Once you’ve finally acquired your bearings in a specific art-form, it’s kind of a bummer to look back on all of the work you’ve done, and say to yourself, “If only I would’ve learned this sooner,” or, “I wish I would’ve known about this before. It would’ve saved me so much time!”
That’s a pretty common thing that, I believe, most people have probably thought to themselves at one time or another.
This common human feeling is probably why a YouTube video – featuring a 100-year-old man explaining his biggest regrets in life – earns over 10,000,000 views.
Everybody wants to know if there’s something they should/could be doing right now that would save them
The idea is that, hopefully, we can fix a problem that will subsequently never come into existence because we already took care of it in the present moment.
Relating this back to music production, I spoke with a bunch of music producers recently and asked them what things they wish they would’ve known sooner, things about music production that could’ve saved them so much time and energy.
Here is a list of every point I thought was worth noting:
1) Use The Reverse Function On Samples
The “reverse function” is a tool in a DAW that allows you to play a sample or other prerecorded piece of music
2) Master and Compression
This one is obviously self-explanatory. Learning how to master properly is essential, and understanding a compressor is equally as important. You can read my article on compression here.
You can also read my article on how to master here.
3) EQ Different Instruments To Prevent Clashing Frequencies.
In other words, using subtractive EQ to create room for competing instruments.
For instance, when creating a bass-line using a boutique 808/deep sub bass synthesizer, it’s not a bad idea to subtract a bit of EQ on the kick, and then add EQ to the 808 where you subtracted from the kick.
In the images you can see below, the EQ has been increased by 5dB at 94 Hz on the one, and then decreased by 5dB at 94 Hz on the other. The idea behind this is to, as I mentioned above, “create room” for the two to co-exist.
Explained in another way, there can only be so many sounds coming at your ears at a particular frequency. Eventually, if there is too much signal at one specific frequency, it’ll sound jumbled, muddy, or just over-saturated and bad.
Using subtractive and additive EQ is a way of allowing one’s music to figuratively breathe.
4) The Critique/Making Theory
From what I was told about this theory, this is the idea that a person’s ability to create something is usually far behind their ability to critique the very same thing.
In other words, it’s a lot easier for a beginner to talk badly about one’s own creation than it is to actually make something good.
Everyone has a Ph.D. in criticism, but when it comes time to back up their words with action, their skills simply aren’t there.
Essentially, a rookie music producer/musician just has to understand that, eventually, you’ll be able to create something good. Don’t critique yourself too hard.
5) High Pass/Low Pass Every Track Accordingly
This means to cut the unused and unneeded frequencies taken up by a track.
For example, if a musician is playing a guitar part and the vast majority of the riff is high-pitched, there’s no reason for low frequencies to be coming through the mix.
Cut those frequencies out. A high-pass looks like this:
And a low-pass looks like this:
You want to go into the Smart Controls of each Software Instrument track, select the EQ option, and then set up a high/low-pass accordingly.
6) Don’t Use So Much Reverb.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t use so much reverb, because the tracks kind of stack up on top of each other, and the end result ends up being a washed reverb-ridden mess.
7) Start Making Songs Sooner
This is probably one that a lot of people can relate to because the procrastination struggle is real. It’s hard to get going on things sometimes because our inner critic is always telling us why we shouldn’t.
Using the Garageband drummer, for instance, is a great way to just start making music right away. Record a guitar/synth/bass/whatever part, slap on the drum machine, and there you go.
8) Learn Multiband Compression
A multiband compressor is the same as a regular compressor, however, where it differs is in the ability to control specific frequencies over others.
For instance, through the use of a multiband compressor, you can control the loudness on specific frequencies, rather than just slapping on a compressor at the end which compresses the entire sound.
9) Take Singing Lessons
Learning how to sing is obviously a great tool for music producers, and frankly, if you’re struggling to find someone to sing/rap over your songs, then just do it yourself and see what comes out.
If you’re a struggling musician, you can’t just wait around for someone to put you on, or sing over your track. Just do it yourself if it’s been a long time and you still have no one to collaborate with.
10) Take Care of Your Ears
And perhaps one of the most important ones of all, but easily the most
You could have the best headphones, plug-ins, software, and hardware available but it won’t make a difference if your hearing is as good as Beethoven’s toward the end of his life.
One can’t stress the importance of this enough, and hearing loss is a major concern, especially in the modern era of iPods, iPhones, super loud stereo systems, earbuds, and in-ear headphones.
The best headphones to use, without a doubt – at least from a hearing safety perspective – are the ones that go over your ears. You can read about the headphones I use here.
The link above takes you to Amazon, and I’m very happy with them. Once I started using them, I noticed that my mixes definitely improved, because before then I was using iPhone headphones and I couldn’t even hear how bad my mixes were.
