A list of the best advice I can give new dance music producers.

by johnsopao - 26-04-2020, 05:47 PM
Apr 2020
Posted: 26-04-2020, 05:47 PM

  1. Read The Fucking Manual.
Learning to produce is 95% learning how to get what's in your head into your DAW and out your speakers. I can write you the next #1 beatport song in my head right now. I could do five of them right now. So could you. What makes a great producer is someone who can take that idea from their head and get it into reality. That's more or less the only thing that matters. Read the manual to EVERY PRODUCT, DAW, VST, ETC. YOU OWN. It's is the absolute quickest way to learn how to get what's in your head into the real world. SO READ THEM ALL. TWICE.
2. Learn one thing well and branch out from there.
Better to learn one synth, one EQ and one DAW until you have it mastered and know it like the back of your hand. It gives you a benchmark with which to compare all other similar devices that you wouldn't have had before. Eventually (and I'm talking years here) you'll find you need to do something your synth/EQ/DAW can't do. That's when you pick up a second. And so on.
3. If you don't know why you need it, you don't need it.
No matter what it is: a note, an effect, a section, a buildup, an entire song - if you don't know exactly why you need it, you don't need it. If it's ever a question of whether you should keep or delete something the answer is you should always delete it. (Or put it into a great big misc. folder and save it for some other project in the future. But not this one.)
4. Sometimes you gotta delete great parts to make great songs.
It sucks. You won't like doing it. It's painful. But it must be done and you will thank yourself later.
5. Your volume fader is by far the most powerful mixing tool you have.
Understand: every single effect in the history of music making is a manipulation of volume. Some are volume + time, like chorus, phasers, etc. Distortion is the volume of certain harmonics. EQ is volume of certain frequencies. Compression is volume over time. That means if you were to make a venn diagram of effects, volume would be the big circle that everything else falls into. It is the most powerful mixing tool on the planet. Use it wisely. 75% of a mix is where you put your volume faders. Get those right first before you ever even think of touching EQ, compression, etc. Those are fine chisels, volume slider is your sledge hammer.
6. Work intuitively, not rationally.
The first year or two you start you won't be able to do this. You'll have to think rationally, you'll use the same compression chain your favorite artists use or something like that. But over time, you'll know that snare compression attack needs to be slightly longer. Or that reverb isn't helping this synth, it's just muddying up the track. You won't have a rational way of putting this into words so ignore your formal training and go with your intuitive, gut feeling as often as you can.
7. When in doubt, make it shittier.
The problem with trying to make something sound 'good' is you inevitably fall into the trap of making music other people have already made - because you know they were successful doing it. If you have writers block or feel like forcing a little bit of creativity out of your fingertips try this exercise. Do a Save As... on your project, and then make it shittier. Do all of the things you would NEVER do. Put a fat phaser on your kick drum. Put a reverb and a bitcrusher on the master chain. Do crazy shit. 90% of it will sound like shit but when you start freeing your mind from The Box the 10% that's good is REALLY good...
8. Avoid calling it a 'song' for as long as possible.
Same principle as above. If it's not a song - there's no pressure to make it sound 'good'. This is when you are at your most creative. Encourage yourself to PLAY, DOODLE, HAVE FUN and EXPERIMENT as much as possible. You are not wasting your time. You are not wasting your time. You are not wasting your time.
9. You're doing it right when it doesn't feel like you wrote the song at all.
The best feeling in the world is when you don't feel like you wrote the song at all - it feels more like a dusty book cover you found in your grandmothers attic and you're slowly wiping off the dust to reveal the title of the book. Like it was always there and you just discovered it. Seek out this feeling.
10. There are a million ways to sound good.
Mixes, especially in the modern day, have absolutely zero set standards to them. Compare two of your favorite songs and you'll find how wildly different they really are. Analyze them. Some have crazy high end, some have zero low end, some have a warm soft middle and some are distorted and wildly in your face. They're all so incredibly different that it's important to learn early on there is NO RIGHT WAY to mix a song. Every mixer has their own style. Find yours by studying a wide variety of well mixed songs and putting your own stamp on the medium.
Go forth and prosper, my children.
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