How to improve your music production skills
Want to get better at producing music? Find out how with these 10 music production tips and tricks.
Getting better at making music isn’t an easy road. All producers, old and new, make mistakes. But messing up is never a waste of time – it’s all part of the learning process.
As well as the creative process of writing and recording your tracks, numerous other factors add up to a perfect-sounding final mix. The key to not being overwhelmed as a beginner producer is trusting your ears, and doing a bit of research so that you recognise the reasons why things aren’t working.
From the setup of your home studio to knowing when your track is finished, start thinking about how to improve your music production with these 10 tips for music producers.
Move beyond loops
Working with loops is super-quick and really fun, but also one of the hardest habits to break out of. You end up with a collection of great-sounding snippets that go nowhere. How do you move on from loops to making a full song?
Try choosing one loop and using it as a building block to make a structure around, thinking about where you want elements like the chorus to fall.
Turn your loops into a song with this guide to how to structure a full track.
Clean up your mix
Muddy mix? EQ is one of the first tools a new producer should investigate when it comes to the mixing stage of making a track. For example, use a low-pass filter to create space and reduce any muddiness if your sounds are crowding one area of the frequency spectrum.
Check out these five EQ mistakes to avoid.
Defeat the MIDI robots
Working digitally? Virtual instruments and drumbeats sound amazingly close to the real thing, but equally can sometimes come across as robotic.
Remember to humanize your drums, just a little, to make your programmed beats sound like a real drummer, and apply some tricks to your MIDI to make instruments like digital piano sound more natural.
Head here to find out more about humanizing drums.
Consider your music setup
Nowadays, production equipment doesn’t need to be expensive – but you do need to think carefully about where you put it. If you’re recording live instruments or singing, first try and make sure your room doesn’t have too many reflective surfaces, which will cause reverberations.
To get started as a producer all you need is a laptop and a DAW, but if you can afford it, the one bit of kit that will make a big different especially when mixing your track is a pair of closed-back headphones.
Keep your space free of distractions. That might mean leaving your phone in the other room, and switching off the internet…
Check out our ultimate bedroom producer setup here.
Throw away the producer rulebook
You might have a vision of what kind of producer you want to be – inspired by the music you love, whether that’s deep house or DnB – but don’t think you have to stick to that one type of music. You don’t have to use plugins and effects in the same way as everyone else, either. Embrace the creative process.
Listen to lots of different music to get inspired; you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t by absorbing the work of great producers and musicians, of all genres.
Explore how reference tracks can help you grow as a producer, not just copy others, here.
Don’t get distracted by shiny new things
You’ve researched all the DAWs. You’ve watched six YouTube tutorials about writing basslines. At some point, you’re going to have to actually sit down and do some producing.
There’s only so many free plugins to download – recognise when you’re in procrastination territory. There’s no point having a hard drive full of tools that you don’t have time to learn how to use. Time to get in the creative headspace and just get stuck in.
Check out this guide for fighting producer’s block.
Have you overdone the reverb?
Who doesn’t love a bit of reverb? There’s a reason it’s the most commonly used effect in producing – it’s an easy way to make any instrument sound instantly better.
However, not every single sound needs reverb. Achieve a more professional mix by using reverb on a select few sounds, to help leave space between the sounds in your track.
Make sure your mix sounds great at all volumes
Don’t listen to your track too loud! It’s natural to think louder equals better, but that’s actually not the case. Turn the volume right down to refresh your ears.
When your track is complete, check your mix in mono and play it on different speakers – in your car, through your laptop, through your jogging headphones. It’s a vital step as your potential fans will have a completely different setup to your studio.
Never mix with tired ears – read these top tips for avoiding ear fatigue.
Know when to stop producing
Do you have a virtual drawer full of nearly-finished tracks? Finishing a song is tough – it’s hard to step away from the DAW and let go. Rather than continuing to add more and more tracks to your project, try using fewer instrumental parts and making them as good as you can.
Discover the clues that will tell you when your song is finished here.
Write music for the club
Dream big and have a vision for the future of your track when the world can hear it. Want to get the club bouncing? Structure your song around how you imagine people reacting. Where will the drop be? How are you going to bring it all down to a close?
Or maybe you’re creating a lo-fi track – picture the chilled atmosphere in the room as your song plays. Where do you want your sounds to sit in the mix, so the listener is fully immersed in the moment?
Put yourself in your listener’s shoes and head here to learn how panning can move sounds around a virtual stage.
There’s so much advice online, all promising to turn you into a good music producer. Never forget that there’s no one “right” way to produce.
Keep an open mind as you produce, and your tracks will be better as a result. What advice would you give to a producer just starting out? Let us know in the comments.
Produced a bunch of tracks? Eager to release them? Hit up RouteNote. For free, we can get your songs onto Apple Music, Spotify and all the major streaming platforms, so your music can be streamed wherever listeners are in the world. We even get your tracks to social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok to maybe soundtrack the next viral sensation.
Find out more here and upload your music online for free today.