As we all know, music is more than just a job. It's a passion and a form of entertainment. And just imagine producing it yourself! It's a steep learning curve. Very steep. However, these music production tips can help you a tiny bit in your journey!
Try to not just skim over them but read and reflect them. And the most important thing to do is to put them into practice!
1) Start With An Idea In Mind
After producing for a while, you will understand that it's not the fancy software or equipment that makes your music special. It's your style and your ideas. Start with a melody or a pattern in mind and keep adding on until you have a full track put together!
2) Environment Is A Crucial Factor
Every room sounds different. You may agree with this or disagree, but it's a fact. DJs and beatmakers often produce on the go, and that's fine (remember when they were using Pulselocker before it went bankrupt?). The more you produce in the same room with the same equipment, the more you get used to it. There is no need to worry about unknown noises or missing gear!
The more comfortable you are, the better your music is going to end up being.
3) Don't Overmix The Song
Think of your track as if it was a movie. You want the scene to be interesting but too many things happening at the same time will confuse the viewer. Same applies to music. You can't just stuff each frequency range with as many sounds as possible just to make it “better.” More sounds rarely equal to the overall better track quality.
Therefore, keep everything clean and neat when mixing!
4) A Good Technique
These days it's not hard to start making music. Literally, anyone can download a cracked DAW and call themselves a producer. The actual talent is developing your skills in the program (FL Studio, for example), getting to know chords and scales, and being able to put everything together afterwards in a proper way.
5) Get Some Feedback
A lot of people want the feedback but don't take criticism very well. Or they just don't have an unbiased pair of ears to listen to the track. Your mom will love it no matter what. Your dad won't tell you that he doesn't like it at all. Moreover, even if they do, they can't really give you any constructive criticism.
Get to know other producers. Give them your opinion and ask for theirs. Pretty easy don't you think?
6) Don't Overwork Yourself
Have you ever worked on a track for a week straight non-stop? And kind of managed to put everything together afterwards. Naturally, you expect it to be one of your best works. You turn it on in your car, and it sounds worse than the beat you made in fifteen minutes the other day. How is this possible?
It's called writer's block. Some days you just don't feel like making music. Some people say you have to still put yourself to work. Others believe you should take a break. Remember that without breaks (and it can be a day or two sometimes) you will burn out. If this happens, good luck producing anything at all!
7) Be Ready To Invest
We all know producing takes a lot of time. What some people don't realize is that you have to invest not just time but money also. When you sell your first beat, go and grab a coffee or something, but reinvest the rest. Same applies to your first 10,000 Spotify plays. Investing is the key.
The better the equipment, the more you are going to make. The more you make, the more you can invest in your equipment and other services to make even more. It's kind of an infinite loop, and that's how most small businesses work these days.
8) Use Good Samples
It's a lot easier to pick good samples and patch them a little bit than pick bad samples and spend hours to make them sound right. Even if this means that you have to pay for them sometimes.
9) Reverse Mixing
Instead of making everything in the mix louder with gain, try making certain elements quieter. Doesn't work all the time, but you can implement this strategy with more melodic songs. Be smart and leave some headroom for a mastering engineer. Leave as much headroom as possible. If it's a good mastering engineer, you won't recognize your new track.
It's going to sound incredible and clean. Give it a shot for once.
10) Stay Open Minded
There is a lot of hate going on when it comes to presets. A lot of producers believe that you have to tweak the preset here and there to avoid sounding generic. This is not always true. Sometimes you try a preset and it blends in with the rest of the track perfectly. Add a couple of effects or cut some frequencies and you are set!
11) It's Not About What You Have
You don't need a million dollar studio with thousands of dollars worth of equipment to make something good. Make the music that you feel like making. Don't overstress about the equipment. Just use what you have. Legit music fans will appreciate it more than another pop song.
12) Avoid cliche sound sources
For example, when making a rap beat, try replacing 808 basses with something different for once. And stop rolling the hi-hats like everybody else. That's kind of the industry standard, so everybody is doing this.
Try something new for a change, and maybe you'll come up with a new “standard.” It's not like you are losing anything, am I right?
13) Focus On The Loops
You can make a fantastic melody snippet, a punchy drum pattern, and a fat bassline. However, when you put them together, they sound horrible. That's why you should work on a loop as a whole and not on every element one by one. That's a mistake a lot of beginners make.
They focus on instruments one by one and forget that they are making a track and not a sample pack. So yeah, try getting your loops right, that's crucial.
