Produce Pop/Country LIKE A PRO! Start To Finish

Today we are building out a country pop song from start to finish. This content is a preview of what to expect from a brand new program called the Track In A Day Challenge.

PREP YOUR SESSION 💻

STEP 1: TRACK TO A METRONOME

Make sure your worktape is recorded to a click or metronome because this makes the starting process easy.

Arrange your worktape where you have enough grid for a count in.

Make sure your worktape align with the grid of your session and the bpm of your DAW matches your wortape.

STEP 2: ADD A QUICK MELODIC KEYBOARD

Choose a melodic keyboard to lay in your basic chord progression.

This is just a simple melodic guide track to kick start our track…

I sometimes use the stock electric keyboard in Logic.

As you build out your chord progressions map up markers in your session to know which section you are working on.

An organized producer can move faster when it comes to mixing.

DRUMS AND PERCUSSION 🥁

STEP 3: ADD SOME QUICK HATS

Let’s ease into drums by starting with recording a simple hi hat…

This is to establish rhythm and groove without overthinking too much.

I’m just looking to establish a simple groove to kick start my production.

STEP 4: ADD DRUMS

Next I will pull up my favorite Drum VST. Thomas Pridgen from Mixwave.

I will lay in a drum groove for my verse and then my chorus without quantize my performance too much.

If you want your drums to sound like it was played by a real drummer, when you quantize, make sure you are not quantizing but only 70% so it’s not exact on the grid.

To be in front of or behind the beat is human. Don’t quantize all the feel out of it.

STEP 5: LAYER DRUMS

Then I will layer a quality sample pack to help my drums cut through the mix.

Then I will layer a quality sample pack to help my drums cut through the mix.

Snares, cymbals, rise and fall fx, claps, ect.

Having quality samples narrowed down is important.

You don’t want to be overwhelmed with all the options on Splice so find your favorites and make a folder and save them in a place where you can find them.

STEP 6: ADD REAL PERCUSSION

Sometimes adding a real percussion instruments to your mix and help out your mix!

I like to grab a few different style of shakers and in a single pass have a few options of shaker sounds that I can use throughout my session.

I will only use a 4-8 bar loop of the best performed section of the live shaker recording.

To be in front of or behind the beat is human. Don’t quantize all the feel out of it.

STEP 7: ADD SHAKER

Shimmer Shake Strike is an excellent shaker plugin that will give you immediate vibe and rhythm in the high end of your mix.

Pads with different textures work great to create dynamics and separation in your tracks.

TRANSITIONS AND SYNTHS 🎹

STEP 8: ADD PADS AND SYNTHS

Synths can be used to create separation and texture in your track. I lack to us simple drone type of sounds that fill the mid range with the root note in your mix.

Try voicing 5th intervals on synths for interesting textures in your song.

I like to change up the type of synths that I use to change the texture as my song progresses.

Pads with different textures work great to create dynamics and separation in your tracks.

STEP 9: ADD TRANSITIONS

Synths can also make great sounds for transitions in your song. Try weird evolving sounds at the end of your vers into your chorus section.

Try printing your midi to audio to have more control over the audio.

 You can create more separation from your verse to your chorus bby adding a grand piano sound that is absent in the verse.

Also try adding weird rhythmic synths for different textures…

Try different synths for different transitions in your song. Dont be committed to just one sound.  

I encourage you to explore your options with synths! 

You never know which type of sound you will accidentally find.

BASS GUITAR 🎸

STEP 10: ADD BASS GUITAR

Real bass is my personal favorite so I always prefer tracking it in. Its easier for me to get realistic note changes that way. You are welcome to try out a few midi bass.

Guitars and more! 🪕

STEP 11: ADD ACOUSTIC GUITAR

When tracking acoustic I will try a few different patterns, one picking and the next strumming.

I usually will always double my acoustic parts unless I already know I will want it mono in the mix.

A strummed acoustic guitar is magic for lifting your pop/country chorus.

STEP 12: ADD MANDOLIN

I like to use a 6 string mandolin to add a rhythmic melody to my acoustics… Usually when I pick this instrument it is to double an acoustic guitar with a higher voicing or to pull out a lead lick in the song.

Mandolins sit pointed in the mix so when you bring them in I recommend it be a hooky part.

