Getting better at making music is tough. Whether you pursue it as a hobby or as a serious career, there is always room for improvement and room for experimentation. It's natural to feel stuck at times, comparing yourself to others, and being unsure of your next steps. But don't be too hard on yourself! We are here to provide you with 11 powerful tips that can help you improve your music production skills, guide you on what to focus on, and provide you with a fresh perspective. Let's dive in!
Learn the theoryYou don’t need to become the next Mozart but some music theory can definitely help in your music production journey. Learn scales, rhythm, and chord progressions. Consider playing an instrument like the piano or guitar. This hands-on approach actively fosters improvements in your overall musical proficiency and will undoubtedly improve your production skills. Actively listen to your favorite songs focusing on arrangement and mixing. Get familiar with the fundamentals of sound design: waveforms, ADSR, LFO, modulation, filters, you name it. Understand the plugins you already have (the manual can help). Discover the capabilities of your DAW and use them intelligently.
Stay organizedDo you spend hours searching for your own samples as a producer? Try this approach. Organize them into specific categories for easy access. Create a folder for your favorite samples and label them accordingly. Save any new sounds or preferred compression settings as presets for future use, it will save you some time and ensure a sound that you already like. Develop a project template with the sounds, plugins, and buses you typically use. Keep copies or alternative versions of your projects. Don't delete old projects because they may prove useful later. Set a goal for each session, whether it's generating ideas, arranging, or mixing, it will improve your efficiency during production sessions. Write down tasks for the following session to stay on track. These tips are sure to improve your music production!
Be consistentIf you want to get better at music production you should treat it as a priority. Make it a habit to make music consistently, no matter how the session goes. Prioritize quantity over quality and always keep practicing. Each session matters, so eliminate distractions and avoid multitasking. Focusing on one thing at a time will improve your time management. Remember to take breaks when needed, your ears will thank you.
Challenge yourselfGet out of your comfort zone every now and then, otherwise, you won’t improve. Experiment with new plugins and use effects in unconventional ways. Create your own drum loops. Experimenting will definitely improve you production skills as you will be confronted with the task of creating. Start a project with a lower BPM than usual. Get creative by cutting, processing, pitching, and reversing samples. Avoid relying solely on your favorite synth. Collaborate with other producers. Make a song in a different music genre. Continually evolve your sound, the goal is to discover what sets your music apart.
Spice things upThe last thing a listener wants is a boring song. Use automation in creative ways to improve your riff. Repurpose drum loops with different processing during the song. Humanize your instruments by adjusting the timing and velocity. Build and release tension by introducing new sounds and fading others. Layer your synths with organic elements. Use reverb, delay, and chorus to create depth. Have fun panning your cymbals or background vocals. There are basically no limits to what you can do, so let your creativity run wild. Developing your creative process will only help you reach higher levels of production skills.
Fill the boxPicture your sounds competing for space within a box defined by the frequency spectrum (bottom to top), stereo image (left to right), and volume (front to back). Your objective is to achieve an organized box, which equates to a clean mix. Therefore, avoid layering your sounds excessively - only add elements if they really help your track. In music production, think about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and rely on your ears to guide your decisions.
Balance and EQPrioritize volume faders over EQ to establish an initial balance. Use a sidechain to create space for specific sounds. Compress when dynamics become overwhelming, and try applying parallel processing to preserve transients. Highpass everything that doesn’t need sub or bass frequencies. Keep all your elements monophonic under 100 - 150 Hz. Use negative EQ (narrowband) to clean your sounds and positive EQ or saturation (broadband) to color them.
Clean the messTo improve your track, simplify it by removing unnecessary layers. Use reverb sparingly (with a bus channel), only where needed to avoid a muddy mix. Bus similar elements together, and apply EQ and compression to achieve a cohesive sound. Consider tuning your drums. Use both a spectrum analyzer and your ears. Fix the stereo width of your elements. Optimize your automation to make transitions smoother. Bounce your tracks to audio and adjust the tails for a polished finish.
Final checklistIn music production, focus on what matters. Consider the following key factors…Core idea: Is the hook simple and catchy? Is there a defined rhythm? Does the song give you goosebumps?Arrangement: Are the most important sounds easily distinguishable? Do all elements harmonize with each other? Is the overall structure interesting? Mixing: Does the mix sound pleasant and balanced? Is each element well-placed and serving its purpose in the mix? Is there enough headroom for the mastering?
ReferencesTo ensure the quality of your final product, it's important to test it out in various listening environments. Listen to your final mix at different volume levels and in mono to prevent any phase cancellation issues. Additionally, try playing your song on different devices such as laptops, headphones, studio monitors, earphones, car speakers, and so forth. This will help you identify any issues with the mix that you may have missed before. It's also helpful to use reference tracks and get feedback from your fellow producers.
Don’t give upAs a music producer, you will often be laughed at, rejected, and misunderstood, but don't let it discourage you. As long as you make music that expresses yourself and inspires others, you’ve already won. Remember to balance your life with music production, lower your expectations, enjoy the process, practice gratitude, prioritize your relationships, and take care of your physical and mental health. And above all, don’t give up, otherwise, you will never improve!
Hey, we hope you found something valuable in this article. We wish you the best of luck on your music production journey! See you soon!