100 Essential Tips for the New Producer

Sam MatlaGeneral, Think%s Comments

I’ve been wanting to do another over-the-top post with a horrendous amount of tips for a while now. The last one was on mixing. This one’s aimed more at the new producer who might be a little confused or overwhelmed with the whole thing.

Of course, I don’t expect all these tips to apply to everyone. In fact, some may be incredibly controversial. Be prepared to ignore the whole article and do it your own way, because in the end – that’s all that counts.

At any rate, I hope you find this somewhat helpful.

1. You will start becoming wildly influenced by an array of different kinds of music, it’ll be overwhelming but helpful in the long run

2. Realize that this isn’t easy

3. Listen to different kinds of music. Even music you don’t particularly like

4. Analyze your favorite artist’s work in great detail

5. Books tend to provide more value than YouTube tutorials. Read them

6. There is no best DAW. Pick one and run with it (alternatively, try out demos and see which one suits you)

7. Be wary of potentially misleading forum posts

8. Don’t keep your early work under the cover. Seek out feedback constantly

9. Call yourself a dubstep producer but feel like making a trance track? Go for it. You can’t disappoint your fans if you don’t have any

10. Produce other genres

11. The second most important purchase after your DAW should be a decent pair of headphones

12. Produce for at least one hour per day

13. Learn sound design from the get go. Your future self will thank you for it

14. Most ‘shortcuts’ are detrimental. This craft takes time

15. Contrary to popular belief – you don’t need a Mac to produce music

16. Don’t worry about promotion and marketing. You’ll know when the time is right

17. Collaborate with other producers that are better than you

18. Following trends won’t make you famous, make the music you want to make

19. High-pass everything

20. Learn basic music theory if you haven’t already

21. Not sure how compression works? Don’t use it

22. You’re only as good as your ears. Take care of them and train them (use reference tracks)

23. Get out of the house and talk to other people in the industry. You need some sunlight

24. Listen to Mat Zo, Noisia, Koan Sound, BT, Andrew Bayer

25. Your music sucks at the moment, and it will probably suck 6 months from now. Keep pushing through

26. Study your craft as much as possible, but don’t neglect practice

27. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions, everyone starts somewhere. Google first, always.

28. Don’t spam people. This leaves a bad impression

29. Mastering? Forget about it.

30. Practice

31. That $200 plugin isn’t going to make you a better producer, despite the enticing tagline

32. The plugins in your DAW are more than enough to start with

33. Being a 14-year old EDM producer does not mean you’re special

34. Being a 45-year old EDM producer does not mean you’re too old or late

35. Browse the EDMProduction Subreddit. I don’t care if you don’t use Reddit, you do now

36. The most reliable forum is probably KVRAudio

37. Music production involves problem solving. There isn’t a tutorial for everything

38. Learn to DJ if possible

39. Enjoy yourself

40. Read this article: 50 Mixdown Tips

41. Copy other artists. You aren’t big enough to get sued (yet?)

42. Also, remake your favorite tracks. You’ll learn a hell of a lot

43. Keep your plugins and samples to a minimum and learn to work with what you’ve got

44. Playing an instrument of any kind is beneficial

45. Learn how to do things manually, then see if you can replicate them automatically (self-modulation for example)

46. Go to events, festivals, and clubs. Capture the vibe

47. People will ignore you from time to time. Get used to it

48. Try to produce tracks as fast as possible. As a beginner, this is the quickest way to learn as you cover all bases

49. You don’t need a Soundcloud pro account yet

50. Keep everything organized and name your projects logically

51. Don’t waste your time with labels, you’ll only be disappointed

52. Learning sound design? Focus on one synth, not ten

53. Tackle one thing at a time, music production is a very wide and diverse field

54. Unless this is a mere side hobby, you’ll need to make some sacrifices

55. Do something related to music every morning and every evening

56. Read The F***ing Manual (RTFM)

57. Producing music doesn’t get you girls, it just makes you more of a geek at the end of the day

58. Never delete your work. The stuff you make as a new producer may be incredibly creative musically

59. Making a living off music isn’t impossible, it just requires a huge amount of determination and patience

60. Don’t spend $1000’s on gear. Read Starting Electronic Music Production on a Budget

61. Review what you’ve learned each week

62. MIDI keyboards are helpful, but not essential

63. Develop good habits overall in the beginning. It’s harder to fix bad habits than to form good ones

64. Don’t worry about using a template. Find your style first (see Naden interview)

65. Constructive negative feedback is far better than a “nice track bro.” It hurts, but it’s worth it

66. There are people out there who physically can’t make music. Consider yourself privileged and you’ll find a lot more joy in it

67. Don’t give up your day job

68. That ‘professional’ sound you want? Yeah, that’ll take a while to get

69. There is no set period of time that it takes to become a good producer. For some it takes months, others it may take years

70. Use reference tracks

71. Capture and cultivate inspiration

72. If it sounds good, then leave it. Unless you can make it sound even better

73. Don’t stress the small stuff. You’ll progress faster if you focus on the fundamentals

74. Read a lot. Did I mention that? Yes, books. (Check out our Resources page for a few recommendations)

75. If you want to make a song that sounds like it was produced in 2006, then do it. No one’s stopping you

76. Many of your favorite producers are active on Twitter and will answer questions (within reason)

77. Don’t expect to be able to listen to music normally again. You’ll analyze everything

78. Creating mashups can be a good way to develop particular skills (EQing, automation, tempo matching, ear, etc)

79. Surround yourself with music 24/7

80. Use the ADSR envelope on everything, including samples 

81. If you think your music sounds great, you’re wrong

82. You’ll always compare yourself to others, this is natural. My advice: focus on yourself, and the music

83. Take some time off if you’re not feeling it, but no longer than necessary

84. Putting a reverse clap every 4 bars does not make you a creative genius

85. You don’t need to release an EP or album. I’ve been producing for years and haven’t done either

86. Silence is incredibly important in music. Don’t feel you need to fill in all the gaps

87. You don’t need to upload everything to the internet

88. When asking for feedback, be polite. Don’t just send a link to all your producer buddies without a message to go with it

89. Ask if you can sit in on a studio session. Pay 100% focused attention if it goes ahead

90. Remix packs can be a great way to get inside other artist’s productions.

91. Listen to a person’s music before taking their advice. Some people study without practice, and therefore only teach by analogy

92. Disable your internet connection when producing music

93. At the end of each production session, organize, name, and color your tracks

94. Having source material (samples, patches) that sounds good is paramount to having a sonically intact track

95. Repetition and variation are equally important

96. Keep tension and energy present throughout your track

97. Be unorthodox

98. Back your work up to an external HDD and/or the cloud

99. Focus on the music primarily. The technical side can wait

100. Practice.

Got any questions or tips to add? Leave a comment below.