Image Credit: Jasmin Schreiber
Whilst computers and music software have opened up a world of possibility in making music with ease, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. These tips will help you ease your way along the path to producing with style.
Whether you’re a total newbie to producing music, or whether you’re a veteran of production; there are good practices that can help anyone throughout the process. From your first foray into using DAWs to completing the final master, these tips will be a huge asset to have in your back packet when you come to create music.
Learn from others
This is vital if you’re just getting started, but even the biggest artists in the world can benefit from this tip. The best source of knowledge is those who came before.
Thankfully, the internet is an overflowing source of information including the people who may have inspired you to start creating yourself. Search YouTube for tips and techniques from the producers and artists who inspire you.
Beyond the celebs, there is a wealth of amazing educational content. From full YouTube courses in production, instrument lessons, resources to use in your own creation, and so much more.
A lot of it educational content is available for for free too, so search around and learn something new! This benefits creators of all skill ranges, it can never hurt to learn something new no matter how much you think you know.
Know your software
No digital producer is any good without that software – unless you only use hardware, in which case this still applies.
If you haven’t decided which software you want to create with, then try the free trials of a few to see which one makes the most sense for your workflow and knowledge. Once you have committed to your program, get chummy with it.
Learn all that you can about how it works. DAWs can be overwhelming at first with so many tools and processes but once you start using it you’ll find the pieces that you want to use and it will begin to make sense. Throw yourself in as fully as possible into learning mode, practice creating in it and trying new techniques not to make music but simply to understand it.
As soon as you can use your software without struggling, you can turn your ideas into something tangible with ease and precision.
Use voice memos
Once you’re in a position to start creating you may find that ideas for beats or melodies are constantly popping into your head. Whilst this is great, its a common problem for musicians that often they’ll find inspiration whilst they’re well away from their instruments and DAWs.
Voice memos are here to save you from ever losing a bad idea again. When you’re out and about and an idea pops into your head, simply open up your smartphone and hum it out. At the very least you can describe your idea to try and retain it later on when you’re in a position to translate it into music.
Save ALL the time
Now that you’re ready to hop onto your computer and start creating it’s time for some good practices during the creative period. First up, make sure that you are saving constantly.
You do not want to be caught short by an accidental click, a power cut, a cable tug, or even just closing it for the day and forgetting to save; anything that might mean your project is closed or lost. Save as often as you can to ensure that whatever happens you don’t lose all the effort you’ve put in and can easily recover any creation.
Experiment with different sounds
It may sound obvious, but many creators get stuck using the same plugins and the same sample kits for all of their tracks. Whilst it’s great to find something you like and use it where it feels right, trying new sounds can be a huge source of inspiration.
Something as simple as a different bass drum kick from the sort you’d usually use might provide a totally unique beat in your head or complement a new direction for the track that you didn’t hear before.
Thankfully the web is teeming with samples and virtual instruments to play and experiment with. Whilst the quality content will cost you a bit of money, the resources that are available for free are still overwhelmingly varied and full of potential.
Use effects and mixing techniques sparingly
At least as you are putting your melodies and beats together. You want to have an idea of the sound you’re going for raw before you go in on manipulation.
If you’re manipulating sounds a lot, be aware of whether you are altering a sound to become something different rather than an edited form of itself. If you’re changing a sample beyond recognition with effects then perhaps that’s a sign that you actually want a different starting sound in the first place.
Take a break
If you feel you’ve nearly completed a piece then one of the best things you can do is leave it as it is for a while and come back to it in a week or so. Especially if you’ve been intensely working on a piece with no breaks, it’s easy to become lost in what you’ve made and stop really hearing what you’ve done.
Come back after a while with fresh ears and you’ll be able to hear it with a new perspective and notice any tweaks you’d want to make or parts that feel lacking. Breaks are also a great asset if you feel you’ve hit a wall and can’t progress in the moment.
Share with friends and peers
It can be hard sharing something that is personal to you and has been created with your love and passion. What’s even harder is taking criticism on something that is that personal to you.
However, getting other people’s ears on to your track is great for many reasons. As above, if you’ve been listening to a piece of music over and over again in the creation process there are things that you might just not hear having been so immersed in it.
Particularly if you ask other musicians/producers to listen to your piece, they might be able to tell you the parts they like or where they feel it is lacking. You don’t have to take it on-board, but getting another perspective can help you see your track in a new light and potentially inspire you.
Listen through speakers AND headphones
Now you’ve made it to the final mixdown and you’re ready to release it… Well hold on one minute longer. Take off those headphones you’ve had glued to your head for weeks, or alternatively bust out your best pair of headphones instead of your studio monitors.
You want to listen to your track in a variety of setups to truly feel out the sound of it. What can sound incredible in headphones may be mixed badly for playback through speakers, and vice-versa.
For the best perspective try a series of different playbacks to listen out for inconsistencies. Listening in the car can give you a good alternative perspective, listening through speakers in the living room is a must, putting in your earphones on the bus is apt. Truly hear it out.
We hope these tips have provided you with some handy soul food to nourish your creative process and help you create the best version of the music that is waiting within you to be laid down on a track.
If you have any advice that has helped you along the way, we’d love to hear it in the comments down below.