Pro Audio Files

72 Music Production Tips I Wish I Knew When I Started

Dear Past Zac,

The year is 2015. I … well you, are older.

In time, you’ll release two original EP’s on iTunes. You’ll get a remix and an original release published on Beatport. You’ll compose, arrange, and produce hundreds of tracks.

You’ll use Kickstarter to create two successful albums and print physical copies. You’ll have people commenting on YouTube how much they like your music. You’ll love your music.

You’ll hate your music. You’ll continue to struggle with self doubt but with better finesse. The ebb and flow doesn’t ever leave.

As you listen in amazement and wonder to “Move For Me” by Deadmau5 and Kaskade in your new Sony MDR-7506’s — which you’ll use for over five years — I want you to take heed of what I’ve learned over time.

Here’s 72 tips I wish I knew when I started producing:

1. Trust your taste. In other words, don’t second guess yourself. Who are you doing this for anyway?

2. Stop crapping on popular music for your ego. You can learn from anything. In fact, it’s wise to learn from music that millions listen to.

3. Using loops doesn’t make you a “fake” artist. It’s the end product that counts. Look at the gaming industry. Do you know how many of them use Unity? Or Unreal? What matters is the game. What matters is the music.

4. Same goes with samples.

5. Having a beverage while you produce will make the process much more fluid. Arguably it’s the caffeine. Arguably it’s having something to reach for in between empty moments.

6. Get a nice pair of headphones or monitors ASAP. Frequency response is important. Bass is important.

7. Mixing is not mysterious judo. Go ahead and mix. Make bad mixes. Eventually, you’ll make good mixes.

8. Mastering is not mysterious judo. Go ahead and master. Make bad masters. Eventually, you’ll make good masters.

9. Buy a quality sample pack as soon as possible. Here are some quality packs incuding a free one.

10. Let music you don’t like or understand warm up to you. Chances are you’ll dig it once it’s familiar.

11. Repetition is important and minimalism is key but don’t use these as an excuse to ignore that last 20% of polish. Give your tracks that spit shine sheen.

12. No one cares until they do. Work on your craft and put it out.

13. If there’s no market for your work they may never care. Do you care?

14. If you don’t enjoy listening to your music you’re doing something wrong (or working for hire).

15. Start building a reliable way to connect with people who want your music. Email list is a good idea.

16. Free shouldn’t literally mean free. Give it out for a purpose. Facebook likes? SoundCloud followers? Email subscribers?

17. Think about where people will listen to your music. What is the setting? This should inform your production.

18. Think about what people will listen to your music. Who are they? This should inform your production.

19. Don’t resist learning music theory. Music theory is a map. You can navigate without it but it’s handy to have.

20. Don’t compare yourself too much to professional artists. Especially not early on.

21. DO aim for the quality of these pro artists. But again, do not let them stunt you.

22. You’ll reach a point where your music is actually on par with professionals and you’ll only recognize it looking back.

23. It doesn’t matter what DAW you use.

24. The final production is what matters — not how it’s made.

25. I repeat. The final production is what matters — not how it’s made.

26. Don’t ever make excuses with regards to tools. You can make amazing music with 100% free software. Remember that $400 you spent on synths that Deadmau5 was known to use? You’ll use those for about two songs.

27. New tools do provide opportunities for new directions. Spice up your production once in a while by acquiring a new plugin, sample pack, or instrument.

28. You know that guitar you’ve played for half your life? Stop pretending you don’t want to use it and get an interface. I recommend this one.

29. Invest in a solid microphone to go with that interface. I recommend this one.

30. There are four tiers of audio equipment.

  1. Cheap
  2. Solid enough for pro use. Consumer level pricing.
  3. “Pro” which is marginally better than number 2.
  4. Expensive.

Tier two is good enough. Ignore the rest. When you make a living off of music you can splurge.

31. Never get angry or upset at change. People who yell about the music industry crumbling or that streaming is taking over the world are exhibiting resistance. Accept the world for what it is and look for opportunities. The obstacle is the way.

32. Deadmau5 began his production journey around age 16. He exploded 14 years later. Mostly because of market conditions. Kaskade’s “active years” according to Wikipedia begin in 1989. Aim for the slow burn not overnight success.

33. Start building up a following now. Fan by fan. Never forget the power of one more fan. One more listener. One more email subscriber.

34. You don’t need a million twitter followers to be a success. All you need is one thousand true fans. This may not literally be one thousand.

