Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 Steps To Self-Releasing An Album

With music equipment and software becoming cheaper and cheaper everyday, it’s becoming easier and easier to self-create a quality CD within the confines of your own home recording studio. So as creating and releasing your own CD becomes more and more accessible, more and more musicians are opting to do exactly that.

And why shouldn’t they? It’s a great way to spread your music (I don’t care if CD sales are plummeting, giving someone a physical product you can touch is always preferrable to a digital copy), as well as make some money off the music you’ve worked so hard on (if you’re selling the cds)

For those of you who follow me on youtube, you should know that me and my go-to singer / songwriter / business-partner Landon Reidy self-released underground albums earlier this year / decade. We sold a few hundred copies (not as much as we had planned, but other things came up for us so the albums was unfortunately put on the back-burner), and the whole experience, from idea to selling the final product, taught me a lot about marketing and how selling music works in general.

Today I've decided to put together a quick guide on how to put together your own cd or mixtape from the idea to releasing and selling it.

1.) Figure Out Your Market

This is key. Don’t just throw together a bunch of tracks you had on your computer and release it. Have a concept or idea and have a clear picture of who will be listening/buying your music.

You have to know your customers so you can create the music for them, because in the end they are the ones who will be listening and enjoying it. Now that doesn’t mean follow trends or change your creative vision to please everyone, but it does mean figure out exactly who your music appeals to and tailor your CD towards the listeners.

And definately don’t make one of those cds with ‘one of everything’ tracks where you try to please everyone.

Me and Landon went with a ""Electronic Rock" vibe with previous albums, and because we figured out the direction early, we ended up with a musically solid and consistent project at the end of it.

2.) Record The Music

This parts obvious, right? But a lot of people get into the marketing, and all the other areas of their project before even creating the product! I have to admit this is something that I did also, and while it’s good to have the steps laid out for you in the future, you have to remember that the music is the most important part, so don’t rush this step.

Put in the extra time to make QUALITY music. Fix up those tiny mixing flaws, re-record those shakey notes. Get everything as perfect as you can.

3.) Cover Design

Once you have the songs finished, mixed and mastered, you have to get the covers designed. I’d suggest you outsource a designer (you can find great graphic designers online for not too much $), and I'd definitely suggest getting professional photos done for the covers. When you’re trying to sell the product the cover is the very first thing people will see, and even though the music is the main focus, the cover is what they will initially buy.

A great cover verse a cheap looking cover will reflect (at least in the consumers eyes) on the quality of the music. Save up however much money you need and invest in quality pictures and quality cover art.

I know that when me and Landon were selling our cds, we had numerous people commenting on how professional it looked, and some even thought we were selling a CD by a major recording artist. It cost us a few hundred to get the quality we needed but it was definately worth the investment.

4.) Manufacturing / Pressing

Next you’ll need to get your CD manufactured. Do NOT burn and print the cds yourself! They will look cheap and tacky. This does mean you will have to invest MORE $ but in the end every little bit counts. Don’t skimp on any of these steps. Find a CD manufacturer who will do 1000 or less copies and get yourself a few hundred CDs at least.

It shouldn’t cost you too much if you buy in bulk, and if the professionals will leave you with a great quality pressed and printed CD. You don’t want your CD’s to look like you burnt them off your laptop.

5.) Sell It!

So you’ve figured out your market, recorded the CD, finished the covers, had your CD pressed up and ready to go, what to do now? SELL the product! OR if you wish, give it out for free as promo material! Either way, you have to get the music out there! Now, there are various ways to do this, and i’d advocate implementing as many as you possibly can.

Firstly you have to figure out WHERE your ‘demographic’ or basically, the people who will like your music, hang out. A great place to start is shows/events. The first time Marque and I started selling the ‘Back To Basics’ EP we wold it at an event that Marque performed at, where we knew much of the crowd would love our type of music. Because the people we wanted to sell our music to were there, plus Marque had some buzz due to the performance he had just given, we ended up selling over 50 copies in around 2 hours after the show. Not too bad.

Another great place is outside clubs when people are leaving. This actually isn’t as hard as it sounds, as long as you don’t approach people like a pushy salesperson and just be friendly and laidback. Just tell them you’re aspiring musicians, offer to show them some of your music through headphones on your ipod, and let them decide.

