Becoming a skilled music producer is a journey that takes time, whether your ambition is to excel in a top-notch studio or simply create good music from the comfort of your home. The path to enhancing music production skills is long and complex, yet there exist common pitfalls that one should avoid.
The following compilation of 15 music production tips will explore how you can elevate your music production process and steer clear of sounding unpolished or amateurish.
Learn Music Theory
Only those who are familiar with theory can break the rules and be flexible with them. Understanding music theory will help you compose melodies, chord progressions, and harmonies more effectively. It gives you a solid foundation for creating music across various genres and unlocking your true potential.
Just as learning grammar and vocabulary is essential to becoming fluent in a language, understanding music theory is crucial for musicians to effectively communicate and express themselves through their craft. Without a grasp of music theory, you might rely solely on intuition or trial-and-error, limiting their creative potential and hindering their ability to fully comprehend the intricacies of the art form.
Music theory offers valuable insights into the relationships between notes, chords, scales, and rhythms. This knowledge enables musicians to improvise, transpose, and modulate with ease, fostering adaptability and versatility in their performances.
What's more, when you know how music works, you acquire skills in sight-reading, ear training, and transcribing music, making it easier to learn new pieces and play by ear.
How to learn music theory? Check our next step!
Watch Tutorials & Attend Courses
There are now multiple online tutorials, music production schools, and courses that can provide valuable insights and techniques that you might not discover on your own. Such classes typically have all the information you need in a structured, easy-digestible way. Mentors and teachers share not only theory but practical approaches they use themselves, so if you don’t want to spend time digging into that on your own, online classes can be a nice option.
To enrol in a program that suits you, look for courses taught by reputable producers or institutions that align with your musical interests.
Soundfly, for instance, has classes about literally everything when it comes to music production. If you want to improve your skills in production, songwriting, gain advanced knowledge of Ableton or Logic Pro X, and many more stuff, check their classes.
If you don’t want to pay for classes or are more comfortable with uncovering insights on your own, follow YouTube channels or websites that regularly share production tips and tricks.
Master Your Tools
There are a plethora of tools that help producers make and enhance their music. The trick is to become proficient with your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and the software or plugins you use. Learn keyboard shortcuts, workflow tricks, and how to utilise the tools effectively to speed up your production process.
Here are some practical steps to help you achieve mastery:
- Study the user manual: Read the complete user manual of your DAW and any hardware you use. Take the time to learn about every feature and function available.
- Explore tutorials and courses: Many tools, such as Ableton, offer in-depth courses taught by certified experts that cover various aspects of music production.
- Create templates and presets: Customise your DAW settings, create templates for different types of projects, and save presets for your favourite virtual instruments and effects.
- Experiment with features: Don't be afraid to explore less familiar features or functions in your tools. Try using different settings and parameters to discover unique sounds and techniques.
- Reverse producers' projects: Analyse projects or tracks created by other producers to understand how they utilised their tools.
- Attend workshops: Look for workshops, webinars, or classes conducted by experienced producers or developers of your hardware and software. These events can offer practical tips and insider knowledge.
- Join online communities: Engage with online forums and communities dedicated to music production. Share knowledge, ask questions, and learn from the experiences of others.
- Stay updated: Keep yourself informed about software updates, new plugins, and hardware advancements. Regularly check for new features and improvements that can enhance your production process.
Remember, mastering your tools is an ongoing process. Embrace the learning journey and be patient with yourself as you continue to grow and refine your sound production skills.
Study Other Producers
Listen to music from your favourite producers or artists to understand their techniques and styles, analyse their arrangements, sound choices, and mixing approaches. Use active listening techniques while analysing tracks—take notes on arrangement structures, sound design, and mixing choices.
Try to recreate a section of a song you admire from scratch. This exercise will help you understand the intricacies of the original production.
Some producers even share their knowledge on social media and YouTube, so if one of your favourite artists has them, make sure you don’t miss their updates.
