1. Love What You Are Doing
If you don’t love the style of music you are doing your results will be seriously impaired. Kind of obvious and I sure nobody sets out to make music they don’t like, but a common thread among successful producers is they worship the music. They often start out with next to nothing production wise, but because they do it for the joy they often spent hours and hours to overcome this and get something great. They spend serious time looking for breaks and samples and serious time trying to mess them up. Just for fun. They are not trying to be the ‘next’ Memtrix or the next Andy C, they are just making similar music because the experience of doing so is very very satisfying on a deep level. If you are thinking about taking up production or DJing because it looks cool and you fancy yourself on a pair of decks with a thousand people worshipping you then you are probably coming at it from the wrong angle. If you seriously LOVE the music you are trying to make then you are halfway there and the rest is easy.
2. Be Geeky
Really really really take your time to learn the craft. Read everything you can about compression, and Eq. Understand frequencies, pitch, transients, harmonies, harmonics etc… and get stuck in. If you love what you are doing (number 1!) then it won’t be hard. Get addicted to the Producer Masterclasses on YouTube and watch them over and over until you understand exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. Has anyone seen the Camo & Krooked masterclass? These guys talk like scientists. And let’s not get started on Noisia… Load up your fav tracks into your DAW and study the frequencies using a spectrum analyser. Where do the kick and snare hit? What does the overall frequency range look like at different sections etc… Time to get super geeky and analyse what makes your favourite tracks so good. You cannot over do this – there is always something to learn!
3. Mess Around
Spend time just literally messing about with no rush to do achieve anything in a hurry. Have sessions where you just make synth patches. Chop up drum breaks, try and create new snares. Find samples and stick them in Kontakt. Guarantee every time you do this you will create something useable or at least something to store away for later. Sometimes you might create something fantastic and completely different to anything else out there. If you are coming at it with a sense of playfulness that is. These sessions are really refreshing too, especially in between marathon production sessions, particularly those where you are tiding up or mixing tracks. Its good to let off steam and have fun.
Kind of obvious this, but nobody got to be known as the greatest bedroom producer in the world if they never left the bedroom. There will be a period of this of course, especially at the beginning, but when you can it’s great to join forums and chat to other people who do similar things. Post music and get feedback. Join discussions, comment on Facebook, be active on all Social Media – you never know, you might get a comment or a like from somebody you really respect and look up to in the music industry (it does happen!) and that is perhaps the single most motivational thing out there. You will be psyched! And of course, its good to leave the house, go and see DJs, try and build up a rapport. Make friends and get to know people. You never know where this will take you. One bit of luck later you might find your track in a set or a label sending you a private message! People can be quite encouraging, especially in more ‘underground’ genres.
This might sound odd, but the REAL skill in music is to be able to listen and hear. Stay with me… When you can critically evaluate whats going on in a piece of music – especially your own then you are fully equipped to get better. Listen to your favourite tracks… what’s going on in them? Where is the vibe coming from? When you do this with objectivity and non-judgement then you can really start to understand what makes a track so good. This doesn’t kill the enjoyment, it actually enhances it. If you are listening to your own work and you think it’s the best thing ever produced even though it’s only your third track you probably need to stand back and be a little bit more objective. We are all close to the music we make, but when you can enjoy it, but know it can be better then you are really ahead of the game. Do mix comparisons in your DAW, use a spectrum analyser. Or just listen really hard. Be honest with yourself on this and its half the battle won.