Deconstructing an Approved Commercial Music Track

A lot of times when a new producer asks me to listen and critique their music, I notice a fairly common issue. In a broad sense it's a problem with the mix but more specifically it's more about the levels and sounds of the different instruments. It takes a little practice to understand what sounds good individually compared to what sounds good in a mix.

This is a problem that clears up with time as you learn what dry sounds work well in a mix before they are processed and tweaked. The most important thing to remember is that problems in a mix doesn't mean you a bad musician or producer. It doesn't mean you suck and should quit. You just need more practice.

Today I wanted to take a little time to break down a track I produced and show the different stems. I've gotten this music approved in a lot of different music libraries and have licensed it a few times.

Basically what I did was opened up the project file and exported everything as stems. All the sounds are panned, processed, mixed, and mastered the way it is in the final track. I did watermark the stems.

Below is the track I am going to deconstruct. I named it Simple Ad and it is available for licensing on Pond5: Simple Ad.

The first instrument to break down is the Ukulele. Notice that with this the instrument it is panned 100% to the left. It's also processed with a little reverb, compression, and eq work.

The next instrument in this track is the acoustic guitar. This instrument is panned 100% to the right. It's processed with a little reverb, a low end cut with eq boosted around 5k, and is lightly compressed.

Next up is the piano. With this there is a lot of processing. Reverb, eq, velocities adjusted, compression, and it is panned slightly right of center.

The next instrument in this track is the bass. With the bass it is panned center, compressed, and eq'd with a low end cut at 40hz and 300hz.

The next instrument in this track is the strings. With the strings I wanted them to be real subtle so they are pretty low in the mix. They are panned center with reverb, a stereo enhancer and some eq.

Next is the flute. With the flute there is a lot of reverb, eq, a slight delay, and it panned a little to the left.

Up next is the Rhodes Organ. It might seem a little low in the mix but it adds a ton of character to the strings and fills out the music in a very subtle way. When you listen to it by itself you can hear how dynamic it is in the sense that the chord's velocity kind of pulses as the volume fades up and down. This organ doesn't really have much processing, a little eq, and is panned center.

Last but not least is the vibraphone. It is panned 100% to the right and is used more of a highlight for the piano. It makes the piano sound fuller and softens up the sound. With the vibraphone there is a low end cut on the eq and a tiny bit of reverb.

When you put them all together you get the finished track.

I hope this helps! Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share, like and comment below.

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