Don’t try force or beg people to buy it, cause if they feel awkward at any point they’ll most likely just leave. If you head to clubs that bring in a crowd that listen to your genre of music, you should be gold. This does require some effort and discipline, especially as you’ll be waiting in the cold till around 3 – 4 in the morning, but it’s all a part of the grind.

Lastly, you can sell physical copies online, as well as digital copies. have a great service that allows you to send them your physical cds, and people can buy it from the cdbaby website, and they will handle the shipping and postage for you. As well as that they have an online retailers like itunes and amazon, which is great.

Anyways that’s it for today. Hope this brief guide gave you an outline of what it takes to self release an album/ep or mixtape! And remember, don’t do it for the money. Even though you’re selling your music the main motivation should be providing people with quality music that they will enjoy and be touched by, one way or another.

Also, as usual feel free to leave a comment! If you found the info in this article valuable don’t forget to sign up to the newsletter to get updates and more informative articles in your inbox!

Monday, July 1, 2013

How To Get Great Mixes Without Having To Mix

How To Get Great Mixes Without Having To Mix

First of all, before I begin writing this, I want to say that I do not consider myself a great mixer at all. I really only have basic knowledge, and I would never claim that I am anywhere near an expert on the topic. However, I still get a lot of people asking my how I mix my tracks and get all the sounds to sit well with each other.
The funny thing is, any mixing I do on my beats is really quite minimal. Today i’m not going to focus on my actual mixing process (that will be covered in a future post), but I will be talking about the MAIN technique I use to get everything sounding clear. And the thing is it’s really quite simple.

It All Comes Down To Choosing The Right Sounds 

Easier said than done, right?

Now obviously me telling you to choose the right sounds is worthless if you don’t know what the right sounds to begin with. And on top of that, there are no perfect sounds which will automatically make your mixes sound amazing.

But the main idea is to choose the right sounds that work WELL with the other sounds.

Over the years i’ve spent producing, sound choice is probably the number one factor that has contributed to getting me decent mixes. And the fact of the matter is, no matter how much technical knowledge you gain about EQ, compression, panning, and whatever else, if you’re a producer, the mixing process should really only enhance how your music sounds.

You shouldn’t expect the mix to make your poor tracks sound great.

They should really sound good before the mixing process begins, and if you’ve picked the right sounds then you won’t need to put in as much work in the mixing stage.

So, how do you find sounds that ‘fit’ right toegher?

Well, first of all, you have to understand the frequency spectrum. The frequency spectrum is basically the range of sounds that can be picked up by the human ear. You don’t really need to know specific numbers in this case, all you need to know that there is a range that goes from Low (think sub-woofer), to high (think a high-screetch, or that squeeky noise when you rub polystyrene)

Now the main cause of bad mixes is when one or more sounds are “clashing” with eachother, on this ‘frequency range’. ‘Clashing’ basically means that those sounds are fighting for the same ‘space’ in the spectrum, and because they’re both taking up the same space they cloud eachother and sound ‘cluttered’ as a result.

The idea is that you will want to choose sounds that all fill different ranges of the frequency, therefore each taking up their own seperate space, and so will all be able to be heard clearly.

I don’t remember where I read this, but someone said you should think of sounds as items in a closet or wardrobe.

You want to make sure everything is neatly packed into its own spot, so when you open the closet everything you want (shoes, jackets, hats) etc has its own space and is easy to find. If you have all your clothes messed up everywhere with your shoes all over the place, jackets pilled up rolled together with jeans and t-shirts, it’ll take you ages to find clothes when you need to. That’s basically the same with your mixes.

You have to place sounds that each take up their own distinct place so when you listen to your music, your ears can “see” each sound clearly.

First Off, The Kick

I consider the kick the most important part of the drum sounds. The kick provides the tempo and really gives the listener something to nod their head to. Kicks will almost always take up the lower frequencies. This means if you have to many other ‘bass heavy’ sounds, they will cloud your kick and make them harder to hear.

Really you should only have one other sound in the lower end of the spectrum, and that’s the bassline. However, you have to make sure that the bassline isn’t SO low that it takes away from the kick by fighting from the same space. If you listen to the beat below, you can hear how the bassline and the kick compliment each other.

The clap/snare is next, and getting your clap or snare to really ‘pop’ has a lot to do with the way you layer your drums. Because this article isn’t really focused on that, i’m not going to talk about the clap/snare too much. However, I will be writing a DETAILED article about the art of layering your drums, and I will have a video explaining my process on how I get my drums to really hit hard.

