Monday, 4 November 2013

101 Quick Music Producing Tips & Techniques

101 Electronic Dance Music Production Quick Tips & Techniques

Hi Guys here are 101 music producer tips and techniques to help you in the studio. 

Everybody works differently and I appreciate some of you might not find any of these helpful but hopefully there is something here for everyone and I hope they ignite that spark and inspire you to start making music, finish that track or just give you a shove in the right direction with your dance music projects! 


  1. Don't be afraid of using sample packs - it's what they are there for.
  2. If you're tempted to turn up the volume when making music, turn it down (your ears will thank you later).
  3. Invest in a good set of monitor speakers. (Using the speaker on your macbook will not provide adequate quality).
  4. Keep monitors  away from the corners of the room to avoid boomy bass. You might not get an accurate mix due to the 'extra' bass.
  5. Before investing in a set of monitors make sure you hear them on music you really know and understand because you want to be making this sort of music out of them right?
  6. Before investing in set of monitors - make sure you hear them for yourself. Don't just go off what 'DJ Dave of Music Tech Forum" recommends.
  7. Take music to listen to on monitors that you want to buy, make sure you use uncompressed high quality files and not crappy low bitrate files from Zippy.
  8. When buying monitor speakers trust your ears more than the spec sheets. you don't get the full story from the fancy numbers in the specs. Your ears are the real test.
  9. Use EQ to remove the lowest sub-bass frequencies, which won’t be reproduced on most systems. 
  10. Look after you ears (buy some ear plus and take regular breaks when making music) but the best part of the speaker monitoring chain is your ears.
  11. Use your car stereo as a good listening tool.
  12. Walk around your 'studio' to hear sounds and different volumes in the track that may need adjusting as you may not notice these sitting directly front of you speaker monitors.
  13. Optimise your 'studio' with acoustic treatment.
  14. Don't underestimate the effects of the acoustics in the room and what impact this has on the mix.
  15. Use egg boxes as cheap acoustical treatment.
  16. Use high quality sounds and samples to get a high quality finish (if you put shit in, you get shit out. Remember this saying: you can't polish a turd).
  17. There is no such thing as the perfect monitoring system so check mix downs on several systems in different acoustic environments.
  18. Treat your mix like a picture. Important sounds should be at the front, not so important sounds should sit nicely in the background .
  19. If you have an Audio/MIDI track and it's just sitting there not doing anything in the mix, if you can't hear it. Get rid of it, it's only creating mud.
  20. Fill out the frequency spectrum to create a fuller sound (bass, mid, high).
  21. Be careful not to fill the frequency spectrum too much else you'll get a muddy brick wall. You should be able to 'walk' around the elements in your music.
  22. Put a high pass filter on everything that doesn't need a low end… stops the mix from being muddy and gives a clearer sound.
  23. Stay out of the red. Leave plenty of headroom in the mix. Distortion and 'Brick Walling' is a NO NO! There are plenty of plug ins you can use to apply distortion properly.
  24. Many clubs are still wired in mono so put your kick through a mono channel too (unless you are about to embark on an avant-garde surround sound showcase tour - that would definitely be interesting!)
  25. Be more inclined to use a midi keyboard rather than using a midi sequencer editor, your riff will sound more human = interesting and less robotic.
  26. Don't be afraid of sampling. It's what most of dance music is built upon. especially a lot of the early stuff but do it wisely. There is a difference between sampling and theft. Be cunning, don't be!
  27. Every so often, turn off the computer screen & listen to what you are making. It's music not blocks of colour.
  28. Take breaks from the studio to avoid ear fatigue. your ear drums are muscles. If you've been banging away at the project for 12 hours straight can guarantee when you come back to that tomorrow, it'll sound completely different!
  29. Educate yourself about Tinnitus & the dangers of loud music.
  30. Make music you feel not what others want you to make. It has to come from the soul.
  31. Save, save, save! Regularly save your projects.
  32. Back up, back up, back up! Same as above really! But it's just good practice because you never who might want to remix that track from 3 years ago ;).
  33. If you're producing house music, place your bass notes on top of the kick or hihat produces a driving feel.
