From Demo To Master: How To Finish Beats Efficiently

I’m writing this blog post while I have 72 hours to make as many beats as possible for major media company, from scratch. Essentially I need to go from zero to finished beats within that time and still have world-class quality.

Let’s say it won’t be easy, not at all.

How can I start and finish beats quickly without sacrificing quality?

When working with strict deadlines, it’s crucial to have a guideline that you can follow that will move your demos to master files as efficiently as possible.

I know many producers are winging it without thinking too much about the process, but that can be inefficient. It’s easy to lose focus, forget things you needed to do and get stuck. But, when you have a clear step-by-step guide of things you need to do and when to do them, your workflow will be much faster.

Now, you might think to yourself:

“I don’t want to follow any rules or guidelines, it takes all the creativity out!”

That’s not exactly correct.

Sure, creating music does require creativity in all aspects, but when you separate each process of the creation you can notice that some things requires less creativity than others.

Coming up with ideas for a track and actually creating a demo is the most creative part. Taking that demo and finishing it with a mix and master is surprisingly technical and straightforward. You can divide your time by having a creative day, mixing day, and mastering/finishing day.

After years of producing, I’ve established a quite simple and easy to follow workflow that I use on every track I make. Needless to say that some steps may overlap with each other, but this is essentially how I start and finish beats.

1. Create A Demo

Don’t think. Just create. This is the most creative process where I don’t think, but I just create what I know I want to do. Usually a demo includes a basic verse and chorus arrangement.

2. Arrangement

After a basic demo is done, I move forward to making a full arrangement with intro, verses, choruses and outro, Essentially it will be a full but unmixed track.

3. Prepare for mix

I route all tracks to the mixer, create groups, and add colors so I have a clear view of the session. You should be able to understand immediately what’s happening anytime you open the session. Organize the sessions the same way every time.

4. Mixing

Mix the track. Don’t have anything in the master channel that affects the mix. Mixing and mastering should be a separate process. Usually my mixing includes gain staging, panning, EQ, compressing and effects (e.g. reverb, delay, distortion).

5. Mastering

When I’m happy with the mix, it’s time to focus on the master. Cut unnecessary frequencies, glue everything together with compression, add a limiter to give headroom and make sure it’s competitively loud.

6. Break

After I’m done with mixing and mastering, I take a break. A day or two pause ensures you’ll have fresh ears before the final steps.

7. Tweaking

I listen the beat with fresh ears and fix any possible issues I didn’t notice before. Most often there is something worth fixing.

8. Comparison

I export the master and start doing comparisons. Usually I like to compare it my previous work and to beats by others. This helps to make sure what I’ve done is good and is competitive with any other beats.

9. Final Check

Lastly, I listen the beat on several different equipment to be sure that it sounds good across different devices. Studio equipment (headphones, monitors), consumer equipment (stereo speakers, headphones) and a phone speaker. Usually it can sound quite different on every device, but that’s fine. Usually it cannot be perfect on every device, but it should be good enough.

10. Export

If I noticed any issues in the comparison and final check phases, I fix them and the beat is done!

I export all the files (read here how to export and rename files properly) and move on to the next beat.

Last Words

This is essentially how I approach creating and finishing beats. From years of experience I’ve noticed that this process has drastically improved my workflow. I hope you got something out of it!

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