11) Start charging for your work sooner rather than later
A lot of producers out there, beat-makers specifically, don’t actually charge rappers for their beats, something which DJ Pain – a producer I follow – really dislikes.
For one, it has sort of created this market where rappers and other artists expect to just get music and beats for free, without giving any kind of monetary compensation or anything.
A person online wrote that he takes what he called the “Han Solo approach.”
“I could almost buy my own set-up for the price for you to produce this album!”
“Yeah, but who’s going to fly it, kid. You?”
The truth is that producers and musicians sometimes undervalue themselves because they’re told so often that “it’s so competitive” and it’s “so hard to succeed.”
For that reason, people start to sell themselves short, and artists, especially, are quite self-critical due to just how personal and intimate their work is to themselves.
I would suggest to start charging for beats/songs/mixes after your 90th production. In other words if you’ve written or created 90 different tracks, and a few people have asked for them, I would start charging.
12) Take Constructive Criticism Well
Nobody likes to have their work nit-picked or criticized, but the truth is, people, online especially, have nothing to gain from criticizing your mix. For that reason, it’s crucial to listen and take that bit of feedback.
There’s a big chance they’re being real with you and have a point.
13) Learn to EQ Sweep
An EQ sweep is when you increase the volume of a specific frequency, narrow the Q, and then drag it across the screen to find which frequencies could be subtracted.
The idea behind this tactic is to eliminate any harsh or unpleasant sounding frequencies from the music.
14) Don’t Waste Time Arguing Over What’s The Better Gear/DAW
Sitting around for hours on internet forums, arguing what’s better, FL Studio or Logic Pro is a big waste of time. Stuff like this is hardly worth your time and it should be avoided at all cost.
I can guarantee you that the biggest producers right now are not arguing with people on GearSlutz; they’re working.
In fact, I would just avoid internet forums altogether, because they’re often quite negative and the people in them portray themselves as experts when really they’re not.
15) Mixing and Mastering Is Supposed To Enhance Rather Than Fix a Song
“We’ll fix it in the mix,” is a term that has become a running joke/meme among producers. Musicians often don’t want to recreate something, so everyone just throws their hands up and says, “we’ll fix it later.”
However, from what I understand, this situation rarely comes to fruition, and it ends up going unfixed, and the final product is negatively affected.
If something needs to be re-done or re-recorded, just do it and get it over with.
16) Keep Your Publishing Rights
I’m not an expert in this area, by any means, but from what I understand, this is where the majority of musicians make their money from.
I’ve heard this very same thing from one of my favorite guitar players, Steve Vai, as well as DJ Pain.
According to Digital Music News, there is a significant difference between owing a recording and owning the actual song.
Giving the example of Thelonious Monk’s track, “Ruby, My Dear,” from Columbia Records, a publisher named Music Sales, administers the rights of the song on behalf of Monk’s estate, and therefore, the money “that flows from the administration of the rights in that song…is called publishing income.”
17) Don’t Be A Perfectionist
Expanding on this point, many people have a perfectionist mentality they believe will help them separate themselves from the rest of the herd, however, the truth is that all it does is acts as a hindrance.
In other words, you’ll spend hours and hours EQing the snare, when the difference it would’ve made is practically negligible, and nobody will notice.
The truth is that no one can see how much work you’re putting into the EQing or mixing process. And nobody cares either.
People just want a good song, they don’t care about pleasing the “audiophiles” or whatever those people call themselves.
In the beginner and intermediate phase of acquiring your skillset, it’s better to work hard and publish often, rather than spend all of your time obsessing over minute details nobody will even notice anyway.
It’s important to note, however, that as your career progresses, those minutes details do matter a lot. But when you’re first starting out, it’s all about just building a name for yourself and gaining experience.
On the collaboration point, this is a great way of meeting people and getting to know the individuals in your industry. The truth is that you need people to succeed at something. One person can’t just be an island with nobody around them, it won’t work out.
Moreover, many people spend all of their spare time trying to “get better at making music,” but they never actually publish their tracks or try and meet other people in the scene. They end up just being this forever-casual musician/producer who hasn’t published anything really.
18) Back Up Your Files
This probably goes for nearly everything done on a computer, but having your computer crash and lose everything on it is a complete and utter disaster. You don’t want this to be you.
An external hard drive is around $50-$150 for a good one, and they can hold a ton of data. It’s not a bad idea to pick one up from Amazon some day.
I use the Seagate Backup Plus 4TB and it’s been great so far. You can read about it here. I actually store all kinds of stuff on it, and not just music files. However, without a doubt, the biggest files are my music production files.
I hope this was helpful for you. Make sure to share it on social media if it helped. Until next time.