Archive for the ‘ Music Tips ’ Category

Audio Tips (By Carl Rushing)

by Carl Rushing (sound engineer)
Silver Spring, MD

I started out in classical music. I’ve been doing hip hop, rnb, and pop for over 20 years.

WAVs vs MP3s :

Whenever possible, artists and producers should use WAV files (that have never at any point been an mp3).

Quality and file size are the primary differences between WAV files and MP3s. WAVs contain more information that results in a richer sound. At worst, mp3s can sound grainy and thin. MP3s are smaller files because they have less information, resulting in worse quality. Producers use MP3s out of convenience. They can be e-mailed and do not take up much space on a computer. While this is easier, it does not produce the best results.

Pictures are a good example of another media that works like this. Better quality pictures are generally larger files. Have you ever downloaded a small picture that has been scaled down for the internet and then enlarged it? If you did, you noticed it’s obvious pixelation and lack of clarity. When songs are scaled down to mp3 format, a similar thing happens. A file with over 16,000 kbs of information is striped down to become a file with just 320 kbs of information at best. So even if we expand the mp3 back into a larger WAV, the damage is already done.

So unless you are using an industry instrumental or a beat where the only thing available is MP3 format, it is always best for an artist to ask for the WAV files. Producers can e-mail WAV files by using free websites like,,, or

Tracked Out vs Stereo File :

First, let’s look at the terms here. A stereo file is a single file that contains a left and right channel. A song on a CD is a stereo file. When an instrumental is downloaded, that is a stereo file. Tracked out files (or ‘tracked out WAV files’ as they are usually referred to) will contain a single file for each instrument used. If the beat contains a synth, snare drum, kick drum, and hi hat, then there will be 4 files.

The advantage of using tracked out files, is it gives the engineer the ability to polish up the mix. If the snare drum needs a little more sizzle or bass drum a little more punch, it can be done when the tracked out WAVs are available. This is not possible with just a stereo file. It also allows the engineer and producer to collaborate to get the best sound possible.

The advantage of a stereo file is that it requires less work and less mixing time in the studio. If the instrumental was properly mixed or is only going to be used for a mixtape, this might be the best option.

Loud (limited or peaking) vs Clear :

Every artist and every producer wants their song to sound powerful. Volume is a primary factor. However, when a beat has been maxed out either by the overuse of limiting or peaking (going into the red), distortion results. When an instrumental is used in the studio, it should not be peaking or have any limiting on the master fader. The volumes will be maxed out in the mastering stage that is the very last stage of music production. If maxing out is done prior to mastering, sound clarity will suffer.

A Note to Producers on Sound Choices:

Selection of the sounds used to make a beat is extremely important. Take the time to select premium sounds. Bad sounds cannot be fixed in the mix. If an instrumental is being tracked out from a keyboard or beat machine, consider tracking out on a high quality pre-amp and interface. M-Boxes just don’t provide the richness that a quality instrumental deserves. Although some of the best sounds can be expensive and hard to find, it can be the difference in making the instrumental a hit.

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