Make sure you’re getting high quality professional beats. Assuming that the beats have commercial value, and you’re confident that your voice will song good on them as discussed the in previous articles, it is now time to move on to Technical Quality.
File Formats and Related Files: Terms and Definitions
Before moving on, it's good to identify some technical jargon
Mp3 compressed audio – losses sound quality
Mp3 320kps (all you need to know is the higher the better)
Wav File – uncompressed audio file
24-bit (more bits are better)
Project Files – these are the files that the beat maker used to make the beat you’re buying. They are like the individual ingredients that make up the delicious cake... er, beat. It’s understandable that if a beat maker has created a unique and custom sound he or she will not release that specific instrument or synth – and he or she is right to do that! However they should still be able to provide the .wav file for that instrument if it is left out of the project files.
If live instruments are recorded is there background noise, or bleed from other instruments. Basically, were they recorded well?
What kind of mic was used - this is important! You need quality microphones to not only capture clarity, depth, color, and brightness but to prevent dull muddy tracks.
Ok now that we've got some basic terms out of the way it's time to move on to resolution.
Resolution, Clarity, Quality
This section is pretty straightforward. Have you heard of the common phrase related to quality and input: Crap In, Crap Out? Well… that still applies. If someone is using really shoddy VST’s, bootlegged programs with over compressed sound packs, or generally crappy equipment, then, you guessed it, it doesn’t matter what quality of file they are exporting to, it’s going to sound like crap all the same. It’s similar to a 4K TV, if you have a really low-resolution image displaying on a high-resolution screen it doesn’t make it magically look better and music is the same way. It actually highlights how bad the image is!
But this is where you let your ears guide you, if you think the music sounds good and clear, if it’s catchy and gets stuck in your head, and the beat store allows you to buy beats in .WAV format, and most importantly lets you have project files and tracked out beats – then you’re in pretty good shape. But, I suggest you do your homework first – Read on!
I don’t want to get too technical unless a few people respond below letting me know they want more info 😉
Mixing Break Down
This is the overall balance of levels. This is very subjective. Your balancing the sound and panning of pianos, drums, vocals, and synths for example. Different songs and genres are going to highlight different instruments. Rap music, for example, will highlight the drums and specifically the bass, Dance music will also highlight the bass and make it not only hit hard but generally have a short and quick kick (bass part of the drums). Mixing also includes fade in and outs, transitions, and adding processing effects such as compression, limiters and EQ adjustments. If you’re a recording artist you don’t need to know much about these unless you want to start recording your own demos, which I high suggest.
Beat stores often say the beats are mastered. I don’t know why this got started or why others followed suit – it shows a lack of knowledge and experience. Mastering occurs when a song (music and vocals) have already been added AND mixed for the last time. A song is mixed extensively without adding new material for a while before you master a song.
Mastering is what makes a song shine. Again, you get what you pay for. Please do not go to some stupid discount “mastering” website. I am not just trying to sell you on our mastering, I don’t want you to waste a $100 or $200, like literally waste it. Those websites literally just put your song into a program that automatically raises the volume and makes a few adjustments – but the main thing is that it makes your song sound louder – which makes you THINK it sounds better. Read below to understand more about the Volume Effect. I have that software and I can do that too, but that wouldn’t be ethical or good for you. Hell, you can do that even if this is the first time you’ve heard of mastering. But, if you’re a serious artist I strongly recommend finding a reputable company that will let you hear before and after. Ask them to raise the before track to the same volume so that you can make a fair comparison. Ten years ago, I used to be skeptical of mastering, because I had only experienced the cheap discount fake version of it, but after I heard what it does I was sold!
Again, this is where you’ll need to do homework, train your ears, and realistically buy a recording engineer a drink or whatever to be able to sit in a studio with them and ask them questions – this is the absolute best option so that you can learn about the process. You don’t have to have mastering, but if you’re going to do it, please don’t waste your money
Be aware of over compression and volume manipulation
I’ll break the blogging rule and just tell you the answer at the beginning. Did you know that if two songs are the exact same, but one is .5 dB (barely noticeable volume increase) higher, you’ll think the louder one is better every single time? I don’t know the term for this, if there is one, but the point is we like louder music. Why does that matter?
Well let’s say you’re comparing a few different beat stores
The dirty trick. People over compress and maximize the volume without clipping to make the music sound better.
This isn’t the end of the world if you happen to pick one beat over another because your subconscious likes it better because it’s louder.
The problem happens when a beat maker does not offer the steam files or track outs (individually bounced sound files, like the snare is one file and the kick is another and every instrument has its own file)
Realistically, the mix of most beats online are not great, because they are maximizing volume at the cost of quality. Ultimately this doesn’t matter AS LONG AS you can have the song tracked out… if not… DO NOT BUY. The quality isn’t gone forever as long as you can access the original files before they were over compressed and messed up.
Oh, you’re going to hate me, but I suggest you get some nice studio monitors. Why? Because if you have crappy speakers, you generally won’t be able to tell the flaws that are found in discount beat stores. Remember, you get what you pay for, if someone’s prices are drastically lower than everyone else’s, there’s a great chance there is something wrong either in quality, business practices or legality, but I digress.
Get some nice studio monitors I recommend Yamaha, KRK or M-Audio. I still use my Yamaha speakers and really like them. If you want more info on this or have any other questions or comments, drop a comment below.