STEP 13: ADD RESONATOR GUITAR

I love a resonator guitar because it brings a specific tone that just feels country. 

This is the type of tone that the ear can fatigue quickly because it is pointed like a mandolin. Unless you are going for a straight up bluegrass/americana vibe, use in your mix sparingly.

STEP 14: ADD AN ELECTRIC GUITAR

Electric guitar will help our chorus stand out and I like to keep it simple with a melodic strum. If you can’t get your hands on a fractal or I recommend using Guitar Rig 6. The same way I change acoustic instruments, I recommend trying a few different pickup options when recording guitar.

STEP 15: ADD A SOLO GUITAR

I recommend adding a melodic guitar solo to your track. Dont overthink this process trying to complicate some intricate part. Pull out the melodies that want to be revealed in your song. Only you as a producer can make this decision.

I also love using Guitar Rig 6 to find solo tones!

VOCALS 🎤

STEP 16: LEAD VOCALS

Tracking vocals can seem intimidating because it is one of if not the most important part of a production. 

Be confident tracking your lead vocals taking at least 3 takes to choose from.

 I always recommend being familiar with autotune or melodyne or some other similar software so that you can correct the imperfections of your vocal. 

STEP 17: ADD HARMONY VOCALS

Harmony vocals will help your lead vocal pop in the mix. I recommend doubling your lower harmonies to sit wider in your mix.

If you can sing harmony vocals then always add them, if not, then I recommend practicing learning harmony. 

Even if you recreate the harmony with software like melodyne, you still need to know what you are looking for.

⚠️ PREP FOR MIXING ⚠️

STEP 18: ORGANIZE YOUR SESSION

Before moving on to mixing you will want to take the time to organize your session in track stacks or folder stacks.  Organize with similar colors and categories to your sounds. Route to busses or group tracks, track stacks, or folder stacks, however your DAW refers to a collected group of sounds…  This will help cut your mixing time in half.

MIXING 🎚

STEP 19: MIX DRUMS

Saturation and compression love a drum a bus.. 

To get the gain set right, I will always follow the chain up with an L2. This just has a musical way of keeping it right where you want it in the mix.

STEP 20: MIX BASS

Try a pultec eq for mixing your bass. With cutting and boosting available you can quickly get your bass sitting right in the mix with this style of eq.

STEP 21: MIX KEYS/SYNTHS

Eq all the lows out of your synth and keys bus and try adding a little bit of high end to give your keys some presence. 

I sometimes like to use tape or saturation or both to take a little harshness off of the digital synths. Try using a bus compressor to glue everything together at the end.

STEP 22: MIX ACOUSTICS

Mix your acoustics with compression and a bit of tape saturation and try picking a lead part to send to a spacy reverb. 

This will help create dynamics and personality to that part of the song because it wont always stay washed with verb. When it drys up it the chorus this creates separation in your track.

STEP 23: MIX ELECTRICS

Redlight distortion or any type of overdrive is always great for lead electric guitars. 

Try doubling your guitars on solo parts that you want to stand out of the mix. Soundtoys decapitator would also be a great option.

I will also use a tape style delay for adding more tail to the solo. Of course doubling the solo with more guitars is always a great option.

STEP 24: MIX VOCALS

Since all of your vocals are packed into a folder or track stack, you can apply a single eq and cut the lows… be careful when boosting the highs as this can be very harsh if not done sparingly…

Try using 1176 Compression only reducing 2-3 db. If you need more compression, you can add more, but I recommend only 2-3db increments at a time.

STEP 25: AUTOMATE VERBS/ DELAYS

To really create contrast in your song, automate your verbs and delays. This is why it’s important to use your verbs as an aux or bus and not on the main channel strip.

Automation is very powerful. Don’t miss out on using it everywhere in your tracks.

MASTERING 🎛

STEP 26: MASTER YOUR TRACK

I always start my master bus with bus compression and then follow up with a cheatcode.. Ozone. It does all the heavy lifting with eq compression and limiting..

A little compression at a time in stages is the key. Even hearing what ozone ads to my track I will usually back off the effect by 25%. Then finishing my master with my own limiter. I use the L2 maximizer in this video.

STEP 27: LISTEN DOWN

Enjoy all the hard work you have put in and listen down to your mix!

Enjoy!

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Stems are on the way! Don’t miss this video of how I produced the track!

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