The most important part of this article is in the actual melodic sounds, as these are the ones that really have the most chance of clashing and fighting for “frequency space”. On average I have around 5 ‘melodic’ (non percussive) sounds in a track. Sometimes I have a bit more, sometimes I have a bit less. In this particular beat I had four.

So I’ve already covered the bassline. Once you’ve picked out a bassline you shouldn’t really have any other low-end sounds in your track. Most of the other sounds really will go from the mid-low to high frequencies.

Usually I ‘fill’ my mid frequencies with some kind of ‘chorded’ sound. This could be anything from a synth pad, to string chords. In this particular beat I actually created this sound using Massive VST, and it’s a sort of synth chord. If you look at how I played the chord, I am playing the the ‘root’ note on lower octaves to give the chords an extra thickness in the mid-low range.

This helps fill up some of the lower frequencies, but not so low that they compete with the bassline and kick.

Next ill pick some sounds to fill the mid-high and high ranges. In this beat you can hear the ‘verse lead’ and the ‘chorus lead’. They both were played at higher octaves to avoid clashing with the other sounds that were already present in the track. And even those two sounds were played at different octaves so they wouldn’t clash with each other.

If you listen you can hear that the ‘verse lead’ is played higher than the ‘chorus lead’, and because they are played at different octaves they sit in different spots frequency-wise, which means they both are easier to distinguish when played TOGETHER.

So that’s really the framework I use when choosing out sounds, and that’s how I get my mixes to sound clear before I even start the mixing process.

Now, after I finish my beat I do go in and apply EQ, panning, compression, and various other effects to the sounds in my track, but going through that process wasn’t the point of this article.

The reason I wrote this is to highlight the fact that one of the most important factors to getting a clear sounding mix is understand how sounds fit together in the frequency range, and learning how to choose sounds that COMPLIMENT each other rather than COMPETE with each other.

Obviously, this is a skill that has to be practiced, but you can start now by listening to some of your favorite music and identifying the sounds that were used, and how they sound against all the other sounds in the track.

I hope this helped some of you! I’m interested to hear your take on this so leave a comment below and tell me what you think, or if any thing wasn’t clear at all (I know this concept can be a little confusing for some).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Picking a Place to Live (and Record)

This post focuses on things to look for when you want to live and record in the same space.

Not too many of us producer types actually have the benefit of a dedicated studio space, working in rented rooms, in rehearsal spaces, or *gasp* where we live. But what are some of the things that we can look out for in living spaces that make for great recording spaces?

Some things that make for exceptional living/recording spaces are:
Isolation from neighbors. A truly make-or-break quality, this can mean either distance or really solid walls. Concrete or brick is usually best for isolation – even better is if there are some air gaps or rubber in between. Similarly, floated ceilings and/or floors help reduce bass transmission, mechanical reverberation, and footstep noises.
  • Tall ceilings help reduce ‘boxiness’ and add to a robust bass response.
  • Non-parallel walls. If you can find a space that is somewhat irregular, it helps to cut down on reflections and standing waves.
  • Closets. Closets are great for isolating amps or for getting a dry sound. I use my walk-in closet as a vocal booth because the 13 foot ceiling, clothes, and boxes make for a really dry but non-boxy sound.
  • Separate rooms with line-of-sight to each other. Rooms with windows can make great control room / live room setups.
  • Ductwork can be useful for running cables cleanly from room to room (as long as it doesn’t get toohot in there).
  • No water problems. The worst thing you can have in a studio is water damage. Look out for signs of past water damage.
  • Quiet utilities. Radiators are way quieter than forced air, for instance.
  • Outlets and isolated, capable circuits. Amps can blow wimpy electrical systems and poorly isolated circuits can introduce annoying noise into your gear.
  • Security features such as deadbolts or alarm systems. Not having a land-level window helps.

These are just some thoughts based on my experiences with some of the great and not so great spaces in which I have lived and tracked. Leave your own experiences in the comments!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Beat-Block: Why We Get It And How To Overcome It

I’m sure we've all experienced it at one time or another, and I believe everyone who pursues creative endeavors experiences creative blocks regularly, whether that be weekly, monthly, or daily.

Now for me, I experience some form of ‘beat block’ at least once a week, sometimes once every two weeks if I’m already on a roll. In general I make around 10 – 20 beats every week, and no matter what eventually I will reach a point where I am (seemingly) out of ideas.

