So you sit down and have a great idea, maybe a beat, or synth line you can’t get out of your head, just waiting to be captured. Once you get that starting point out of the way, you want to build a track around it. Do you just start browsing your preset library for inspiration, or do you have something in mind already, and start looking for a certain sound? Maybe you know exactly what you want and just load up a blank preset on your favorite synth and start constructing your patch from scratch. Whichever way you find your sounds, it is a good idea to make some notes, and list out some characteristics of the sounds you are choosing versus the sounds you have. Use descriptors like “Low Bassy Synth” or “Plucking High Bell Sound”, try to describe the timbre, and where it may fall in the EQ spectrum to start. When you create a list of sounds and descriptions you can start to see what you are missing, to make a nice balanced track.
Once you have everything picked out, it is a good idea to just write some simple test melodies and parts for the instruments. Even if these parts are not going to be in the final track. Then load up a Spectrum Analyzer on the master track and start looking for spikes or big holes in your spectrum. Be careful not to create a big wall of sound. It is good to have some variety and movement in your spectrum, but you need to make sure that nothing is really unbalanced.
Doing this work up front makes it much easier, to not only pick extra sounds because you have a good feel for your spectral footprint, but then you avoid having to work the EQ really hard to remove those spikes on the offending instrument’s sound. It is a shame to have to dump that killer synth line because it muddies up your track.