35. Treat your music promotion like a boot-strapped blog. It’s surprisingly analogous.

36. Your side project of writing and your eventual day job as a game designer will provide incredible perspective on making art. This will inform your music. Vary yourself.

37. Compression is overrated.

38. EQ is overrated.

*Clarification: Compression and EQ are nothing more than hammers in your toolbox. Learn how to wield them. Use them to get the job done.

39. In fact, most technical aspects of production are overrated. Focus on the emotion and the energy. You’ll write a book about this.

40. If you’re sitting on unreleased music for two or more years consider licensing it. Sell the beats. Do something with it. Chances are you’ll just sit on them anyway.

41. Vocals are like cheat codes for engagement and interest in your track.

42. Provide value to others. In time, they’ll provide value to you.

43. The people I’ve seen have the most success do it by physically knowing and interacting the most. Playing the game online can work but it’s harder because the barrier of entry is lower — everyone is doing it, and it’s far less personal.

44. Ignore vanity metrics like “number of tracks” or “song length.” These have no bearing on the final quality of the song.

45. As Rolf Potts says in his book “Vagabonding” about world travel, “If in doubt about what to do in a place, just start walking.” Similarly, if you get stuck with a piece just start messing around. Eventually what you’re looking for will find you.

46. Break all the rules. On purpose. Make this a dedicated effort. You’ll learn why they exist and how malleable they really are.

47. Label and name your tracks and project files. It really really really helps when revisiting things. You still won’t do this even if I tell you to.

48. Never ever export a song and call it “final.” That’s a slippery slope.

49. Use [track name]_[purpose]_[date] where purpose is something like “mix” or “mastered” or “demo” or “forJuan.”

50. You appreciate production more during periods of your life when it’s your escape. I know you want to drop everything and produce but understand it will lose some allure. Opportunity cost is a fiend.

51. Your speakers can deteriorate overtime. This will cause you to remaster an album 8 times in the future. Trust your monitors yet be diligent that their time may come.

52. The real important difference between analog and digital equipment is the ability to play and touch analog. Not quality.

53. In the absence of analog equipment, get a MIDI keyboard with knobs, wheels, and faders if possible. At least knobs.

54. Your family genuinely enjoys listening to your music. Share it with them.

55. You know your friends genuinely enjoy your music if their play count is more than two.

56. If you want to make a big diversion or edit in your track do a “Save As” and name it “[track name]_[reason for edit].” Then feel free to make changes. You can always go back to the initial file.

57. Keep volume at a decent level. No reason to blow your head off.

58. Make sure you check your mixes when the track is loud and when the track is quiet.

59. When the track is quiet you should be able to hear the most important parts of your track clearly.

60. Mixing is 90% volume and 10% remembering it’s mostly volume.

61. Mastering is 90% volume and 10% fixing your mix.

62. Back up your music. Dropbox didn’t exist when you started so grab an external hard drive. Losing your work is awful.

63. Never let dollars impede your creative progress.

64. Producing on a laptop is less enjoyable than having a bigger screen. Get the iMac instead of the Macbook. Or, buy a display for your laptop. Regardless, you’ll use a 13-inch MacBook for awhile.

65. If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes adjusting a parameter you’ve lost objectivity. Set it and come back later. Preferably another day. Or after you’ve substantially disengaged from production.

66. You’re not gonna become famous by creating some crazy new synth patch. Each piece serves the whole.

67. You can’t force your voice. You’ll stumble and mimic your way to a point where your voice begins coming through. Let it. Be vulnerable. Trust your choices. Eventually it comes out.

68. There is a difference between a track you casually throw up on SoundCloud and something you’ve officially released. Put care and value into your releases. People respond to this.

69. Find someone to do visual design for you. Album covers, web design, logos, etc. — they’re all important for creating a holistic experience and meeting audience expectations. Most people don’t do this which means you should.

70. Always pay for visual art. If the person declines compensation buy them lunch. If they won’t take lunch yell at them.

71. Whenever you struggle or doubt yourself remember why you got into this in the first place. Making music is fun. If you’re struggling you’ve forgotten the fun.

72. Sometimes the fun isn’t there. Go do something else.

—–

Well, Past Zac, I hope you’ve learned something.

If anything, you’ve learned that there’s a vast, unknown, and exciting world of music creation ahead of you. There’s tons to learn.

And let me tell you, it never gets old.

In the comments below, share what you wish you knew when you started producing.

Furthermore, if this kind of material excites or interests you, click here to check out my book: Electronic Music Arrangement: How to Arrange Electronic Music.

