5 Beginner Tips to Improve your Production
Posted by James Cullen on
Being a music producer in 2023 means you have an unprecedented level of access to learning material. Never before have we had so much information at our fingertips, so many resources available to help us become better producers.
As someone who's been producing for over fifteen years now, I can say with some authority that there's one thing above all else that you can do to ensure you're always improving as a producer.
Be a constant learner. Never think you know it all. There is always going to be some new piece of information you can learn, a new tip or technique which will unlock some of your creative potential.
Above everything else, always be open to learning new things. After all, you never know it all, and there will be someone who knows more than you who can teach you a thing or two.
So, in this guide today we are going to take that idea and run with it, putting our focus on ways you can improve your music as a beginner. All the while, bearing in mind that there is always something new to learn.
So let's begin!
Consistency is Key
If you're wanting to learn music production and improve your skills, the top thing you can do to ensure this is be consistent.
If you're the kind of person whose entire life is broken down into a schedule, then make time in that schedule for your music production. Regular sessions will ensure you're not going ages between getting things done, and you're constantly putting into practice the things you've learned.
Similarly, if you decide you want to learn about a specific topic, then stick to it. Don't give up half way through because it wasn't as exciting as you thought it was going to be. Because spoiler alert; you have to put in work before things get really exciting.
They say you need ten thousand hours' experience in something to be seen as a professional, so what better way to get started on those hours than with regular sessions?
When you start out, you aren't going to be making full tracks, you're going to be practicing small ideas and building off of each one. So making sure you have a regular time slot to work on things, build on your ideas and not leave too much time so you forget is a key thing to bear in mind if you want to improve your production game.
Learn Music Theory
If you're already a musician and you're coming to electronic music production with a pre-existing knowledge base of how music works, then you're at an advantage right away.
But many people who come to music production these days don't have that prior knowledge of music theory, so if you fall into this group, make sure you take some time to learn the basics.
Music Theory is essentially the language of music. It's a way to talk about musical concepts in a unifying way, so everyone from a producer to a classically trained pianist can understand each other.
But more than this, it unlocks music before your eyes (or should that be ears?)
Understanding music theory, even the basics of it, will give you a huge advantage over producers who lack any knowledge of it.
So dedicating some of your time to learning music theory will pay off in the long run, as you'll have a better understanding of how to write chords and melodies, and how rhythm works.
All of these are tools which are guaranteed to improve your production skills.
Spend Time Away from your DAW
This may seem counter productive, but you can actually improve your music production skills even when you're away from your DAW.
One of the many ways to do this is to become an active listener.
Many people passively listen to music, meaning it's something they just put on in the background while they do something else. This could be driving, or housework, or homework. Either way, ask yourself this.
When is the last time you listened to music without any distractions?
When you do this, it's called Active Listening. This is a guaranteed way to become better at music production.
When you actively listen to music, instead of letting it wash over you, you are paying attention to every little detail. You're doing your best to figure out what's happening, and you can even take notes to try and help with this.
The more you do this, the better you'll get at it. And this will improve alongside your music production. The more production techniques you know, the more you'll be able to spot them in other people's music.
But don't feel like you need to know music production at all to start doing this. Simply start listening to music you like, or that inspires you, and try and note down why you like it.
You can then translate these reasons into motivators for your own music you want to make!
Don't Always Follow the Rules
When you're starting out in a new craft, you always need to learn the basics. That's just how it goes, right?
While you've definitely got to have a fundamental understanding of the basic elements of music production, once you move past them, there's a surprising amount of freedom.
One of the biggest tips I consistently give in these guides is to experiment with things. A lot of the best music out there got to where it is because the musicians decided to throw out the rulebook and do what they wanted to.
But don't misunderstand this and think it means you don't need to learn anything. Just know that there is always flexibility, and it's often in the areas outside tradition where you can find exciting ideas.
A great way I like to put this into practice is, when I download a new synth, I only go and read manuals or watch tutorials after I've had a mess around with it myself. Who cares if there are specific ways you should do something? If you can get good sounds out of a synth just by experimentation, then that's no less valid than the results of someone who read the manual cover to cover!
Knowing when to do this is important, so make sure you have a solid base of knowledge before you start going off in random experimental directions, but once you're comfortable in your DAW and you have a workflow sorted out, just try some experimentation and see what you can come up with!
Never Stop Listening
Music is an artform which is inherently shared between people. So to make sure you're always progressing and improving your production skills, make sure you never stop listening to the music that inspires you.
Your music library should be varied and include stuff from all genres, which is one of the best ways to keep your musical mind fresh and full of ideas.
It should be obvious that the more music you listen to, the broader your horizons will become. You'll take in ideas and techniques from a variety of genres and settings, which will all serve to make your music a reflection of you.
This is because your influences are then processed through your interpretation of them, so you could give two different music producers the same library of music to take influence from, and they would translate these influences into vastly different musical results.
Your music is always going to be a reflection of you, but your influences will shine through in exciting ways. So listen to as much music as you can, and it's guaranteed to make you a better producer!