14) Rest Your Ears Before Session
Of course, you want to get inspired by others. This makes sense, we all do. However, sometimes it can be counterproductive to listen to the artists you love as you will try to copy some of their tracks' details instead of coming up with your own.
It a rule of thumb to let your brain and ears rest from music for an hour or so before the session. You will likely come up with your own melodies, patterns, and ideas.
You may think that you are too experienced to collab with amateur, but this is rarely true. We all have different skills and passions. Some guys make amazing melodies and drums but don't know how to mix. Or they know how to record to minimize the noise but can't mix even a simple drum loop.
The more you work with other people, the more you learn. And don't forget about connections. Knowing people in this industry is everything.
16) If It's Bad, Then It's Bad
Some beats or tracks that you make won't sound right. No matter how much you tweak, cut, or mix it, it will be nothing more than a turd. Some producers will listen to their ego saying that they can't make bad beats, there is no way.
With all these top plugins and hardware there is just no chance. Then they'll spend hours and days perfecting the beat in order to get negative feedback anyways. Sometimes it's better to start all over instead of getting bogged down in the small stuff, you feel me?
17) Don't Overthink
Just go with the flow and enjoy what you are doing. Get stuff done, edit it and clean the track up in the end. Overthinking doesn't help anyone. It's like picking the best font for your resume. There are hundreds of them so which one do you choose? The last thing the employer will care about is your font.
Same applies to producing music. If the bell and 2:56 is too loud, it's okay. Don't sweat it. Little mistakes make you a better producer.
18) Comfort Is Important
Some people love working in professional recording studios. Others prefer local coffee shops or their home studios. Depends on how formal and demanding you want the environment to be. You can say that having hardware and a powerful PC is a must have, but some producers work with a pair of headphones and a laptop.
Don't look at others and do whatever feels the most comfortable.
19) Less Is More
“Less is more” is not just a saying and an art movement. It also applies to music. Even when making aggressive and “loud” songs, it's still better to leave some space.
20) Listen For Mistakes
Mistakes are not always bad. They can also be so-called “happy accidents.” In fact, some equipment is used completely differently than intended. And all because of a mistake!
21) Don't Let Music Genres To Define Your Sound
We all come from different backgrounds and have been exposed to different music throughout our lives. If you start producing hip-hop, it doesn't mean you can't record some guitar as your melody just because most beatmakers don't do that. On the contrary, it will make your music somewhat unique.
22) Trust Your Ears
These days people love visuals, and digital audio stations‘ creators know that. The more visuals a plugin has, the more popular it is. However, sometimes it's important to trust your ears. That's what most mixing and mastering engineers do.
You can still do well with all the visuals, but it's important to remember that training your ears is a must. You need some assistance in the beginning, but as you grow up as a producer, you should move away from visuals and rely on your ears more.
23) Keep Moving Forward
Can you name an artist whose songs all sound the same? You probably can. They got one banger and just keep following the same path and hoping it will do just as well. The audience will take a couple more hit, but then people just get tired if you keep repeating yourself.
Look for new directions and ideas to avoid sounding plain and boring.
24) Don't Get Distracted
Stay away from your phone and the Internet in general while producing. Take a break every hour or so if you really need to but stay wholly focused in the meanwhile.
Time is precious, and it's so easy to lose focus when you get a message about a party or something like that from your friends. Now instead of making music, all you do is looking forward to the “fun times.”
25) Stay Motivated And Driven
The music industry is very tuff and unfair. It's hard if not nearly impossible to get places. There are 10 or so trending artists at a time and millions of music producers. What are the odds? Not great, let's be honest. However, this doesn't mean that you should not try hard. What are you going to lose if you give it a shot?
Probably not a whole lot. So stay motivated and keep pushing. Don't expect to make ten beats and start making a living from your music. It will take months or even years until you see any income coming. Although once you do, it will be a lot easier. You have to keep pushing until you cross the very first line.
26) Don't Be Scared Of The Record Button
A lot of beginners who record instruments or sing take their time tuning their guitar or practicing the chords on the keyboard before recording. It's important but don't waste your “prime time” which tends to be the first thirty minutes completely.
Do a quick check or run for a few minutes and hit that record button. You will be able to capture something random that sounds amazing and unusual by accident!
27) Use Multiple Reference Points
Some beginners only use their studio headphones to produce. And this is okay, you can still make beats, especially if you don't have a lot of space for all the hardware. However, having multiple reference points will help you mix better. People listen to music differently. They may use headphones, their car speakers or Alexa.
If you want to make your track sound good on everything you need to listen to it on everything. It's simple as that.