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Zac Citron

Zac Citron

Zac Citron aka Zencha is the author of zenchamusic.com, a music production site that explores “beyond the technical” — mindset, workflow, arrangement, marketing, and more. He also drinks way too much tea.
  • Diogo Semedo

    holy f*ck I just loved this. I do am sure I agree with you on almost all of them. Want to add this: less is more.

    • Zencha

      Haha thanks Diogo. I agree, less is more is key.

  • I Love This Article.. Thanks For The Post!

    -Count Morris

    • Zencha

      Yea dude thanks for reading!

  • Monti

    This… this is EPIC. Hands down EPIC!!!!

    • Zencha

      You’re Epic Monti!

  • Kash Noir

    Hello I really enjoyed your article and I put your website in my bookmarks. Thank you for what you’re doing!

    • Zencha

      Thank you for reading Kash!

  • Danny Bochkov

    this is awesome…

  • Awesome!
    Here’s one of mine.

    Forget genres. If it sounds good, it sounds good.

    • Zencha

      Amen!

    • ♛ ♬ DAH Trump ♬ ♛

      preach!

  • Ryan Bain

    This gave me chills. Excellent. Thank you!

  • Yorai Dragon

    Awesome job man, this boosts a lot of confidence in producers. Quite a few informative things I’ve learned here myself 😀

    • Zencha

      Glad you got something from it

  • Miguel Morales

    This help me alot!! far away.. really, thanks!!!

    • Zencha

      Your welcome!

  • andro.bot

    Unity is a game engine not comparable to loops / samples… in game textures / sprites and assets would me more like the loop thing that actually most good game studios do create from scratch. One must learn to make proper loops and samples or rely on other people’s work.

    • Zencha

      Point is: you don’t need to start from scratch to make compelling art.

    • It’s like saying “to be a proper painter you need to mix all your paint”. It’s good to know how colors are made with pigment and medium – but i doesn’t necessarily make you a better artist. I totally agree with that point. Tweaking and adding/subtracting is at the essence of music.

    • Zencha

      Exactly.

    • andro.bot

      Making your own samples / loops will make you a better artist.

    • andro.bot

      No but if you do it would have much more value.

    • lyonesse

      ….

    • Zencha

      Awesome quote, I remember reading this some time ago. What’s the source?

    • andro.bot

      Yeah yeah you can copypasta to hide your lazyness of acutally learning.

  • EQISIMPORTANT

    37. Compression is overrated.

    38. EQ is overrated.

    … id like to hear your mix then 😉 like really this is bullshit, this is basic stuff you should learn to use.

    • Jeff Cardinal

      Agreed! Although most of the advice in this article is solid, I can’t help but to disagree that EQ and compression are “overrated”.

    • marcusthejames

      Overrated =/= unimportant. Y’all are missing the point. If all you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.

    • Zencha

      zencha.bandcamp.com

      I don’t mean “don’t use EQ or Compression.” I mean they are way over focused. It’s like getting hyped about the hammer in a toolbox. Just use it to get the nail in the wall and move on.

    • andro.bot

      EQ is a bit more complex than a hammer. EQ is something that a producer does in the mind before actually making any changes so even if one doesn’t use as much EQ is because this can be achieved by selecting sounds and working the sources but this doesn’t mean EQ is overrated, one should completely LEARN and PREACTICE EQ enough to know when to do it and then when not to so one gets sounds working together in an easier way, this ‘sense’ can only be achieve by literally hours of EQing.

    • Just that… They actually are, Compression and EQ are the tools that a lot of people use to make elements sound louder or quieter when usually just adjusting the volume fader is exactly what you need, not only that, it’s easier to manage stuff like that, and to make your mix sound better.

      The tip did *not* recommend you to stop using Compressors and EQ, but to not make them your go-to tool to make stuff louder or quieter when the volume fader is what you should use.

      I don’t know if that helps, I know other respected artists advice the same, for example Robert Babicz, he even offer his mastering / mixing services too. And I can assure you his music is legit.

  • gcb

    Nice one, i agree with a lot of points but i do not with this one:

    3. Using loops doesn’t make you a “fake” artist. It’s the end product that counts. Look at the gaming industry. Do you know how many of them use Unity? Or Unreal? What matters is the game. What matters is the music.

    I prefer to use my “shitty sounding” loops than using a third party loop library that sounds pro. If i want to present a track done by me i cannot use other people’s sounds (even less when they could be found in another song, as they are a commercial product). This apply also to synth presets… But, for sure, you are right that a piece of art does not mandatorily come from the scratch

    • Zencha

      It’s somewhat like a religious decision. My conclusion is what I’ve written here. The ultimate point is not to argue about it and just make music haha.

