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I'm recording an EP for my band, and we were struggling to find a style, which I think it's important. The problem is I've been making up songs since I'm 15 so I had so many different songs on hand and had to choose 5 to compose the EP. Had a little trouble, but now it's DONE.

Well what I'm doing now is producing this 5 songs, and as producers and audio engineers I would like to hear your mixing and producing opinion on this: Should I keep the songs similar? Using the same instruments (in my case guitars, organ, bass, piano and drums), the same type of reverb, delay, chorus, saturation and so on? I'm using amp simulators, so should I use the same Guitar Amp on every song? Or would it be better to keep them different not to make the album boring? What do the pros do (huge recording labels) and why?

I'd like to hear the pros and cons from you guys. Thanks a lot.

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The best way to learn what the pros do is listen carefully to all of your favorite albums. Not only does that tell you what the pros do, it tells you what you like to hear the pros do. There's pretty much no one right answer to any of these kinds of decisions. If you listen to enough music you'll hear all different kinds of production styles. So the important thing is to find your voice.

Everyone is influenced and produces art that in some way or another is based on the art that they like. There's no reason why that can't be a concious process. Some of my favorite albums have the exact same instrumentation and musical style for every song. Others have wide-ranging styles and various instruments from the mundane to the esoteric represented.

Regardless of how you come down on the variety versus consistency axis, there are some elements that tend to tie songs on an album together no matter what. If there's one lead vocalist for the band, then their voice will be a unifying element. Limitations on equipment (e.g. if you only have one guitar amp available or only one kind of reverb plugin) will also have their place in unifying an album. Finally, putting together consistent final levels during the mastering process helps.

If the same people are writing and/or playing the music, it won't matter much what you do with arrangements and instrumentation, etc., the flavors imparted by the people involved will come through more or less, and that will tie things together.

Overall, to me the song is the most important part, and making it the best possible song with the most appropriate and effective sound and production is my goal. If the song is a good song, most other things matter very little. If it's a bad enough song, no amount of production quality can save it.

And always follow your heart. That's the main thing that makes music what it is.

  • This answer is a little different than mine, but so similar it's scary. Very well said. +1 – Johannes Feb 5 '16 at 19:59
  • Johannes both helped a lot. Thank you guys for the advices. – Rodrigo Nader Feb 11 '16 at 1:38
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Usually pros have a concept by album, each album corresponds to one "story" or one creative "period" of an artist/band.

This is not only about music here but also about image and professional aim, (do you want to be a studio musician, rock star, soloist ?...)

This also strongly depends on your music style, band image and audience needs (if you already have a regular one).

The only thing to do is to find your particular touch/story that will go through the ages of your artistic life.

few examples that I consider as "pro" are listed there :

  • You have a charismatic singer and whether the instruments changes or not you still recognize his timbre, flow, subjects of choice.

  • You always change your synths, instruments but you keep the same style of music and make it evolve in a positive way.

  • You constantly create new and innovative sounds but always change style.

  • ...

From a personal point of view, differences between pros and non - pros are steadiness and production quality.

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I think you will find that there is no definitive answer to this question, but I'll throw in my 2 cents worth. First of all, you as an artist have some core decisions to make. What songs belong on the album? What instrumentation? Should instrumentation remain consistent? Should songs be similar or different? Should an album start with the best song? Should it rise and fall? These are all pretty subjective, as there are many successful albums do these things very differently. I think to answer these specifically for you, we need to take a step back and look a very basic question:

What is the purpose of this EP?

The direction you take this project is going to be determined by how you answer that question. Is it a promotional tool to send to venues to get booked for gigs? If so, you may want to make it sound live and stick to the instruments you can replicate in a live environment. Are you looking for radio airplay on pop stations? You may want to go for shorter catchy songs that get to the chorus quickly. Is it purely a studio album that's made to be a standalone artistic work? Then you can do absolutely anything you want. Add 5 guitars, a string quartet and a 20 person choir. Whatever sounds good.

