ENTERTAINMENT PAGE-10 ESSENTIAL MUSIC PRODUCTION TIPS
I have been a studio music producer for the best part of my life and, although I realise most of you out there do not have a studio or are interested in making original productions, my experience tells me that every music lover is fascinated by what happens in the creation of a new, possibly hit, track.
Completing a piece of music is often the hardest task to achieve in music production. When do you know you are finished? Is your song perfect? Following these 10 tips might achieve some closure on the music-making for a novice and show the end listener some problems us producers have to go through.
1. Accept the obvious
Right from the start, you have to understand that you will never finish a piece of music. Okay, that sounds melodramatic at best, pessimistic at worst. But what I mean is, no matter how perfect your production, how superb your song, if you are anything like me, you will always notice imperfections and find ways to improve it.
This is especially the case when you listen back to something years after making it. Production techniques move on, as does the technology behind it, the instruments, the beats… everything can be updated and improved. So the best way to start out in production is to realise that a track will never be finished and can always be updated. It’s a snapshot. A moment in time. Accept it as it is and move on to create the next project.
2. Flaunt the imperfection
In this world of perfection, where every track, whatever the genre, has a similar top-notch sheen, you could do worse than look towards the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi and the leanings of several artists who promote the idea of leaving obvious imperfections in a work of art. So, as in Tip 1, accept that you’ll never be finished, but take it one step further and promote that imperfection. If someone calls you out on them, look towards the horizon and whisper “wabi-sabi” while nodding your head philosophically. “I meant to do it,” you are projecting. Of course you did!
3. Know the cliff edge
In many artforms, ‘overcooking’ is a terrible menace. Whether you are painting, producing music, writing articles on finishing pieces of music, there will always come a time when you approach the cliff edge of direness. You spend so much time tweaking, twisting, and basically messing about trying to make whatever you are doing better, that you end up destroying it, ruining the very idea you had in the first place and ending up with a great big pile of sonic goo, the only destination of which should be towards the trash bin. So recognise that cliff edge and see that point of no return.
4. It’s freezing
Simple one, this. Back in the days when computers were a bit rubbish, we would say: “Freeze your MIDI tracks to audio”; that is to say – turn your entire music project into stems of audio to take the strain away from your processor because it wouldn’t have to run so many virtual instruments.
With computers being a bit better these days, it’s not so crucial in the advice stakes – apart from the fact that this can actually help you approach the finishing line. With your tracks rendered as audio files, there’s less you can do to them, so there’s less ‘messing about’ and you’re forced further along the road that is the highway to song conclusion.
5. Set a deadline
Another simple one. You’d be amazed at how setting a self-imposed deadline on anything makes you actually do it. Setting yourself up with deadlines can really help you actually get stuff done, including your music making, so do it!
6. Arrange closure
I always seem to have songs on my hard drive waiting to be finished. Most Digital Audio Workstations or Audio Programs now come with superb arrangement features that will turn ideas into songs in no time, so arrange, arrange and arrange again – those ideas will suddenly become dollars/bahts/pounds of songs.
7. Get physical
Are you old enough to remember vinyl records, cassettes or CDs? These were actual things that you could hold that, somehow or other, actually held music on them. You’d put them into some piece of electronics or other and music would actually play. But the point is, actually burning, ripping, or ‘recording’ your music onto a physical medium meant it was a finished product.
Do this now, rather than having an endlessly streamable, digital file that can be constantly tweaked up in some cloud somewhere, and you’ll have what is, psychologically anyway, a finished track, simply because it’s on something that isn’t your computer. I tend to shoot a video and upload to YouTube – It really works.
8. Play it to someone
One of the hardest things to do when it comes to music production is actually playing what you’ve done to someone else. Unless you have the confidence of someone like myself who has had many international chart hits and releases, playing your personal ideas out loud can be traumatic.
But if you do it, and someone actually likes it – and by that, I mean they’re not saying in a patronising way, in that kind of “don’t bother me with this crap ever again” kind of way – then your song has been judged positively by another human being, so could be said as being ‘finished’.
9. Focus, focus
Creative types – and you are one of those, because you make music – often flounder around on several projects, trying to get loads of different things done, all at the same time. The plus side is that loads of ideas are swirling around in your head. The minus side is that loads of ideas are swirling around in your head.
Try this – go back to all of those songs on your hard drive and start deleting them. You’ll be amazed that removing options for your timewasting actually makes you focus on the brilliant song you are working on in the here and now. And suddenly, you may even find it’s done.
10. Just stop
Break all the above down into a rigid routine and you have the following – select all, copy, repeat, paste, delete some bits, bounce, burn, listen. Take my advice to all music producers – just ‘stop, look and listen’. Do this and your album will be finished in no time.
Now, I need to read this back, digest and get to business finishing my own new album…coming soon.