These really aren’t tips on how to improve your music production “quality”, but more of a guide on “studio ethics”. It’s not rocket science to know that productivity & creativity increases when you’re more comfortable in the studio. So below, you’ll find a list of tips on how to be a bit more organized along with a few bits & pieces of actual music production tips.
1. Switch off.
Turn off your mobile phone. There’s nothing worse that having a fantastic train-of-thought to your track, only to be interrupted & ruined by a call from your friend who wants to ask you whether you’re free this weekend or not. Even worse if your ringtone has a catchy melodic ‘hook’, good luck trying to get that out of your head. Its better to be in a focused room.
2. Peek-a-boo, where are you?
It’s not worth searching for a one-shot sample that you KNOW you heard before somewhere, for a whole 10 minutes, and still not finding it. Nowadays, with the excessive amount of ‘news feeds’ that we get online, our mind has become trained to have an attention span of less than 2 minutes. Organize your work system. Make sure all your sample libraries are in one place, and all your plugins are located by your DAW.
3. Name them, color them.
In your DAW/Software, while you’re creating new tracks & new patterns, make it a habit to name your channels. This will save you a load of time trying to find a particular channel (eg: Bassline – Sub) in a bunch of 40-50 odd channels all default named like “MIDI 5″ or “Sylenth-2″. Plus, once you’re done with your project and you want to do an “export each channel as a stem file”, you don’t have to go through the hassle of listening to the wav/aiff’s and then renaming them.
4. Are you listening? Turn that
Its a good practice to monitor your music at low levels, not only does it help balance your mix but it saves your ear from a lot of audiologist visits in the future. Going back & forth between low & high levels are fine, and at times required. Low levels help balance your vocals & the general impact of your track without having to pump up the volume, but at the same time high levels can point out errors like shrills & low-end clash. In short, low levels to balance your mix … high levels to check your mix.
5. Prevention is better than cure
You finally finished your track and on the master channel, the signal’s peaking at 0dB, but then you notice that your mastering engineer requires at least -3dB headroom to do his thing. You straight away reach for your master channel’s fader and drop it to -3dB. VOILÁ! Erm, no. Ideally, you should be keeping your master channel’s fader at 0dB while still having the signal on the master channel peak at -3dB. “How do you do that?”, you may ask. Well, from the start, set your individual channels at low levels. Try not to let your signal go over that channel fader level, unless you’re intentionally getting a digital distortion out of it. As a heads up, every new channel with a signal that you add, only contributes to an additional amount of signal to the master channel. We can get into an in-depth discussion regarding mixing, but that’s for a later post.
5. “Ctrl+S / Cmd+S” saves the day!
A familiar shortcut to all PC/Mac users. It’s the “Save” feature. It’s advisable to save your project in file names that advances in numbers (eg: Disco-Funk-11 … Disco-Funk-12) as you make major advancements to your track. Lets say you come back the next day and you find out that new Violin piece you put in your track was the worse than a cat scratching it’s nails on a chalkboard. So remember, Ctrl+S for Windows & Command+S for Mac, now you’ve just saved your track from possibly going the wrong direction or having the project getting corrupted!
6. Take a hike!
No seriously, go for a walk. Sitting in a chair, even worse if you’re lying down in bed, for countless hours can make your ears & mind tired. It gets so bad that sometimes everything you hear sounds the same and you’re not going any further with your track. Step outside & unplug, just to refresh your senses & possibly get a dash of inspiration from that walk. Once you hit that play button again, you’ll be able to contribute more towards your track’s final product.
7. Music is heard, not seen.
I had received this advice from another producer, and its a pretty damn good one. Sometimes, we get carried away with all the blocks we’ve placed in the arrangement window that we forget to step back and just listen to the music itself. To know if your track has the flow it needs, you’ll need to look away from your screen (possibly close your eyes too) and just hear it out. You’ll instantly know what’s missing or what’s not fitting in, when & where.
– Tips by The Inventory Team
Well, there you have it. Quick 7 tips that could help you organize your workflow in the studio & stop yourself from making mistakes.
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