How To Make Radio Jingles

Jingles are essential for radio stations. Be it to reinforce the station's brand, or to provide income via sponsorship. They can be as easy or as hard to make as you allow. All will require a level of proficiency with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) however this is a skill that can be developed as you learn and practice.

With this post, I'm not always going to go in depth with each method, instead, I will link to appropriate sites so you can click to learn more only if you need to.


Basics

The first thing you need is a DAW. I would recommend Reaper since it is a software that can be completely free. It has an unlimited, all inclusive free trial period however I would recommend you pay for the license as soon as you can to maintain support for it. Other software you can use are AudacityGaragebandAdobe Audition,  Logic, and Pro Tools. The latter three coming at a cost that may not be accessible for smaller Radio Stations.

This is a typical jingle production I made in Reaper, what I'd recommend.

Secondly you need either good studio headphones or, studio monitors. This will ensure you are mixing accurately and providing the best sounding Jingle. If you choose bad speakers or headphones, you may be EQing incorrectly and may not hear the bass frequencies at all.

A good quality microphone is essential if you want a good sounding speaker. Use an Audio Interface to link it to your DAW

Finally, you need to decide whether you will compose the jingle or if you will use samples and sound beds. Many sample and bed packs come royalty free and allow for commercial use. These are the ones to download. Look for drum loops, bass lines and instrument loops.

Getting Started

Let's start by examining what a jingle does. Firstly it identifies the brand and has to be memorable and prominent. This is essential for the listener to identify what they are listening to and who the show's sponsors are.

Because it has to relate to the listener, consider the style of sound the jingle uses. For a metal station, the jingle may be laden with awesome riffs and a gritty voice, for a club sponsor, expect to need good dancy basslines that sum up the night a club-goer would experience.

Use this knowledge when scouring the internet for appropriate samples.

Once you have them, or if you want to compose your own jingle from scratch, you need to consider music theory. A jingle will sound atrocious if all the elements are out of key with each other. You will need to ensure everything is the same key and tempo.

This also applies, to an extent, with the songs played on the show. If you have a deep house show that remains around 120BPM throughout, you would expect the jingle to be of a similar tempo so the flow isn't disrupted.

Composition

Now you know what you are going to make, start with the music and FX in the background. What you are looking for is a sound that won't drown out the voice when it talks. Look for instruments that don't clash frequency ranges with the person who you aim to record. A male, for example, could clash with low frequency guitar chords. This could be solved later using hard EQing but it is so much simpler to arrange the music to avoid as much work as possible.

The jingle should last around 15-20 seconds in most cases, providing enough time to provide all necessary information.

I normally start my jingles with a sound effect and, likewise, end them with one. This means it doesn't clash with the previous song, nor the one after. Sound effects can be backspins, cinematic booms, vocal shots e.t.c. and try to incorporate one appropriate for the brand.

Here you can see I have added a drum loop, with an FX sample on each end.

Mixing

The aim of mixing is to make all the levels appropriate. In a jingle, you need to ensure the voice is prominent. The first way to do this is examine the frequencies in the voice. Below is an EQ of my voice using ReaEQ (A free EQ that comes with Reaper). 


Notice how there are a lot of frequencies that aren't in a human voice? For example, the human voice doesn't really drop below 100Hz, certainly not mine, so we can clear all that out using a high pass or a low shelf filter. Then we may find some other frequencies that we may not want, so we cut them too.

Above you can see my changes, I also dropped the 560Hz because in my case it was the frequency that made my voice sound like it was playing through a telephone. I boosted around 4kHz too as it sounded better. 

EQ to what sounds good. However if you are struggling, there are EQ cheat sheets available online. But I decided to bless all you pretty people with an image as well xxx



You want to do the opposite for the rest of the background music, This means the frequencies of the voice have more room to sit in. Let's say my voice was especially prominent at 400Hz, dip that frequency in the backing bed.

Does the voice sound good? Probably. Can it be even better? Probably. By adding a side-chain compressor to the backing, the volume will decrease slightly when the voice speaks, similar to how the music dips in radio when the presenter talks. The methods on doing that is available HERE and here (video alternative).

The rules of mixing music vary slightly to mixing jingles. In a song, you want good dynamic range and will get shot down for over-compression, in a jingle however, you want it to be prominent and loud. As it is only seconds long, you can afford to have a very compressed sound that appears slightly louder than the rest of the songs you play in the show. 

This doesn't mean you can brickwall the sound completely as that will always sound bad. But, you can push the compressors and limiters a bit more than you would normally.

Final Relevant Links

Most of these sites will require a login but that is the least difficult thing in this tutorial so you can all figure it out. You will have to double check if the samples you are downloading are legal to use for this purpose. Or just add a fuck ton of effects so they are unrecognisable  
^^^Totally not recommended nor something I would ever do [cough] ^^^