Music production is a field where you always have to adapt to a quickly changing environment. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced producer. These 10 tips will help you to improve your music production skills!
1. Don’t overcrowd your room
Be sure not to fill the space with unimportant elements that do not contribute to the context or character of the song. Be clear about which 3-4 tracks you really need for the song.
If you have vocals, they are usually the most important part of the song. Therefore, all elements should support the vocals. Remember though: these are rules and rules are there to be broken.
Check out the great breakdown of “Alors on Danse” by Stromae. He used less than 20 tracks for this hit song!
2. Vocal adlibs for spice
Do your songs sometimes feel empty? Try using vocal adlibs or chops to fill the space and put your vocals in a new light. Adlibs can really bring seasoning to a song. Remember: Too many ad libs can oversaturate the song!
Adlibs are an improvisatory vocal recording technique and refer to signature impulsive vocal effects. A good example is “Mood (feat. iann dior)” by 24kGoldn. Notice how subtle adlibs add to the overall energy towards the end of the track.
Adlibs should sound different from the main lead vocal. Make sure to process them differently and on a separate channel.
3. Repurpose elements
You can try to creatively repurpose elements that you already have. It may be a synth arp, a vocal melody phrase or a bass sound. Get creative with those elements to create sounds that are coherent with your already existing production.
Try resampling a certain part, reverse it, cut up the sample, pitch it, throw an effect on the channel and see what you get.
4. Layers and layers of the good stuff
Lacking depth and thickness in your tracks? Then try layering!
- Pick one instrument (i.e. Juno synth)
- Pick a complementing instrument or sound (i.e. Serum soft pad)
- Send all instruments to one bus
- Try applying slight compression to the bus. Notice how the compressor glues the different elements together.
Bus compression adds a sense of “glue and punch” to the mix and creates a cohesive feel between the different tracks.
5. Use references
Ever used reference tracks? If not, you should definitely give this a try. Listen to a specific element in a song you like. Compare that element to your own song and then try to improve your element.
Here is a list of examples you can reference when listening to a song:
- The sound of the snare
- Vocal production
- Percussion fills
You should not reference more than two elements from the same song, otherwise you might end up copying the whole song.
6. Contrast and color your arrangements
Music lives on contrasts. Loud and soft, foreground and background, left and right, small space and big space. Create tension by changing the instrumentation in the different sections of your song. A good way to create contrast in your arrangements is to take away sounds.
Want to turn down the energy? Try removing drums and bass as a start!
Listen to “New Rules” by Dua Lipa and notice how the instrumentation changes in each section.
7. Automation as a creative tool
Automations are often what differentiate a beginner production from a professional music production. You can create a lot of interest with minimal sounds by using automations! Your songs will sound more dynamic and keep the listeners engaged.
Common elements to automate:
- High pass / low pass
- Pan (left/right)
- Dry/Wet of Delay or Reverb
Automations can help to introduce new elements more softly or to move them into the background.
Are you collaborating frequently? If not, then this might help you a lot! When collaborating you can learn a lot about how other people work and learn their tips and tricks. Also you can expand your network within the music industry which may be beneficial for your career.
You can collaborate on various fields:
- Co-producing a song together
- Writing session with a topliner
- Finish a song someone else started
- Produce a topline from someone on TikTok
How to find collaborators you ask? You can reach out to artists or producers you like very easily these days. Here are a few platforms, you can check out to find like-minded people:
- Facebook (music production groups for example)
- Instagram (reels)
- Discord (Producer discord servers: Kenny Beats, Ian Kirkpatrick, KREAM, …)
- Remix Competitions
9. Check your mix in mono
As many people today listen on portable sound systems or even their phones it is important to check your mix in mono. While producing simply turn the signal into mono and route it to the left or right channel.
Also make sure to check your mix on different sound systems while producing so you understand how your music sounds outside of your known sound environment. Systems and places to check are:
- Airpods / Airpods Pro
- Over-ear headphones
- Laptop speakers
- Portable speaker (JBL, Bose, Sonos, etc.)
Remember: Bass frequencies are not linear, when you turn the volume up and down. Make sure to listen to your track very quietly and see if it still has the energy you are looking for
10. Don’t overheat your bounce
Make sure to bounce your mix correctly before mastering it! Check out these 3 simple steps by Matoma to prepare your mix for mastering.
When you are happy with your mix you can upload it to Masterchannel for mastering. Get your first mastering session for free when you sign up for an account.