7 tips to keep in mind when producing music

If you’re at the beginning of your music production journey, it may be hard to have a perspective on how you want to approach your craft.

Meanwhile, if you’re a veteran producer, sometimes you can get caught up in the nitty-gritty details and lose sight of the larger picture. No matter what your experience level is, today we offer seven high-level tips that all musicians can keep in mind when producing their next project. See the tips below, and check out the video above to hear us dive into each one in greater detail.

1. Pick a DAW and stick with it

It’s easy to get caught up in the constant dialogue around which DAW is ‘the best,’ but in reality you can make great music using any workstation. Rather than constantly second guessing your DAW of choice, get really comfortable in the one that you naturally gravitate towards, and don’t pay too much attention to what other people have to say.

2. Create playlists for inspiration

Learn from those who you admire – create a playlist containing a few of your latest favorite songs, and take the time to study what makes them great. Then, once you feel like you’ve learned a couple things from those tracks, try creating your own take on them. As much as we all like to think we’re born with completely original ideas, the reality is that we’re all inspired by things that have already been done. As you imitate your idols, you’ll start to find that your influences will blend and you’ll organically arrive to your own sound.

3. Keep it minimal

It can be easy to keep infinitely adding new tracks to a production. If you find yourself in this situation, try cutting back and keeping things minimal. Tracks by heavyweights like Boi-1da have relatively few tracks, and you’ll find that their sound is extremely effective; less sounds means more room for each element (and the vocalist, depending on the track) to breathe. Don’t be afraid to mute or remove unnecessary layers and details in your session, and really focus on letting the few key parts in your song shine.

4. Study MIDI kits

Whether you use them in your music or not, MIDI kits are a great resource for learning about what makes an effective melody, chord progression, etc. If you don’t know where to start on your new song, try browsing some MIDI kits and dissecting them in your DAW. You might end up using the MIDI as-is, or reworking it to a point where it’s completely different; either way, you’ll have a creative spark that you can build upon to craft a larger song.

5. Explore sample packs

If you’re not versed in a particular instrument or musical style but want to incorporate its sound into your work, royalty-free samples are great for borrowing the expertise of other musicians. And similar to MIDI, you don’t have to always use the original sound as-is – you can chop it up, add effects, or even just create something inspired by specific elements of it (the harmony, groove, etc.) to make something that’s uniquely your own.

6. Don’t get stuck in the ‘YouTube black hole’

While YouTube and other platforms can be powerful resources for learning, it’s easy to lose track of time and end up solely watching other people, as opposed to working on your own music. If this is happening to you, try being more intentional about time management. Keep track of and limit the time you spend consuming content, and remove distractions when you’re making your own work.

7. Don’t stop producing

It can be easy to compare yourself to others and want to give up, especially when you’re just starting out. That said, just remember that producing music is no different from learning anything else: the more you work at it, the better you’ll become. While you might not transform into an expert overnight, try to enjoy the journey of learning because it really is something special. And even when you don’t make what you consider to be your best work, just know that for every hit single, even the pros make countless demos that never see the light of day too.

Do you have any of your own tips that you try to keep in mind when producing music? Let us know in the comments below.

August 1, 2020

Harrison Shimazu Harrison Shimazu is the editor of the Splice blog and a composer for video games and film.