Great Advice and Tips Thread

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Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby @ppleBukker » 12 Oct 2013 02:36

Okay, so I did some digging and I think that the original thread was deleted.

So, here's the general idea of this thread: Make a short post with advice from your own experiences in composing/performing.


This could be technical and DAW-related or it could be general advice for when you're knee-deep in a project.

To start, I'll give a little advice.

Make music for you. Sounds really general, but it's a good philosophy. Don't worry about the latest trend in EDM or what is the heaviest subgenre of metal, just get out there and make the kinda music that you wanna hear.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Mr. Bigglesworth » 12 Oct 2013 03:42

EQ'ing drums is 70% of what it takes to get your drums to sound clear in your song. The rest is sicechaining or if necessary Compression (although I tend to stay clear of it).

With kicks you'll generally want to boost around 100 hertz, cut around 550-600 entirely, cut 13 K and up entirely and cut everything below 50 hertz out. This should make the kick sound clearer and more punchy.

Snares are similar, except you're boosting 200 hertz (do NOT go overboard on the 200 hertz boost) and like a kick you're cutting from about 550 to 600 hertz. Also cutting everything below 100 hertz and everything about 10 k. This should make the snare cleaner and punchier.

and with hi hats, cut everything below 500 hertz and boost around 1 k until they sound clear through the mix.

In all with proper EQ'ing your drums will be reasonably clear in the mix, and with additional sidechaining they'll stand out just fine.

ALSO; Parametric EQ 2 will not completely cut a frequency, but adding a clone of the same EQ will result in a total cut (I'd advise removing boosts from cloned EQ's. It can stack up and make the drums too loud in those areas).
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby itroitnyah » 12 Oct 2013 08:13

This secret will dramatically change your life as a musician or producer. View with caution:

Spoiler VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK:
There are no clear sets of rules for music production. Don't let people make you believe there are
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Magnitude Zero » 12 Oct 2013 11:04

eery wrote:Dont do composition and mixing in the same project. Export your stems, mix it there. Its much cleaner, and you get a new feel for it.

Having tried this (if I understand you correctly), I really have to disagree with you there. For me there's really no clear line between "the composition stage" and "the mixing stage". When I'm working on mixing I might want to tweak melodies, drums, basslines, whatever. Even if I'm not planning on changing what I've already written, I feel really limited not having that option.

My tip: Listen to music. Listen to a LOT of music. Listen to a lot of DIFFERENT music. In the heat of a creative moment you never know what you're going to remember and draw influences from.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Captain Ironhelm » 12 Oct 2013 12:29

templates, baby!

have a template with all of your routing, sidechaining, EQs, and the like already set up and ready to go. A step further you can have your drum sounds selected, common drum patterns laid out, and instruments chosen, which will then allow you to have almost a perfect mix before even starting.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby CitricAcid » 12 Oct 2013 15:17

Captain Ironhelm wrote:templates, baby!

have a template with all of your routing, sidechaining, EQs, and the like already set up and ready to go. A step further you can have your drum sounds selected, common drum patterns laid out, and instruments chosen, which will then allow you to have almost a perfect mix before even starting.
When you actually produce a song, it's as simple as composing the MIDI and arranging!

Yes, definitely make templates. I might not include EQs and stuff, but to each his own.
Magnitude Zero wrote:Having tried this (if I understand you correctly), I really have to disagree with you there. For me there's really no clear line between "the composition stage" and "the mixing stage". When I'm working on mixing I might want to tweak melodies, drums, basslines, whatever. Even if I'm not planning on changing what I've already written, I feel really limited not having that option.

While I have heard from other sources that separating the composition and mixing stages is good practice, I agree with you that doing them both at once (to a certain extent) can be beneficial. If I use a sound in a piece but neglect to tweak it (EQ/reverb/whatnot), then by the time I'm done with the piece, I'm so used to hearing that sound in it's raw state that I think it's "fine" when in fact it might not be. It's hard to listen objectively in the mixing stage if you've already listened to the piece a lot during the composition stage.


