45 Things every Music Producer should keep in Mind
1. Make sure your track is clipping the master, busses, and at least three individual tracks. This will ensure that you always have a nice, warm, vintage sound. If you are still getting a bad result (too much clicking and popping), just turn the master fader down until that goes away. A little pop here and there sounds like a record and is considered cool. This is also the best way to ensure the highest resolution in your mixes. If anything’s still clipping too much, slap a limiter with a fast-attack on it. Using a limiter can also help alleviate issues related to improper tracking automation.
2. Normalize individual track wave files. This keeps you from having to raise volumes on faders. If your final output still has some headroom, make sure you normalize that, too. All tracks should be finished for mastering to at least -6db (please note no suffix such as FS or SPL is necessary as per point #14). This will enable you to compress it during the mastering process back up to beatport’s required format of +3db.
3. Always mix in mono. Most clubs only play out in mono, anyway. If you don’t, your panned tracks might cancel each other out. If your mix sounds flat, use a 3D FX plug-in. Even if you can’t hear the instant depth and nuance, your audience will still be able to.
4. Dr. Dre HP Beats Headphones are the best for mixing. These are very popular headphones so if you’re using them to mix, that’s how your music is going to sound to people who wear them.
5. Mastering can and should be used to correct any problems you can’t correct in your mix-down. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Mastering plug-ins should be used on the master channel when your mixing your track. Multiband compression should be used religiously and liberally.
6. You should only master your own tracks. Having someone else do it for you just means you don’t have good ears and you suck. You know how you want your shit to sound so BAM – make it happen.
7. Dada Life’s Sausage Fattener should be your go-to plug-in for master channel processing and mastering, in general.
8. Most good songs have at least 100 tracks running simultaneously. If you aren’t layering out your ass, you’re doing something wrong.
9. Quantize bass notes to 1/8ths. Everything else should be a static 1/16th.
10. If you’re having problems mixing in one DAW, those problems are sure to go away if you download a cracked copy of another sequencer.
11. There isn’t a single problem that can’t be solved by the religious use of ducking. Sidechain your kick drum to everything!
…including your kick.
12. For most tracks, the built-in sound-card on the motherboard will suffice for monitoring.
13. You should only have 5 dB’s between your loudest sound and your softest one. Compressors should be set accordingly with a fast attack and a slow release, with plenty of make-up gain to balance the difference. A low threshold is your friend.
14. There is no difference between dB SPL and dB FS. They mean EXACTLY the same thing. If a track is 96 dB Full Scale, it will be exactly 96 dB Sound Pressure Level, in the clubs.
15. With today’s music technology, you don’t need to be musically gifted or to have lots of practice just to whip out a tune. People who know about music through formal training are just keeping it in a box and lack creative insight.
16. Instruction manuals are for pussies who pay for their music-software. Even if you pay for it, don’t ever read these things because it will infringe on your creativity less if you don’t know what you’re doing. Most software synths come with presets so learning how to use it to make your own sounds is a waste of time. If you’re really stuck, start a thread on TA.
17. Brostep is the most ONLY creative and interesting thing to happen to music in the last 200 years.
18. ONLY listen to the style of music you intend to create.
19. The terms DJ and Music Critic are not synonymous. Besides that, anyone who doesn’t produce music has no right to be critiquing you because they could not possibly understand the complexities of such an undertaking.
20. Don’t ever go out and listen to music in a live venue. Staying secluded in your demimonde studio is your only link to creative juice. Listening to what other people are playing out will only make you feel badly about yourself. There is no insight that can be gleaned from hearing what a large PA does to the sound it’s amplifying, let alone watching people who could never comprehend the depth of your music dance to garbage selected by DJ’s.
21. 192 kbps is good enough for most PA’s but you only really need 128 kbps MP3′s to sound good. Most people can’t distinguish between them. It’s also great when you give out free, low-quality MP3′s.
22. Only work in 44.1, 16-bit. That’s how most people are going to hear it, anyway. There’s a reason why it’s called the Nyquist Theory – it hasn’t been proven, yet.
23. The best time to finish a song is after a 16+ hour marathon mixing session as your ears are best attenuated to the reality of it.
24. Spend more time on social networking than you do in the studio. When you comment on someone’s work on soundcloud, make sure there is a prominent link back to yours. If it’s someone famous you’re commenting on, make yourself sound more important by simply stating, “Will Support!” Don’t forget to include a link back to your work. If someone comments on your work, make yourself appear better than you really are by replying with, “Thanks for your support.” If there are a lot of people saying they really like your stuff, thinly veil your grandiosity by saying, “Thank you all for all of your support. It’s been incredible. What a ride!!!!!” The bottom line is that you should use the word, thank (or some variation/conjugation of) followed with the word, support.
25. Pick a side – this is a black and white issue: Your sound will either be defined by stone-cold sobriety or heavy drug use. If you aren’t dry as a judge, you’d best be concentrating aerosol dust spray in a plastic bag to inhale that shit; dosing liberally on crushed Oxies, and stoned on anything you can get your hands on, from bath salts and spice to hard-core medical marijuana. There is no middle-ground, once in a blue-moon, weekend warrior position on this. ALL OR NOTHING.