    • andro.bot

      Lol woot? Not argue? So just shut up and accept bad advice?

      Premade loops will never teach you very important parts of music writing, specially in electronic music which is based on loops.

    • GZC

      Premade loops/samples may not teach you how to write music or synthesis, but it is a very good tool to help fill out your mix. In my music I’ll write all of my chord progressions, melodies, basslines, etc, and I do almost all of my own sound design. But I love using premade pads or textures to layer under my song to give it depth and feel.

      I feel I lose track of my goals for the song whenever I try to design my own pads and end up with a track that’s lackluster to me.

      In the end, no one is going to care that I used [Insert Sample Pack]’s pad 04 as backing on my track. They’re going to care about how the song sounds.

      Just my 2 cents

      G

    • Thomas Holding

      i agree with zac that it is a personal opinion. and i would also be curious if you refuse to listen to any ‘fake’ artists?

  • Sonido Berzerk

    Feelin dis article

  • Some good stuff here! Some I disagree with but that’s what makes for a good list. I like #45.

  • A08lead

    Everything else i more or less agree with but…

    this pissed me off
    >using someone elses work doesn’t make you “fake”
    >people who engage in the technical aspects of music production are wasting their time.

    Essentially you are just encouraging 12y/o s to make
    “ReFX Vengeance MLG dubstep presets the song”
    and call it their own work.

    this is the disease that has been plaguing the electronic music industry:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnF3OuQkKp0

    ReFX is making loads of money off of retards who want to sound like everyone else and who dont want to put forth any effort into their music whatsoever…

    the fun in creating music comes from the struggle of failure after failure and then the satisfaction of finally succeeding. With all your constant refrences to vidya before you started producing suggests that instant gratification must have been a huge part of your life. Spending 6 hours on making a good synthetic kick from scratch will only make you better at making kicks…
    …plus you can rework and resample that kick as many times as you like without worrying about copyright laws restricting you.
    thats a skill that not many producers have… does that sound like a waste of time to you?

    • Zencha

      It’s annoying but A) Other people using loops has no bearing on your own work B) There’s degrees of skill with using pre-made assets from sourcing to implementation and integration into a song itself.

    • A08lead

      I can understand the use of loops and samples later on when you are already accomplished in your career.
      Where they are just used as a time saver for a quick project since you could probably have made them sound just as good from scratch anyways…

      But when you are starting out loops and samples are a path to nowhere.
      since a producer is expected to be able to be anything from a sound designer to a recording engineer.
      people who use samples and loops starting out will eventually start to rely on them and develop bad production habits.

      By buying samples from these companies you are promoting them.
      By promoting them you are promoting their ownership over their copyrighted sounds.
      By promoting copyright and ownership over sounds you are restricting creativity.
      You have to remember that the contemporary electronic music that you hear today originated from a lack of copyrights:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SaFTm2bcac

    • Thomas Holding

      i’m not sure who you are basing this on.
      most people i know start off being sample heavy when getting into production and move into creating their own samples and playing their own instruments as they start to progress.

      Using samples early on helps bridge the gap during the learning process. people become more experimental as their talents progress, as they feel more comfortable with all the other aspects.

      i also have no quarrel about using samples because picking and manipulating the right samples is an art in itself.

      also your last point seems odd and against your argument, but people are still not restricted in creativity, just because you may not be able all the time to release something doesnt mean you couldn’t still make the song you wanted.

    • A08lead

      Do you really think all people are as intelligent/motivated as yourself?
      You are essentially talking about a small minority…
      Most people who start often quit instantly. Those who don’t usually pass off others people’s work as their own to “impress their friends”. In other words, people who start this whole “production thing” often just want to look cool, have people like them, and make lots of money. These people are usually very disinterested in learning all the technical aspects and actually putting work into their stuff….

      Everyone and their next door neighbor’s dog wants to be loved and praised by thousands effortlessly. So by encouraging these people to take the “easy way out”…you are essentially encouraging more shit music produced by immature, egotistical, faggots.

      and yes i am quite jaded.

    • Gene Linet

      You can have an original voice and still use loops, if they’re mangled, rearranged, or don’t feature prominently in the track. You’re just giving a bad example. Nothing is more ironic than electronic music producers complaining about sampling.

    • A08lead

      >your music not featuring prominently in the track
      >vocals thrown over top of it

      90% of shallow popular music
      really? what are you trying to produce?

      shitty background music just to give people something to sing on top of?