My advice would be that whenever you are beginning work in a new genre or with a new medium, don't stress over the details right away. Practice by producing something as fast as possible; use broad strokes so to speak. It will be wrong, but that's okay. Then put it aside and start over, again, as fast as possible. This time it will be less wrong. This process will help you work out the kinks quicker.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Magnitude Zero » 12 Oct 2013 15:19

CitricAcid wrote:My advice would be that whenever you are beginning work in a new genre or with a new medium, don't stress over the details right away. Practice by producing something as fast as possible; use broad strokes so to speak. It will be wrong, but that's okay. Then put it aside and start over, again, as fast as possible. This time it will be less wrong. This process will help you work out the kinks quicker.

This is good advice. Getting too caught up in little details is a good way to lose your creative flow. Save it for later when the initial excitement dies down and you can listen a little more objectively.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Jokeblue » 12 Oct 2013 17:16

My tip: be spontaneous.

Be random. You could be working on a tonne of songs or have put a lot of thought into what you're doing with your song, but sometimes you just hit that road block, and that song you've been writing for weeks/months that you want to be as perfect as you can make it just won't happen anymore. And a lot of the time I've noticed, that when I try and force it when I'm not feeling the song at the time I usually fail what I'm trying to do, and end up walking away in a bad mood.

So my tip is when you hit your road block, maybe just try a little improvisation, or jam away a little. You may come up with a neat sounding song idea, and usually when you get that a new song path might open itself up to you. Follow that path and make that song. You could call it your throw away song, or a song that didn't matter as much to you, but you still made it when you couldn't make anything else. And every time you make a song you usually learn something about how to better how you make songs. Better to use a song that doesn't matter as much to you as a learning curve than the song you really want to sound right.

I've found that with those, after I've pushed through and recorded a song like that in a roadblock state that my ideas start flowing and I can think about my other songs again. My three songs that I have recorded, Louder, Who I Am, and I Didn't Learn Anything, they were all made in the moment I couldnt think of anything else and when I couldn't complete an older song. They were accidents. But when I finished writing Who I Am, for example, I was able to finish writing most the guitars for an older song I wrote called Villain Of The Piece, which I hadn't been able to write anything for for 6 months.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Callenby » 12 Oct 2013 18:37

The old thread wasn't deleted. It's right here.

There's also still this one.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Mr. Bigglesworth » 13 Oct 2013 05:16

eery wrote:
Mr. Bigglesworth wrote:Compression (although I tend to stay clear of it).

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Compression is one of your most important mixing and mastering tools. I'm all for dynamic range, but by not doing compression, you're just missing out.


I don't wanna turn this into an argument, but I find compression does shit all for me.
I'm not stupid, I steer clear of it because I don't like it.


ok go back to topic don't be a jackass about this.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby itroitnyah » 13 Oct 2013 07:05

Perhaps you don't quite understand how compression works, then. Alright, maybe you do, but you don't quite know how to utilize it in different scenarios.

A tip with compressors to enhance kicks is the attack and decay. Because the attack will sorta delay when the compressor kicks in (that's not what it actually does, but that's an easy way to understand it), so setting the attack speed to something slower can make the kick sound snappier.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby the4thImpulse » 13 Oct 2013 11:43

Mr. Bigglesworth wrote: but I find compression does shit all for me.
I'm not stupid, I steer clear of it because I don't like it.

Your ears probably just aren't developed to hear those things. Put a compressor on a drum bus and use extreme compression settings and listen to the difference between it enabled and disabled, then you will start 'hearing'. Compression is definitely more useful with instruments with larger dynamic range, synths rarely provide a range like that of a voice or microphone instrument.



My tip: Finish songs, even if you don't like them when you are halfway though, finish it and move on. If you get to the point where you creatively are stuck either try starting a new project and look closely at similar tracks and copy ideas used in them to solve similar problems. Don't be afraid to copy ideas in other tracks, copy it , adjust it, then make it your own.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby colortwelve » 13 Oct 2013 21:48

All the best tracks come together quickly - and there's a lot to be said about making the way you work conducive to making this happen.

-Make templates. Templates with instruments you use frequently, so you can get to writing when an idea strikes. On a similar note, if your DAW has any functionality that lets you save FX chains (i.e. Patcher in FL Studio), use it. It really helps to be able to recall a complicated sound from a previous track if you feel the need to use it again (i.e. if you set up a really nice chain for your guitar, and want to record a few different tracks with it).

