OK, so if you’re reading this you probably don’t go to school. You probably haven’t purchased a tonne of stationary that you’ll never use or spent the last night of the holidays looking for your school shoes. But in the music industry, September still marks a new start. The festival season is over, and club life starts up again. Record labels ramp up their release schedules after a quiet summer, and industry people start heading home from Ibiza. So it’s an ideal time to take a look at some classic music production tips that may help you improve your tunes…
Broaden Your Horizons
If you only listen to music from the genres you’re trying to write, you’ll find your tracks start heading down a cul-de-sac of influence and creativity. All the best records bring something new to the table, and to do this you need to be checking out as much good music as possible. Whether it’s Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix or Talking Heads, there’s always things you can learn from a classic album or two that you could apply to your own tracks. The dubstep classic ‘Qawwali’ by Pinch came about after he got a CD of traditional Pakistani music, for instance. So make sure you listen to a broad range of great music, get out to some gigs, and get inspired!
Tidy Your Room!
That’s right, get your chores done. If you’re not bursting with ideas and creative energy, then make sure you spend some time getting things ready for when things finally click. Do that studio re-wire that you’ve been putting off, make that sampler instrument of really good kick drums, re-organise your sample library, sample some of your old vinyls, make some interesting patches on your synth, and yes, tidy your workspace. This way, at least you’re using your studio time productively, and when inspiration strikes, nothing will get in the way of you and your new tunes.
Reference, Reference, Reference
We can’t emphasise this one enough. One of the key tricks to getting a good mixdown is to constantly reference your tracks against other tunes and in other situations. Keep listening to other tracks – both within your chosen genre and outside – to make sure you have a good handle on what kind of bass levels are normal, what people do with their transients, how much compression you need to be using. Obviously you don’t necessarily want to copy these tracks, but it’s an important way of stepping back from your mix and getting some all-important perspective, to make sure you don’t get so caught up in your own sounds that you lose track of where the mix should be going. This applies to other speakers too – listen to your tracks on as many different systems as you can, to make sure you haven’t been blinded by the shortcomings of your own room or monitoring setup.
Break The Rules
You see a lot of received wisdom on forums, music websites and even coming from friends, that it can be easy to start following rules without really knowing why. EQ like this, always compress that, set your bass to a certain dB level. Sometimes this can be good knowledge to have, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try things your own way. So have a go at redlining those percussions sometime, force your effects plugins to make noises they’re not supposed to make, turn everything upside down. It might sound terrible, but if you get one good result out of it, then it’s worth doing!
The most cliched music advice of all time. We know. But it’s also very true, and very important. You’ll notice that all the producers who make it big in this game are people who have made their own sound, stuck with it, and created something new. By contrast, their copycats usually have a short shelf-life, and have been and gone within 18 months. So try not to copy others – just take influence from them and use that to build your own thing. It’s more fun, it’s more creative, and ultimately it’ll give you a much greater chance of success.
So remember some of these tips as you don your school tie and sit down to crank out some chunky beats – they’ll stand you in good stead when it comes to exam time next summer!
Categories: Song Writing Techniques