If you are planning on starting music production or want to become a better producer overall, then it is important to determine which techniques are the most efficient, and which ones to avoid. Usually, it’s always a good idea to not only analyze the techniques but also the mindset behind the artistic process. Keep reading to find out how you can get better at music production.
How to Get Better at Music Production
Choosing the Right Samples
For the sampling process, you need to have a basic idea of what you intend to create. Once you have that down, you should then find an appropriate genre where you can find sounds relevant to your concept. You want to pick sounds that mesh well together. This is the most important step in the process. However, the trick here is to occasionally try messing around with different genres of music. Spend some time listening to music you know very little about. Eventually, certain sounds will appeal to you more. Just use those since that is what you like! It is important to not copy others, but to go with your own sound.
Practice Song Writing (write more songs!)
Music, like any other process, requires practice and consistency; no one is good at it from the get-go. You have to go through writing a dozen dreadful songs before eventually writing good ones, so keep on writing. Just keep in mind that people tend to notice harmonies and melodies that they enjoy first. As much as composition is essential, it should be followed by proper implementation. With enough practice and time, you will understand why certain parts sounded band and what things great songs rely on that results in great music.
Enjoy the Process
You need to enjoy the process, period! When you start out, don’t stress out about finishing the song. Instead, focus on learning the writing and design process. In addition to basic song structure, play around with the tools you have and use your imagination! Just as a child would imagine playing with toys. This is the kind of mindset you need to get into while doing music.
No one else can determine what will be fun for you. You are in the process of creating something, but whatever you create is a reaction to something. You should focus on enjoying the process while setting up the stage. You will find how you feel about music and what it truly means to you by fooling around, learning the art of making music while you are having a blast doing it!
Recreate your Favorite Tracks
Recreating other people’s songs is where you learn to get your own tracks to sound as good as your favorites. Try to mimic the track’s style, and sound from scratch. Then, try to accurately recreate the arrangements and melodies. Focus on getting as close as you can to the reference track. This exercise will help take your production skills to the next level, and also develop you as a musician.
After you are done with the musical part, start working on the technical aspect. Try matching the tracks’ frequency spectrum. Make sure that it already sounds similar in the mix-down. Don’t start mastering. Instead, repeat the process until you are satisfied with the results. This realistically is a matter of testing to figure out what sits well with you. On some occasions, you might even end up repeating from scratch. However, as much as this process is aggravating and time-intensive, it is essential to become a better producer.
Make it Your Own
Use what you have learned to create your own. At this stage, you will find your efforts come to fruition. Even when you are capable of creating awesome tracks, you still have one final step to take: distinguishing yourself from other producers.
You want to create great music that will make you stand out. Hence, you will have to capitalize on your creativity. If you’re targeting the mainstream market, you want your work to be unique yet familiar enough to be recognizable. You should also determine what type of music you want to create. Essentially, this is where you factor yourself in.
To be completely transparent, if you are not going to put in the work then don’t expect things to work out for you. Don’t assume you will be releasing bangers after only a few weeks either. However, as intense as this process is, it is a tried and tested way for you to advance your production skills.
Hold off on the EQ
Hold off on the EQ! Ideally, until the very end. You want to avoid wasting your time fixing minor flaws. Instead, focus on the main aspects of the process such as songwriting and coming up with catchy melodies and unique chord progressions. Once you have a firm foundation, you will instinctively find yourself working towards fixing the most conspicuous problems in your track. Eventually, you will have to EQ your track; At that point, feel free to EQ the hell out of it!
If you intend to introduce background elements in your tracks, then just making them quieter than your ‘upfront sounds’ is not enough. You also want to cut the treble down, so in the end the whole thing sounds like it has less top end. This is how high frequencies are absorbed in the air. Make use of an EQ with a low pass filter (High shelf EQs) to manage theese high end frequencies.
Context for Compression
Try to match the levels of compressed and bypassed signals so you can alternate between them efficiently. It isn’t easy to compress a track while it is just running solo. Adjust your release and attack knob while your threshold is fixed, that way you will be able to hear any changes in the sound waves. Then, gradually increase the threshold so the track is still being over-compressed until you find the correct ratio. While the rest of the track is going under, vary the threshold so the gain reduction is changing between smacked -8 to -12db and very light -2 to -3db. Keep alternating between both.
