GG Tips: 6 Tips for Improving your Production
Published on 11 May 2018
Given how accessible professional level studio equipment is these days, it's no surprise that many musicians have turned to production as an outlet for their creativity. Long gone are the days where the only possible way to make a record was to impress some god-like figure at the top of your favourite label; instead, a humble budget and a dedication to your craft can be more than sufficient. Our staff are constantly met with customers looking to improve on their skills, so we thought it was only right to give you guys a list of surefire tips to improve and develop!
Get feedback on your music
Perhaps the most crucial (and potentially obvious) point to be made here is that you are not your own critic. While it can sometimes be daunting to send your unfinished songs to other people for fear of harsh judgment, this is an extremely worthwhile thing to do and their insight as a first-time listener is infinitely more valuable than your own. No one has the right to force you to make any drastic changes, so don't feel inclined to do so, but seeking out advice from professionals, other would-be producers or even friends will help you to notice adjustments you could make and points where you could improve. A fresh set of ears is truly invaluable and after the countless hours you've spent getting your track to a point where you're happy, it's worth taking the time to get a second opinion and make sure that it's finished to its full potential. The internet is a fantastic platform for getting in touch with people and it can even be worth contacting some of your favourite musicians and labels for advice, you never know who might take the time to get back to you!
Compare your tracks to other music that you like
This doesn't mean hold your track up against the most complex, speaker-shattering, epic piece that you can find and entirely kill any confidence you had in it. It doesn't mean dragging your favourite song into Ableton and trying desperately to recreate it either. However, studying a piece of music that isn't a million miles away from your own can be an extremely useful exercise for pinpointing where your work could be improved. Doing this will allow you to pick up on subtle changes and tweaks you can make to give your project that slightly more professional edge. Listen out for things like mix levels, fills and even the flow of the track and you'll quickly realise that there are loads of techniques and ideas you can apply to your own work while still being totally original and creative. Pay close attention to key points and elements in the track and use them as a guide to establish what parts of your work need to be stronger. It's also a good idea to consider a finished track in your mastering stage as this gives a rough idea of the level and fullness you're trying to reach. While it sounds simple, many people don't think to compare their music to other finished pieces and there are plenty of advantages to doing so, even if it's just putting yours into some context!
Listen to your music on different sets of speakers
It doesn't matter what kind of music you're working on, or what kind of studio you have to work from, there's not a first mix on the planet that won't benefit from being played on a variety of different speakers. Your studio monitors are probably going to be the most reliable and the set that you know better than anything else; however, it's them that you've used when building the track and it's impossible to know how your mix will sound to the masses without experimenting with a few different options.
If you visit other studios or have friends who also dabble in production, pay them a visit and spend 5 minutes listening to your track, taking note of any parts that don't sound quite right. If you don't, drop by your local store where we have a huge range for you to test out! Pay particular attention to the kick and bass, or any other extremely low frequencies that could potentially start to sound swampy in the mix. Perhaps one of the most effective ways of doing this is to listen to your track on the same speakers or headphones that you normally use to listen to music. As you're used to their frequency range, you should be able to get a feel for how the mix is sounding and make any necessary adjustments.
Be patient, practice and don't stop learning
When you first get your DAW setup and a few grooves running it's an absolutely amazing feeling to finally have a platform to create. However, just because you have the tools, doesn't mean that you have mastered them! Practice is essential when you're trying to get good at anything and the best advice you can get is to spend as much time as possible getting used to your system. Instead of yearning for the latest synths and software, learn the tools that you already have inside out and become a master of them. Once you've done this, we guarantee you'll be surprised at how much you can do with a minimal amount.
Nowadays, there's more affordable studio gear available to producers than ever, but more importantly, there are also plenty of resources dedicated to teaching and helping musicians at every level. Dedicate time to watching tutorials online, mastering new plugins, programs or instruments and make an effort to push yourself to try things differently the next time you sit down in front of your computer. Soon, the things you initially avoided doing because they were too cumbersome or difficult will become second nature and you'll be able to start implementing new techniques and tricks you've learned the next time you get to work. It can be easy to fall into a pattern or a slump and from our own experience, the best results come when you work outside of your comfort zone. Don't allow yourself to be restricted or limited by what you don't know when you could use this as motivation to teach yourself something new.
Develop your own sound
Regardless of what stage you're at, there's nothing more valuable than developing and building your own signature sound. When you're starting out, it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to sound like other artists, but once you find your own voice, don't shy away from it! Practices like saving the sounds that you use as presets mean you'll eventually have a full bank of go-to sounds that you've already taken the time to tweak and perfect. Sick of going through the same samples when you load up a new track? Why not get out of the house and record some interesting noises to see what you can do with them? With all of the tech available to you, there are limitless fx or processing options and there's no reason to bore yourself with bland samples. Even the most mundane sounds can be transformed into something totally weird, wonderful but more importantly - unique. So why not take a leap into the unknown and see what you come up with? There's not a thing wrong with being inspired by other musicians but there's not much more satisfying than creating something truly organic than no one else has ever done before!
Have fun and remember, you're doing this because you LOVE music
At the end of the day, all of the fancy production tricks and techniques in the world don't necessarily equate to the type of music that you want to hear. Put yourself in the shoes of the listener when you hear your finished (or near finished) songs for the first time and consider whether its something you'd like to listen to, instead of whether the production is flawless. Your average music listener will have no interest in the hours you've spent shaping different kicks and will only really care about whether the end result strikes a chord with them. Therefore, the most important part of your creative process should be creating a groove that you're really vibing off. Music is, of course, entirely subjective, but the chances are if your heads nodding, someone else's will be too. Concentrate on putting building tracks that you think sound great musically and you'll find that the technical parts often sort themselves out. At the very least, you'll end up with a track that you like, rather than one that you slaved over but remain underwhelmed by.
The most important factor is that you enjoy what you do! By all means push yourself, but don't forget that making music should be fun. Don't beat yourself up if your struggling with something, just pop along to your local store and we'll do our best to help - chances are there's a member of staff who's already been in the same position as you!