Don’t be mistaken by the subject. I’m not an accomplished music producer. I’m a professional mixing engineer, but a music producer in learning.
This means I’m like you, and I’ve learned some ways to get better day by day. The reason is that you can’t get better at anything if you don’t put in the effort every day. This is the number one rule of this article. If you learn anything just 10 minutes a day, it becomes 60 hours after a year. So, it can be possible only if you learn how to learn.
Here are the ways those could make you a better music producer.
1. Learn more about music theory
Music theory is a shortcut to bring your ideas and feelings into musical notes. You can find the nice chords for your state of being with trial and error, but it’s much quicker if you know music theory. You can write a melody by looking forward and trying through notes. However, you can know what you will do if you have knowledge about it.
Also, it will be tiring to try to talk with a music producer who doesn’t know about music theory and how to read sheet music. (Actually, I haven’t seen anyone without that skill.) Everybody talks in English in a worldwide business. Similarly, everybody talks in the language of music in the music business.
2. Learn more about mixing
Today's music is made on computers, so you have to know about the technology side of music more. You don’t have to do a final mix but it would be great if you know how to make a rough mix and express your ideas.
Your productions will always be better if you know more about frequencies and dynamics. You will think about them while you’re producing in the first place. For instance, you won’t add too many instruments in the same frequency area because you will know that they will mask each other, and they will sound smaller.
This will also open too many creative possibilities in your mind. Knowing how to use creative effects and using them in your production is a must tool in today’s music.
3. Learn more about sound design
Creating unique sounds is also crucial. That’s okay if you use presets from a synthesizer but everybody can use them. You can’t create a unique sound with those presets.
I’m also not good at creating sounds from a synth right now so I use those presets too. But at least, I adjust them according to my needs and try to make them unrecognizable. You can use that basic technique if you’re a beginner like me.
4. Work with reference tracks
Sometimes we get out of ideas. Does that mean we should stop and try again later? Not at all. If you wait for the inspiration to start making new music you will lose the game. You have to start doing something to witness that inspiration.
Pablo Picasso once said:
Good artists copy, great artists steal.
The point that we can learn from this is, imitating others is okay. Analyze your reference tracks deeply: What kind of drum samples in use, what is the key note of the song, how is the arrangement, and more. Try to do a similar arrangement, and you can differentiate it after.
5. Listen to lots of music
I hear that advice a lot. They say that you have to listen to more music if you want to be a better musician, better mixing engineer, and yet better music producer. But they don’t say how to listen. If you listen to music while you’re driving or preparing dinner will you be a better music producer? It won’t be that efficient. The most important aspect while listening to music is listening to it carefully.
So, what to listen to while listening? There are too many elements to listen to if you want to become a better music producer. Because you’re the one who has an idea about everything in the process. You have to listen to the chord progression, melodic structure, bassline, arrangement, mixing, effects, and everything in that song. The problem is that you can’t pay attention to everything at once. You have to listen to it a couple of times to get an idea about the whole picture.
Also, if you listen to the genres that you don’t like, you will understand what makes those genres different from each other and what the similarities are between them.
6. Learn to play keyboard good enough
Your main instrument could be a guitar or anything. Nevertheless, you will make music on a computer. If you know how to play a keyboard good enough you can impress your audience with your ideas without even looking at a screen and you can record your virtual instruments by playing them -not with a mouse. This way, your productions will be human-centered.
7. Build good relationships
It’s important to have a valuable network in almost every business. But it’s never enough just to know people to get more work. It’s more distinguishable in the music business because it’s a creative profession. Yes, you can make music with a stranger, but you can make it better with friends. So it’s not just about knowing them but caring for them.
It’s hard to meet new friends in the days of the pandemic but it’s possible. A couple of months ago I had so much free time and I was hungry for mixing. I was surfing through Reddit, listening, and commenting on people’s music. I wrote to a guy who makes good music with bad mixing & mastering knowledge. I offered to do free mastering for just a song because I liked his music.
We e-met him through a Zoom call and we talked about life and stuff. I liked him and his approach to his music and I decided to do both mixing and mastering for his song for free. I did it and he loved it.
He told me that he’s making an album, and he wants to work with me on the whole album as a mixing and mastering engineer. I told him I can’t do it for free because I’m a professional engineer, and I need money like everyone else. He thought that a little bit and came to me again with a financial idea. So we agreed to work on that album together.
He’s the kindest client and friend that I have right now. We finished that album in the pandemic days, and I'm proud of it. But did I do those things to make a good network for myself? No. I did those things because I love music, mixing, and people. I did it because I had a chance to make a new friend. Now he works with me also on his upcoming tracks at my regular rate.
We have too many possibilities with today’s technology. It’s great if we can meet new people at a coffee shop but there are other options too. We don’t have any excuses if we don’t do anything with those technologies.
There are too many possibilities, yet the most important thing is to apply them in your daily life. Let me know if you have your own ways of becoming a better music producer.