  34. Use polyrhytms in your drums to create interesting drums sounds.
  35. Try layering several kicks to 'conjure up' the perfect kick.
  36. Be careful of phase cancelation when layering your kick drums.
  37. Make the bass 'Phatter' by putting a high synth on top of it. The low frequencies and high frequencies will create a contrast.
  38. Try layering a clap & a snare to create more 'bite'.
  39. Use buss compression on your kick and bass at the same time to get a bigger sound. 
  40. Use white noise as good sweep up/sweep down.
  41. Use Panning to make your drums and percussion sound organic.
  42. Listen to other genres of music to loosen up your mind. It'll help breed inspiration.
  43. Struggling with a writers block? Listen to other music to get ideas about arrangement, structure, automation etc.
  44. Manage the time on your projects. You can spend hours listening to the same loop, tweaking, changing notes and fannying around with little bits and pieces but  try focusing on workflow. A completed track is better than no completed track.
  45. Don't be afraid of using automation - logics curve tool is immense!
  46. During a breakdown, sometimes less is more.
  47. Before you send your mix to the mastering engineer make sure you are happy with the final mix down. the mastering engineer has a fantastic set of ears but he isn't a wizard and can't undo any mistakes you send him.
  48. Make sure you send the mastering engineer a high quality file. No crappy 128 mp3s. As discussed he isn't a wizard and also see above. You can't polish a turd. 
  49. Leave around -4dB in the final mix down for the engineer so he has enough headroom to work is magic.
  50. Remove any bus compression, limiting, eq from the master channel before you hand over the final mix to the mastering engineer. In other words, don't touch that master channel!
  51. If you are recording live instruments and putting them in your dance music, make sure all signals are clear. Use the same principles when using live instruments as you would do when using samples. 
  52. Use side chain compression on white noise with the kick drum to create interesting fx.
  53. Use side chain compression on the bass with the kick drum to make the baseline pump.
  54. Compare you mixes to tracks you want to sound like, after all you want to sound like this right?
  55. Write a hook. it's what people will remember, if you have an interesting hook - chances are you'll have a killer track.
  56. Studio gear is not as important as great ideas. You can buy expensive equipment, great ideas are priceless. Music is judged on how good it sounds not on what was used to make it or where it was made.
  57. Don't get too caught up on what you don't have in the studio. Rather, focus on what you have and become an expert of your 'studio'.
  58. when EQing try taking out any nasty sounds before emphasising the good frequencies.
  59. Be imaginative with your percussion to come up with some interesting beats.
  60. Be organised. Know where your samples are. This is good for faster work flow and helps save time if you have hired out a studio.
  61. Be organised. Label and name your individual tracks in your project. (You never who might want a copy of your project to remix it).
  62. Be organised. Group tracks together (I'm not talking about bussing here) Organisation helps your work flow i.e put your drums together, put your synths together. Seeing & knowing where your tracks are is good for workflow.
  63. Try not to arrange until you have all the parts for your song. Would you start colouring in a picture if you didn't know what colours you were using?
  64. Remember sometimes percussion elements have a key and may clash with other musical elements if they are not in the same key.
  65. Remember it should be fun making music, don't take it too seriously and have fun.
  66. Avoid writers block and don't put too much pressure on yourself.
  67. If your track is sounding a bit flat, don't worry. mastering and mixing it down will brighten it up.
  68. Save time and try and mix your tracks properly as you go, this will save time at the end of your project.
  69. Choose you daw of choice wisely, remember its a personal taste thing and its up to you what you find easier to make music on.
  70. EQ and Compression are to music what salt and pepper is to food. You can't tell that they are there but they make a difference.
  71. EQ a kick drum around 2.5 kHz to give it a 'slap attack'.
  72. EQ a snare drum at 240kHZ to make it sound 'phat'.
  73. EQ a snare drum to 5kHz to make it 'crispy'.
  74. EQ an organ at 80-120Hz to highlight its bottom end.
  75. EQ an organ at 240Hz to bring out the 'body' in the organ.
  76. EQ an Organ 2.5kHZ to bring out its full 'presence'.
  77. EQ a Bongo at 5kHz to give to a real presence.