When I used to get creative blocks it would stress me out. Because I pride myself highly on being able to create music, and I consider myself a very creative person, when those ‘creative’ juices that bring me joy stop working, it’s a bit of a drainer to say the least. In the past I would sometimes try ‘force’ the music out of me (which doesn't really work, at least for me), or I'd listen to a bunch of music trying to force my brain to come up with the next genius track idea.

This didn’t seem to work either.

After a while I realised that my tactics for getting rid of these creative blocks didn’t seem to be working, and i’d have to try a different approach. I started looking into what was causing my lack of creativeness, by studying my mindset both in ‘creative mode’ and in my creative ‘slumps’, and trying to figure out what was the difference between the two.

Lets Get Into Causes Of Beat Block

Inspiration is psychological. It’s a mindset. No matter what you’re creating, physical, intellectual, musical, whatever, it comes from that thing between your ears. Now any form of art is highly creative, and relies heavily on ‘inspiration’. This means that no matter how much you try to logicalize your music, your ability to create is really going to depend on how ‘inspired’ you are at that particular time. It depends on your mindset and what you’re thinking when you’re looking for that perfect melody or chords progression to fit those drums.

So that being said, why can we be super-inspired one day, then the next it seems we have ZERO ideas. I’ve broken down some of the reasons i’ve identified when i’ve lost my inspiration, as well as ways i’ve tried to fix them.

First of all, look at your REASON for making music.

I’ve noticed a lot of the times when I seem to be lacking in ideas, it’s because the reason i’m sitting down to produce a track is far different from the reason that I’m making a track when i’m feeling inspired.

Specifically, when i’m feeling inspired i’m making music purely for the love and passion of creating. I want to make music because i’m in the moment, and i’m loving music at that particular point in time.

However, when i’m experiencing a ‘beat block’ ive noticed my focus to be considerably different. I might be making a track for money reasons. I might be making a track to reach a self-set beat-quota, which is putting pressure on me to create. Because of how largely I define myself as a creative musician, I put unecessary pressure on myself to create, and on top of that, create GREAT music. This puts me in a position where i’ll be comparing my music to others, or to my previous work, instead of just creating for enjoyment, which is what I should be doing.

So, i’ve found that everytime beat block occurs, i’m creating music for the wrong reasons. Music should be enjoyable, fun, and should be made from passion. Once we as musicians lose site of that and start making music for the wrong reasons, the inspiration stops coming.

So now that we’ve identified the REASON for beat block, how do we get rid of it?

Firstly, remember that you’re making music for enjoyment first! Even if you’re making a beat to ultimately sell for money, the cash should still be a secondary motivator.

The primary reason for producing music should be because you love it! Sometimes just reminding yourself of that fact will help take the pressure off yourself, and help you just enjoy the process.

Next, I like to listen to music that I haven’t heard before. This might mean exploring new artists and genres, and new styles of music that is unfamiliar to me. This often helps me with ideas that I may not of previously thought of.

You could also try listening back to your favourite albums. Albums that you love. This can help push you back into the mindset of ‘enjoying’ music, rather than focusing yourself to create or pushing your mind for ideas.

Note: Another great ‘inspiration generator’ are youtube videos. Watching videos of other inspiring musicians has helped me numerous times. Ryan Leslie is one of my favourites.

Another thing I like to do is try ‘practicing’ my music.

This means taking the focus off finishing an entire beat, and just focusing on ‘practicing’ and improvingspecific elements of my music.

For example I might create drum loops and practice creating more intricate patterns, improve my mixing skills and learn new plugins, practice my piano chords and progressions, pretty much anything related to my music production.

However the main point of this excersise is not only to improve your music, but to take the ‘pressure’ off of finishing a beat or track. A lot of the times I start off practicing I end up finishing a beat anyways, but I see that as a bonus.

Lastly, if nothings working and you’re still not getting any ideas, just stop. Focus on other things in your life. Go play some Xbox, or watch some The Office reruns (one of my favorite shows). Wait until you get the urge to create again (and trust me, it will come) until you decide to bang out a few more beats!

I hope that helped any of you who are going through beat blocks right now! As musicians these creative blocks will come up regularly, but the main thing is to remember that they always pass. If you just follow this article you should be able to get over them. The main idea is to take the pressure off yourself and gain sight of why you make music in the first place!

