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Music Production Tips & Tricks – Part 1

‘As an aspiring music producer, earlier on in the process, we do tend to get confused and sidetracked with the amount of valuable and the not so valuable information which is out there for us.

The Dos and Don’ts of Music production and the hows and ifs and the endless banter that comes with it. What gets missed out is the basic tips and tricks that you need to understand when you are starting off as a producer. So here are a few tips that will help you to get started and allow you to wrap your head around all the important information that you need to know in your infancy stage of being a music producer, so here we go.’ – Piran Irani (Music Production Faculty Member)

Windows versus Mac. Which DAW to use?

This has been and will always be a long-running conversation starter between new and aspiring producers. Which operating system to use and which DAW is perfect to get started? Hmmm.. Although this is quite an important aspect of making music, your DAW does matter and the computer you use also does matter. But it does not matter if you use windows or mac. Both are equally good and gets the job done. There is Logic pro which only runs on a mac but there are other DAWs that run on both, windows and mac. So, basic thought should be to get a computer that has enough RAM and memory to not hang and lag which in turn makes your workflow and creative translation flawless. Invest in good storage and memory. Understanding any DAW should help you get started. At the end of it remember that a DAW is only as smart as the producer. You should be able to work any DAW at the end of it, as long as your basics are understood, they all function in a similar fashion and only the GUI and the architecture may or may not be exactly the same, but sonically you can achieve the same result in any system and application that you choose to use. So focus on creating music and not on the platform used to create it on.

Using loops and sample banks in your production

This is a sensitive topic and discussion. Many producers say that using samples and loops are in a way cheating. As a beginner, to directly start using loops may slow down the process of you understanding how exactly the loop was made which is equally important, to understand the entire process of production. But, there is no hard and fast rule that says that you cannot use these loops and samples. They are made for producers to use in their production (Provided they are bought or are royalty-free) they add a different flavour and personality to your music and can be used. If you can create each sound on your own, nothing like it, but if you face difficulty in doing that, you can always start using these loops to get inspired and get the feel of the track that you intend on producing, slowly you can replace the loops with MIDI instances and have something that is entirely created by you. So, do not feel the need to stay away from pre-recorded sounds and loops. Use them at your discretion but do not steal other peoples sounds and work, make sure they are royalty-free and/or paid for. Also, make sure that the entire track is not only loops, put in some effort and add your own sound to it as well, to create a well-balanced production.

Photo by James Owen on Unsplash

It’s not the gear, it’s the ear

To get started, all you need is a good stable computer and a midi keyboard controller, maybe a basic microphone. There are tons of software instruments that come pre-installed in the DAW you end up choosing, so get used to them first, understand the workflow and the nuances that go behind creating the sound. Get the basics right and then invest in other gear which may be used to give you a more tactile experience when it comes to producing music. At the end of it, always remember that it’s the producer that makes a difference and the time and effort they have put behind learning and understanding the art form. No amounts of expensive gear will get you there. You get the basics right and then watch the magic unfold.

Too many plugins spoil the broth, maybe not

Most plugins have a layout which is not very difficult to understand. As long as you have understood the basics and know what each parameter stands for and does. All plugins have a unique flavour of their own and to be able to understand and tweak it as per your taste is where the real fun and expertise lies. So, start basic, use what is there in the DAW, understand the terminology and the parameters used there. Figure out what each knob does and then progress onto more enhanced and complicated plugins. There are tons of research and study materials available on the internet and you could learn the whats and the hows in absolutely no time. Remember, too many plugins is not the way to go in the start. Start small, start with one, mastering it is the key. Once you understand what the true potential of keeping your production simple is then and only then can and should you go and use many and different plugins, as you would understand what it’s doing and how you can accurately implement it in your work. 

Photo by Omar Prestwich on Unsplash

Become genre-agnostic and always believe in Active listening

This is one of the most important points you could ever learn and understand. Do not look down on any genre, even if it’s not in your comfort zone of genres, every musical piece is an extension of the producer and the musician’s experience and to be able to listen to it and extract all the information from it becomes a part of your own learning curve and expertise. Every genre has something to teach you, regardless of the language it is being sung in, what matters is tuning your brains to actively listen to and understand what is being played and how it has been added into that particular artist’s work. You get so many ideas and understand other musicians’ state of mind by only listening to their work. Active listening is and will always be your most important instructor.

Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

Practise makes perfect

The 21-day rule is a method of doing/saying/being something for 21 days, to make your ‘something’ become a habit. Practise is the key to any good and successful artist. Doing the same production task for 21 days will make your flow and movement around your computer and gear effortless, leaving more time for you to focus on translating your creative thought process onto your computer and less time for you to figure out what to do. The more you practise, the faster you will understand all the nuances that go behind the production process. The more you practice, the more mistakes you will make and you will learn things faster. You only understand if you literally do that particular task at hand. Music production might seem like a mundane task but it gets interesting every time your project plays on a loop. You discover new glitches and ideas flow in when you least expect it, which brings me to my next point.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Inspiration comes from anywhere

Keep an open mind and inspiration shall find you. Maintaining a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly truly helps with finding and getting inspired faster. Getting inspiration from a walk amidst nature or through your mundane everyday routine and travel can work wonders, more than you can imagine. Always carry a notebook or keep your recorder shortcut on your phones homepage, if you get a tune in your head and you don’t know how to write it down. No stress, sing it out in your voice notes, it may seem slightly weird to the third person staring at what is going on with you but it more or less should not matter. Write down your ideas, sing your tunes, beatbox your beats in your phone’s recorder and when you get back to your work station, you’ll have an extensive list of ideas waiting to be implemented. Go all out and think outside the box, inspiration can literally strike anywhere.

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Sample everything

Carrying around a basic recorder and capturing everything and anything can turn out to be gold when you actually sit down to create. Speeches and conversations with friends can turn into memorable samples, the sound of a stone splashing around in the water can be a great way to create a sound effect. Steps on dried leaves or the purring of your cat. Well, to be honest here, the possibilities are endless. Go ahead and try this one out.

Follow your sound

It may be very tempting to copy a famous artist and imitate a style of music and get used to it, but do try and think outside the box. Well, it is good to imitate your favourite artist via the art of active listening, it also is an art form to think outside the box and ask the main question to yourself while producing. “What if…” always be curious and ask yourself the main question, what if I tried it this way or what if I did things differently. This will give birth to a truly new and unique you, your sound will develop through this technique and once you eventually master that, there’s no going back.

All in all, there’s so much more to making and producing music than just these few tips and pointers. Getting and achieving the right mindset is the way to go. Getting the right tutorship earlier on is the key and very important in your success and journey as a successful music producer.


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