I was going through some old archives of mine, and I ran across a list of my top ten pieces of production advice, something I had written years ago. Struck me that I probably wouldn’t change anything even after all this time.
1. Less is almost always more. Turn down the effects, back off the compression, use less EQ and reverb, get rid of tracks that don’t really add anything important to the song.
2. Don’t force yourself to write only in one genre (blasphemy, I know). Variety is the spice of life, so experiment with other genres/styles, it’ll only make you a better musician/producer.
3. Learn at least basic music theory. You may never, ever use it, but it’ll help you understand how we got to where we are, and might just help you out in the future.
4. Don’t force yourself to write if you’re not feeling it. Go outside, take care of your errands and BS, and come back to it when it’s fun again. Even if that means a month long hiatus (or longer).
5. Do it for the right reasons. Make music because you love the process, not the hopeful outcome. Never make music thinking you’ll make money, cause you won’t 99.999% of the time.
6. Understand it takes years and years to get that polished and professional sound. It’s not down any magic plug ins or settings. An experienced producer can make a pro-sounding tune no matter what the gear. It’s the ears, not the gears. (trademarked) The only way to get to this point is practice, plain and simple.
7. Learn to calibrate people’s comments about your tunes. There’s a fine line between solid, unbiased production advice, and personal preferences. Listen to what people say, and then judge if their comments are expressing their own personal preferences, or if it’s a genuine advice from an experience producer. Listen either way though, both kinds of advice can be helpful if taken in the right context. On that note, your friends will always tell you they like your tunes.
8. Learn to play a real instrument.
9. Interviews with other producers are the best source of production advice. Especially if they produce a completely different genre than you.
10. Slim down your studio. Kinda ties into #1 above, but the less gear you have, the easier it is to learn it, and the farther you can take it. Especially with plug ins.