You might dislike the sound of a solo’d track being compressed. Yet, if you take the program material as the context, the sound is probably just fine. If you’re still not feeling it, try moving the track you don’t like to a different fader, or maybe try using a compressor that has a mix knob. You’re going to have to experiment to get everything right, music production is never a predetermined plug and play type scenario.
Out of all the complexities in music production, one major takeaway (for a beginner) is to avoid having a low signal in the preamp stage and then increasing it in the mix bus stage.
Any source you are using to record should have sufficient headroom so you can account for unexpected peaks. Yet, not so high that you’ll have to increase it later on because of low signal. Essentially, find a recording source with just enough headroom and proper filtering capability, then utilize end faders to cut your audio. Avoid adding volume to your track. This way, you would reduce the overall noise in your mix because of the reduced noise floor.
Listening to your Mixes
When you’re working on a mix, occasionally turn the volume on your monitors down to a point where only the main elements are audible, use that as reference when mixing and then turn it back up. Keep alternating between both states. By doing this, you get a good perspective on both sides of your track. Just make sure to avoid raising the volume above the normal levels to prevent any sort of hearing damage over the long run.
Use different devices to playback your tracks: phones, stereos, headphones, earphones, etc. Take note of how your track compares to professional tracks on different systems, then fix any conspicuous issues. For instance, your track’s high-frequency parts might sound distorted on a car’s sound system. You could have overlooked this if you only relied on your studio’s sound system for monitoring. So note the issue then address it when possible.
In any creative process, It’s always important to look at things from different perspectives. Therefore, after your daily dose of audio mixing, indulge in a different activity. That way, you will have a fresh perspective when you come back; similarly, avoid releasing your track right after you finish it. Instead, Listen to it on multiple occasions before releasing it.
Filling up Empty Spaces
Utilize white noise, just make sure to only include it in the parts where you need to fill the spectrum. Make sure you also fill your stereo field’s whole range, especially at the sides. To produce white noise, find an empty park to record at, or maybe just wait for nightfall; it’s up to you to experiment. Follow this by proper sidechaining and EQing until you think your sound is usable. By doing so, you will add a sort of natural atmosphere or noise floor to your mix. You could also try experimenting with using more than one mic. Maybe even land yourself a decent stereo recorder.
Use Contrast Wisely
Most producers assume that their track sounds somewhat empty and needs major changes. As a result, they fall into the trap of overusing elements. They usually go about adding noise to the mix so it doesn’t sound dull. However, this causes the loudest part of the track to sound quieter. Because the loudness of a certain sound is relative to the context it’s in. You should differentiate between the loudness achieved by turning the volume knob up and the loudness achieved by adding contrast between the quieter and louder sound in a track. You could FEEL the loudness due to contrast.
Learn to Play an Instrument
Playing an instrument will significantly help you in the creation process, especially when you feel like improvising. You will effectively be able to perform any musical ideas that come to mind without losing the flow. Simply put, learning to play an instrument is the entry point of the musical world. You don’t have to be a virtuoso at playing your instrument, but occasionally jamming on a physical one will more likely help you carve certain concepts into your brain. The digital implementation will consequently follow.
Your track should sound flawless when you want to master it. At this point, you will only master it to enhance some of its characteristics or bring up its overall loudness.
Set a daily routine
If you allocate time periodically for a certain habit, you are more likely to maintain it. Motivation alone might not be enough to keep you going, especially If your mindset is tailored towards mastering music production. you will feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of details you have to account for. Therefore, by setting a daily routine, you reserve some sort of time block for the tasks you hope to achieve, hence becoming more consistent in your learning process.
Start making connections in the music production field. Find online or local communities where you could befriend people with similar interests. Then, start giving feedback on each other’s work. Just make sure not to take any feedback to heart. If you disagree with certain feedback, then remember that it is completely up to you whether you want to make any sort of modification. Music is a form of art. So, without challenging the norm, music would have never progressed. Hence, be open to any advice or criticism, but only use it when YOU you want to.