If any of you have your own techniques/ideas on battling beat block, i’d love to hear! Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mixing with Headphones: Avoiding Disaster

Talk to most engineers about mixing with headphones and you’ll hear a familiar refrain: “don’t”. That’s generally pretty good advice. You have to be really careful with headphones as they will “lie” to you about many aspects of your music. Sometimes, though, it can’t be helped. Maybe you’re on the road, maybe you can’t get into a studio, maybe you’re just making a rough mix for someone. If you absolutely must mix with headphones, here are some tips to help avoid the biggest mistakes people make.

Keep It Dry

Headphones don’t contribute much acoustic information to the sound you’re hearing because they’re so close to your ears. Everything sounds very close. You’ll be tempted to make things sound deeper, wider, and more lush than you should with headphones because of the flatness of the soundstage. The best advice is to keep it dry because you have no frame of reference. A dry mix is far more likely to sound good on speakers when mixed with headphones than one with a lot of delay and reverb. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of a washed out sound devoid of impact when you add the acoustics of an actual listening environment and distance from speakers.

Keep It Simple

Fancy effects such as flanging, phasing, and their ilk will sound very different with speakers because their positioning will contribute natural phase shifts. If you start messing with phase in your headphone mix you have no way of knowing what will happen when you add speaker distance into the equation. Again, play it safe and keep things simple.

Use the Whole Stereo Image

While this is true when mixing with speakers, it’s especially true with headphones. Headphones are two points of sound which typically generate three major lobes: left, center, and right. These lobes will be loudest and things will sound especially huge when panned into these positions. Remember that you have all the space in-between those lobes to use and that headphones will probably sound most impressive with things panned hard. Be aware of that and avoid the temptation to make everything live there.

Lean On Your Mastering Engineer

You are going to master this material, right? When in doubt, cut and boost less. Compress less. Headphones will seldom have flat frequency responses and generally have very different transient response than speakers. For one thing their drivers are generally smaller and lighter, meaning transients will snap more aggressively. Do yourself a favor and be conservative with EQ and compression. Any equalization will introduce phase shifts and will degrade the inherent quality of the source material. If you EQ too far the mastering engineer will have to EQ the other way, doubling the detrimental impact. It’s best if you don’t compress the stereo bus at all. A good mastering engineer will be able to turn a solid mix into a great mix if you give them room to do their work. Their familiarity with their monitors and room will help compensate for your lack of monitors and room in the mixing process.

Use Multiple References

The same rules that apply to mixing with speakers apply to headphones: the more references you have the better. In addition to your standard headphones (I use Sony MDR-7506) check on something very different (like I cross reference on Etymotic ER-4P canalphones). Don’t forget consumer-grade headphones like plain white iPod earbuds! If it sounds great on all of these, you’re more likely to have a solid mix.

If there’s any way you can mix on real studio monitors, do it. Otherwise follow these tips and you just might be able to pull of a slammin’ mix with your headphones.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Producers: How To Find Music Submission Opportunities On Twitter!

Have you ever wanted to know how to find people to send your music to on Twitter? Look no further. Through the power of the most powerful search engine in the world, aka Google, you can easily find the latest and greatest music submission opportunities on Twitter. Keep reading for the details…

First thing first, you need to understand a few simple Google search tricks that will help you refine your results…

#1 Searching within a specific site

This first tip will allow you to choose a particular site (in this case Twitter) and receive search results ONLY from that site. In order to do this you must type “site:” then the domain you want to search immediately after it…

#2 Phrase search

The next step is to add a “phrase search” to your search. When you add quotes to a group of words in Google, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. So in our case, we can add phrases like “send beats”, “send tracks”, “your best beats”, etc. Think of phrases nobody would use, unless they wanted some music…

#3 Refining your search with the *wildcard

This last step is very useful for broadening your search results. When you place a * in your search phrase, Google trades the star as a placeholder for any unknown term or terms and finds the best matches for them. So if you search for “send * beats”, you will get results like “send me beats”, “send your best beats”, “send more beats”, etc…

#4 Getting the most recent search results

This final tip will help you get the most up to date results. AFTER you search, you can click on “More search tools” , on the left side of the search results. This will open up options to show results which have popped up over the last 24 hours, week, month, year, or whichever time period you want to search through.

The power of Google Search

With these tips you are well on your way to finding the latest submission opportunities. The thing that is great about this, is that Google automatically sifts the results in order of importance. So pages that are links to higher profile (aka more famous) Twitter accounts usually come up first. On the opposite spectrum, artists such as “Lil Baby D” and “Juggalo Strangla”, will be towards the end of the results. Google can be a great ally for your e-grind. Try thinking outside of the box and maybe you can find some more opportunities outside of twitter… hmmmm……..

