Music production is one of those professions where you highly rely on creativity or inspiration. That means that you'll eventually get into a non-production phase. An experienced audio engineer once said that an individual produces music quickly when he or she’s is at the earliest stage in his career and once he becomes a pro user. If you’re stuck somewhere in between, it's very likely that it takes you quite a lot of time to finish a certain project. Of course, that isn’t the case for everyone but in a majority, I’d say that this is pretty accurate. Why is that so anyway? When you first started producing, you mostly focus on delivering ideas since you don’t really need a lot of knowledge to do that. On the other side, from a technical aspect, your tracks probably sounds weak which is quite reasonable if we know that it takes years of practice and learning to master the craft.
Therefore you don’t really bother how does your track sound and that means you can finish your track faster. When you become a professional user, you have so much knowledge and experiences that you can work pretty fast while maintaining the ideas and high-quality sounds. That doesn’t mean that a pro user won’t get stuck, but even if he does, he’ll probably get back on track pretty quickly. As said above, all the producers that are stuck in between these two stages normally take a lot more to finish a single tune. In this stage, they start to realise what a certain compressor do or how to use it, but they’re still guessing a lot. So the main focus is on developing your sound, which means that you’ll probably over-process and tweak your projects and that will bring out countless headaches.
We’ve already written about overcoming a writer’s block in one of our previous articles (HERE) so this time, we’re presenting you few tips that will help you get your track done on time.
Use reference tracks
This method is also used when you don’t have inspiration but it can work when you want to get your track done as well. You simply have to find a record that you like, preferably similar to yours, and then you should follow its arrangement and structure. That way you’ll still be able to focus on processing while not losing the grip and momentum. It’s something that a lot of experienced producers do, few even on a regular basis. And if you’re scared that you’ll end up with the same result as the reference song, don’t be. It’s highly unlikely that you have the same approach, knowledge or sound source as the person who produced the track that you took for comparison.
Set a deadline
Nothing is worse than a boss who stands behind your neck and stresses you out to catch a certain deadline, especially if your job involves creative thinking and ideas. The same deadlines can on some occasions be useful, primarily if you’re still a “bedroom” producer and you’re not forced to finish your project at any cost. In this case, setting up a deadline could be beneficial. To try this out, you just need to set a date, which will determine when you have to finish a certain track. That way you won’t spend extra hours on fine-tuning your kick which difference you won’t hear anyway. If we have too much time we tend to start overcomplicating things so a time barrier can prevent this from happening.
Convert midi to audio
In today’s music production, the computer became a core of the creational process. A lot of electronic music producers work exclusively with soft synths, which can easily translate to multiple midi channels within a certain project. While working in midi enables countless options, it also brings new problems and questions. Do I need to tweak LFO a bit more? Is release too short or should I lower the decay? You have to know when it is enough. And if you don’t know, then you should convert your midi to audio and that won’t allow you to mess with synth parameters anymore. I think “Freeze & Flatten” has become a regular in my production process. On top of that, it also saves few CPU, which is also a good thing. If you really want to go back and turn knobs a little more, than you should make sure to always save the converted version differently so you’ll have the access to previous midi ones.
Keep it simple
We just can’t ignore the most basic rule in music and probably in life as well; keep it simple. Always. It’s really not that simple once you start producing though. When you combine drums with bass-line or vocals and if it doesn’t sound good, groovy or catchy, it’s probable that it won’t sound a whole lot better when you stack it with a bunch of other elements as well. It’s just how it works. You should always ask yourself this sentence before adding a certain instrument or element. Will this particular thing make my track sound better? How many times did it happen that you’ve added a superb shaker in the background and when you’ve asked someone what he thinks of it, he didn’t even notice the shaker? Even though it’s in our nature to over-think and complicate, you should at least try to keep it simple. Set yourself a challenge where you have to create a track using only ten channels. You’d be surprised to see that in most cases, that many channels would do it.
These tips above won’t save your life but they’ll probably save you few hours of your time. At the end of the day, every individual works, thinks and behaves differently, so everyone has to find certain methods that work best for them. I’ve tried to present some of the tips that make my workflow faster, easier and that I don’t lose track of happening.
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Tips & Tutorials column is curated by producer Alex Ranerro. The articles are created with a simple aim to share his experiences and knowledge with SolvdMag readers. If you would like to contribute or you have any other questions, please write Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org