-It is a good idea to separate composition from mixing, but you don't need to overdo this one. Write out your track in its entirety in one session, then come back later to do both mixing and adding finer sonic details like additional percussive hits, microsamples, and FX. Exporting stems after composition may help, but on the other hand you may have made a mistake when first composing and may need to go back and fix a few notes, or you might need to get rid of that lower octave your piano's playing so that there's room for the bass.

-Don't go overboard on bells and whistles. A good song is a good song, unless you decide to pile on excessive, unnecessary effects and the like. However, there may well be a place for whatever random ideas you come up with after composition is done, so if you can make it work, more power to you. But if you can't get away with it, less really is more.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Mr. Bigglesworth » 18 Oct 2013 20:32

If you're having a little bit of a creative block, try writing in a scale you don't normally write in.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Magnitude Zero » 18 Oct 2013 22:41

Mr. Bigglesworth wrote:If you're having a little bit of a creative block, try writing in a scale you don't normally write in.

Or time signature!
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Callenby » 18 Oct 2013 22:59

colortwelve wrote:-It is a good idea to separate composition from mixing, but you don't need to overdo this one. Write out your track in its entirety in one session, then come back later to do both mixing and adding finer sonic details like additional percussive hits, microsamples, and FX. Exporting stems after composition may help, but on the other hand you may have made a mistake when first composing and may need to go back and fix a few notes, or you might need to get rid of that lower octave your piano's playing so that there's room for the bass.

This is what I do. It really helps me focus and not get too caught up in the minutia of things.

Socialize more! (I guess Kyoga said this already :/) It has only become clearer and clearer to me that the most successful musicians are also the ones who are always willing to network and befriend other artists. Not just online, by the way. It is so helpful if you can find someone who plays another instrument and can perform your music. For those like me who wish to work with live orchestras someday, knowing how to best communicate your intentions is an incredibly important skill (and I must emphasize that that is a skill and not an inborn trait).

Repetitive =/= predictable. You can have highly repetitive figures or patterns but implemented in ways people won't necessarily expect. This is especially useful for genres such as minimalism that rely so heavily on repetition.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby ClaviSound » 19 Oct 2013 00:40

Collaboration and featuring artists can happen in many ways, but one of the most unhealthy is because it'll make your project more popular. Sure, it might be cool to work with a member of Twenty Ten or Feather or any number of big names, but if you're doing it for the prestige of the name more than the talent that said person brings to the table, then you're doing it for the wrong reason.

Music should be made for music's sake. Don't make it a popularity ploy. If you want to make a song with someone, make it with them and not with that person's fans.

If it seems I'm a bit bitter about this, it's because I've been there before, as one of those many people who want the popularity more than making music. It's a very negative environment in which to create, in my experience, and it can lead down some arrogant, narcissistic paths.

In short, don't do what I did, you'll save yourself a lot of stress and regret.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Freewave » 19 Oct 2013 10:57

ClaviSound wrote:Collaboration and featuring artists can happen in many ways, but one of the most unhealthy is because it'll make your project more popular. Sure, it might be cool to work with a member of Twenty Ten or Feather or any number of big names, but if you're doing it for the prestige of the name more than the talent that said person brings to the table, then you're doing it for the wrong reason.

Music should be made for music's sake. Don't make it a popularity ploy. If you want to make a song with someone, make it with them and not with that person's fans.

If it seems I'm a bit bitter about this, it's because I've been there before, as one of those many people who want the popularity more than making music. It's a very negative environment in which to create, in my experience, and it can lead down some arrogant, narcissistic paths.

In short, don't do what I did, you'll save yourself a lot of stress and regret.


I agree that being a musician in this fandom should be a LOT more than just getting well known people to collaborate and work with you. It should be about friendship, about learning from each other, about filling in for each other's weaknesses, about growing with each other as a collective of similar musicians. Shunning popularity is as silly as chasing after it. It's only a small facet of what someone should be aware of or striving for.

It's important to know that many people have found success in this community have thru collabs and knowing each other (check out Mic, Glaze, and Tombstone for the ultimate evidence of this in action) but that you have to partner with your PEERS not your idols as that's who will actually be willing to work with you and it will have to be MUTUALLY beneficial to both of you.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby TheMalenEst » 19 Oct 2013 16:26

If you have alot of samples, plugins. Organize these.