  78. EQ strings at 240 Hz to give more 'fullness'.
  79. If you have sibilance on vocals eq them at 7.5-10kHz to remove it.
  80. Make sure you power up and power down properly with you speaker monitors or else… KABOOOM!!!
  81. Remember you are making dance music, it's not Rock Metal music, you don't need to over produce tracks. Focus on the mix and getting the levels right.
  82. Make your sounds work for you. Don't work for your sounds. If you're spending ages trying to make a sound work, its the wrong sound. Spend more time arranging rather than fanning about with the wrong sound.
  83. Tease the listener. Open filters gradually. Use 4s, 8s & 16s. Make transitions gradually and keep the listener interested.
  84. The human ear can only focus on 5 things at once apparently so not only will layering sound upon sound sound 'muddy', it'll also confuse the listener.
  85. Presets are good but alter them and change them. Personalise them. Make the sound yours. "Find your own beat".
  86. Treat you computer like a real music making machine. Don't clog up your HD with unneccesary files, you'll need it for samples and for your projects & that extra RAM always helps with that CPU which is good news for your VSTs and Plug-ins.    
  87. Seek constructive feedback. As they say feedback is the breakfast of champions -   it can only make you better right? 
  88. Use Parallel compression on your drums to brighten them up - Don't under estimate what this can do!
  89. Use Mix Bus Compression on your drums to glue all of the elements together so the track sounds more cohesive but be careful when using this technique as the track can sound too squashed and it will lose its punch.   
  90. Try using gated reverb on your drums to make them sound more powerful. A technique which was commonly used in the 1980's.
  91. Use a hint of bit crushing across the whole of your mix to add colour. Be careful when doing this on your mastering as most of the time it'll just sound distorted but used wisely and it can go a long way.
  92. When using vocals make sure that they are in the same key as the rest of track. Common sense but some of you itching to get started to make that #1 hit track might over look this so watch out when when sampling those vocals.
  93. When writing a build up or drop, try stripping away all of the main elements of the track in the last 1/8 of the bar to create a little suspense and the drop/build up will sound 'bigger'. 
  94. You can use Logic and Ableton to edit Quick Time Movies so take this into account if you want to sample those wicked rainforest noises from your favourite wildlife documentary or if you want to sample audio from your favourite movie.
  95. When programming in drum patterns try changing the velocity of the hits to make them sound more human. Try doing this with midi notes, they'll sound less square too.
  96. Use the recorder on your phone to record melodies that pop into your head. Don't be afraid of humming or singing them ion your phone - you never know when inspiration will strike! 
  97. Use major chords to evoke happy emotions while minor chords can be used to evoke sad emotions.
  98. It took me years to figure this one out: There are no secrets to making music. It might seem like your mixes sound flat, your music might sound uninspiring and you might think that you'll never make a release quality track. But the key is hard work, patience and persistence. Be willing to make mistakes and embrace learning. There is no perfect way of producing/composing music. Keep pushing yourself, have motivation and do it for the love of music and you can't go far wrong. You'll get there eventually and the journey will be well worth it.     
  99. You make the music, your gear doesn't make the music. You can go and invest in a top of the range studio but that doesn't mean you'll produce top quality music. A top quality producer can still produce top quality music on the most modest's of set ups. Learn your craft, develop an understanding of music theory, acoustics, mixing techniques, understand and appreciate other genres of music, learn how to use your set up and the rest will follow. You'll soon be king of your studio.
  100. There are no rules. Good music is all that matters right? what you use, how long it takes and how you get to the holy grail of a release quality track is up to you. People dancing in the club don't care where the track came from, they care how good it is - this is what you are judged on. It's thickle but focus on a great sound and a great production and that is all that matters. Simples.       
  101. Have patience. Practice makes perfect and just because you know how to use Logic with Ableton as a re-wire slave, doesn't mean your going to become the next big thing overnight.
All the best! 

Joey :)