Being a music producer can often be a rollercoaster of emotions. The highs and lows are real, and sometimes it feels like we’re getting nowhere.
Have you ever sat down to make music a few days on the run and inspiration just doesn’t strike? Don’t worry, this is a common scenario for every single artist out there.
Sometimes when the inspiration isn’t flowing, it de-motivates us. This on top of labels not replying to your demo submissions, releases falling through, tracks not sounding as good as you thought they did last night can be really tiring.
When this happens (and trust us – it happens to everyone) you’re better at channeling your energy into learning your craft and honing in your skills in specific areas.
So next time you’re in the studio and you’re staring at a blank DAW template, instead of jumping on the couch to watch Netflix try one of the following practices to help you improve your production skills.
1) Make sounds. Not tracks.
Open up a new project in your DAW and load up a synth you may not have used before or you don’t understand that well. Flick through the presets and study what the VST is doing, where the filters are, how they work, what waveform options you have, internal FX, LFO’s, pitch modulation. Play with them all! Learn what they do and learn what makes each preset sound the way that it does.
In this practice, we’re not making a track. We’re simply just playing with a single synth and learning inside and out. We would even recommend opening up two copies of the same synth, one with a init patch and one with a preset. Copy the parameters on the init patch from the one with a preset until you get the same sound. Doing so will help your sound design skills massively!
2) Reference Tracks.
If you are trying to make a track similar to one of your favorite artists you should drag in a track that you like and re-create it. Start with the first 4 / 8 bars and copy the drum pattern. Then the bass line. Then the chords. Then the lead synth. Then the fx. Obviously, your version isn’t going to sound exactly the same however this is a really good way to study arrangement and learn the thought process behind how your favorite track was made. This won’t now be a track you’d want to release because that would be plagiarism, however, you’ll learn some valuable skills.
3) Watch tutorials and repeat them.
Tutorials on YouTube are incredible. You can learn anything these days. If you don’t know all your shortcuts/hotkeys in your preferred DAW, learn them. There will be a YouTube tutorial on each one – Logic, Ableton, Bitwig, FL Studio, etc…
The shortcuts will speed up your workflow in the long run and ultimately make you a better producer. Watch the tutorial and then open up your DAW and practice doing it so that you remember when you come to actually making music.
This is so so important and often overlooked. Working with friends or other like-minded producers can really help you improve your own skills. Just watching how somebody else works (even if it’s in a different DAW to you) can be super helpful. Sharing ideas, tips and tricks is the best way to learn and it’s also one of the fastest ways to learn. It’s important to try and do this in person though. Online collaborations do have some positives but it’s much easier to vibe and learn with someone if you’re sat in the chair next to them.
When you’re not making music. Read books on techniques on how to make music. There are loads of books out there on compression, sound design, music theory, mixing, etc…
Read as much as you can!
Consistency is key with most things but especially music production. Doing 10 minutes a day over 1 hour once a week is much much better. You will start to develop habits and your ears will be consistently more in tune. Try and work on 2 projects at all times to keep your ears fresh.
7) Make different genres.
Just because you want to become a House DJ and producer doesn’t mean you have to only make house music. Experimenting with different genres can help you generate new ideas. It’ll also push you out of your comfort zone and force you to try new techniques, time signatures, BPM’s, etc.. you will then be able to convert these skills into your house productions and you’ll find that you’re able to be much more creative.