This probably goes without saying, but practice really makes perfect. Set aside dedicated time for music production regularly. The more you practise, the more you'll improve your skills.
Set a specific time each day or week for music production practice, and try to work on music regularly, even if you don’t feel inspired. Remember that inspiration often comes through the process itself.
Experiment & Take Risks
Don't be afraid to try new things and take creative risks. Break out of your comfort zone to explore unique sounds and styles. For that, you can create a dedicated project for experimentation where you can freely explore new ideas without the pressure of creating a final product.
Try merging elements from different genres to create a unique sound palette.
Ask for Feedback
Share your work with other musicians, producers, or friends to get constructive feedback. Such criticism can help you identify areas for improvement.
Join online music production forums or communities where you can share your work and receive feedback from other producers. Be open-minded about critiques and use them as opportunities for growth.
Use Reference Tracks
Compare your mixes to commercial tracks in a similar genre, as this will help you understand how your mix stands up against professional productions. Import a reference track into your project and regularly A/B compare your mix to it.
Here's how a producer can make the most of reference tracks:
- Choose reference tracks that are in the same genre or style as the music you're producing. Look for tracks that have achieved the sonic qualities and overall sound you desire to achieve in your own production.
- Study the arrangement and structure of the reference tracks. Pay attention to how they introduce and develop different elements throughout the song, including verses, choruses, bridges, and outros.
- Analyse the choice of instruments, their roles in the mix, and how they interact with each other. Take note of the frequency balance and stereo imaging used to achieve a balanced and wide sound.
- Observe how panning and spatial effects are used in the reference tracks to create depth and dimension in the mix.
- Analyse how dynamics and automation are used in the reference tracks to add movement and emotion to the music. Use this knowledge to improve the dynamics in your own production, ensuring that the track doesn't sound flat or monotonous.
Take the insights gained from analyzing the reference tracks and apply them to your own project.
Focus on Arrangement
A well-structured arrangement is crucial for engaging listeners, so learning how to build tension, introduce new elements, and maintain interest throughout the track is crucial.
Sketch out your song structure using MIDI or audio clips before diving into sound design and mixing. Always experiment with different arrangements to find the most engaging structure for your track.
Experiment with Audio Processing & Mixing
Understanding audio processing techniques like compression, EQ, reverb, fader balancing, and other effects can boost the quality of your mixes.
Practice using compression and EQ on individual tracks and the master bus to understand their impact on the overall sound. Experiment with different reverb and delay settings to add depth and space to your mix.
Keep Your Projects Organised
Label tracks, use colour coding, and create folders to streamline your workflow and avoid confusion.
For your convenience, you can use descriptive track names, colour coding, and grouping to keep your project organised and easily navigable. Save custom presets for your favourite instruments and effects to speed up your workflow.
Collaborate with Others
Working with other musicians and producers can expose you to new ideas and approaches, helping you grow as a producer. You can find like-minded musicians or producers online and collaborate on a track together.
What's more, working with others allows you to learn from their strengths and expertise. You can pick up new production techniques, music theory insights, mixing tricks, and more. This continuous learning process contributes to your growth as a producer.
Collaboration opens up networking opportunities within the music industry. You can connect with other musicians, producers, brands, and artists, potentially leading to more projects, exposure, and career advancements.
Keep Up with Technology
To always be in the loop, follow music production blogs and websites, and always stay informed about the latest software updates and hardware releases.
Don't forget to attend webinars or workshops to learn about cutting-edge production techniques.
Trust Your Instincts
While it's essential to learn from others, also trust your creative instincts. Let your unique style shine through in your music. Don't be afraid to try unconventional ideas or follow your intuition, even if it goes against traditional norms. Your unique perspective and style are what set you apart as a musician or producer.
Remember, improving your music production skills is a journey, and there's always something new to learn. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the process of honing your craft.
Technology evolves, new courses appear, more producers come to light, and you develop, too. Never stop learning and working on your craft, and your skill will grow; you won't even notice.