Being a music producer is like being a head coach. The job of the head coach has many facets to it just like the music producer. You’re the biggest fan and fiercest critic. You’re the quality control coach and perfectionist that will not to accept anything less (however, progress will demand that you do). You are in charge of making out the schedule and communicating with the venues to ensure that your “team” (artist/band) has a place to play. You’re also in charge of getting all of the equipment to and from the venue and ensuring that it is all set up properly and works. More than all of that, you are the motivator-in-chief. When things get frustrating (and they will), it’s up to you to inspire, push, lead and encourage everyone to get back up and keep going, even when everyone is just you. These things are all the big picture things that are true no matter if you have a band or if it’s just you.
Our discussion today will be about some of these big picture things, the basic music production advice that you can use to achieve your goals. As such, we won’t be melting you’re brain with the finer points of mixing, mastering and layering. If you’re just starting out on this journey these tips will help you to better focus on what you want to look for and more importantly, not overlook. Let’s get started!
Music Producing Tips
Learn Music Theory
This seems like a daunting task, but it will be essential for managing and arranging tracks. Understand that you don’t have to know everything about music theory, you really only need to understand the basics, such as how to structure a song, layer harmonies, create chords (if you’re using a MIDI keyboard or piano), etc. Once you have a good grip on how that works, producing music becomes more fun and you can get down to the business of creating tracks that actually have some depth.
There’s No Need To Buy Expensive Equipment
When you’re just starting out, buying expensive new equipment is just going to burn your wallet. The learning curve will be just as long on old equipment as it will be on new gear. Used equipment offers quality without the high cost. You can buy nearly new music production equipment too, but it can also sometimes be a little tough on the budget. Microphones, MIDI controllers and cables can all be bought on a shoestring budget but the music laptop, DAW software, headphones, studio monitors and a very comfortable chair should all be purchased as new or close to new as possible. The idea of two monitors is a good one, but a good tip on music production using a PC would be to just get one large TV. It’s an investment that can also double as your actual TV. A desktop music computer will be important and it will also need to be powerful too. That is a high priority purchase because you will want to spend the majority of your time creating, not waiting.
Master The DAW
By this point you should be at least familiar with some of the controls of your DAW software. If you’re just starting out, take a full day or two to just read the manuals and experiment with all of the controls. The point of this is to understand what all of your controls are capable of. Creativity can be sparked just by simply remembering what certain controls can do and playing with them. You’d be surprised to learn that more of your favorite songs have come to you by happy accident than most producers would like to admit.
Get Your Mind Right
One of the biggest tips on music production is just being you. Sure, be inspired by other artists, even steal some of their sounds but always be you. Make sure you stay grounded and always stay true to yourself and develop your own sound. You may not make it in the industry today or tomorrow, maybe you never make it (is there really a ‘making it’ now that we have the internet?). When that journey ends someday (and it will) you’ll want to be able to know that you never changed who you are. Not to mention you’ll want your friends to still recognize you. Besides, if you do make it big, do you really want to have to be someone else for the rest of your life? That would truly be a miserable fate.
Music producing can be a lonely affair and when you’re really grinding, it can be so much fun that it’s difficult to tear yourself away from the computer as the hours just fly by. You have to spend time away from the chair. Your family will thank you, your dog will thank you and your health will thank you too. The important thing here is to balance your work life with your real life. Most of us have jobs and don’t always have 10 to 12 hours a day to grind away on music production. Because most of us work or go to school, it’s important especially when you’re starting out to understand the immense amount of time and effort learning to produce music takes and treat it as a second job. Schedule time every day and stick to that schedule like it really is you’re job. Don’t sit in front of the TV and binge watch your favorite shows, get up and get in there.
Organization Is The Key To Workflow
Your workflow is going to be chaotic as it is. If it’s not organized well, you could spend most of your time searching through hundreds of folders looking for the sound that you know will fit perfectly. Setup your files so that you can easily find what you’re looking for. It would be best to organize sounds, etc. into main folders, sub-folders and specific folders. That way when you search for them or download new ones, they will always be where you think they should be. Never underestimate the power of repetition and habit.
At first, save all of your plug-ins. As time goes by and you start filling up space on your hard drive, you will get a good grip on which ones you use and which ones you don’t. Another important bit of music production advice would be to avoid holding onto sounds you don’t use in hopes that someday they will inspire you. Just keep a few of the best ones on each function. You can always switch them out later and they will load quicker. Name everything and try to avoid just using the default name the software gives you. After all, the whole idea is to be able to find them again, right? Yes, it will be a pain in the neck to name everything as you go but it will save you loads of time finding it later.
Back up everything, all of the time! Most of today’s software comes with an auto-save feature, take advantage of that. There are few things that will make you want to jump out of the window more than losing a year’s worth of work just because something went wrong. One of the advantages of having one big TV screen is that you can do things like keep your DAW shortcuts up in the corner of the screen so they are easy to spy. Since most software will allow you to move the windows around and arrange them how you like, a large screen keeps everything a mouse click away.
Focus And Finish
As you continue this journey of music production, our most important advice on making music is to finish. Manipulating sounds and layering them is fun, but eventually it has to turn into something. Otherwise you could be depriving the world of your talents. Nobody who started out in music production was sure they would make it when they made their first loop. Most of your favorite artists made tons of music that was terrible and never saw the light of day. Still others made absolutely genius music that met the same fate. They simply didn’t like how it sounded and threw it away. Finish a whole song and share it with the world (such as now, we have a new single for an EP just sitting here to be mixed, but with procrastination and a little bit of admitted fear, we are lagging on finishing it).
Finish several songs and share them with the world. You might be surprised or you might be ignored, but keep going. Remember to stay focused and continue to grind it out because in the end, producing music is so much fun that you do it for free anyway. Focus on the structure of your songs one piece at a time. The intro, verse, chorus, bridge, solo and the outro should all receive your utmost care and attention.
Our Final Tip for Producing Music
The last item on the list of tips for music production is to remember that you will only get a certain amount of time before the listener makes up his or her mind and clicks the next button. You will only have about 20 or 30 seconds so don’t waste it. Your intro should capture the listener and entice them to peek in and allow you to share with them your thoughts, emotions and convictions about life through the lens of your music. If you have a good story to tell, they will stay and ask you to tell them another.
Now get out there and create!