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Guide to Creative Commons: Giving it Away

This post focuses on Creative Commons, a collection of licenses designed help give creators of intellectual property the ability to reduce the strength of their copyright.

Creative Commons was created in 2002 and has since shown a substantial amount of support from the community. Essentially, when a person creates something they receive a copyright for it automatically. This copyright gives the copyright holder exclusivity with respect to the rights to sub-license, duplicate, make derivative works, etc. But sometimes the creator wants to share their work and doesn’t want everyone to have to ask them permission to do so. This is where CC comes into play. CC is a collection of licenses that strip away varying degrees of your copyright. You just need to choose the right one for your application. All CC licenses give up the exclusivity of the right to duplicate the works. This is extremely helpful in the digital medium, particularly online.

There have been some high profile uses of Creative Commons lately, including Nine Inch Nail’s latest release, Ghosts, MIT’s OpenCourseware and much of Flickr’s content is CC licensed.

One benefit of using Creative Commons is that it increases your chances for exposure on the Internet because people can legally distribute it. If your market is particularly ethical or committed, you might even be able to earn some money by requesting donations. ala NIN.

The creative commons license wizard will help you select what license is best for your work and your application. Some places to distribute your CC content include the Internet Archive and Deviant Art. Or, you can create a Torrent. You can also post it anywhere you can include a quick blurb about the license.

Creative Commons isn’t for every project, but it has substantially increased the ease at which people can share and collaborate with material online. I’m all for that.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

15 Ways You Can Instantly Improve Your Music

You want to take your music production to the NEXT level? Well I've put together a list of things you can and SHOULD do to improve the quality of your music NOW.

1.) Listen to more music.

Obvious? I don’t mean listen to the same music you’ve been listening to every other day. I mean find and source NEW music. The sound click charts don’t count. Listen to music and genres you wouldn’t normally listen to. Listen to music from the past.

Find the music that inspired the artists you love, and hear their influences. Delve into a broader range of tunes. Even if you don’t make that kind of music, widening your ‘musical peripheral vision’ will definitely have an influence on the music that you create. Remember to treat it as an art, and like all art inspiration is key. Be inspired by music you haven’t heard before.

I try to make it a goal of mine to search out new music and new genres that I haven’t heard before, rather that stick to the same artists. You may have to wade through some bad music in the process, but trust me the widened knowledge you gain will be worth it.

2.) Focused practice

More specifically, practice specific areas of your production. Take a few hours to improve your drum programming, with no intention of creating a full track. Spend some time exploring different EQ settings or mixing techniques you haven’t tried, or going through those plugins you have but never use.

A lot of people make beats regularly, but don’t improve (Or improve at a high rate) because they’re stuck in the same patterns over and over. Focus on improving specific areas of your production, whether it be drums, mixing, chord progressions, percussion, sound selection, sound creation, arrangement, and the list goes on… There’s always specific areas that need improvement, identify some of yours and get to work, NOW.

3.) Experiment

This means stop using those same tired drums, that same chord progression you used in the last 5 beats, the same sounds, etc. Act as if this is your first beat ever, and you’re trying new things. Try to step out of the self-imposed rules you’ve developed for your music, and push the boundaries a little.

This doesn’t mean go crazy and make everything sound spastic, but it does mean intentionally trying things you haven’t tried before, and making an effort to go outside the patterns that you usually follow.

4.) Learn synthesis (sound creation)

Stop relying on presets and learn how to create your own sounds! So what if you found a preset Danja or B. Cox used. If you truly want to be great you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to, and that includes learning how to craft your own sounds.

Once you get into it it’s not as hard as it looks, and having the ability to make your own sounds is great. In the long run it will save you the time of going through your presets looking for that ‘specific’ sound you hear in your head. This way you can just make it yourself.

5.) Learn your tools

This means stop looking for the next best thing. With the influx of technology advancing as fast as it does, it’s easy to get lost in all the options, and constantly be looking for the next ‘tool, gear or piece of software’ to bring your production to the next level. Now obviously as producers we rely heavily on technology, and I’m not saying that it’s not important to have good gear or software, but choose your tools carefully and stick with them, to get the most out of them.

If you keep looking for the next DAW, the next best VST or whatever, you’re only going to skim the surface on everything you use. Take the time to learn and master your tools, before you go looking for something better.

