7 Easy Ways To Improve Your Electronic Music Productions
As an electronic music producer or any genre of producer for that matter, having your productions on par with the largest names, in terms of popularity and especially quality should be important to you. At times this may seem impossible to a beginner and even an intermediate, however, it is completely doable. By breaking down the qualities and attributes within a professional sounding mix I’ve gathered a few music production process tips that should help you reach your goals.
Before we jump into some tips let’s briefly go over the history of electronic music production. Electronic music production is any music that uses electronic musical instruments and technology in its production. With the development of digital audio workstations or “DAWs” one can argue even the most analog of recording can be considered electronic music, but we’ll save that for another day.
1. Become familiar with classic electronic sounds
Electronic production no matter the genre has a direct link to traditional instruments such as pianos, guitars, and drum kits. Early synthesizers and drum machines like the Roland TR808 and TR909 were developed to mimic real drum kits to the best of their abilities. Since resources were limited the quality suffered. However, from this, a unique sound was developed that still to this day holds a large place in electronic productions.
These sound generating machines created entire genres almost overnight and were often linked to different regions around the world, creating genres like UK house, Garage House, Chicago house, and Detroit house.
Many producers of this time used the same limited equipment, however how they used it, is what created their signature sound and genres that stood the test of time. Spending time to critically listen to the characteristics of past music will help you understand why you are in search of the sound mastered by the largest artists of today.
2. Music Theory, Structure And Arrangement.
There are few tools more powerful when it comes to electronic music production than understanding how music works. It’s known that you do not need to understand music theory to create number one records, although understanding theory will ease the production and writing process.
By learning different keys, chord progressions and scales you will easily be able to set moods for your track and define individual elements easier. The arrangement of your track can often make or break the success of a song.
Over time, listeners have become a-custom to the duration and structure of music they hear in traditional environments. One thing we highly recommend is finding a reference track that fits the genre of what you are trying to produce and look at its structure. How long is the chorus? What elements are in the bridge. At what bar do the drums come in? These are all important elements to any production that can simply be figured out using a reference track.
3. Being Original
Standing out from the crowd is easier said than done, especially when you are producing a specific genre. However, finding a sound that fits you can send your career over the top. Try to decide the personal sound you want your track to achieve.
Do you want it to sound industrial, or maybe dark and moody? Once you decide on the overall sound, produce as you normally would. However when you reach for your favorite effect or instrument try and use something different.
By simply removing the sounds you are comfortable with or effects you know how to use like the back of your hand, you force yourself to choose something different which adds a uniqueness to what you would normally create. Happy accidents happen all the time. Instead of deleting the mistake and starting over, see if there is a way you can shape it in a way that adds to your production.
4. Copy Production Techniques
One way to build your production skills is once again by using references tracks. If you like a certain sound whether it is a lead or bass sound, sample it and try your best to recreate it. The largest producers borrow from others sound all the time, and there’s nothing wrong with this.
Try loading several of your favorite tracks in your DAW and make notes regarding what you like about each of them. Find the sounds you enjoy most and combine them to create something new. Focus on individual elements and recreate them in that same session.
Once you have the sound where you want it, save it as a preset. By creating your own presets and samples that you save in your personal files, the next time you come back to produce a new song, the heavy lifting of sound design is done allowing you the time to just simply create.
5. Study Your Digital Audio Workstation
Without a doubt the most powerful tool you have in your closet as a music producer is your Digital Audio Workstation. Knowing and understanding the features and hidden tricks of a modern DAW may take years of hands-on time but it is worth it. The downside is there is no shortcut to understanding a program.
With unlimited digital resources like youtube tutorials, articles and blogs one should be able to get all the information they need to get up and running. Most DAW’s have endless amounts of videos covering every aspect of their workflow and key features.
If you are not sure which digital audio workstation is for you, that’s fine. Most manufacturers offer 30-90 day trials which allow you to use all the features and workflow before you decide to invest in their particular software.
It is also helpful if you read the user manual. Yes, we all know this isn’t the most enjoyable thing to do. But I can assure you, by doing this you will begin to feel comfortable throughout your DAW in a much shorter amount of time.
6. Finish What You Start!
Even if you are a great musician you will not be able to produce a quality track your first time. It often takes dozens of unsatisfying, poor sounding and bland tracks before you start producing tracks you want to share with the world.
With that being said it is important to finish those poor sounding tracks, every one of them. By becoming accustomed to working through a production from start to finish you build a habit of finishing what you start no matter the quality of the idea. If you do not finish your projects you will likely make the same production mistakes over and over again without understanding how they impact the result of the final track.
There is nothing worse than making countless tracks with the same errors and not knowing where this bad production habit or continuous errors come from.
7. Stay Organized
Whether it be in music or your personal everyday life, organization is key. By being organized you can save tremendous amounts of time. Have an external hard drive with all your samples saved in specific folders.
By doing this you ensure everything stays in one place. If your samples and project files are scattered around your computer file system, DAW’s will have a hard time finding a certain audio file when the project is reopened.
Creating a favorites folder is one of the most beneficial ways you can increase your production time and easy. If you create a preset or find an awesome sample, save it in your favorites folder. This will drastically reduce time when looking for that perfect kick drum or bass one shot.
First and foremost producing music should be something that you enjoy. Remember what made you excited the first time you started producing. These tips are meant to help you reach your goals quicker and more efficiently. Now get out there and continue producing.
If you are producing from home here are some other great tips to check out. Four Keys to Great Music Productions at Home.
If you are interested in learning more about music production and how to improve your Electronic Music Productions, Dark Horse Institute’s Audio Engineering Program is a great way to take things to the next level when you are ready.