How To Create A Radio Show - The 8-Step Method
If you're a radio show producer - this guide could literally be life-changing! Whether you are new to radio production, or a seasoned professional - the information in this article will offer some serious improvements to your methods.
There are several different methods for creating mixes for radio - and some are definitely better than others.
I'll show you the ultimate method of how to create a professional mix for radio, and some secret tips from the industry to help you achieve better results, with less effort.
I'll demonstrate how software like DJ.Studio can make a remarkable improvement to the radio mix production workflow, saving you masses of time, and expanding your potential for creativity and expression.
TL;DR - Creating Mix Music for Radio#
There are multiple approaches to making mixes for the radio.
Planning and several stages are needed to create the best mix.
Software like DJ.Studio can help you create a radio-ready mix really fast.
You need to use a few advanced techniques to maximize the audio quality of your show.
Mixing Music For Radio - The Basics#
There are a few different ways to make a radio mix.
You may have a preference for one, but you can either record mixes live or arrange them in a non-linear audio editor like a DAW or DJ.Studio.
A DAW stands for a digital audio workstation, which is a type of software used to edit audio or for creating music.
Both methods have strengths and weaknesses.
Mixing Your Radio Show Live
You may choose to create your mix using a live-performance method. This would involve planning out your set and organizing the sequence of tracks, then mixing it live using a pair of DJ decks or DJ controllers. You would record this live performance and then potentially add voiceovers and jingles in post-production.
This has the advantage of being able to freestyle and improvise in the moment, perhaps if you're hosting a live on-air radio show this would be the best option as you may be taking random breaks, talking to guests, and doing interviews. In which case you wouldn't want the whole show to be pre-baked into a single file. But.. you can always use DJ.Studio to create mini-mixes of a few songs.`
Mini-mixes can be a good way of splitting a larger mix or set of audio files into smaller sections. A mini mix is essentially a shorter mix of 2-4 tracks and can be used in a range of different ways.
These small, prepared mixes can help you to transition from one BPM to another. You can think of them as a DJ tool for switching from, say, hip-hop to house.
Mini Mixes are also really useful if you split your radio show into segments. For example, your show may be divided up into 15-minute sections, with interviews or adverts in between. You can create a bunch of mini-mixes, then arrange them in a set accordingly.
You can also use them to demonstrate some interesting transitions between songs. If you think there are a couple of songs that go really well together, why not record them into a single file and use that whenever you need?
DJ.Studio can be used to easily create mini-mixes - and the included tools let you add a wide range of creative flair and artistic expression, making your mixes more interesting and fresh.
Creating a full show in advance
Alternatively, creating a full pre-mixed show can save a lot of time, you don't have to worry about making mistakes, and you can also perfect a lot of your audio and transitions before releasing the show live.
With Software like DJ.Studio you can create your mix on a laptop, whereby you don't need to perform your set live, but you still need to arrange a full recorded mix.
For most radio presenters, unless you're doing a live show, the best option is to use digital audio workstation software like DJ.studio to save time and give yourself more creative and expressive freedom.
Creating a Radio Mix - Step-By-Step Guide#
Follow these steps to create the perfect mix for radio or get more tips on how to create a good dj mix.
1) The Planning Stage#
The first stage is planning. This stage is where you need to work out the parameters for your show.
Making a plan depends on the format of your radio show.
You need to work out:
How much time do you have to fill?
What kind of music do you need to play?
What kind of mood and energy do you need to bring?
Do you need any additional audio such as voiceovers or jingles?
You'll probably be told about these parameters when you agree to do a show.
First, you work out the total running length, minus any ad breaks - and if you'll be doing voiceovers or talking segments.
When you have a good idea of what your set needs to do you can start curating a selection of music to start organizing into a playlist
2) Selecting the Tracks#
Now you need to select songs.
After you've worked out the overall format and requirements of the show the next step is to choose a selection of music to use in your mix.
At this stage you don't necessarily need to plan out the order of your mix, you just need to decide on the overall selection of tracks to use, and then you can decide on the order later, although ultimately it's up to you.
It's worth choosing a pool of music that has a total combined running time about 20% longer than the amount of time you have to fill for your show, because you probably won't want to play the entire song every time, and also let you show a broader variety of music.
Then you can go about making notes of the BPM, key, and mood of each of these tracks to prepare your selection of music to arrange an order. When you use DJ.Studio you don't need to spend any time on this, as DJ.Studio does this automatically for you.
3) Choosing the Order and Arranging the Mix#
Next, you choose the order and arrange the songs in your mix. After you've chosen your songs, it's time to choose a sequence.
There are several ways of doing this, and ultimately the choice is up to you.
This is also a slight art form in itself, as many DJs will tell you sculpting the flow of a set can take a lot of practice to perfect.
