In the process of re-editing a custom music remix for one of my clients, I realized that many things that are common knowledge in the audio and music world are not common knowledge for dance parents and others who don’t have an extensive music background. So here are a few tidbits about making sure your music sounds the best it can be, and factors that do or don’t contribute to degrading the music quality.
As always, garbage in equals garbage out.
When working with music, you need to start with (obviously) great sounding music. Once audio has been degraded, you can never really get it back to how it sounded before. You can use a few tricks to try to repair damage, but it will never be as good as the original. It’s kind of like trying to repair a painting that has been faded, ripped and torn. You can try to patch it up, but it won’t be the same.
How this applies to your dance music: Nearly all the music you can get for free has been degraded or compressed. Mp3s can be high quality, medium quality, or low quality. Music obtained by scraping a YouTube video is always medium-to-low quality. If you want your music to sound the best it can be, always start with a high quality version of your song. Buy the CD or purchase it from iTunes or Amazon. If you edit your song and save it as an mp3, always save it with a bit rate of at least 256k/sec, and if the software you are using has a Quality option, make sure it is set on “Highest”.
Burn your music on a name-brand CD-R.
Some people might think that different brands of Recordable CDs (CD-Rs) have a different quality of sound on them. This thinking is a holdover from the days of cassettes, where there existed varying qualities of cassettes, and the music would be affected accordingly. In today’s digital world, the brand of CD does not affect the sound quality of the music that is encoded. Either the bits and bytes are encoded, or they are not, and that is where the brand of CD makes a difference. A generic or no-name brand will sound identical to a name-brand CD, IF the bits are encoded properly, and the CD player you are putting it in can read it.
The difference between generic-brand CD-Rs and high quality CD-Rs is not in the sound quality of music, but the robustness of the data stored on them. Name-brand CD-Rs will almost never have a bad disc, or a bad batch of discs, whereas you will sometimes encounter a run of unwritable CD-Rs with a generic brand. Also, with the high quality CD-Rs, because the data is etched in a better layer of material, it will play in nearly all CD-players. So with the name brand CD-Rs, you don’t have to worry if your CD will play at competition, or perhaps even cut out half way through the song.
This is also where we go back to the Garbage In Equals Garbage Out rule of audio. If you start with a bad sounding song downloaded from a YouTube video, then it will still sound bad even though you burn it onto a CD. If you start with beautiful sounding music, but save it as a low-quality, low-bit rate mp3, then you will have a low quality song when you put it on CD.
Hope this helps clear up a few things about making sure your dance music sounds the best it can be! If you have any other questions about dance music, please post it in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer it as best as I can!