    • Gene Linet

      wha? Who said anything about vocals? An “original voice” means a track that sounds unique to you, not literally a voice. And I said if the loops aren’t featured prominently i.e. *your* own original content drives the track rather than the loops.

    • andro.bot

      Also the “EQ / Compression is overrated” point is pretty lame.

  • Daniel Elizalde

    I actually really love this article! Two of my favorites are 23 and 26. I got into EDM production through a small online DAW/community called “soundation”. Im still active there even though I currently use Logic. 99% of users on that site use the online DAW in there. A fair amount of them complain that people who use other studios like myself and a few others have an unfair advantage because we can get these fancy plugins and do so much more than they can. However when you really dig into the DAW itself, you can make some really impressive stuff. After seeing that, I’ve always stood by the idea that it doesn’t matter what DAW you use, it’s about how you use the materials you’re given.

    Overall amazing article, I truly enjoyed reading this and learned a few new things 😀

    • Zencha

      Yea, I’ve been using Reason and for most of it’s lifespan you couldn’t get third-party plugins/VST’s. Wasn’t a problem.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Judson Snell

    73. Master buss compression is the refuge of a scoundrel. If you need Waves Hypersmackwall Dominator 9-Band Crushtronics SlammoBlammo on your stereo fader to make it sound good, go back to the individual elements and start riding faders/dialing in compressors on those. Get the mix sounding good without it, then drop your master limiter in to give the lemon a final squeeze.

    • Zencha

      Yea basically “61. Mastering is 90% volume and 10% fixing your mix.”

  • The Catalyzt

    54 & 55 hit especially hit home. Family and friends will encourage you and listen to your music whether its good or bad. Your GOOD friends will tell you when it actually sucks but still encourage you to improve. A good litmus test is when you can let your songs shuffle through on your iphone or whatever with all of the other radio songs and they show interest without you telling them who it is.

    • Zencha

      Yea one of my buddies commented on the guitar in a track and was hyped when I told him it was original haha. I wouldn’t say only “good” friends will tell you when stuff sucks. That kind of honesty varies from person to person and even great friends and family will buffer criticism. You gotta seek that specific honesty from particular people in my experience. I have a producer friend who I ask about technical stuff and I’ve learned over time that a certain handful of my friends are a good judge on listening quality.

  • Ben Downton

    Realy cool article, I’ve been producing for 8 years now and some of those made me think 🙂

    • Zencha

      Which in particular?

  • Paris Haze

    Super phat article! Thanks for taking the time to write this—learned a thing or two myself:) cheers

    • Zencha

      Cheers Paris, thanks for reading.

    • Paris Haze

      are you producing and djing as well?

  • Bad Barbie

    Thank you for taking the time to put this together x

    • Zencha

      Thank you for reading!

  • Marrow Machines

    Don’t know if using loops act the same way as an engine for software…But I do agree with how it gets things done…So in a sense it can be. Well written and great advice!

    • Zencha

      Perhaps it’s less analogous than I initially though. Point remains, though!

  • Kevin Schroeder

    Lots of good stuff. Monitor size is important, IMHO. I do music for fun but break software for a living. I, literally, bought a TV.

    • Zencha

      Mind sharing what TV you bought? I’d like to see a pic haha

    • Kevin Schroeder

      Nothing special, a 32″ Insignia. Software IDEs, multiple SSH windows, DAW, all are better.

  • spkez

    I’ve been struggling with motivation lately, but your article really got me fired up! Thank you, friend and peace to you!

    • Zencha

      Glad to help. Good luck!

  • cmdrz

    Thanks for this post dude.
    -Bookmarked and moved to my toolbar.

    • Zencha

      RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE.

  • Jenny Everywhere

    Excellent article! #3 really hit home for me. I’m just getting into music after a long, long time when I wasn’t being musical. But where it really gets me is in other forms of art. I use a virtual reality system to make a webcomic, because I never learned to draw by hand. For the longest time, I felt like I was “cheating” or “fake” because I wasn’t DRAWING it. Then I had a professional comic book artist, who has done pages for Marvel and DC tell me that there was nothing wrong with how I was making my comic…and he yelled at me because I was apologetic for my art. He said “are you freakin’ kidding me? This is great! Keep it up!”

    That alone got me through three years of comic creation. #3 is just the same principle, applied to music. It doesn’t matter if your instrument has reeds, strings, or integrated circuit chips…or pencils, pens…or integrated circuit chips. What matters is the art you create. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Thank you for putting it in such eloquent terms.