You may already have a rough idea based on the music that you're playing. For instance, you might start low energy and build up to some more fast-paced music, or you might do it the other way around, or even just maintain consistent energy. You can always create a rough sequence test out, and then shuffle things around a bit as you see fit.
Alternatively, you may choose to do things based on BPM and key, this can take a little more preparation time in most cases - unless you use software like DJ.studio which can take out a lot of the gas work and extra effort. DJ.Studio can create a smooth process for automatically sequencing tracks in your mix - all you need to do is hit the automix button, but more on that later.
After you have decided on the sequencing of your DJ set, it's time to go ahead and build the mix. The way this is done is different if you are performing live, or if you are using nonlinear software to sequence the mix in a timeline without having to manually spin the decks.
4) Making Transitions#
After choosing an order, you need to build the mix and decide on transitions.
Essentially you want to make the change from one track to the next smooth as possible, or as artistic as possible, making sure the transitions flow coherently without any awkwardness.
A lot of this seamlessness comes down to how well you prepare and sequence your tracks - making sure that the tempo and key of each track are compatible and synchronized so it doesn't sound awkward.
If you're audio mixing in real-time, manually transitioning takes a lot of practice to master, let alone get creative with - so you may need to spend a few months learning how to DJ and learn how to mix properly to do this well. Alternatively, you can use a keyboard and mouse to manually create a professionally mixed song in more detail using nonlinear software.
There are tons of different ways that you can get creative for your transitions, it all depends on the kind of tools you want to use.
Obviously, the main tool is changing the volume level of tracks, which you can control using a channel fader or a crossfader. Additionally, tools like EQs, filters, reverbs, delays, and loops will make for exciting and creative transitions.
Whether you do these live or on a timeline is up to you. If you're doing them live then you're going to want to practice it a few times before you go into recording, because otherwise if you make a mistake you have to go back to the beginning or edit the mistakes out which adds up more time to your production process.
Check out our full guide on DJ Transition Techniques!
5) Recording the Mix#
When you're happy with the sequence and transitions, it's time to record the mix.
If you're doing this live then you need to plug your DJ software or controller into some kind of recorder - maybe this is a computer, phone, or another type of handheld recorder. Alternatively, some DJ software has recording features built-in.
Now all you have to do is hit record, then play your first song and transition from track to track performing the transitions as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.
If you need to learn how to DJ from start to finish, we explain the full process in our guide DJing Mixing For Beginners. You can learn a lot about mixing techniques in that guide. It can take a while to practice before you sound good though, although practice is a fun part of the DJing process.
This is one of the important skills for creating engaging mixes for radio, although, even if you have minimal DJ knowledge and experience, you can still put together a good mix, even more so with non-linear software where you don't have to rely on physical techniques of DJing.
Some software like DJ.studio simply lets you record your mix at the click of a button. In these non-linear editors, if you've already laid out your mix, it's just a matter of recording it to a single file.
Much non-linear software will require you to export to render the mix as a complete audio file. DJ.Studio has a 5x real-time recording feature so you simply hit record and your mix is bounced down to a single track. If it was an hour-long mix, this process would only take 3 minutes, which shows how much time you can save using this kind of software.
After you've recorded tracks and transitions seamlessly for your mix there are a few more steps that you should go through before it's ready to release.
6) Adding Voiceovers, Jingles, and Effects#
After you've recorded your mix you may want to add voiceovers, jingles, sound effects, or adverts into your set.
The easiest way to do this is by using some audio editing software.
Some good examples of this are Reaper which is a free program, Ableton Live which is great for music production, and Logic which is a good option for music producers on Apple Macs. Garageband is also very easy to use and free. Pro Tools is a more professional, but more complex system. There are a bunch of other tools you can use too.
You will need to use a microphone to capture the audio recording for your voiceovers, and obviously recording voiceovers in an acoustically treated space will yield the best results as it will create the cleanest voice recordings.
If you're adding any of these audio elements you can either choose to lay them over the top of the audio of your mix, or create gaps in your mix where you fade down the volume, add the voiceover, then bring the volume back up for your music to continue playing - the choice is up to you.
The great thing about DJ.Studio is that you can export your mix to an Ableton live file, so that you can use all the voiceovers and jingles in Ableton itself, which was probably part of your regular workflow anyway!
7) Final Edits, Mixing, Mastering#
After the mix is recorded, voiceovers and jingles and ads have been added, it's time to do the final editing mixing, and mastering. This is most easily done using a digital audio workstation - a type of multitrack recording software that's typically used for editing audio, or creating and releasing music.