6.) Make your music for the right reasons

Don’t start producing as a way to make money. Do it for love and passion of creating. Just because you downloaded a copy of FL Studio doesn’t mean you’ll be making Timbaland money within a year. If your focus becomes money and not creating art then your craft will suffer.

That doesn’t mean DON’T make money off your craft if you can, but always remember that you’re doing this because you love it first, not because of money.

7.) Collaborate

Collab, collab, collab. Find rappers, singers, other producers, friends, WHOEVER to collaborate with.Collaboration inspires creativity. I guarantee you you’ll come up with ideas you never would of thought of by yourself by working with other creatives.

Other creative minds will see things from different perspectives, and in turn will open you up to new ideas. It might be a melody or chord progression, or even a whole new genre that you never would of tried. The greatest music was made through collaborative efforts. Think Quincy and Michael.

8.) Embrace critique

These days, critique of music or different opinions is quick to be labelled ‘hate’. If you really are committed to improving your craft, you will be open to critique and feedback. This doesn’t mean ‘YO LISTEN TO MY BEATZ THERE DOPE’.

This means seek out people to TELL you where your music is lacking. Stop looking for an ego boost and try find people who will tell you where you need to improve. Stay humble, and stay learning.

9.) Layer your drums

A lot of people say this, but even more people don’t do it. Layering your drums is a great way to give those sounds extra punch. For your kicks, find a ‘primary’ sound, this will be the main ‘hit’ or ‘punch’ for your kick and will provide the main lower end.

After that find a few more kicks to layer, with more mid-low punch to give your kicks that extra crispness. Also layering percussion sounds like such as toms, congo’s etc with your kicks can be used with great effect. Another tip, if you layer two kicks and they don’t seem to be hitting together right, pitching the ‘secondary’ kick up or down a few semitones until you find the sweet spot can often fix the problem.

Once you’ve done this a few times you’ll develop a sense on how to pitch your drums right to get them hitting well with each other.

10.) Learn an instrument

Piano helps a LOT, but it could be guitar, drums, the triangle, whatever. Learning an instrument will greatly improve your knowledge of writing and creating music. I was lucky enough to of been learning piano since a young age, and I can tell you having that skill has improved my production more than I can say.

You don’t have to be the next Mozart, but learn your chords and scales at the very minimum. The extra effort you put in now will be worth it when you’re improving crazy melodies on the fly, and coming up with chord progressions with ease.

Even if you don’t want to get lessons with the internet now, there are tonnes of way you can teach yourself, just do a you tube search or a Google search.

11.) Save your drum sounds

Easy, but not everyone does it. Up until a few months ago, I didn’t. If you’ve just layered and EQ and made yourself an amazing kick or snare, don’t just leave it in the current project. Export it as a .WAV so you can re-use it in future projects. Or so you can use it and layer it with more sounds to create even crazier drums.

The possibilities are endless. And eventually you’ll have a bank of custom made, EQ’d and layered drum sounds that you can access with ease.

12.) Studio monitors

Invest in some studio monitors! If you don’t have some already, you’ll be able to hear the difference straight away. You’ll hear things in your tracks that you didn’t notice before, flaws, EQ clashes etc. Most desktop speakers are designed to make music appear better than it actually is.

This is great if you’re a general listener, but if you’re someone who is creating music you want to be able to hear every detail, every flaw, and hear the music exactly how it sounds. Studio monitors will allow you to pick out errors in your mixing and fix them.

13.) Beat battles

A great way to push you to improve is by joining beat battles. This not only puts your music in the public eye and gives you valuable criticism and feedback, but the act of competing will push you to become more creative and put more effort into your tracks, because you know they’ll be going in the public view.

14.) Organize your drum sounds

This is one I’m guilty of not really doing, but I know I should. Organizing your drum sounds will improve your efficiency and workflow. There’s nothing worse than having a great idea and having to search through hundreds of drums to find the ones you’re looking for. Organize your drum sounds so when that great spark of inspiration hits you, you can lay it down STRAIGHT away. Who knows if the inspiration will still be there once you’ve spent half an hour looking for the perfect drum sounds.

15.) Share this blog post

Well this may not help your music, but it will help me! If this article was useful to you it would be much appreciated it you’d hit one of the ‘share’ buttons below!

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed. If you need anything clarified feel free to leave a comment and ask! And feel free to add any more personal tips you have of your own, I’d love to hear them.