How To Finish More Music
You want to be on-par with the latest Spotify releases, but there is just something about the overall sound that you can't achieve that is hard to wrap your head around. Is it lacking low-end, is it missing some saturation, or are you just not using the same processing or mastering chains as your favorite producers?
To be frank it can be all the above, but not necessarily. For the sum of producers out there who make a living it is a matter of experience that doesn't come over night. Years and years of trial and error, feedback from fellow producers, audience and focus on continuous learning. Between you and a commercially successful producers there is a gap that consist of finished tracks and learning. Is it really fair to compare yourself to someone who has pumped out 100 or 500 tracks? Of course not. You want to make small steps and focus less on all the minutia until you get a broader perspective. The ultimate goal should be to finish as much music as possible and start to grow a following. Labels will find you eventually when the music is ready.
So how do you actually go about this? The key take away here is for you to differentiate between learning and actually finishing music. Youtube can be a great source of information especially in the beginning of your music production journey, but there is just as much bad advice as there is good advice. And often they contradict each other leaving you just more confused, that staggers your progress. It is also important to draw a line between preparing to create and actually creating. Doing tons of research, adjusting all your EQ-settings or scrolling endlessly through sample folders versus actually committing to your decisions and moving forward.
Some general guidelines:
- Arrangement. Always use a reference track in a similar style and (or multiple), and copy the arrangement that works best. It can look like this: Intro 8 bars, Break 8 bars, Drop 8 bars, Break #2 4 bars, Drop #2 8 bars and then Outtro 8 bars. This forces you to have a starting point and an ending point and you can move on to decide what you want to have inside this time-limit. Copy & Steal!
- Choosing Sounds. Find presets that are 80% there in terms of the sound you want to achieve. The additional 20% you can reach by processing and fine-tuning details, the goal here is to allow yourself to do the broad strokes first instead of starting with the details in the early stages of the project.
- Big legos first. You have to be strict on doing the actual writing before tweaking that kick drum for 2 hours or manipulating Serum Lead Patches to sound just like KSHMR. First you can choose a key f.ex C major or A minor, then start writing a chord progression with a few variations that you copy throughout the arrangement. When the progression is done you have the fundament and can start adding basses, strings, or other instruments and just copy and tweak the MIDI-pattern to your liking.
- Don’t learn while finishing. This one is huge, if you are going to stop and Google things or watch contradicting Youtube tutorials every time you run into a problem, you will not finish a lot of music. Instead, write a list of all the things you have run into, and then allow yourself to dwelve into the topics more in-depht AFTER your current track is finished. A volume of work is an absolute necessity to be able to develop as a producer.
- Keep Organized. If you are gonna scroll through Splice for hours to find the right Kick drum or atmospheric drone sound you will get lost easily. Do this in a separate session and consolidate your favorite samples in a favorites pattern so you can re-use samples for future projects. This is a huge time saver. Also make use of sample packs, they are there for a reason and they are used by all the big producers. Find sample pack that matches your genre, to narrow down the possibilities and keep you organized.
- Make your own Preset Folder. Same principle, have some go-to presets for the most important instruments in your genre be it; Piano, Sub-bass, Leads, Pads or Strings. You don´t need 5 VST´s to have a broad selection of sounds. Stick to one main synth and learn it inside out. Serum by Xfer Records can produce every sound you find in other synths like Massive, Sylenth1, and Spire and you certainly do not need all of them. Find a good digital synth, a piano (f.ex Kontakt Grandeur or Korg M1 Piano), and start learning and tweaking your DAW´s stock-in plugins before buying all the expensive third-party plugins /Vst´s.
- Stop comparing to the big producers. You need to understand that many of these guys have over 10 years of experience, with a surrounding team of engineers and professional analog gear. You should always aim to produce at the best of your current ability, and that is something you develop over years of trial and error.
- Love mistakes. You have to accept that mistakes are a great way of learning. In the formal educational system mistakes have a negative connotation to it, in Music Production this is the best way to evolve and we all go through it.
- Perfectionism. If you think that you will have a release-ready hit track in the early stages of your production endeavour I can tell you right away that is not going to happen. This is a common mistake, to keep working on that ONE track, that will change everything. For the producer that has instead finished 10 or 20 tracks, they will have had a lot more attention, possibilities to network and grow a following, and learn from countless mistakes. Only a finished track can help you develop a career in this field.
- Deadlines. Keep yourself accountable, put your phone on flight-mode, turn off your WIFI to avoid scrolling Facebook or Instagram. Set a deadline and stick to it. This forces you to keep yourself focused.