    • Zencha

      It’s fascinating and reassuring how analogous creative wisdom is between arts.

  • Bugs-Crew

    #14

  • Matt

    This is great, thanks so much! But I accidentally stumbled upon this 5 days before my final exams and now all I want to do is launch my DAW and start creating. You’re definitely right about #50!

    • Zencha

      Please pass your finals T_T

  • Jeff White

    Awesome tips! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Steve D

    Great tips… But the real frustration is… what is my production name gonna be/?

    • Zencha

      Oh man Steve D. It took me weeks to settle on Zencha. I was almost “Zen Devil”

  • OneWerd

    This is excellent

    • Zencha

      You’re excellent.

  • Craig Wells

    Good tips , some great thoughts to keep moving forward on the march to making great music.

    • Zencha

      March away!

  • GZC

    Great article! And to everyone who’s bashing the use of samples/loops, continue doing everything from scratch.

    I am not an advocator of using loops/samples as the main part of your song, but using them in moderation can help with the creative method. I do 95% of my own sound design, but sometimes a sample brings exactly what I want. So instead of spending an hour in Sytrus or Thor, I can have it done in a few seconds after throwing some eq on it so it sits well in the mix.

    In the end the listener isn’t going to care, and as long as it sounds good I don’t care. My goal is to make music I enjoy

    Edit: And to everyone who does everything from scratch, more power to you. Just don’t bash others, you’re not better than them just because you do things a certain way. Its about the music

    • JR Cabage

      I agree. I hardly ever use like a drum loop, but there are sooo many ways to change it up.
      even mapping the loop to your midi is a cool way to come up with drum beats from a loop.

  • marjandubrovnik

    Awesome and inspiring article!

    On #49 its easier to name your track:

    [track_name]_[date]_[purpose]

    because, that approach will give you an ability to sort files both by name and date.

    Thank you for the great and moving tips!

    • Jonathan van Clute

      Good point. Might even be better to start with date so that you can easily sort by time.

      Personally I’ve taken to creating a folder just labeled whatever the day’s date is, like “06.02.15” for today. Then inside that goes whatever projects I started that day. But my filename conventions have been quite loose so, I think this tip will come in handy. I definitely could use a touch more organization.

  • JRHE

    Great read & we’ve all been there 🙂

  • Zach Metcalf

    The only difference between me and younger Zac is the h in my name xD I’m looking to produce music in the future, and I feel like all of these 72 will help me out so much at various points. Bookmarked.
    Great read too! Thanks ^-^

    • Zencha

      You’re well equipped for the journey with a name like that. Good luck brother!

  • Franklin Israel

    Super Super Super cool inspiring article. Thanks for sharing

    • Zencha

      You’re welcome

  • Simon Forrez

    Thank you, really!

    • Zencha

      Thank you for reading, really!

  • Awesome article. Thanks

  • JR Cabage

    73. If you find yourself stuck, try and make a track in a different way. i.e. say you usually throw down a beat first. Try a pad or synth first. If you usually have a few beers while making music try not to the next time. Try and break your own rules and change up the way you do stuff…the process.

    • Zencha

      Interesting thought to alternate sobriety lol. I’m a sober producer but you have me thinking about sipping on some of that Sake I have in my pantry.

    • Jonathan van Clute

      “Write drunk, edit sober”. I got that quote from the Ableton Making Music book, though I believe it was attributed to Hemingway. Personally I don’t drink and can’t really imagine creating music in any sort of altered state, but I think I get the point. Go crazy and don’t censor ANYTHING while writing, and while editing be very critical and analytical about every last detail.

    • That’s the Number One rule of writing in University! Never censor anything during the creation process. Only when you go back to edit.

  • I’ve got only two more to add:

    73. Finish what you start – you learn more from a finished (exported to .wav, ready to be played elsewhere) track than you do from 50 unfinished projects. Embrace the fact that not ALL your finished tracks will be the next top10 hit.

    74. Actually think of rule 73 as the number 1 rule. :p

  • FRHNR

    74) If you “Simply can’t focus” then do a few Pushups and get back at it.

  • Junaid Faruq

    This article really resonates. I would also add:

    1. Use ‘Groove’ on HiHats to get your tracks to ‘bounce’. Don’t go overboard, 40-60% is great

    2. The relationship between the kick and the bass is important. Spend some time getting these two parts solid just on their own

    3. DONT DIGITALLY CLIP. EVER. Keep the volumes on each track of your mix LOW to give your mix headroom. Keep your master at 0dB and just turn up the volume externally on your monitors.

