This article comes from Jesse’s streaming video course DIY Mastering available through CreativeLive.
Sequencing your record is an important part of crafting a great final product, yet many musicians use flawed logic.
Concepts Over Content - Sequencing your record can be an unexpected trouble in the process of finishing your album. One of the biggest mistakes young musicians make is coming in with a list of what the song order should be without ever having listened to that order. In this day and age of DAWs and iTunes playlists, there is no reason to ever do this. Before coming into the studio, experiment at home with iTunes, Garageband or your own DAW and you may discover a much different perspective than the order you thought the songs should go in. This usually brings good results. The way the moods of different songs blend together is hard for many musicians to conceptualize. Instead, use your ears and your emotions. Listen back to how they blend together and you’ll make much better decisions.
From Best To Worst - If you’re an unknown musician, it’s usually smart to make the first song on your record one that blows everyone away. But this isn’t always the right path. Countless musicians decide that they should sequence their record from the best song to their least favorite. While there are exceptions, this idea will fail more often than it will work. What most listeners are looking for in a record is an emotion and when you scatter the emotional movements of a record in a random way, it can be very disruptive to the flow of the album. Having your record’s ballads come on tracks 2 and 9 can give the listener an emotional roller coaster. While every record requires a new approach to its emotional sequencing, be sure that you don’t have a party rocking song segue right into the ballad just because they go in sequence of your favorite to least favorite. Think about the emotional experience a listener will have and you’ll have a record that listeners enjoy much more.
Sequence On Beat - Determining the space between your songs on your record is one of those subtle details that can make a big difference in the flow of your record. One of the subtle tricks that can make a record work a little better is to sequence your record so that each song comes in on beat. Making a song come in based on the tempo of the previous song can provide a natural flow. This can be especially important on recordings with rigid tempos, like many dance records.