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Why Do You Make Your Own Music – Something to Ask Yourself

Making music is a journey. The creative process usually stands out as energetic , positive or joyful, though at times, creating music can become a madness. The frustrations come and go, and they should be welcomed with open arms instead of submitting to depression. From time to time, it’s good to remember why you started to make your own music in the first place.

Photo Credit: dalioPhoto via Compfight cc

Why are you making music? Photo Credit: dalioPhoto via Compfight cc

The Beginnings

Fun - isn't that why you started making music? Photo Credit: Jason Lander via Compfight cc

Fun – isn’t that why you started making music? Photo Credit: Jason Lander via Compfight cc

Doing a little search on my hard drive, the earliest project files I could find date back almost ten years. Looking at the file names, it all comes back to me. Working on those early projects was all about fun and experimentation, really having no idea what I was supposed to do. They are something to look back to with a smile.

As years go by and music production turns from a hobby to something more serious than that, not taking your music too seriously can be healthy. Though it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give all you’ve got to a piece of music – because you should, always.

By approaching a new piece of music from a non-serious standpoint, you will keep an open mind towards the music, and therefore let yourself experiment more, just like in those early days. You will find unique sounds and ideas for your music naturally if you just let go.

When a musician becomes a “household name”, certain things are expected from them, sound and track-wise. This should never act as a block for your own imagination. Artists that put out quality original music can take their music to whatever direction they choose – and people will follow.

The Journey

What is the reason why you decide to sit on the producer's chair, day after day? Photo Credit: Jason Lander via Compfight cc

What is the reason why you decide to sit on the producer’s chair, day after day? Photo Credit: Jason Lander via Compfight cc

Find producer friends who are doing music for the love of it, and not for fame, money or any other unauthentic reason. When I run across producers who I’ve never met before, I can tell in a New York Minute whether they are in it for the real deal – or not. The real people are the ones you need to stick to being friends with, and exchange experiences with during your musical journey.

Don’t ever forget why you started making music, or what was that magnetic force that pulled you into the world of music production. Was it the sounds, the instruments, pure intrigue or a certain feeling?

Whenever I finish a new track, I’m always brought back to the roots. No matter how mountainous the struggle or the countless hours of working on something. The same exhilarating feeling always runs through my body when I know I’ve put together something that is great – to me.

And that feeling is exactly why I make music.

-JP

Why do you make music? What made you interested to make your own music? Share your stories below.

How to Remix Music – Two Solid Approaches to Remixing

When you get a chance to remix a track, it could be difficult to get started and guide the remix on the right tracks straight from the beginning. For this reason, it’s good to be aware of a few different methods on how to approach a remix in the first place, as they could save you a lot of pain and headache, and result in a better remix in the end. Read on to find out how to remix music more efficiently using certain remixing principles.

The Heart of the Original

What acts as the heartbeat of the original? Photo Credit: Victory of the People via Compfight cc

What acts as the heartbeat of the original? Photo Credit: Victory of the People via Compfight cc

Listen to the original track – a lot – and try to analyze it. Figure out what the original track is trying to say, and what are the main elements that form the underlying statement. Is it a certain melodic line, a vocal, a bass hook or a lyric? You could even make a short list of these things while you listen through the original, to gather up the most important bits.

After you’ve finished analyzing the track and gathered the important elements, use these as the main ingredients for your own remix. In other words, take advantage of these elements to build the musical motif for your remix. Borrowed from Wikipedia, a motif is described as a “musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition”.

To create an effective and credible remix, use the motif as the “scent” of the original track, but build the rest of the remix around it using your own tools – your sound.

Augmented Reality

Make the original track's reality your reality. Photo Credit: mielconejo via Compfight cc

Make the original track’s reality your reality. Photo Credit: mielconejo via Compfight cc

Another way to approach remixing is, taking multiple elements and sources of the original, but totally mangling, distorting and transforming them to sound like they came from another realm of existence, while still paying homage to the original sound. Sound complicated enough? Luckily, it really isn’t.

Effective methods of aural reconstruction include the usage of a variety of samplers, effects processors, audio chopping and re-arranging, pitch-shifting and so on. Methods like these ensure a totally different outcome in sound, still having a taste of the original elements in them.

The key here is to take the original track and augment it in any ways possible, making for an interesting remix.

Something to remember

Take the colors of the original track and make them your own colors. Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

Take the colors of the original track and make them your own colors. Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

When you start making a remix, promise yourself to create something original, and don’t just recreate the track with a few different sounds. Create a different kind of arrangement and inject your own musical ideas into the remix, and that way your remix will surely stand out from the bunch.

Because seriously, if the original version already represents a certain idea, why should you redo it merely to waste your time? I also promise you, you’ll have tons of more fun remixing the hell out of a track…

-JP

What were your wildest decisions in remixing a track? Let’s discuss below.

