#1 Music production tips for beginners: 67 producers answer

#1 Music production tips for beginners: 67 producers answer
Written by: Dexxter Clark
I asked music producers on my mailing list the question:
“If you would start out today, what is your #1 tip that you wish someone had told you sooner?”.
For this article I picked the 28 best responses out of of total 67.
I’ve also thrown in a couple of tips of my own and the FAQ from my social media.


To be honest the kind of tips surprised me.
Most tips were psychological in nature (don’t get discouraged, don’t watch too many YouTube videos, ... etc) and there were a lot of doubles.
For this article I looked for a good mix between technical and psychological tips.

Enjoy!


1. You Don’t need a course

Music Production is a skill that seems really simple at first, but require a lot of experience to get it right.
You don’t need a course per se, you can figure stuff out yourself, but a course will help you to improve faster and shave off some valuable learning time.

Experiment and practice and watch a YouTube tutorial here and there.
Don’t get hung up on the YouTube tutorials, practicing is far more important.

-Ijen, @jozy

2. Learn an instrument like a guitar or piano

I don’t necessarily agree with this one.
Learning an instrument is a whole mission on its own.
It isn’t the most efficient way go from point A to point B (point A being a beginner, point B being a music producer).
It is absolutely not necessary to know where to place your fingers on the fretboard to strike a chord, for music production at least.

There is one thing about learning a music instrument that helps you with music production.
I’ll come back to that in a minute.
If you do want to learn an instrument, choose the piano because keyboards are THE way to input music into your computer.
Learning a piano is a skill that can save you time when producing music.
Not necessary, but a timesaver.

-ljen, Bubba Nose




3. Learn music theory

Learning music theory is a skill you will absolutely need when producing music.
When you learn a music instrument, you also need to know music theory.

Learning music theory is dry, boring and time consuming (no, I’m not sugar coating it).
It is the most annoying thing to learn when you become a music producer.
But…
You need it.
You will come across it all the time.

You need to know about
  • scales (C, D, E, …), 
  • scale modes (major and minor being the main ones), 
  • wheel of fifths
  • pitch
  • timbre
  • chord types (5th, 7th,, …)
  • tones, semitones, intervals (distance between notes), flats + sharps 
  • octaves.

Knowing music theory can open big creative doors and expands compositional horizons.

The book Music Theory For Computer Musicians by Michael Hewitt helped me (=Dexxter) tremendously to refresh my childhood piano lessons (you can find it here on Amazon).

-Bubba Nose, @yozy, Alexis Blaess, Dexxter Clark

4. It takes time

Give yourself time and don’t be disappointed if your first music isn’t perfect.
Be patient.
Give yourself the time to learn the basics.
Give yourself time to choose the right tools for the job and don`t go nuts with the plugins.

No matter how much failure or rejection you get from your listeners.
Falling and standing up is the way to step into this business.
Never give up producing, you can do it!

It also takes time to perfect and tweak a track.
Never release anything unless your 110 percent satisfied.

-Peter Meszaros, U426, Walter Rodrigues, @starman (Spotify) , Albin Kllokoqi




5. Do it for the right reasons

Don’t do it for the money, the chicks or the fame.
Do it for the love of music.

-Bubba Nose, Amitesh Kumar, @robkillofficial (Instagram)

6. Learn to finish a track

A common pitfall in music production to sketch out ideas in your DAW and never follow up.
The skill to “learn” to finish a track is a hard one.
To know if your idea is worth pursuing is experience over time.

When you begin probably 1 out of 10 ideas is worth finishing.
When you advance 1 out of 3 is worth finishing.
You will become better over time and know earlier in the process if your idea is worth finishing.

-@yozy

7. Know your DAW

If you take the time to learn your DAW, you will save yourself time and frustration later.
Tools and effects may come in handy (and are even inspirational) when you are composing, and knowing how to use them is vital for your workflow.

-Alexis Blaess




8. Do one thing very well

Know one thing very well, instead of 10 a little bit.
Only if you know one piece of kit very well, you can move on to something else.
This applies to DAWs, plugins as well as hardware.

Don`t try to be good at every aspect of music production.
Focus on getting better than getting good.

-U426, Amitesh Kumar, Eric Woning

9. Find your voice

It takes a while to find your style, your voice.
Trying not to fall into the "trendy" music trap.
Rehashing what`s been done before is a waste of time and talent.
Most transcendental music in the world is born when a composer listens to his/her own voice.

There are millions of suitcase producers out there.
What makes you any different?

-Alexis Blaess, @robkillofficial (Instagram), @starman (Spotify)

10. Less is more

I know it sounds corny, but it applies to music production too.
Leave some space and breathing room in the mix until you have really mastered production and mixing.
Too much musical information as a result of "using all the tools" becomes muddy and confusing to the listener.

-Donald K Wilson




11. Mix wisely

Don’t start jumping in with effects and panning first thing.
First, just listen to your mix only using the faders to adjust volumes of the mix, listening in mono.
This helps you from immediately adding things that may not be needed.

-Randy Pulley

12. Doesn’t sound good? It’s your skill, not the plugin

Be able to create a good mix from stock plugins before you go in pursuit of the “perfect” third party plugin.
A pro mixer could make a very good sounding mix from any DAW using stock plugins because they have worked at learning what the plugins “do” to the sound and can hear it and use the skills to enhance a mix.

