Producers: Have you ever wondered how that artist you idolize made that transition in that song you love? Or what effect did he/she use in build-up / drop? Or how does he/she do that punchy kick? Well, I confess that many times I don’t even know the answer because in electronic music we have endless ways of doing things. And that’s good! After all, the production of electronic music is a continuous learning, we are always evolving and that’s what makes it so interesting, the fact that we can explore every detail, every transition, every moment of the music in order to transpose our emotions and mood.
In this post, I will expose some of my production methods and some techniques that may be useful to you producers who are taking the first steps in production (and even those who already dominate the thing can always learn something new or get some ideas). I want to remind you that the tips that I will expose here are only about PRODUCTION! However, in the future I will share my knowledge about mixing and mastering techniques.
It doesn’t matter what DAW (production software) you use, all of them will do the same. It’s often said that there are no better or worse DAWs, just different ones. The production of electronic music is not an exact science and therefore, these tips are only the result of my experience as a producer. As I said earlier, there are endless production techniques. I would only stop writing this post next week if I were to expose here everything I do and I know so I will just give you some general and the most important tips.
Enough of bla bla bla and let’s get down to business!
1. Finish your tracks
A common mistake of any producer is not to finish the songs they start. Many times, we get stuck in a loop, which may even be the best 15 seconds of music ever made but then we cannot develop a final product. What also happens is that when we are creating a song, we are constantly listening to that same song and every progress we make, until it gets to a point where we get tired and we think that music is not so good after all and we give up. And then we’ll create a new project and tell ourselves that this is going to be the best song ever and we end up in the same trap again. My tip is: no matter how hard it is to get out of the loop, no matter how tired we already are, finish the song! We don’t know what the final product will be and what emotions this music can transmit to other people. Believe me, after a while, you will go back to hear the song and say – Damn, this is fucking good!
2. Keep it simple
Subtlety is the key. I don’t want to say that you should make a song only with a kick, a hat, a snare and a bassline. What I mean is that sometimes we are tempted to add too many elements to fill the song. Remember that your goal will be to play your music in a club and believe me, there are many elements that will not be perceived and that will only disrupt the music. As you get more stuff into your room, you will have less space. The same thing happens in music. So be aware of this. Focus on the main elements of your music. Give life to these elements. The same goes for the effects. Do not exaggerate or make music too artificial. Less is more!
3. One element at a time
I think this was the mistake I made the most when I started producing. I used to put all the elements together, tried to combine them to sound good and create a groove, a good melody or a funny effect. What happened was that I got to the end of the song and some things didn’t sound good to me and even when I was making the mix, something didn’t beat right. Later I realized my problem: I didn’t focus on the elements individually. The truth is that the ultimate goal of a song is to put all the elements in a way to sound good together but focusing on one element at a time is essential. Take time to create a kick until it sounds perfect, then add a snare, work on that snare, equalize it until it is as you want and in tune with the kick you created earlier, and so on with the other instruments. You will lose more time but in the end, it will be worth it and it will save you a headache.
4. Start with a 16-loop or 32-loop
There are many producers who start a song working on an 8-loop. It doesn’t mean that it’s a mistake but I honestly don’t recommend. It doesn’t mean that the song is going to suck. Each producer works the way he/she wants but start a track with a 16-loop or even 32-loop personally gives me more space to work the music. In other words, I can put elements in different parts of the music in order to don’t make it so repetitive (a percussion there, a FX there). And somehow, it helps us to not get caught in a loop because we’re already working a big part of the song, the body of the track. Working on longer loops allows you to quickly create a big part of the story that the song is about to tell.
5. Create your own loops
Speaking of loops, I know that many producers like to use pre-defined loops in their songs (drum loops, pre-made basslines, etc). Again, this is not a mistake and it is something that can be done without any problem. However, if you want to create your own identity, your own style, I strongly recommend you to create your own loops – drum loops, melodies, or whatever. You will be amazed by the sense of personal fulfillment after you finish a song 100% created by you. Take in your libraries of percussive elements and your favorite plugins, and create your loops, your music. Because in doing this, you are creating your artistic personality and there is nothing better in the artistic world than being unique.
6. Think music as a story
Maybe the most important tip and for me, the basis of my songs. Regardless of the style of music you create, think electronic music as a story. Because even those tracks who have no vocal parts can tell a lot of things. What is your mood right now? Are you happy or sad? Do you want to tell a short or long story? Do you want to tell a piece of your life in music? Transmit this. Listeners will realize that there is more in music than merely an instrument cluster. You can start in a more aggressive way, soothe the music and then go back even more aggressively. Creativity has no limits. We are emotional human beings and as a painter exposes his emotions on a canvas, expose your feelings in your DAW.
7. Make variations
This is something that may depend on the musical style / genre. Still, you don’t want to make music boring for your listeners. Work every moment, every loop, every second if you need to. Try to put a minimum element here and another there, it can make all the difference. Explore! Many producers like to make variations only at the end of an 8-loop or even at the end of a 16-loop. I have nothing against it. Personally, I like to make the music more vivid, more interesting, putting an element in a part where the listeners were not expecting, to make the music unpredictable. Basically, I like to be a jigsaw!
8. Intros and outros
This is something that is common sense but still worth highlighting. Remember that you want your music to be played at a party, with you behind the decks. Given this situation, when you’re creating a song you should create intros and outros and not start the music with the whole energy. The fact that you have a relatively long intro and outro (between 30 seconds and 1 minute is ideal) allows you to make better transitions from one song to another when you are performing. Example: you can see in the track below that the music is relatively constant in the first minute.
9. Louder doesn’t make it better
Do you want to be a musician for life? So, remember that your greatest tool is not your monitors, your computer, or your gear. Protect your breadwinner: YOUR EARS! This applies when you are producing. I think all the producers are tempted to put the music in a high volume to feel it better, I’ve done it (and I still do sometimes). But this is a mistake because the higher you put the volume, the less perception you will have about the music you are creating, not to mention that it damages your hearing in the long run. While you are producing, look for a sweet spot on your volume knob, not too high or too low, in order to hear the full essence of your track. Because if it sounds good like that, in a high volume will sound good too, and even better at a club. Your ears are grateful!
I hope these tips have helped you. As I said, the production of electronic music is not an exact science but there are some methods that, combined with each other, develop our knowledge and our production skills and prevent us from doing this walk in the opposite direction. I made many mistakes at the beginning and I continue to commit some mistakes but I have always heard that failure is fuel for success. From the mistakes, we learn. So, don’t let yourself down if something is not going as you planned. Go outside, take a walk, breathe and when you return to your work will be more inspired and ready for round 2. If you are looking for some motivation, I recommend you to read this post. I am eternally grateful to have this opportunity to share my knowledge with you and I hope that my help has made a difference. Any questions you have, do not hesitate to contact. To the next time!