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Today’s Best Tips on Music Production

10 essential tips… 20 mistakes… 30 production secrets and so on, such lists seem to be really popular these days. Although many of them are just full of crap. Especially forget about the longer checklists – even if you could find some good advices there, most tips are just nonsense, like “don’t mix bass with headphones”.

Anyway, to you aspiring producer, here’s a few things I think you should care about:

  • Limiting yourself can help drive creativity. Don’t use all of your instrumental arsenal at once, don’t try to cover all music styles in one track.
  • Listen to different styles of music and try to identify what you like and what you dislike.
  • Analyze your favorite artists’ work in great detail. Theorize with both feet on the ground.
  • Go ahead and copy other artists, but don’t settle there – tweak and add your own style and flavor.
  • Cover, remix and remake your favorite tracks, it’s a good and fun way to learn about music.
  • Use reference tracks, compare your shit to others, but don’t get paralyzed when your track doesn’t bang as loud as them.
  • Learn about synthesis and learn how to sound design different kind of instruments, e.g. strings, plucks, percussion (make synthetic drums using waveforms, a noise generator, filters, envelopes and such).
  • Check your music productions on several systems; from high-end studio monitor speakers to iPhone earbuds.
  • Sleep on it. Let your track mature over night and return to it with fresh ears.
  • Go hardware, get tactile if you are growing tired of a software-based environment. To actually play an instrument or to turn a real knob is really something else.
  • Get inspiration from collaborations with other artists. Just reach out to people you admire – this is globalization, this is the time of teh internetz.
  • Try to keep passionate about creating music, but don’t be afraid to make some demands of yourself, just to push things forward.
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On this day in music history: August 26, 1985 - “Romance 1600”, the second album by Sheila E. is released. Produced by Prince and Sheila E., it is recorded at Master Sound Studios, Cheshire Sound Studios in Atlanta, GA and Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA from December 1984 - February 1985. While Sheila E.’s debut album “The Glamorous Life” is still riding the charts, she and Prince begin work on her sophomore release. The first sessions for the album take place in December of 1984, during days off on the Purple Rain Tour where Escovedo is also touring as Prince’s opening act. Though Prince and Sheila E. play most of the instruments on the album, Sheila’s band are also involved in the sessions. The first two tracks recorded are “Fish Fries” and “Small Grey Monkey” which are shelved and remain unreleased to this day. The bulk of the album is recorded in Atlanta on days off in the middle of a five night stand at The Omni Coliseum. The last two songs are recorded in Hollywood at Sunset Sound where the album is also mixed. Released fourteen months after her debut, it is also well received by fans. It spins off three singles including “Sister Fate” (#36 R&B, #108 Bubbling Under) and “Bedtime Story”. The second single “A Love Bizarre” (#2 R&B, #11 Pop, #1 Club Play), a twelve minute plus funk workout featuring Prince on background vocals is the albums centerpiece, and becomes Sheila E.’s highest charting single on the R&B chart. “Romance 1600” peaks at number twelve on the Billboard R&B album chart, number fifty on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

Straight Outta Bedroom

So I’ve had this blog for a year and a half now – yay! I’ve primarily focused on music production methods and tips. If you’re into that, making music, then here are a few (not all) old posts that could interest you. Now, did you ever wonder… 

You’re welcome.

Bedroom Studio Tips Revisited

Three years ago I posted a list of some music production methods and tips on my blog that still gets some attention. Now, here’s some other good read (I hope).

Moreover, you really should check out the most popular post on this blog about the best tips on music production that I can think of.

Split Frequency, Split

I’ve written about the perks of putting side-chain compression on only the low frequencies of a bass earlier.

To do so, three copies of the sound are needed. Or, as this post will show, you could split the frequency into three bands (high, mid and low). By doing this, it is possible to apply different signal processing on each band.

Now I usually try to write about music production on a more abstract level, and not about a specific DAW or instrument, but this time I going to illustrate with Ableton Live on Mac. The theory is the same though, you just need to figure out how it works in your particular environment.

So I’m using the stock effect Multiband Dynamics to split frequency. The device has noticeable affect and coloration on the signal, even when the intensity amount if set to zero, but it should be transparent enough for now.

  1. Drop a Multiband Dynamics in the Device View.
  2. Set the Amount control to 0.0 % to neutralize compression or gain adjustments to the signal.
  3. Group the Multiband Dynamics in an Audio Effect Rack (select the device and press CMD + G).
  4. Show the Chain List of the rack.
  5. Dictate the crossover points on High and Low (the Mid consists of what is left in between, so remember to also change the crossover points in the mid chain if you make adjustments on the others), e.g. set the bottom of the frequency range of the high band to 1.00 kHz.
  6. Duplicate the selected chain two times.
  7. Rename all of the chains High, Mid and Low, from top to bottom.
  8. Solo each band respectively on the Split Freq, i.e. solo Low on the low chain.

Now process each band individually. Use a Utility device on the low chain and set Width to 0.0 % to direct the low frequencies to mono. Also, on this band, set up a side-chain compression triggered by the kick drum. Try a stereo widening effect and some reverb on the mid chain. And perhaps a little saturation to add some crunch on the high chain, I dunno, it’s up to you.