Q&A: How do I make professional sounding tracks?

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Professional Mixing Tricks, Vocal Recording, Vocal Stacks, Ableton Live, Compression. Want to know some great tips for improving your vocal recordings and mixes? Do you want to learn how to create thicker vocal recordings and better mixes? Then read on.

Hi Matt Sonic,

I just wanted to know if you can give me any tips on how you get my song to have that professional sound, using Ableton Live 6. I have a good mic and I still cannot get that studio sound. Do you think I need to buy some plug-ins because I heard that the reverb and the compressor are not that good in Ableton Live and I am starting to believe that. So, if you have any tips on getting my songs sounding professional, my ears are open…



Hi JavV,

Here are some links to topics that might interest you:

  1. Vocal EQ
  2. Vocal Recording
  3. Ableton Mixing
  4. VST Distortion
  5. Bass Mixing Tips

The process of “getting the studio sound” is the result of perfecting many different areas of music composition and recording. The areas that you need to study depend on the kinds of music that you want to create. Since you are asking about recording, it wouldn’t be right to start talking about audio processing (e.g. compression, reverb) until you are sure your audio is being properly captured in the first place. There is a LOT of factors involved in this process. For a good start, I recommend checking out this tutorial:

Digital Audio Principles

Once you have your sound recording perfect, then it’s time for effects. Ableton provides some really good effects. However, for a truly excellent reverb you’ll want a convolution reverb like the Waves IR-1. Ableton’s compressors are actually pretty good. It all depends on the kind of music you want to create. The Waves C1 is a good, smooth compressor if you think that Ableton’s compressor is too harsh.

The studio / professional sound is greatly affected by mixing techniques. For each of your tracks, really think about where the audio is placed in terms of panning, frequency space, and volume. Every track should be panned appropriately, have some form of EQ, and at least some compression. Then, be sure to compress your final mixdown as well. After that, you may want to send your mix off to a mastering studio for the final touches.

I hope these suggestions give you some ideas. :)

Happy Producing!

Matt Sonic

I am doing Hip Hop music, just to let you know so you can see were I am coming from on this recording.

Thanks for the links,


Hi JayV,

For Hip Hop, you definitely want big layered beats. Click here to get a copy of SonicTransfer DrumStack for Ableton Live. Layer a variety of percussive sounds together and them blend using EQ and filters. This will give you the distinctive, massive drum sounds heard in proper hip hop.

A really useful drum technique is to take an acoustic drum loop (lifted from vinyl or elsewhere) and layer your own drum hits on top of it. This will give you the room noise in the original loop combined with the richness of your engineered drum kit. Try using DrumStack with some of your favorite oldschool loops for a bangin hip hop sound.

As for vocal recording, there is a lot of background info about audio recording that will help you get a cleaner, brighter sound. Most hiphop tracks utilize vocal layers to get a full sound. This means having your vocal talent repeat each section multiple times. Then, go back and composite (called vocal comping) the best takes. After that, lower the volume of the other takes and pan them at different positions in the stereo field. Try subtley delaying some of the takes and rolling off frequencies using EQ. Vocal layering is an enormous topic that deserves a full tutorial on SonicTransfer. Stay tuned for it. For now, try at least doubling your vocal takes. You’ll notice a big difference in the apparent loudness and fullness of the vocals.

Bass, stabs, drum mixing, groove quantizing, and noise layering are other important aspects of hiphop production…the list goes on and on. All these topics will eventually be covered on SonicTransfer.

I hope these tips help you on your path to funkyness :)