This will probably take a day or two(depends on how much you have to organize), I recommend going through your folders, rename them, move samples around and do a favorite folder with like kicks, snares and percussion you really like. Do the same with your VST's to.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby A2Z » 21 Oct 2013 21:00

Drink lots of beer. :mrgreen:

Actually I try to hear the song in my head before I even go into anything. It's usually a short melody I made up at some point, or it might start with a beat/rhythm that I'm grooving on. Then I go about the process of recreating it in my DAW.

I'll play around with samples or synths until I find that "sound" that comes close to what I want. Sometimes I'll stumble across something that works that is different from what I had in mind and I'll steer in that new direction. Generally my compositions start as a cloud of thoughts in my head, then over time will take form into what makes my track.

I don't debate with myself over little mixing techniques like "I need to spike the EQ band at 300 Hz for this snare, and roll-off the overall mix at everything below 50 Hz". I only deal with stuff like that if it becomes a problem, or if I need more out of something (which might require changing the sample/synth). Until it becomes a problem to my ears, I won't fix it. I feel a lot of producers get it wrong thinking that EVERYTHING needs to be EQ'd, or compressed, or whatever. If it sounds good to you, then leave it alone. It's music made for your own enjoyment first before others, right?

I once tried remastering a song thinking, "I'm gonna make this sound better than it is now", but I didn't really have an idea how to do that. So I applied some mastering basics and chiseled away at the song for about 3 hours. After I was done, I listened to what I originally had and what my remaster was like. I threw away what I had spent 3 hours on because it didn't have the same sort of "feel" and didn't sound as good, in my opinion, as the original. Basically, if you don't know what you are going in there to fix, and if nothing sticks out as "this needs changing", then leave it alone and be done. You might ending up butchering a track that was good enough just the way you had it.

This all being said, it took A LOT of time finding out how to make things sound the way I want them to, and I still get things wrong a lot. Sure, learning some music theory helped with harmony and counterpoint etc. What it comes down to though, in my opinion, is if you are creating something that you like listening to. If you aren't enjoying what you are making, fix it or try something new. No use wasting time on something that isn't working for you.

P.S. Taking advice from others on your track can help you with recognizing things that do actually have a problem sitting in a mix that would otherwise have gone unnoticed if others hadn't told you. No one is a genius at mastering their own stuff, and since taste changes from person to person, constructive criticism can really help starting out
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Alycs » 22 Oct 2013 13:03

Listen to everyone. Not just musicians, absolutely everyone that listens to your song. People listen to so much music because of the internet and the radio that nearly everyone has favorite songs, and know what they like. There isn't a person on earth that doesn't know what music is. So, if your tone-deaf friend says something sounds wrong, listen and find out why. If that one kid you know who only listens to Skrillex and Dubstep says the treble sounds weird, listen and find out why. If the Queen of England says "Damn this is great" but some random guy on the street says that it sounds muffled, take both into account. Everyone, to a certain extent, knows what they are talking about.

Now if some 5 year old comes up to you and starts babbling about how you should use multi-compressors to turn up the bass, cut out the mids, and Boost everything to +10dB because the louder the better, don't just follow the advice blindly. Either
a) You've found the Mozart of EDM in which case good job or
b) they are just repeating random things they've heard and don't know what they are talking about (more likely for a 5 year old)

So you should listen to everyone, but take all advice, whether its from your grandma or Quincy Jones, with a grain of salt and a pinch of good-judgment.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby JSynth » 24 Oct 2013 09:43

I said this in the last thread.
Louder always sounds better. Doesn't mean it actually is.

Also, read the fucking manuals.

Kyoga wrote:If you are not 'pitch perfect' spend some time practicing identifying tones and practice understanding tones. This will help you know which tones fit well with what you're writing and will help your compositional process as a result. it also helps you 'hear' the tones in your head which dramatically improves compositional speed and writing counterpoint.


I'm going to build on this a bit.

Essentially, there are two kinds of ear training; Perfect Pitch and Relative Pitch.

