening effects can create a lot of space in the mix, but they can also take away the weight and punch of a track. A good way to enhance the width of your tracks without affecting the energy is to use a stereo reverb on a return then apply the widening effect to the stereo reverb. A common stereo enhancement effect to use is mid/side EQing. A word of warning is to not overdo stereo widening plugins too much. They will often cause ear fatigue or unbalance a mix and cause phasing issues if pushed to their maximum values. You can check to see if any of these issues are arising by doing a mono compatibility test on your master channel.
MONO COMPATIBILITY TEST
It’s important to check your mixes for potential stereo phasing problems often caused from excessive use of delays, phasers, chorus plugins or from duplicating and panning tracks causing phase cancellation. This is particularly essential with house as nearly all club sound systems are in mono and nothing will ruin your track more than phase cancelled bass or an entire clap sample disappearing from the mix because you spread it too far and wide. Use an analyser to check your track. There are many third party plugins out there as well as free ones. One of our favourites is Izotopes Ozone 7 mastering suite. You can also do this by placing a utility device on the master channel and reducing the width to zero. Listen out for any ‘whooshy’ phasing or elements disappearing dropping in gain or disappearing from the mix.
Vector scopes can help check phase and mono compatibility.
One of the most effective ways to create a coherent pro-sounding mix is to group similar sounds together on a mix bus or a group sub mix channel and to apply compression, saturation and limiting to the group. Treating your individual sounds in groups such as drums, pads, vocals, synths and high end will help to reinforce the sense of one unified track rather than a load of component parts thrown together.
TAKE THINGS SLOW
If your not confident playing riffs on yourself, try slowing the tempo of your project right down to a speed that allows you to play your riff in nicely in time with that humanistic feel. You can then speed the track back up again and carry on with the writing process.
NOTE ON AND OFF MESSAGES
Get into the habit of making sure your note lengths are correct. This may seem pointless when using certain percussive samples that only require a Attack, Decay, release envelope however it’s important to do this for when cases arise that our sample is longer than our midi note and we may want our release phase to start before the sample finishes. This also gives us a lot more control over the sounds dynamics over time.
ARPEGGIATE TO APPRECIATE
If you want to create more exciting riffs try running your chords or patterns through an arpeggiator. You can then loop the audio and experiment with the settings to come up with a new exciting pattern. You can also try muting sections of notes as well as transposing notes up and down by an octave.
EXPERIMENTATION IS KEY
Set a few hours of time aside each week to stop working on any tracks and purely mess around and experiment in your daw.
This might be playing with new plugins or effects, experimenting and practicing new techniques or sound design and preset building. All of this will help you to further understand your DAW as well as build yourself a comprehensive library of unique sounds and ideas. Sometimes the best musical ideas were born from happy mistakes.
STAY OUT THE RED
When adding effects as inserts always keep an eye on the signal levels passing through the devices. It’s very easy to let the level creep into the red at the output which will distort or clip the signal. Sending a signal into an effect ‘hot’ (clipping) often gave a warm and favourable sound when using old analogue equipment and circuitry. However this is not the case with software. To avoid this use utility plugins to gain stage the signal as it passes through the chain to keep it away from the red at all times.
The meters on each side of a plugin give a quick visual reference to the amount of gain on the input and output of the plugin. this will let you know if any gain staging is required, normally you will want your gains to be equal on either side.
Many plugins feature a high quality mode which is off by default to save processing power. This often involves the use of look-ahead and linear phase operation. This will however introduce latency issues so when you are in the creative stage of your track it’s best to keep these in regular mode however when it comes to mixing be sure to set these plugins to the highest quality possible ready for exporting.
CHANGING YOUR LATENCY SETTINGS
You will often want as small a latency as possible when recording so that your timing is perfect. To do this you can set the buffer as low as possible without introducing audio artifices or clicks. However, The trade off for this is that your CPU will be under a lot of strain as the computer processes all the audio, chunk by chunk in real time. In the latter phase of your track such as the mix down you will often have a lot of tracks with lots of different CPU thirsty plugins. At this stage you can bump the buffer size right up in the preferences because the latency issue is no longer a problem now that you’ve finished the recording process. This gives your computer plenty more processing power to deal with all the plugins.
An alternative to dealing with these cpu guzzling plugins is to freeze the tracks or bounce them to audio.
LIMIT THE LIMITER
When using a limiter across an entire mix, keep the reduction meter peaking at about 3-5dB at most. Any more than that and you risk damaging the dynamics of your track. Many mastering engineers also prefer to use two limiters with a smaller amount of peak reduction rather than one limiter with 3-5dB of peak reduction. This gives more control over the dynamics of the mix and lends to a better sound.
Beef up your reverb by inserting a compressor or limiter after the reverb in the effects chain. It’s also wise to EQ the low end out of the reverb so this compressed signal doesn’t interfere or muddy up the low end of your mix.
Use an LFO or series of LFOs to gently modulate a signal over time to add subtle variation. This can also be used effectively when tied to reverb amount or filter cutoff to bring a channel forward or back in the mix for various sections of the track.
Often LFOs need to be triggered and act in a certain way at an exact point in a sound. You can use the offset and invert functions as well as the different waveforms to ensure your LFO goes up or down at the exact right point in your sound. You can also use the LFO delay parameter on many LFOs so that it only takes effect after a certain time period usually measured in milliseconds.
Try processing a drum group on three parallel chains. One for adding punch, one for saturation and one for compression. Then use the gain faders to balance the mix
Use track delay to enhance a groove by pulling elements back or forward by 1-10ms. Also when using delay plugins try setting the delay parameter by milliseconds rather than syncing to track tempo. This can further accentuate the groove as well as stopping the delayed signal hitting at the same time as other signals and smearing those precious transients.
Filter modulation is used heavily throughout the entirety of dance music. We can use it to develop a track as well as use it to subtly bring elements in or out of a track as well as for full blown sound shaping and sound design. Be aware that filter resonance values can dramatically effect the volume and dynamics of a signal so it’s often wise to place a limiter after the filter device to prevent clipping.
It’s often hard to replicate that professionally mastered sound of big artists and labels tracks through native DAW plugins alone. Try to build your plugin collection and learn them inside out. A good mastering all in one plugin bundle is the waves mastering chain or IZotopes Ozone 7 mastering suite.
Always A-B at effects or changes you make to a track to listen and make sure that it actually adds to the track. This is especially important for EQing as well as compressors. Make sure your compressors output volume is the same when the track is bypassed. Just because a compressors output gain is higher does not necessarily mean it is better.
When mastering always compare your track to a few finished tracks that are in a similar style and genre to yours. You’ll have to make sure you are doing this using uncompressed .wav files. You can then import them into your DAW or put them in a plugin such as Sample Magics Magic AB plugin. From here you can compare the frequency spectrums, phase and volume of the reference tracks in comparison to yours.