Luckily, there are ways to combat these frustrating feelings of not improving. There are ways you can make music easier, faster, and better – becoming a better producer for every minute you spend in your studio.
Let’s dive in and discover what these four things you must fix to become a better music producer.
You open your laptop, sit down at your desk, and open Ableton. The blank Ableton template almost laughs at you. Where do you start? Suddenly, all melodies that you previously thought about are gone. You're not even sure which sounds to choose anymore.
If this is you, I’m telling you – you’re not alone. It happens to us all sometimes. And frankly, it causes a great deal of stress. You’re so anxious and excited to craft something truly great – and you know you can. But your tight schedule of life and this pressure of accomplishing something makes you stressed. It makes you forget the magic of making music, of exploration, and of having fun.
Once you become stressed, you deactivate your brain's holistic, creative part that gets you in a music production flow. Stress and, more importantly, adrenaline makes your mind fragmented and hyper-focused on one thing. It gets really hard seeing the big picture and is why stress makes you struggle even to start something creative.
How To Fix It
Take your thoughts that say, “I must accomplish something” and transform them into “Today, I’ll just have fun.” A change of mindset is necessary when stressed out. And by taking out the part that says you ‘must’ do something, you instantly get calmer. If you allow yourself to have fun, you release the boundaries and open up for unlimited creativity and improvement.
If stress is something very present in your life, aim to combat this instantly.
4 ways to eliminate stress:
- Cut down on caffeine and nicotine
- Drink less alcohol
- Exercise more
If you drink a pot of coffee before breakfast, have a few beers every night, never exercise and smoke two packs of cigarettes a day – it’s no wonder you’re stressed out.
Instead of burning the candle at both ends, do everything in moderation, and release stressful tension by exercising. You’ll be surprised at how much this can impact your ability to improve your music and creativity.
2. Not Having The Right Tools
If a painter misses an important color to continue with their painting, they get stuck. And the same is true for music producers. Sometimes, you don’t improve because you don’t have the right tools.
People are different, and naturally, that goes for producers as well. We all have different ways of going about creating things – and some are better than others. One might love drawing notes in the piano roll and visualizing the music. Others work better with a piece of hardware that they can record while playing.
If you’re doing the same thing repeatedly and feeling 'stuck,' it might be because you don't have the right tools to support your mind and creativity.
What tools are we talking about here? They can be:
- Hardware (synthesizers, effects)
- Sound Packs
- Field-recording gear
- Real instruments (guitars, percussion, etc.)
If you feel like you’re missing and get inspired by any of the above, it might be what you need to get excited again. And as a result, improve your music production.
How To Fix It
Take a quick scan of your current toolset and ask yourself what’s missing. What stands in the way of you becoming fired up enough to make better music? If it’s an expensive hardware synth, start saving up. Calculate how much it will cost you each month, set up a bank account, and save up.
If you want to take a more organic approach to your music production, investing in a field-recorder is a fantastic thing to do. Having one allows you to go outside and record what interests you. And when you get back in the studio, you’re eager to get it to sound great in your production.
Professional sound packs are also great for improving. Not only does it make your music sound better – it sparks creativity and opens up new ways of putting your track together. And that's what you want – because more productive time in the studio means you're improving.
3. Doing Everything At The Same Time
A huge productivity (and creativity) destroyer for music producers is trying to do everything simultaneously. And most of them don’t even realize this might be a problem. However, it's slowing you down way more than you think, both in terms of efficiency and rate of improvement.
Producers that don’t improve take all of the stages of creating a track and cram it into one (and every) session.
In the first improvisation stages, where the main goal is to get down as many ideas as possible, producers mistakenly start doing final arrangements and detailed mixing work.
And later in the mixing stages, they sometimes go back to scratch because their main idea was too bad. And they get stuck.
How To Fix It
Have a dedicated workflow for creating music. And do it in stages.
Use this workflow as a guide:
- Improvise Without Limits To Get Ideas
- Choose Your Sounds And Arrange Your Track (Rough Outline)
- Delete What You Don’t Need
- Do Final Arrangements And Start Mixing
- Master Your Track (if you do it yourself)
Working in set stages allows you to focus on the task at hand. The first step, for instance, is just plotting down all ideas you can think of. Because you have no limitations or rules here, creativity can roam free, which is what you want.
When your creativity doesn’t have limits, you create masterpieces. Later, you use what sounds good and start with the technical stuff — one step at a time. If you do this, you’ll be amazed at how much your skills will improve.
4. Lacking The Right Knowledge
Suppose you want to become a better leader. In that case, you take a leadership course and study the world's greatest leaders' characteristics.
If you want to improve your cooking skills, you take a cooking class, or buy a great book that teaches you new techniques.
Not improving in music production often comes down to a lack of knowledge. It could be a lack of knowledge about music theory stopping you from creating great melodies, a lack of sound design skills, arrangement.
Very often, it’s a lack of all of the above. And that’s the problem with learning things on your own or from many different producers. You learn so many different techniques and approaches, you feel confused and stuck.
Luckily, the solution to this is very simple. If you want to become a better producer, it's time you get the right knowledge in music production – learning the key techniques in the areas required to improve.
How To Fix It
If you lack the right knowledge in music production, you need to take the necessary steps to learn what you need. And preferably, from one source.
This ensures you have coherent knowledge and the right foundation to make professional music and improve efficiency.
Start to improve in the key areas of music production, which are:
- Music Theory Including Arrangement
- Sound Design
- Mixing and Mastering
With knowledge in these three pillars, you have the foundation to make professional music much easier while becoming a better producer, faster.
Do You Want To Make Music Like The Pros?
A solid foundation in music theory makes you put together chords, progressions, and melodies that truly make an impact. And when you learn how to arrange music in your genre effectively, you make music that people want to listen to.
Sound design is critical because it allows you to create the sounds you have in mind. With the proper knowledge in this area, you can think of how you want something to sound and instantly create it in your favorite synth. It also makes the mixing process faster and easier.
Mixing and mastering wisdom is also necessary to make your final track sound good. Your EQ skills must be spot-on. Your mix should be interesting, making people eager to come back and listen again and again. Excellent mixing and mastering knowledge is what makes a track stand out.
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Check out this comment we got on one of our YouTube videos:
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Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.