Music Theory: Simple Music Theory for Electronic Music Production Book Review

Proper music theory knowledge is surely on the decline, with up-and-coming producers creating music using pre-made drum and melodic samples, the only knowledge needed is how to mimic another piece of music – the one which with high probability is made from similar ingredients. As you already might now, music theory is not an absolute necessity in making music, but should you consider yourself as a serious, intrigued musician always on the search for fresh musical ideas, there is no excuse not to give yourself a moment to learn some music theory. And who said music theory is boring? Because it’s not. Read on to learn about the book Music Theory: Simple Music Theory for Electronic Music Production by Roy Wilkenfeld.

Music Theory is on a FREE promotional period during November 2-6, 2015. Download it for free here.

Music Theory: Simple Music Theory for Electronic Music Production: Beginners Guide to Rhythm, Chords, Scales, Modes and a lot, lot more...

Music Theory: Simple Music Theory for Electronic Music Production: Beginners Guide to Rhythm, Chords, Scales, Modes and a lot, lot more…

Browsing through…

Interactive Table of Contents.

Interactive Table of Contents.

At the first glance, the book Music Theory: Simple Music Theory for Electronic Music Production is a very simply yet effectively laid out book, with clear segmenting, formatting and a great visual look. Right after the forewords, we get to see the table of contents, which is interactive, and clicking a certain topic leads the reader straight to the right page in the book. Handy!

In total, there are six chapters in the book, covering everything from the basics, such as the piano keyboard, major and minor scales, intervals, musical modes, rhythm, chord and melodic basics and a clear list of all major and minor scales and modes at the end, to help in practicing scales.

Every topic in the book is supplied with not only vivid images but a clear, descriptive text, covering the subjects with formality and authority.

It’s visual!

Image explaining the concept of transposition in a clever way.

Image explaining the concept of transposition in a clever way.

While scrolling through the book, I instantly noticed the excellent imagery used in illustrating all different musical concepts and terms, which might otherwise be a bit challenging to understand. I didn’t find them hard to understand at all, which was a pleasant surprise, and even intuitive.

For example, all scales and modes are visualized on the piano keyboard, letting the reader play them instantly by looking at the pictures. There’s no need to look at your hands while playing either, because the images lead you though the scales easily, and this is a huge plus. I also liked the fact that the most important chords were also visualized in a smooth manner, showing large dots on each key that form the chord on the piano keys.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better image explaining transposition, after which I was sold.

I’ve seen lots of music theory books use boring (or zero) imagery. This is definitely not the issue in this book. In short, beginners and seasoned music producers surely find the images helpful while boosting learning.

Scales, scales, scales…

This is how all scales are laid out in tables at the end of the book.

This is how all scales are laid out in tables at the end of the book.

The very end of the book includes full tables presenting each major and minor scale and their notes. This is a huge help in practicing scales, which I think is essential for practicing melody too. After all, every melody is based on a scale (or multiple scales).

Additionally, learning scales is great ear-practice for learning different emotional states in music, which can be used to your advantage in songwriting. Think about it, should you feel sad but a little bit hopeful and felt like writing a song, you would instantly know that “ah yes, this song needs to be written in a minor scale with a hint of Dorian in it!” And by practicing the scales with the help of this book, I wouldn’t be surprised if you did just that.

My favorite bits of the book

I was really impressed by the picture explaining all intervals, which is great for practicing all major and minor intervals. This is a must learn for all songwriters and producers. Also, the part explaining time signatures was well done, since I’ve had difficulties with them in the past myself, but this was so easily laid out there isn’t a problem.

Time signatures explained with clear, descriptive text.

Time signatures explained with clear, descriptive text.

The things I liked about the part with different chords in it, were the inclusion and explanations of chord inversions, as well as some of the more unusual chords such as the different seventh chords, which can be used to introduce a unique, richer feel to your music, aside from the basic three-note chords (triads). Also, the clear explanation of modes is something I take my hat off to.

Lastly, I enjoyed the “Pro Tips” that were supplied at the end of every topic, taking the subjects further with some great knowledge.

Excited about music theory yet?

I think this book is a great, easy-to-read and friendly introductory guide to music theory, which undoubtedly will spark a thirst to dig deeper into the world of music theory – eventually giving you all the weapons you need to make better music than ever.

You can grab the book on Amazon for the humble price of $2.99, through this link.

-JP

While you’re at it, check out my review of Roy’s other book Electronic Music: 25 Mixing Tips for Modern Electronic Music Production here.

What do you think of music theory? Is it essential, or is it not needed – or something in between? Let’s discuss below.

Mixing State of Mind – How to Realize the Mixing Vision for Your Tracks

Achieving a mix as you have visualized it in your head is not as simple as it sometimes feels. But with a few pointers and a nudge to the right direction, the whole process will become much easier, and more fun. Achieving the perfect mixing state of mind demands practice, but it is possible to grasp with the aid of some tips. Read more below.

Make a decision

Balance. That's what mixes are all about. Photo Credit: evilsciencechick via Compfight cc

Balance. That’s what mixes are all about. Photo Credit: evilsciencechick via Compfight cc

Before you even lay your hands on the mixer, you need to decide a few things. You need to know what kind of spectral balance you want the track to have. Does it need to have a fat low-end, a warm midrange or crispy, bright hi-hats? Usually, it’s smart to concentrate on one of these qualities, as you can’t get them all at once that easily. Think about it, if you mix a big low-end but extra-bright drums, wouldn’t they kind of cancel each other out and not stand out of the mix anymore? The key here is balance.