    -JAYTONIC

    • Jorge Mouta

      Even that it speaks about volume, compressors, etc…
      This is not an technical article.

  • Westley Scott Copeland

    I dig it man! Lots of insight! and I could feel the love emanating out of this! Where can I check out your music!?

    I have just started my journey as a somewhat “professional” musician .. 22 years young .. and grateful for the guidance bratha! <3

    • Zencha

      zencha.bandcamp.com has some of my tunes.

      Good luck sir!

  • Yohan Cetout-Pianist

    Really awesome !! Thanks you so much !

  • Jesse Hall (Green Couch Record

    I think I might just print these out and hang them up in my little studio just so i can reference them all the time! Great tips man!

  • Trunkie Dridgington

    Good stuff man, these tips are spot on. I particularly like the hand to mouth thing about having a beverage haha!

  • Alex Pensavalle

    Wow this was incredible

  • Eduardo Rafael Pereira

    THANK YOU

  • Kingly_Caracter

    Awesome post!!!

  • nikoloz tskitishvili

    dope

  • ayohellno

    awesome

  • Stefanova Tbh

    Great post ! I wish I knew not to spend more than 5 minutes on a parameter.

  • Kat Nughes

    Awesome post…. something I have been looking for for awhile… Thank you for sharing!

  • Māris Skuja

    Thanks for the insight – going over this article every now and then – some things even start to make sense .. 🙂

  • Gary Birtles

    I think there is a lot to be said for tip number ten. It can sometimes be hard to have an open mind when it comes to listening and being influenced by music you don’t think you’ll like, but it can be rewarding if you do. Some of my biggest influences that have inspired me the greatest are artists and genres I would’ve never listened to a few years ago. Once I opened my mind, I was able to pull aspects from those artists that have greatly improved my music and made me more dynamic as a musician. One just has to have the mindset to look for beauty and inspiration in everything. http://www.themixfactoryonline.com/faq/

  • Thanks for this. Sitting here with a buddy, and we are curious if your advocating for / or against vocals in tracks based upon your ‘cheat code’ analogy? We each read it the opposite way.

    • Jonathan van Clute

      I think the message in that is – what is the purpose of a cheat code? To win or progress much more quickly. If you want that, then use vocals. Of course if you are specifically doing a genre that is intended and expected to be instrumental, well… that may not apply. But personally I’ve always been an instrumentalist and I find that much of the music that most inspires me, has vocals. I notice that in those pieces, if I ignore the vocals… the music is actually MUCH less complex and busy than I would probably have made it. Having vocals forces “space” in the music, which I think is a good thing. I’m pondering adding scratch vocals in my music just to force that space, even if I have every intention of deleting them once the track is “done”.

      I don’t think Zac has anything at all against vocals any more than he would guitar, piano, or kazoo. Like any instrument, the human voice has its place.

    • nice. I am definitely aligned with the intent of creating more ‘space’ in music produced. It definitely would be a cool experiment to try using scratch vocals to force the matter.

    • Zencha

      Nice interpretation. True stuff. Blank Space by Taylor Swift would not work without her vocal.

    • Zencha

      It’s not a statement for or against vocals. Just a note of their strength when composing. Definitely the most engaging and relatable “instrument” available.

  • Tom pearson

    It’s really a great article. You summed up everything a beginner should know in one page. Well done

  • Number 68 really hits home for me I think! But most of the other points are valid as well.

  • Karthik Kumar

    Taking a break and reading this make more sense !!! Back to production 🙂

  • Nlogax

    What can you do when you’re sitting on over 200 tracks to finish and you just can’t seem to get shit done?

    • Zencha

      Start and finish the 201st track.

  • Ryan Lewis

    Good advice. Informative thanks for sharing! My goal is to release a full album some day. i’ve been at this for about 8 years and have learned a lot along the way. I am still learning everyday! I always will be. One of the mistakes I made early on was getting my hands on every vst and plugin i could find, while never really taking the time to truly learn and gain a deeper understanding of them. Another mistake i made was to watch tutorials, and then walk away thinking i had learned something. Don’t just watch, follow along with your own production. Imitate what they do and add your own flavor to it. You will walk away from tutorials with 10x the amount of knowledge and retention 🙂

  • JLa’ Drew

    Very thoughtful Advice as a newbie hobbyist , all 72 points helped me out tremendously

