Your Best Production Advice?


As regular readers of my blog know, every once in awhile I turn things around and ask for YOUR advice. Β This time, I want to know what’s the ONE piece of knowledge you would share with someone just getting into music production?

It can be something someone else passed on to you, something you learned through trial and error, or even something you read in a book or magazine.

Thanks for sharing!

15 Replies to “Your Best Production Advice?”

  1. Learn what you have. Don’t go get a new tool until you know what problem you’re trying to solve. Get something, learn it, don’t move on until there’s something you need or want that you can’t do with that. Otherwise, you’ll waste time and probably money.

    You see this a lot in online forums – “What are some good plugins to do X?” “I want to write , do I need a new DAW?” The asker has no idea what, specifically, their problem is, they just know they aren’t getting the results they want yet and presume they need new tools. GAS is, I think, a symptom of this.

    Case in point – I currently really want to buy a particular distortion plugin that has a couple of cool-sounding features. But honestly, I’ve already got plenty of distortions that came with my DAW, and I don’t really know how to get good results with them yet (hence the interest in the new one). So I’m holding off, reading manuals and tutorials, experimenting, and trying to recreate the features of the new shiny one with the ones I already have. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t, but I won’t know until I’ve done the exploration.

  2. Well said man. I always tell people that if you have to ask someone else what you should buy, you shouldn’t buy anything at all. I can’t understand making a purchase for the studio without really evaluating my actual needs.

  3. the rule i’ve learned and i use everyday :
    every day, try to do what is going thru your mind, even if it seems stupid, or useless : the “what if i do this” or the “try & fail” process has taught me a lot …

  4. Learn to crawl, then learn to walk. Then learn to fall before you start to run.

    Meaning know the basics better than anything and everything else: Learn and master the concepts of equalization, compression, and reverb before you get creative and start messing with other esoteric effects, because 90% of a mix is in those basic tools. Too often, new producers get caught up in the bling and don’t realize that focusing on the basics is something even those of us that have been at it for decades do every day.

  5. As a newbie myself, I might not have much to offer, but what Nebulae said above there really speaks volumes. Same with Bob.

    Everyone (including myself) wants to have perfection and assume that shortcuts are the only way there. I’ve only recently realized that before I can get off the ground, I need to know what to do when I crash and burn. I constantly get ahead of myself, wonder why I can’t get the sounds I want, get frustrated and put it down for a while.

    Getting back into it makes me realize these faults… and that some formal training might not be a bad idea.

    Of course, commenting here makes me say these things, but when I get back to what I’m doing, I’ll forget all about it. Luckily, I’ve read some of Tarekith’s guides before – and will return to them now.

    1. I think a lot of it is just slowing down and enjoying the PROCESS of making music, no matter how you personally decide to do it. People just seem to expect things to be easy these days, and it’s not. It’s a long process, so enjoy doing it or it starts to feel too much like work πŸ™‚

  6. Understanding that learning things the right way, even if they might be the long way, will only make you faster in the long run. And knowing the “basics” before diving into the unbelievable amount of plug ins out right now will help you in making a smarter choice when you know what you need. But I think the best advice is like you said, you must “enjoy the process”. The process of learning and knowing that in the beginning, what you hear in your head is not going to be what comes out of the speakers, the process of reading everything you can find, and watching every tut you come across, the process of hearing yourself getting better through practice, the feeling you get when you complete that first track that you’re proud of, coming out of the trance you fall into when you’re on a roll to find out the sun came up already. I can keep going. Its safe to say I love The Process.

  7. I came here to say what Warrior Bob & Nebulae said. Learn what you have and use it well. Better results come from knowing whatever tools you have.

    Be honest with yourself about the real time you have available to make music, allocate some to learning techniques and the rest to making music. Make decisions about what gear you are going to use and learn based on your available time.

    I think you can get fantastic results using a sample pack, drum racks and simpler in Ableton, so better to know these well than confuse yourself with complex instruments that will limit your output.

  8. Best production tip for beginners?

    For me it would have to be deciding on an aim for every session before you even power up the gear.

    The aims don’t have to be too specific or provide tangible end product as such, but I find setting a guideline of what you’re wanting to work on is a great way to keep focus while you’re burning valuable studio time.

    Examples could be as ambitious as ‘finish that track from last week’, or as open-ended as ‘have some fun with that new virtual synth’ or ‘experiment with compression settings’.

    With so much to play with – especially when you’re learning new tools – it’s easy to be distracted and learn and/or achieve very little.

    Maintaining focus vastly increases the likelihood for walking away from a session with a feeling it was worthwhile; and that in itself often builds motivation and enthusiasm for the next time.

  9. Best tip I’ve got for beginners: FINISH THINGS. If you start a project, finish it to the best of your ability with the tools you have (or can rent or borrow). Don’t hold off waiting for some new toy or widget, and for God’s sake don’t tinker with the project for months on end trying to make it perfect. Attention to detail is important, and there is a place for perfectionism, but you will learn vastly more by completing a dozen flawed projects than you will by not-quite-completing one super-awesome (but forever unfinished) project.

    The DAW creates a huge temptation to just keep tinkering endlessly. Resist it. You’ll be glad you did.

  10. Some great advice here… and some important reminders for me!

    Don’t be afraid to stick with a sound. What I mean is I hear some tracks engage in short-attention-span composing, whereas they should have stuck with this or that specific sound. Just a few sounds can, in fact, carry a whole track if you craft it well enough.

    This also proves true in a live setting. For better or worse I’ll name names. I saw Keith Fullerton Whitman open for Pan Sonic in the mid-aughts. KFW did a purely modular synth-based set, but never stuck with a sound, always jumping to something new after a few seconds. It felt unfocused and needlessly fiddly to me. There were some wonderful tones and timbres he could have “sat on” for longer and expanded upon. Then Pan Sonic came on and showed how to make the most of few sounds. I admit this may be taste-based to a degree, but to be fair I do dig other works by KFW. I think you could make the argument that Squarepusher sticks with the same sounds for the duration of his most of tracks, too. You don’t have to be “minimal” or slow-paced to make those few sounds work well together..

    A related thought: sound design (and patience with/focus on those sounds) is as important as the overall composition, and when it all works well together the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. πŸ™‚

  11. Finish your projects, it is said before, but get as far as you possibly can when you have the idea in your head! Next time you fire up the DAW en reload the project you need to feel the same about the track, but when there are only a couple of raw synths and dull drum samples you are not going to finish it.

    And don’t be afraid to move on, when you created something cool, do not keep tweaking it forever or it will lose it’s magic, move on to the next part, altough it will be hard to come up with something to follow up your magic sound!

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