Music Producer Tips & Tricks
This might be unpopular, but I don’t recommend that you use kick drum synth plugins. Too many producers waste time trying to synthesize a good kick when they should be focusing on writing a good song.
You see, the top sound designers that make all the samples for Splice, Loop Master, Vengeace etc have some very nice analog drum machines, very nice analog outboard gear, and many years of experience.
It would be extremely unlikely that you could achieve a better result with a single digital plugin. Even more unlikely that you could do it quickly.
Pianists don’t build their own pianos. They just write music.
At the time of writing, there are 185,575 kick drum samples available on Splice alone. So there is plenty of unique and high quality kick drum samples out there for everyone.
Let your songs define you first. We can look at custom kicks later.
I remember a time when compression felt like some kind of music production voodoo that was far out of my reach.
People would say that... "A compressor makes things fat, or warm" but when I was first using them, I wasn’t sure what was actually happening.
These days, compressors are an integral effect for me. I couldn’t imagine working without them.
If I hadn’t learned how to use them, I would be miles behind with my mixing and mastering. Aside from that, once you know how to use an audio compressor, it's fun! :)
Here are a few tips that will help you along to the way to understanding audio compression.
No. Follow my golden rule. Listen first, then only apply something if it needs it.
How do I know if it needs it? Well, you need to know what it does, how it works, and what it’s good for. Let’s explain.
This is the process of reducing an instrument's dynamic range....
The two main types of bad mixdowns I hear are muddy mixes and thin mixes.
Muddy mixes sound quiet, and kinda like they are foggy, or distant. The sounds and instruments are hard to hear. They have good low end but they not present or as loud as professional mixes. You might also say they have a lack of clarity.
Thin mixes are the opposite. They sound too loud/harsh, and kinda like they lack impact, power, and size. This is usually due to overuse of high pass filters.
Now...The best way to fix these problems is with the individual tracks in your mixdown. Not with your mix bus plugins, but sometimes you have no choice.
So, to clear things up here's a video I recorded with my top mix engineer tips for how to fix your mix and make it clean and bright.
Recently I received a question From Chris W, on my site asking about mastering and how to fix his mixdown.
"hi I'm a new producer, and I'm fantastic at creating chords and leads but I suck at mastering. I can't afford your...
There are a lot of things you can do to make your music sound better and that is exactly what I teach.
A good way to introduce you to this is by telling what you should avoid, and my one and only golden rule that you must do.
Our story starts with the internet. It's an amazing way to share information, but the information is not always correct.
While teaching, my students all tell me the same thing...
They tell me it is too hard to sift through the noise on the internet, youtube, and popular audio magazines. These places offer lots of advice, but it's difficult to know who to trust.
One BAD piece of "amateur" advice I've noticed is to “Always do X".
In my many years of being a touring DJ, Record Producer, and Mix Engineer, I have found the...
Stereo is a huge part of every modern song/mixdown. We all use it and listen to it every day.
However, not many people know that using the wrong kind of stereo widening techniques can severely damage your song.
Techniques such as HAAS effect, Mid Side, Frequency Shifter, pitch shifting and even chorus (if used incorrectly) can cause huge problems in your mixdown. There are even some expensive 3rd party plugins that cause problems right out of the box.
These stereo widening techniques may give you a wide sound, but they have bad mono compatibility, and phase issues.
So, when summed to mono, this can make your song sound soft, mushy, distant, lose punch and lose bass.
This could be happening right now and if so, it's not your fault. You've just been taught the wrong techniques.
That's why I made this free video lesson, and why I made the plugin i demonstrate in the video.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I love my Subpac. I use it for every song and even travel with it. So it was an honor to be asked by the team at Subpac to do a video for them and be featured on their website as a Subpac artist. Check out the video below, or learn more about Subpac here.
Have you ever struggled to get your kick and bass sitting just right? Have you ever found it hard to get them fat while still being in the same key? You are not alone, and you might be making things unnecessarily hard for yourself.
I've been hearing more and more about this lately. Just like the "high pass filter everything" rule, here is yet another Youtube tutorial tip that has been blown out of proportion. If you haven't already heard this one, a tip has been spread that "you must have your kick in key with your song". As you know, I am highly against the concept of rules that apply to every song. I am a firm believer of listening and approaching things case by case. Here is my take on when you should tune your kick, how you should, and when you shouldn't.
The time to tune.
The only times I think you need to have your kick in key with your song is when you are using a long tonal kick that has a clear note to it. e.g. big room boomy EDM kicks, Trap 808 kicks, and sometimes long...
Today I remembered a moment when I thought I witnessed an EQ phenomenon.
I was about 17 years old. I used to play drums in a reasonably successful band at the time.
Our producer was in the studio with us and was directing the recording engineer.
At one point he said, “sounds ok, but I think it has a touch too much 1Khz”.
My ears pricked up, and I thought, you are kidding me right. People can’t just hear a frequency and know precisely what it is. Not only that but can they also know if one specific frequency is a touch too loud or not?
This memory makes me chuckle at myself. For, sure enough, these days, I do this very thing every day as effortlessly as breathing.
Years of practice have trained my ears. I was reminded of this when someone asked me for some EQ tips.
There is a lot to cover with EQ. It is one of the most critical adjustments in your mixdown. However, I’m sure you have a life outside of my email tips, so I’ll try to keep it snappy.
Layering is pretty much the opposite of our recent subject Separation.
In this case, you are trying to combine sounds and make them feel like they all come from the one instrument (most of the time). However, just like separation, you also don’t want the sounds to fight with each other.
I generally use a combination of Instruments, Transposing, EQ, Overdrive, Compression, Stereo processing, and space. Here’s how.
Firstly, the choice of instrument is fundamental. It might even be the most crucial part of it.
When I’m about to layer, I’ll usually already have my core sound. e.g., a Synth. It probably sounds mostly the way I want, like 80% perfect, but is likely missing something.
I will rarely layer that synth, with another sound from the same synth. I try to use different ones or even better, use samplers.
The fact that the sounds are coming from different sources naturally helps them to sit well right from the start. Also, it’s a good excuse to remind...