  • Ramón Villegas C

    Agree with most of these therms exept nº2 and nº31, i like, love, listen & produce trance and im not doing any of these just for fashion or for the money, trance were once the most popular edm sub genre and back in that time songs used to have melody, meaning, really meaningfull lyrics on the vocal tunes indeed (some of today trance tunes still do) but i don’t care if millions hear to big room i just dont like, it’s meaning less noise for me adn i say so after had giving it a chance, even learned to produce big room (music that requieres much les effort for being made, much less sound design, no mushic theory, no emotions involved) i said big room was crap before knowing how it’s made and after knowing the process im more sure than before that
    it’s crap

  • Oliver Berger

    i mostly agree, not on all 72 points, but on maybe 60 or so…some really hit home, some i’ve learned by myself…some are completely new to me, some i just can’t agree on at all. basically this is a really good article.

  • djmoonbootsplur

    69 was not what I expected

    • Freddy Phitness

      its not just about db.

  • Joshua Meyer

    #22 Really got me.

  • Shadow Nottaname

    Wow. This is actually really good advice, thanks! It looks like one caught everyone’s eye here; 19 caught mine. I will remember to use this.

  • Antonio Bortoni Cepeda

    For me, music production its about discover myself not about having fun, i enjoy making music, but its not fun.

    • Zencha

      That’s interesting. How did you first get into music production?

    • Antonio Bortoni Cepeda

      I buy a audio interface 5 years ago to record my rock band that my friends and i made… and in time it escalate…. you can heard how much the sound and recording improved here: https://soundcloud.com/antonio-bortoni-cepeda

  • Francis Blak-i

    Happy to stumble into this conversation. Some things became more clear.

  • Zan Malik

    Well I cant agree more with this… Maybe I didn’t perfect it all.. But my rules no longer exist.. @zpurpz on soundcloud

  • Kaoxue Lee

    I found this drum software system very useful and cheap. Price at above $300 but they are currently running a promotion for $30. Check it out.

    http://ec23bfnl7prm5s7yrbie0dap1w.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=DRUMSOFTWARE

  • Mark

    Amazing post! Thank you

  • This is a great reminder for me and my future music. Thank You!

  • Bob

    Thank you for this! just a quick question, is 13 years old too old for music production?

    • Zencha

      Nope!

    • Zythrim

      You can never be too old xD or too young

  • Adrian

    Excellent stuff!

  • Kevin Tang

    I’m 14 years old and I started getting into music production a year ago. However, I have a background in musical composition, orchestration, and piano performance. I also have perfect pitch. To me, melodies are a piece of cake. But for some reason I can’t settle on a single genre. I tried dubstep, then electro house, then house, then progressive house, then every house… But no matter how many electronic dance genres I try, I can never focus on a single one. Also, the technical aspect of Music Production is also difficult for me. I don’t know how to use a compressor correctly or a limiter, I have no idea what a maximizer does either. What I need the most help on is synthesis. I have a bunch of random plugins and synths that I don’t even know how to utilize. Also, being 14 means I can’t afford studio monitors and I’m relying on a pair of sennheiser momentums (which lowers the bass frequency response). How should I learn the technical aspects of music production and how do I focus on a single genre. (https://soundcloud.com/kevin-tang-605700807)

    • Kevin Tang

      also my soundcloud right now is full of troll songs that took me 10-50 min to produce lol

    • Listen to other peoples music, break it down, re-create it. I can’t tell you how much you gain from this. Remixing is ok, but actually making a full favorite track from scratch teaches you a _lot_.

    • Nick Knight

      Pouring hours of practice into your software will help you master it. It might take a few dozen hours of attacking different things or watching youtube videos.

      You talk about genres in a way which makes them sound rigid. Worry not about conforming to what the world calls a genre, instead just listen to your head and write down what sounds good to you. If you don’t write what you enjoy, it won’t work.

    • Victor

      To learn the technical things, youtube and books. As far as picking a genre, don’t worry about it. Just make music that you enjoy and as you get older and gain life experience, your genre will pick you

    • R. Contreiras

      good stuff.

  • Tim O’Donnell

    Thank you Zac wish I had this list 30 years ago! but a few of them wouldn’t have made any sense back then. LOL may I reprint to my blog ?

  • Jon Durham
  • Billy Weeder

    Here’s some real advice: GET A JOB AT A REAL RECORDING STUDIO> Empty trash, answer phones, do whatever it takes so eventually you will get behind a REAL board with REAL monitors. All the home crap in the world STILL doesn’t sound like a pro studio. Unless you want to release mixes on you tube all day. LEARN YOUR CRAFT!

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