Editing is simply the process of making sure there are no mistakes and making sure that the overall flow of the set is uninterrupted and clean. It may be worth comparing the audio to a reference track or other radio show to make sure your production sounds good in relation to other work.
Fine Tuning the Mix down
The mixing stage is the process of setting the volume and the levels of music and voiceovers to make sure the levels are consistent and you can hear everything in a well balanced mix. Because you have multiple sounds in your radio show - the music, voices, jingles, ads, etcetera, all the volumes for the different sounds need to be balanced.
You want to make sure that the music is mostly the same level, and the frequency spectrum is balanced, so high frequencies and low frequencies aren't excessive or lacking. You also want to make sure the pan (the balance in the stereo field between left and right speakers) is equal too. All the sounds and tracks should sound good.
Mastering the audio
The mastering process is slightly more technical and requires a certain level of understanding of how digital audio works.
The main purpose of mastering is to make sure that the peak volume and the dynamic range of your set are suitable for the platform it's released in.
Different platforms like radio stations, streaming services, iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube, will have slightly different format requests in terms of dynamic range and volume.
If you're not sure what dynamic range is - it's simply the distance between the loudest and quietest parts of audio files. You use compression to make sure that the dynamic range isn't too wide. The purpose of this is so that the listener doesn't have to keep fiddling with the volume control on their stereo so they can hear everything, everything should be at a similar level of loudness.
The second point of mastering is to make sure that the frequency content is ok, and that there are no clips or overloads, or otherwise unwanted audio errors that will cause issues on playback systems. Mastering is the final stage where you can fix any problems with the audio quality of your mix before sending it off the distribution. For example, if the concentration of bass frequencies is too high, the music might not sound good on all speakers.
If you feel daunted by this process you can hire a mastering engineer or music producer to take over the task of mixing and mastering. If you don't have much experience working with digital audio workstations, you will only be able to create a rough mix down, so use a skilled engineer to achieve a professional mix.
After the set is mixed, mastered, and ready to go, it's just a matter of exporting it.
Of course, make sure you listen through fully before sending it off just to make sure there are no mistakes.
Exporting is fairly easy - you just export it from your current audio software project into a file.
Typically WAV files offer higher audio quality although they do use up more hard drive space, compared to MP3s which offer lowered quality but use less storage space.
Once you've exported your mix all you had to have to do is send it to the radio station producer who will then load it into whatever system that you use to play it through the air. Congratulations!
How DJ.Studio Improves Your Radio Production Workflow#
If you've ever been through the process of creating radio sets before, you know how time-consuming it can be. From selecting the tracks to sequencing them in a logical order, to recording your mix, to mastering and mixing it, to checking it, and then finally exporting it - this takes a lot of time that could otherwise be spent focusing on the creative elements of your radio production.
Now, this is where software like DJ studio can make a huge difference in the radio production workflow. If you are regularly producing shows for radio or similar podcast formats, then using the time-saving features of DJ studio will make your life a lot easier.
Here's a rundown of the features that help:
It makes it easy to import audio from a variety of sources into one centralized mixing location. Because it has integration with a bunch of stream and platforms and other DJ software it makes it super fast to build a DJ set no matter how spread out your playlists are.
The smart automix features make it incredibly fast to create a logical seamless progression from your selection of tracks. It uses intelligent detection and analysis algorithms to identify the optimal sequence of a chosen playlist of tracks. This means that the transitions will be seamless, and even harmonic which creates a very satisfying and professional feel.
It also makes it super easy to craft compelling and creative transitions which you don't need to worry about performing live where you can make mistakes. You can spend as much time as you need tweaking them and using more effects in a sophisticated way than you would be able to simply using two hands on a DJ mixer.
You also have the incredible time-saving ability to be able to export and record the mix in one button click. This makes it lightning-fast to bounce down hours of audio content into a file, without having to wait for the full length of time it would otherwise create.
The export to Ableton live project lets you export the project as a multi-track Ableton project. When you open this in Ableton you will see your entire mix as a multi-track arrangement with a separate track for each of the songs, arranged just as you had it. In Ableton you can add all your jingles and voiceovers and master the mix like you normally would.
Closing Thoughts - How to Create Mix Music For Radio#
Follow this process and you will quickly be able to put together a high-quality radio set. Once you've gone through the steps a couple of times you will be able to make radio sets without even thinking about the process.
If you have to regularly make DJ sets and radio mixes, then a DAW like DJ.Studio will save you hours of time, every time you need to mix!
The key to creating a good radio set is planning and track selection. You need to make sure the set is filled with interesting music that will resonate with the station's audience. No matter how much technical skill you have, if the selection is boring, your listeners won't want to lock in.
FAQs About Creating Radio Shows
- How to make your own radio show?
- Can anyone make a radio show?
- How do you make a good radio show?