Album Flow: Perfecting the Flow of Your Releases

Bruce Lee said it best, " Flow like water." When all is said and done, that is what you want your album to do. After the mixing and mastering, now you must perfect the albums flow. What makes an album flow?

What comes first, what goes last and what’s in between?

It’s called album sequencing—and smart sequencing is what makes your songs into an album.

In this article you’ll learn tips on ordering your tracks, how to create silences and fades between your songs, and how to create a compelling album feel with sequencing.

What is album sequencing?

Album sequencing is the process of ordering the songs on an album, EP or mixtape.

Sequencing includes defining the silence between songs, crafting fade-ins and outs between tracks and choosing the order of music on a release.

Why the heck is album sequencing important?

It’s your last chance to orchestrate the presentation of your songs before you distribute your music to the world.

Sequencing defines the relationship between each song. Your album is just someone's playlist without great sequencing.

Without good sequencing, your album is just another playlist.

Playlists and streaming have changed how we listen, but albums will never disappear. Single songs might get listeners interested initially, but full-lengths are how you turn them into your fans. Think about the last album you listen to all the way through-without skipping a record. For me, it was Kanye West's 808's and Heartbreaks. Today I can listen to it from beginning to end. What made that album and yours your favorite?

You’ve worked hard on every other part of your album, so take the time to concentrate on sequencing. When done well it will give every moment on your album more meaning.

But how do you create that impact and make it last?

How to create a compelling sequence

Sequencing is one of the most relatable, intuitive, and fun parts of working on your album.

If you grew up listening to music you already have a feel for it. Keep that in mind as you go—If something feels right, it probably is!

Here are some tips to get you started on sequencing your release:

1. Start strong

Lead with your most impactful track.

It’s vital. Remember you want them to not skip a song-you're inviting your listeners in for the long haul.

2. Pick your singles

If a song from your album has been released as a single, early in your line up is a good place to put it.

Relatability and connection early on for your fans is important.

3. Think like a record

Vinyl records have an A and B side. We live in the world of digital but nothings sounds authentically crispy like vinyl. Keep in mind your listeners might not necessarily get to experience your tracks on vinyl, but the idea of an A and B side can help structure your sequencing.

Putting longer or more challenging tracks near the end will give all those major music enthusiasts something to put on their ‘deep cuts’ playlist.

4. Your album sequence as a narrative & and you are the narrator

Your album is a journey!

Sequence your tracks throughout your album to build and release tension over the. Your tracks will hit harder individually, and the overall effect will be enhanced.

If you have a string of moody tracks, try following them up with something more up-lifting. This was something I really had to pay attention to when sequencing my latest album. I noticed a had clumped together the moody tracks and it just was a downer on the overall project.

The opposite works too. Group similar tracks together to sustain a vibe.

How to sequence your album in your DAW

Now that you’ve got a sense of the order of your songs, it’s time to arrange them in the DAW.

The best way to sequence an album is to bring all your bounced songs into a new DAW session.

This will allow you to easily switch the order, add gaps, and take care of your fades in relation to the rest of your tracks.

It’ll also let you hear how they’ll play back for an actual listener and help you ensure all your audio is ready for album mastering.

The two technical tools you need to know for sequencing in your DAW are fades and silence. Here’s how to use both to create the perfect album flow.

1. Add Fades

Applying fades is one of the fundamental functions of your DAW.

Understanding fades and using them musically to enhance the sequencing of your album is an art form. It sets the tone for how the listener will interpret the silence that separates your songs. Think about the silence after Adele's "Hello" its long and allows the listener to take in everything they just experienced.

When done right, fades can be a haunting and a dramatic feature of your album sequencing.

There isn’t really a hard rule about which type of fade works best where. The best advice is to use your ears, but keep the different styles in mind. It might not be obvious which one is best right away, so experiment with all of them from track to track.

Think about creating a fade-in or fade-out as a musical performance.

2. Add Silence

When it comes to sequencing, silence is just as powerful as sound.

When it comes to sequencing, silence is just as powerful as sound.

The gaps between your songs allow you to create the pacing for your album.

Longer periods of silence between songs can “reset” the listener. Use these longer breaks to your advantage. For example, this can be helpful if you need to take the listener’s focus away from two tracks that sound alike.

On the other hand, a shorter duration of silence can help you sustain a certain mood.

3. Allow you ambience to do the work

Allowing the full decay of a reverb tail to ring out can also prepare listeners for what’s coming next.

Again, you can use this effect to draw attention away from similarities between two tracks.

Try to treat your fade out like an extra part of your next song’s intro. The order of your songs and the ambience you leave should be linked.

4. Don’t see it, hear it.

Listen. Your music will give you clues on how to treat your silences.

Close your eyes while trying to determine silences. The visual reference your DAW provides can trick you into focusing more on how things look than how they sound.

5. Feel the pulse

Counting your bars and beats to determine the silence between tracks is a great way to add some rhythm to your silences.

Counting your bars and beats to determine the silence between tracks is a great way to add some rhythm to your silences.

This approach works to sustain the same energy between rhythmically similar tracks. Use your transients as markers and arrange your fades and silences accordingly.

Hot Tip: Don’t rely on this approach all the time. It can get predictable.

6. Zoom out

Be careful to no hyper focus on your fade times. microscope. This might cause you to hear shorter periods of silence as longer than they actually are.