28) You Can't Hear It, But It's Still There
I am talking about very low volume sound layers that create a specific atmosphere or so-called “vibe.” It doesn't have to be a thick and juicy bass line. An ambiguous pad or a vintage crackle sound won't necessarily be on the surface, but they can change the ways listeners “feel” the song.
29) Know What Audience Your Are Making Music For
It applies to both the people and the environment. If it's a nightclub, we want to hear some hip hop and EDM jams. Or country, if you are in Nashville. You got what I am saying.
Nobody comes to a rave music festival to listen to rock. It's usually the place where DJs (like my pals Futurenova and DNVX) come and play all kinds of electronic music. The point is, know your fans and make music for them. Try to relate to their problems, interests, etc.
30) It's Not About The Gear
Your mic doesn't have to cost you $3000+. It can be a $100 microphone. Will you notice the quality decrease? If you are not an audio engineer and haven't recorded with tens of different mics, you won't notice much difference. So don't worry if you don't have a lot of money to spare.
31) Don't Follow The Trends Blindly
The fact that everyone is using 808's doesn't mean that you are obligated to do the same. If your artsy successful friend loves Serum, but you don't really dig it, that's fine. Don't mimic your favorite songs but try being yourself and finding your own sound. Something to think about, you know.
32) Don't Lose Inspiration
If you are losing the motivation and don't feel it anymore try working with new people, make some cheap beats for your friends and influencers (someone like my boy Carson Gron) in the industry, or create some kind of a challenge. Things will get better as you get some traction.
33) Say “No” To Overused Acapellas
Everybody these days is using very similar acapellas that come in very popular sample packages. That's slowly become a cliche. Try getting real vocalists to sing for you or even try doing this yourself. Add a couple of effects, cut some frequencies, maybe compress if needed and you are good to go!
34) Challenge Yourself
Try challenging yourself to get better or produce more. Instead of spending twenty minutes every day try an hour or two every day for a week. It's not going to be easy, especially if you have a full-time job, but by the end of the week you'll be glad you've done that.
Trying to do this every day will burn you out but trying it for a week or a month is definitely a good practice.
35) Mix At Low Volumes
Mixing at lower volumes will still make your ears tired at some point, but it will take a while. If the track sounds good when quiet, then it will likely translate well to louder volumes as well.
36) Keep Your Mind Fresh
Even though being comfortable when producing is essential, it's hard to do the same thing in the same room every day. Whenever you feel stuck, just go for a ride or a walk. Or change the way your studio looks like, clean it and rearrange the furniture.
If you are producing full time, take a vacation or move to a new place. Travelling and meeting new people will change your perspective and let you come back to work rested and refreshed.
37) Look Into Different Revenue Streams
You don't want to keep all the eggs in one basket. Let's say you make most of your money on Spotify, and it suddenly changes policies, and you make half of what you've been making before.
You are a beatmaker and have a store, why not upload free beats with your name tag on YouTube and start monetizing them once you are eligible. And create a playlist on Spotify and call it something like “Freestyle Beats”? Sounds like something to look into, right?
38) If It Works, Don't Replace It
First, this means that if your microphone does well, for example, don't just purchase a new one cause you want a “fresh” sound. It's always good to try a few of them first and find which one works for you. After you've found “the one,” don't keep browsing for a better alternative, even if it's a few years old.
For example, Neumann U47 can last you years, and you don't need to keep purchasing new mics for everything just because you have some decent income. Tried and tested is a method to save some money and master a piece of equipment.
39) Don't Celebrate Too Early
Let's say you sold your first beat or even your first ten beats. Instead of going out with friends and spending all money at the club, reinvest your earnings. It's common sense, but a lot of producers overlook that.
One month they would sell a hundred beats (learn how to sell them) and think that's how it's going to be all the time now. Next month they only sell twenty. All the money from the last month is spent, and they are broke again. Don't do that. Grab a coffee, go see your friends, it's all good. You need quality time with people. Just don't waste it.
40) Don't Give Up
The most important tip here. You know what it's not even a tip. It's common sense. Nothing great has been built or created right away. Why do you think you are special and can just go viral? There is a lot of work that you have to put in, and sometimes you may fail. And not just once. Two, three, ten times.
Instead of trying to work on your weak spots, get better at things you are already good at. Being a jack of all trades can be handy, but sometimes it's a lot better to outsource things that you are not good at. Just don't try killing two birds with one stone because you may miss both, you feel me?
Conclusion: 40 Music Production Tips You Wish You Knew
Pretty easy and quick them all. It's a lot harder to understand and implement the tips that you found useful and helpful. Keep working hard and never stop. That's how you'll get places!