-Randy Pulley

13. Mess around

Sounds have the power to inspire, and VSTs have a sea of marvelous presets.

“I`ve made a few tracks that were by accident just by trying different settings again This comes with taking your time..…”

-Alexis Blaess, @starman (Spotify)

14. Find a partner

Find a music production partner.
Someone that challenges you to increase your skills, but also to finish your tracks.
Someone that can inspire willpower and makes you push through when it gets tough.
Especially when you start, music production can be discouraging.

-Eric Woning




15. EQ and frequencies is the most important

EQ and learn about frequencies is the most important thing to know.

All the other stuff is good to know.
But everything else pales in comparison to EQ.
Doesn’t matter how good you are in effects (reverb for example), your track will fall flat on its face when your EQ isn’t right.
Important about EQ to know:
  • Learn how the human ear works and it’s frequency range (20Hz-20KHz).
  • What do you hear and were it is in the frequency spectrum
  • Frequencies and placement of kick snare, leads, high hat (sub bass, bass, mid, upper mid, high, ultra high)
  • How can you fix problems.
  • The difference between single track EQ and overall EQ.

-Eric Woning, U426

16. Listen to a lot of music

I think a beginner producer should listen to lots of different genres music (even if it’s not your style) and find some references and ideas.
Don’t hate on other genres, use it as a source of inspiration.

Listening to live bands, instruments, classical music especially to start understanding how each instrument sounds in a wide spectrum of frequencies and the placement and depth of each instrument/sound source on that location (room, club, hall, etc).

Nowadays electronic sounds are very popular.
Learning about EDM, EDM styles and the plugins that are used are essential as a music producer.

-Walter Rodrigues, Sufi Safavi, @jozy




17. Louder is not better

When you start out you might fall into the loudness pitfall.
When you turn up the volume of your speakers your music sounds instantly better.

If something is louder that tricks your brain into thinking that something sounds better, while it is … exactly the same (only louder).

-Dexxter Clark

18. If you can’t hear it

Sometimes you add sounds or effects that are not audible.
The EQ shows it’s there, but you can’t hear it.

If you can’t hear it, don’t use it.
It takes up valuable space in the frequency spectrum, you could otherwise use for instruments or effects that you do actually hear.
You have only so much “space” to play with in a mix.
It has also a high chance of muddying up your mix.

-Dexxter Clark

19. Hearing fatigue

Take a break when producing tracks after a couple of hours.
Your ears are getting used to the sound and you are not objective anymore.

The best way to hear what your song actually sounds like, is to come back tomorrow or (even better) in a week and hear the song with fresh ears.
You will gain a whole new perspective.

-Dexxter Clark




20. Speakers

Know your monitor speakers.
For example, my Tannoy Reveal speakers are precise in the high end, but lack punch in the low end.
I know I have to tone down the lower frequencies, because I will know they are “boosted” on every other speaker.

This is why it’s important to hear your mix on other speakers as well.
Especially crappy car or phone speakers.
Because most people listen to your music on crappy speakers.

-Dexxter Clark


Quick music production tips

  • Listening to great music producers and learn from them —how do they do their magic? -Alexis Blaess
  • Note (or better record) every idea that comes around in a phone or voice recorder. -Sébastien Belleudy
  • Always use side chain for the chord progression it will give nice groove and sound amazing with bit of reverb. -Walter Rodrigues
  • Arrangement of the song is the key, only than followed by mixing and then mastering. -Walter Rodrigues
  • Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Learn as much as you can. -Joe McKenney
  • Try to make it groove with no effects. This includes compression and EQ. Zero processing. Just balance and panning. This will increase your skill. -Bubba Nose
  • To make a sound or instrument `louder` to stand out, don`t simply turn it up. Cut the volume of the other sounds a little bit. - Gary Williams
  • Mix and master at different levels during a session and if possible on more than one system. Do not use headphones for critical listening decisions. -U426

Music production beginner FAQ

While we are here.
I’d like to address some some Frequently Asked Questions on my Instagram and the comments on YouTube.

Mixing

That is something you need to learn.
It will come with the years and it will come with experience.
Listen to it with fresh ears.
Listen back to your old songs and try to see if you can correct the things that jump out, that shouldn’t jump out.
Same of the things that didn’t jump out.

There are mixing engineers that you can hire for the job if you want to.

Mastering

That is something you do not need to learn.
Even the biggest producers let others master their music.
Mastering will cost you 50 bucks an hour and you probably need 2 hours.

Don’t worry about mastering.
Mastering is only the last 5% of your song.
If you ask Tom, Dick and Harry they probably won’t even hear it.




Arrangement

A lot of producers struggle with song arrangement.
I wrote an article on track arrangement check it out if you are interested.

What does a beginner music producer need?

The most important equipment to own:
  • A computer
  • Music production software (called a DAW)
  • ood monitor speakers or good quality headphones (speakers preferred)
  • A sound card / audio interface is handy to have as beginner, but is optional

I wrote an article about music production equipment too, check it out if you want to know more.

A massive thanks to every music producer that has collaborated and dedicated their precious time to create this article, also for the tips that didn’t make it into this article.

If you are serious about music production and want to take it to the next level,
download my free music production e-book.
Besides information about music production basics and computers for music production, the book gives also a unique perspective on the world of DJs and music producers.

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photo author dexxter clark
Dexxter Clark
Music Producer / YouTuber

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