Top quality song production is an art. Keeping the right balance between the instruments and the vocals, picking the right and current sounds, and building the right groove for the song is not as simple as it may sound. I always say, becoming a professional in the music industry is no different than any other profession. If you are serious enough about your work, you will get there eventually, the same goes for being a great producer.
Music producers may take various roles depending on genres of their workflow. Music producers can act as regular producers who record music and produce music. From electronic music to pop music, producers spend a lot of time on how the music sounds such as vocal tracks, drum beats, acoustic guitar, and the audio quality in order to have a perfect final mix.
Here are 8 tips for the artist-producer
1. Your gear is 10% and you are the remaining 90%
Getting the right equipment is important. Working with decent professional gear like an expensive audio interface, sound recording software, studio monitors and more from the start will likely speed up the process of getting better mixes. But to record music and produce music, it doesn’t take much to set up a simple home recording studio, and if you have a lower budget, there’s lots of second-hand gear online. My recording studio is mostly second-hand gear and everything works great.
Having quality equipment is important, but always remember that you are the key component here. Stocking up on lots of gear will not necessarily make you a better producer. Investing in yourself is what’s more important.
2. Invest in yourself!!
Yep, that’s right: knowledge and experience are valuable. There are always new things to learn about music production. Challenge yourself, be curious, take new courses, learn new techniques, stay updated with the latest trends and work at being a music producer.
You can learn from anyone, no matter if you are a beginner who has never stepped into a music studio or an established pro that has recorded music many times before. You can also find tons of information and tips online for your own music. All you need is curiosity and to be eager to learn more.
3. The right DAW software
Asking what’s the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is like asking what's the best car or what’s the best piano brand. There’s no clear answer.
Some producers prefer working with Ableton while others prefer Pro Tools.
The Recording quality of all professional DAW is very high and today it's more about your sound card and less about your DAW. Every DAW has its ups and downs but most of the professional DAWs, like Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools, and Reason, are quite good and will produce quality results.
Like I’ve mentioned before, you are the most important key here, not your digital audio workstation or your audio interface.
4. Learn how to listen to your music objectively
Believe it or not, I consider this to be the toughest parts of being a respectable music producer. We all think we have made the most awesome creation ever, and it will burn the charts.
It’s easy to fall in love with your creation, especially if you are in the early stages of producing. Always remember to try and listen to your music like it was created by someone else. Criticize it, listen to it on different speakers; sometimes the smallest cheapest monitors will give you some insights about your mix. Listen while you do something else and don’t be afraid to change things. Nothing is sacred about your mix. Keep working to get better and better.
5. Listen to references
Producers are required to work with layers of sounds and frequencies.
Working with similar references to your own songs will help you figure out if something is missing from your mix. Maybe the kick isn’t strong enough or the bass line is not in the output at the right frequency. How about the vocals?
During the recording process there’s a lot of room to make mistakes or bad mixes, and working with a similar reference to your song might save you a lot of valuable time.
Don’t forget a reference is just a reference.
6. Find your own sound
Being unique is extremely important. If you won’t stand out from the crowd, the chances of you getting noticed will drop. If you bring something new to the table then you’ve made your mark. You’ve found your unique sound.
If you are a producer with a musical background and you're producing music on your own, your unique sound can grow from playing an instrument in a certain way. Believe it or not, sometimes it can grow from not being an expert on an instrument.
A unique sound is unique, not an expert’s sound. If you are more oriented as a sound producer, finding your special VST or VSTI can be the right way. Playing like a child with the knobs or experimenting with a cool plug-in on a lead sound or a vocal might do the trick. It doesn't matter if you're using recording live instruments or virtual instruments, It's all about finding your unique sound.
7. Know the music basics
Some producers are not musicians. I personally know some great electronic producer artists that don’t really know how to harmonies. They deliver a decent sound, but their diversity in songs is very poor and the melodies are not very deep and interesting. If you create music, Knowing basic harmonies is essential. You don’t have to be an expert musician, but you need to know the basic chords, major, minor, and how music works.
If you are included in this category of producers, take a few lessons or learn some basic chords and how a harmony works on the internet. It’s not that complicated.
8. The next morning mix
It's late at night and you want to go to sleep after a long and successful recording session, followed by a mixing session, and thinking your mix is absolutely perfect. Listening to it the next morning will authenticate if your mix is really that good. Sometimes you will be surprised by the difference between what you thought about your mix yesterday and what you think of it this morning.
Your ears get tired when you spend too much time working on a mix and listening to it over and over again, and the way you listen to things is becoming less accurate and not very precise. You might lose the right perspective on your mix.
Taking a break from time to time is essential, especially if you’re working with headphones. Take some time off, and when you get back after a while, you’ll be surprised how different the audio tracks sound.
That’s it! Be persistent, believe in yourself and work hard!!