Perfect pitch is the ability to name any tone by ear without using a reference. The only legit course out there that I know of is the David Lucas Burge course. I will warn you that developing perfect pitch is a gradual process. It can take someone anywhere from 6 months to over a year to develop.


Relative pitch is the ability to identify notes through the use of intervals. There are many programs that offer relative pitch ear training. Most music schools require their students to take ear training classes, but in my opinion, ear training is best learned independently. Relative pitch training is also noticeable much more quickly than perfect pitch training.

One is not better than the other. Perfect pitch requires no references, but can sometimes be masked by timbre. Relative pitch will never be masked by timbre, but requires a reference note. Perfect pitch will not give you relative pitch and relative pitch will not give you perfect pitch. They are completely separate.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Injustrial » 28 Oct 2013 15:29

Captain Ironhelm wrote:templates, baby!

have a template with all of your routing, sidechaining, EQs, and the like already set up and ready to go. A step further you can have your drum sounds selected, common drum patterns laid out, and instruments chosen, which will then allow you to have almost a perfect mix before even starting.
When you actually produce a song, it's as simple as composing the MIDI and arranging!


I find this generally to be a very good idea. The music I'm doing needs a certain feel to the drums (Punchy and distorted) so setting up my kicks, snares, hats and cymbals as a template really saves me a lot of time. If I feel I want to change some aspects, I'm able to, but other times I'll just roll with the template I've made. One big thing I've noticed, is that sometimes I have to go back and change the EQ on the drums. They worked very nicely on the last song, but this time it's not having the same feel to it. I've got to imagine it's got something to do with the different drum patterns I'm using and the BPM of the project, but I can't be sure. In either case, slight changes are almost always needed.

However, I never save templates of instruments. I'm so new to this game that I think I'm going to learn a lot more by having to construct my sounds from scratch, rather than using a preset from a previous song (plus, I risk falling into the trap of repeating myself too much. Very dangerous for people like me.)

Presets are saved to the synths I'm using, but rarely ever used without twisting a few knobs.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby FLAOFEI » 09 Feb 2014 16:22

Ok, this may not be the best advice if you want to make "good" music fast, but it's a fun way to get creative and learning the "rules" of music.

If somebody gives you advice, ask why, and test what happens if you do the exact opposite!
Let's say you read "NEVER PAN KICKS!!!", then try paning the shit out of them! Try it and see what happens! Now you know "why" you should never pan the kicks, cause you want a centred bass or something.
Why do you want to know why? For one thing you know how a paned kick sounds, so if you ever feel you need a paned kick, you know it. Secondly, you can work around the "problem", you can center the bass in the kick, and have the click paned...


So my point is, understand the rules, don't just learn the dos and don'ts. That way you can bend the rules.
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Re: Great Advice and Tips Thread

Postby Mr. Bigglesworth » 19 Feb 2014 02:12

Use breakbeats, not just as a main drumline either, they can make fantastic supporting percussion to your main drumkit if you process them well enough. Cutting out everything below 150 hz and some of the high end works well for making a sort of clicky percussion loop. Pitching them up is also pretty useful, distortion can yield some interesting results too.

And as for using breakbeats as your main percussion, one of the things Liam H from The Prodigy (supposedly) used as a go-to processing method was to set up a send channel for the break, add a lowpass filter to that send cutting off at around 60hz and adding a long plate reverb after the filter, then mixing it it in with the dry break for a more 'warehousey' kind of sound to it. Whether or not Liam actually did this very much is debatable, but the results are still pretty good.

Also, experiment with distortion. All kinds, overdrive, saturation. The works. I find that if you clone a kick or a snare and cut out everything but the low end thump, then saturate that with Abelton's native saturation unit and mix it in with the dry sample you can add some pretty decent punch. You usually have to cut out a lot of the sample's body though, because that just becomes noisy guff when you saturate it. You also have to mix the saturated sample in pretty carefully or it'll just be a loud mess.

And distortion isn't just for majorly fucking up whatever you run it through. Amp distortion on a piano can make it sound much more 'old school' and can also tighten it up a little, soft-clipping on strings can yield similar results, using overdrive on the right frequency of a lead can add some really nice warmth to it. Experiment with it on all sorts of things, even if it sounds like crap, it's just good to know what kind of things take well to what kind of distortion.

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