26. White Noise is incredibly musical. Use it when you’re not sure what to do next. It’s so versatile that you can pretty much use it to patch up whatever musical weak points there are in a mix.
27. The only plug-ins you really need are Vengeance, 3 Osc, Zeta+, ImpOSCar, and the Platinum Waves Bundle. Anything with the words, vintage, warm, analogue, exciter, enhancer, multi-band, vinyl, tube, saturation, or fuzz is also highly recommended.
28. Sign whatever contract a label provides to you. The generalized language is over twenty years old and that should account for something – even if it doesn’t apply to your particular situation. They wouldn’t have been using it the past twenty+ years, if it wasn’t relevant. Lawyers are pretty unnecessary in this day and age – especially when you can just google clauses you’re linguistically unfamiliar with.
29. Beatport is fucking awesome. Emulate everything you hear in their charts sections. Only find music at Beatport. Only buy from Beatport. Only deal with labels found with no more than three mouse-clicks on Beatport. If someone’s soundcloud isn’t referring back to Beatport, delete them from your following list until they are referring back to Beatport. Finally, I cannot stress this enough: Beatport!!!
30. If you’re using a PC, you should seriously consider switching over to Mac. If you’re using Mac, give PC a try. Depending on which computer you’re using, the one that you’re not maintains an exponential absolute advantage over it.
31. If you’re just starting out, one of the best things you can do is author a tutorial on something you have very limited experience with. The object of the game is to be helpful in order to make yourself feel better. There is no limit to your altruism’s ability to artificially inflate your self-importance. People who are too stupid to know better compliment you because, if you’ve taken the time to do a tutorial, you must be famous. Video captures of Fruityloops on YouTube featuring the meticulous and boring muting and unmuting tracks and displaying the plug-ins you’ve pirated is the best route to go, here.
32. If a note sounds like it’s clashing harmonically, it’s probably just your ears playing tricks on you. Ignore notes that sound like they’re out of key. If someone complains about it, tell them it’s intentional harmonic dissonance. If it’s on a remix of someone else’s track, the original artist is probably the one who is off key.
33. If you’re burnt out on the scene, a great way to re-energize it and your career is to launch into a rant about how personally corrosive it has become in the past three years (awww, you’ve endured your hardship for such a long time). Point out that carpet-baggers have infiltrated it and how rife it is, with corruption, from the top down. Make sure people see you as the good guy, who would never stoop to violating confidences, by only vaguely alluding to events in your recollection that could apply nearly universally to any person in any venue, anywhere. Make sure, also, that the events you’re alluding to possess enough familiarity with commonly occurring perceptions so that people will agree with you. You can do this by making sure they resemble events that could happen to any person in any venue, anywhere. Drop a few names of people who aren’t on your list of personal grievances, saying that you wish them well and hope they understand. Make sure to imply that they know the particulars of your ordeal and therefor qualify as silent witnesses who are actually vouching for your martyrdom. Finally, announce that you’re pursuing greener pastures, implying that some big project will be forthcoming in the next two or three years. Explain, with a starry-eyed optimism, how much you’re looking forward to new projects and adventures. Leave out the part about how greener pastures are actually constituted by late-shifts as a hotel night auditor.
34. Most money is earned by playing out, live. If you don’t know how to DJ, just get Ableton and program a set, in there. The throbbing mass of uneducated human gristle will pretty much dance to anything with a beat.
35. Craigslist is the best and safest way to buy and sell your gear. You can also use it to find trustworthy vocalists to record in your expensive studio.
36. Never buy hardware anything. Software is cheaper and better, will be usable for decades if not centuries, and will increase exponentially in value, whereas hardware = disposable and will always become an obsolete piece of refuse sitting in landfill within a few months.
37. Don’t ever credit another person for work they have contributed to yours. It’s your work and great artists steal.
38. The more mainstream artists you sound like, the better. As with track counts, mastering compression, and vacuous social networking, more is always better. If people can’t hear clear Afrojack, Deadmau5, David Guetta, Tiesto, BT, Armin, SHM, and Skrillex influences, you’re making garbage. Finally, to add to this point with no uncertainty: Beatport!!!
39. Unless you’re making dubstep, perfection is very important. But perfection doesn’t just apply to the music you make. It applies to marketing gimmicks, album covers, random thoughts, family history, physical fitness, comedic premise, and most importantly – internet arguments. If someone is critical of you, an idea you have, a song you make, or pretty much anything else you happen to value, you need to react harshly and negatively.
If someone takes issue with anything that concerns you, the first thing to do is tell the person that they are negative and narrow-minded. Remind them that it’s your/their opinion. If their observations are objective, tell them it’s a subjectively related topic. If their observations are subjective, tell them they’re not being objective enough. If they reply with an argument that further substantiates their thesis, try pitting other forum members against them by making passive-aggressive observations about their social rank. If that doesn’t work, delete your thread (or everyone of your posts in someone else’s thread). Nothing will make people want to have extended conversations with you like deleting their aggregate 2,000+ word-count.