Now from a production standpoint, there are no hard and fast rules. I don't think you should limit yourself by strictly sticking to the same amps and reverbs for the sake of trying to sound the same. If a different amp sounds good for a different song, then use it. If the same amp sounds good, then use that. Even if you used different effects for each song, there would still be other similarities like characteristics of your musician's techniques and playing styles, how they play together, and even how you sing and pronounce your words.

Don't feel like you have to stick to some kind of model. Ultimately, you are the artist, and the producer should do everything they can to make what's in your head a reality.

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One thing you can do is use the different instruments and sounds that you might want on each song, but master all of the songs with the same output settings and that unites the disparate sounds.

So conceptually, in each song, the input channels of your mixer would be different, but the output channel would have the same same EQ, multiband compressor, and limiter, all with the same settings.

If your mastering system has a “match EQ” you can use that to apply the EQ curve of one song to the other 4, or to apply the EQ curve of any song from any source to all 5 songs. That is sometimes done when making compilations so that songs from diverse sources sound like they were all recorded in the same session.

  • Yes I have a matching EQ plugin Ozone by Izotope. Good tip, cheers! – Rodrigo Nader Feb 11 '16 at 1:37
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I find all the previous answers somewhat heavier on the control room side.

I don't know if the recordings have happened, but i will state my opinion concerning the whole process.

First of all let's put some practical things down. As an engineer/producer you allways avoid some things and you allways tend to promote some others, that applies to the most part of the process, starting from guitar amp choises , to vocal microphones, to drum kits and cymbals etc etc etc.

So Let's break down the process so you can get some weight off your back and see things in a more clear way.

For instance let's say you want nice clean amps, from the first moment you have ruled out a good amount of amps and let's say you've narrowed it down to VOXes and Fenders , From that point on every amp has it's own character as you have your own in producing. So there are some different qualities in those amps but in the end keep in mind that they'll be EQed by you (which as i said before will automatically go through the process of you promoting / avoiding-disliking some things you generally do when talking amps) compressed by you and all. So you have to get something solid sounding and then just let the song work it out for you.

That said i jump to the other side of the room.

Every song has it's own vibe , from the bands drummer changing from drumsticks to brushes or the guitarist stomping on his crunch rather than his overdrive it's a whole world of difference in voicings, The band has her own sound from the drummers sensitivity or heavy foot to the orghanists use of the leslie speed. Those stuff are on the recording room of the studio.

A professional producer is called to imagine the whole thing when he hears a nice voice and automatically builds the context in his mind. BUT when a producer listens to a band that he's intrested in he either wants to make a project with them or not , i mean he has to like the sound and the bands decision to start with which of course as you'd imagine work together to make a song intresting to a producers ears.

After that the producer sometimes points some "errors" or some things he wants to change but most of the time he sees the things he wants to compliment through the producing process, such as , guys i love the songs and the guitar playing is great (he will make the guitars better and more intresting) or guys i love the vibe of your band (he'll compliment the drumkit and the bass)

So you have to find your GOOD STUFF! your intresting stuff otherwise just making nice sounds will make a flat content.You have great vocals the whole sound should hug that big voice, you have a guitarist with all those intresting voicings and stuff, double track him , make him big , give him more space in the arrangement etc etc.

Last i would recommend (at least for the body of the band - drums/bass/guitar) to record live as a band in the same room and start exchanging the groove and express that vibe to the fullest.

The band starts playing the engineer starts making decisions (for a synchronous setup) if you are the engineer and play at the same time, you'll have to judge what the best take was and start working from that point.

To sum up my (not so nicely arranged) thoughts on this matter:

Every small decision on the initial/basic setup makes the bands sound in a specific way, every playing difference adds to the bands sound, you can spank your guitar like crazy and you can caress the strings and be mellow. In your position i wouldn't worry about those things. Find solid sounding equipment with a good palette of sounds that apply to your style and that's it. After that start playing and creating your sound.

After all aside from the tricks or the techniques, a sound engineer must produce a balanced sound and that's a bit narrow to start with.

Go play your music, explain your thoughts to the other members start "mixing" the song in the live room , don't wait for the guitars to fatten when you mix, fatten them before, don't expect the drums to be punchier on the mix, explain the groove to your drummer. DONT FIX IT IN THE MIX and your question will be pretty much answered.

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