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  • Writer's pictureSteven Meloney

The 10 Phases of Music Production

In this article, we are going to examine the complete journey of a song from conception (or one of those hundreds of 30 second recordings in your phone’s voice memos app) all the way through distribution and official release. These are the ten phases of music production.



If you’re recording or producing music, don’t miss these helpful free resources!



Let’s get some meters bouncing.

 

The 10 phases of music production

 

1. Conceptualization


This is when the idea for a song strikes and becomes clear. Concepts for songs can come in many different forms. They might appear as a lyric, a series of chords, or a melodic phrase. They can also be an experience or feeling that we wish to express to our listeners. Sometimes I like to think of conceptualization as finding the “seed” from which a song grows.

2. Songwriting/Composition


After you’ve identified a clear concept for a song, the next step in the journey is to write the rest of it. This is where we work out all the musical parts: the melodies, chord progressions, rhythmic elements, and lyrics that will become our verse, chorus, and bridge sections.


Are you stuck here at the songwriting phase? Download the The Songwriting Cheatsheet.


3. Pre-production


The pre-production phase is the planning that takes place before the song enters production. There are a few things that good pre-production should accomplish.


Arrangement


What instrumentation will be used? What order will all the songs parts occur in? How will we build and release tension and how will the song climax? Often during the pre-production phase, a demo will be created so that different arrangements and instrumentation can be tried out to ensure we produce the best possible version of the song.


Planning and Budgeting


What is the plan for how we will produce the song? Where will it be recorded? Who will mix it? Who will master it? What are the goals and strategies for distribution, marketing, and release of the song? When are the deadlines for all these things? How much will it cost to complete the production? Where will that money come from? Creating a solid plan during pre-production can make or break a songs success after release.

If you're planning a recording project, use this free Music Production Budget Calculator to help you stay within budget.



4. Recording


The recording phase of music production includes not only the actual recording of musical performances, but also the collection of any sound FX and other sound elements that will be used. Traditionally, recording is broken into two parts.


Basics


Depending on the genre and musical style, basics (or rhythm tracks) can be recorded as a live performance of the all the musicians together, or a multi-track recording where each musician records at a separate time. Basic tracks often include drums, bass, rhythm guitar, and keyboards.


Overdubs


Overdubbing is when we record new layers on top of the basic tracks. Usually vocals and guitar solos are recorded as overdubs.

If you want a more detailed look into the professional home recording process, read my article How To Create Professional Recordings At Home.



5. Editing


Once all of the music is recorded, each track must be comp’d, trimmed, and cleaned up with the proper crossfades to ensure there are no distracting pops or clicks. Silent sections are often removed to eliminate extraneous noise. If necessary, timing and pitch mistakes are corrected as well.



6. Mixing


Once all the tracks are recorded and edited, they must be blended together properly to ensure that each instrument can be heard clearly, and that the song has the strongest emotional impact possible. This is done by balancing the volume levels of the tracks, adjusting the frequency contents in the mix, adding spacial enhancements, and writing automation to create a sense of movement, liveliness, and to drive the listeners attention.


One of the more challenging (and fun) instruments to mix is drums. For tips on that, check out my article How to Mix Big Punchy Sounding Rock Drums.



7. Mastering


Mastering is the final process in creating a cohesive and professional sounding recording. A good mastering job will address any issues that were missed during the mixing phase, sweeten the sound to make it even better, and process it so that it translates well between different speaker systems. The mastering engineer also ensures the overall loudness and formatting of the song is appropriate for it’s intended distribution channels.



8. Distribution


In the distribution phase, the final mastered recording is sent to all the places your listeners can play and hear the song. In the modern music industry, it is common to use a Distribution Service Provider (DSP) to distribute the song to all the major streaming platforms. Popular DSP's include Distrokid, Tunecore, CD Baby, and Bandcamp.



9. Marketing and Promotion


Getting your song written, recorded, and distributed does little good if nobody knows about it. This is where marketing and promotion come in. A good marketing and promotion plan will build hype around your song in the weeks before it’s release, getting lots of people to know about it and where to listen to it.



10. Release


The final phase in music production is when the song becomes available for your listeners to hear, share, and enjoy. If a release is done right, there will be a party. 🎉


In order to get the most of of your releases, I recommend using this Release Promotion Plan I made for you!



Summary


There are 10 distinct phases of music production.


  1. Conceptualization

  2. Songwriting/Composition

  3. Pre-Production

  4. Recording

  5. Editing

  6. Mixing

  7. Mastering

  8. Distribution

  9. Marketing and Promotion

  10. Release


Finally, don’t forget to create some album art along the way!


 

It is my goal to help you create the best sounding music possible. I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or comments please drop me a line!


Need extra help with recording, mixing, or mastering? Get a price quote here!

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ABOUT

I help artists capture pro-sounding recordings, mix and master them to commercial release quality, and make a meaningful impact on their listeners. People work with me because I understand the musical process from writing to recording to promotion to release (I’m a musician too!). Along the way I offer my 20 years of experience, access to professional studios and equipment, and my network of music industry pros to help you record and release awesome tracks, and further your development as an artist.

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