Whatever you do, don’t ever attempt to reach some middle ground or worse, agree that you see things their way. Concession to one or more points voids having a perfectionistic approach to things. No matter how unhealthy it is, striving for perfection is more than skin deep. It is who you are and who you are is as special and unique as a snow-flake; and snow-flakes are incredibly fragile. Don’t take any criticism lightly.
40. Over-sensitivity is like armor. If you’re at all worried that you’re going to have some devastating emotional breakdown because you’re emotionally labile, what you shouldn’t do is take a break from public life on the internet and get your head together enough to come back on. Instead, wear your sensitivity on your sleeve. Keep your cauldron of instability close to the surface and be ready to drastically misinterpret the most innocuous remark as a scathing rebuke. People naturally don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings, and keeping yours so close to the surface warns people that you’re on the edge and need to be handled with kid gloves. Playing on people’s emotions to get them to react in a way which looks like respect or deference is one of many ways to avoid receiving anything close to an honest appraisal of your work.
41. All songs should have massive, melody driven breaks, with complex harmonic chord progressions while being completely bereft of rhythmic elements until the end. The occasional kick & crash is okay, but keep it sparse. They should mirror individual, minor classical movements in both their length and profundity. They should ooze with saccharine, over-indulgent sentimentality. No matter what sort of song you’re making, these are essential to conveying a completely unnecessary if not unnatural melodrama to the dance-floor. What’s more is that every DJ in the world loves them. Their sets are filled with big-time break songs, one after the other, driving up energy to an epic frenzy and then driving it off a cliff like a disgruntled 11 year-old who hijacked an ice-cream truck right before having a diabetic seizure.
42. As soon as you unwrap your very first DAW and install it on your computer you should be focused on one thing and one thing, only: Getting a release on Beatport before your first year of music production comes to a close. Anyone who says it will take longer is a loser who simply refused to take advantage of the available technology in order to get shit done. Don’t be another pussy, who, at the end of five years, has an impressive collection of vomit that would clear a dance-floor faster than a psychotic DJ screaming, “Jesus is Coming!” at the top of his lungs. Instead, be motivated, single-minded, and focused on making distracting, over-the-top shit to mask the musical short-comings inherent to your novice production skills.
43. Whether you’ve had skin in the game for a while or are just starting out, be sure to create an artificial distance between you and your audience by referring to yourself in the third person having someone else write about you. At first, speaking about yourself from the perspective of someone else having someone else handle your publicity might seem awkward but making sure your audience has a perception of you as someone who is better than they are is very important. You want to create a sense of inferiority in your audience because people naturally seek out those who make them feel complete. When people see someone referring to themselves in the first person who doesn’t have someone else speaking on their behalf, they feel equal with that person and, since your audience knows they are naturally inferior, they assume the people without third-party representation are inferior as well.
44. Music production is easy. Today’s technology offers nearly limitless opportunities to beginners with very little time required for complete mastery over it. There’s a reason why music production is equated with button pushing. That’s precisely what it is. That’s why everyone makes EDM. And that’s why there is no such thing as a stupid question. Have an idea for a song that you want to sound like another song? Great. Ask a question about how to make it. Want your bass-line to sound more “pro?” Find a YouTube of a song with a bass-line you’re trying to emulate, and ask away. Better yet; ask someone to make it for you. If those who can’t do, teach, those who can’t play a real instrument with any demonstrable competence, produce music. You might have never touched a piano keyboard in your life but that doesn’t mean you can’t do electronic music. All you really need is a mouse and an internet forum and you can be on your way to scoring techno-driven, Hollywood block-busters, Mozart!
45. Trying to make it in this business is hard. It’s much easier to have someone else do it for you. That’s why good producers always enter remix contests and great labels always host them! There’s no need for struggling labels to pay $5,000.00 for one producer to remix a track when 5,000 try-hards will do it for *free – and there’s bound to be a gem amid the piles upon piles of nail-grinding, cringe-inducing, ear-crippling sewage attempting to be better than the original. There are a few essential tips for both labels and producers, though:
Make sure the contest is judged by voting ONLY. This helps to ensure a contest that brims with integrity while yielding the highest caliber contest release.
Beatport! It’s gotta win you a release on Beatport!
If you’re a contestant, be a great sport and post a quick comment on all of your opponent’s entries. You don’t actually have to listen to them. Just make sure to post a link back to your submission! (See Rule 24)
Did I mention Beatport?
Producers: Maximize and limit the shit out of that mix! Louder is always better – especially for contests!
If you’re dealing with vocal stems or tracks, don’t let them get in the way of dropping some huge, massively detuned, electro-house synth work and jaw-dropping, hands-in-the-air beats.
Side-chain that fart-bass!