It’s easier to jump into the mixing mode once there is an “image” of the track, incepted in your head instead of just taking a direction by random. Naturally, a degree of intuitive behavior is needed, but when it comes to mixing, well-planned is half-done.

Down to the source

Make sure the original dry tracks already possess the qualities you need. You really can’t make an overly dull hi-hat bright now, can you? Bad samples and instruments will lead nowhere but an average (or even bad) mix. Great source sounds are the key to a great mix!

Wet or dry? Details?

What do you want your music to look like? Photo Credit: Billy Wilson Photography via Compfight cc

What do you want your music to look like? Photo Credit: Billy Wilson Photography via Compfight cc

When you plan your mix, it’s healthy to decide what kind of soundscape you want to create. Dry or wet? Reverb or little reverb? Delays or zero delays?

Also, forget about fine-tuning the details when in the first stages of a mix. Should you want to create a reverbed sound, just slap a reverb to the track you want, quickly grab a preset that sounds like the style you want, and leave it there for now. It’s no use tweaking reverbs and other plugins, only to lose focus. The fine-tuning can be done later for hours and hours after the initial mix is done.

The quick mix

Here’s how to do a perfectly fine mix, quickly:

The ingredients to a quick mix. Photo Credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via Compfight cc

The ingredients to a quick mix. Photo Credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via Compfight cc

Start with the most important track, set a healthy fader level, and move on to the second important track. And so on. Create a quick fader mix by mixing the elements in order of importance. Try to get the rough “mix idea” down, just as you would when writing a song. Ideas come out of our heads best when done quickly. That’s just how our intuitive brain works.

After that, you’ll have all the time in the world to tweak your mix. The bottom line here is: think and make your thoughts reality (and be quick about it). That’s it.

-JP

What’s your method of approaching a mix? Discuss below.

Reference Tracks for Mixing – How to Choose the Best Reference Tracks

Choosing great reference tracks is vital in order to achieve a great mix. Let’s be honest here: you’re not a master mixer and you won’t magically transform your track’s sound from average to amazing without a little help. Hell, even the pros use reference tracks for mixing, so why shouldn’t you? Read on to find out about how to choose the best reference tracks to aid you in mixing your music to sound the best it possibly can.

Be smart when choosing great reference tracks

Look to the past to find great-sounding music. Photo Credit: thibault.billet via Compfight cc

Look to the past to find great-sounding music. Photo Credit: thibault.billet via Compfight cc

Don’t be cocky and choose the most banging EDM track only because you like it so much – as it probably doesn’t help you in mixing as much as it should. Be smart instead. How to be smart, you ask? Let me tell you.

You go straight to the top, and listen to the work of real professional mixers. That’s right. Mixers aren’t hired because record labels got too much money to throw away (as they probably don’t). Mixers are hired for the job because they can transform a great-sounding track to an exceptionally great-sounding track.

That’s why you need to get your hands on some tracks mixed by pro mixers to your reference arsenal. Do names like Tony Maserati, Mark “Spike” Stent and Dave Pensado ring a bell? If not, hurry and find out about their mixing credits.

Aside from keeping an eye on you favorite mixers, stay on the hunt for great-sounding pop, rock and electronic music. You should also go dig up some of your favorite albums from the past you think sound really great. I promise you, using pro-mixed material as your reference tracks will make your music sound better.

The Rules of Referencing

Setting sonic "limits" to your mixing is a smart move. Photo Credit: Paolo.Sarteschi via Compfight cc

Setting sonic “limits” to your mixing is a smart move. Photo Credit: Paolo.Sarteschi via Compfight cc

Now, of course you should have some tracks done by your fellow producers as references too, to get you in the ballpark of how electronic music is sounding nowadays, but stay away from the pitfalls of badly-mastered amateur music that places like Soundcloud are full of. They’re no good for you.

To nail the whole referencing business, you have to understand why you use reference tracks in the first place.

As the first rule, seek out things that you like in a piece of music, and gather those tracks into your reference folder. For example, you might find a piece of music that has the greatest sounding high-hats, and you’d always want to use that as a reference when mixing and balancing high-hats in your track.

As the second rule, categorize tracks by their frequency content and balance. For example, one track might have a colorful and crisp midrange, and one might have the best low end you’ve ever heard. Those are keepers too.

The third and final rule is, seek for tracks that set the limits for your mixing. What I mean by this is, one track might have the brightest high end but it’s just below the line of causing ear-fatigue, and the other track might have the fullest-sounding midrange, still barely managing to pull off clarity without getting dull. These “limiting” tracks will set the borders for your mixing, which you should always stay inside of, to ensure a quality outcome.

As a smart mixer, you’d naturally want to level-match any referencing source to the track you are currently mixing, so you’ll always be making the right decisions as you progress.

That’s it – Reference Away

Does your reference track collection look like this? Photo Credit: Broken Haiku via Compfight cc

Does your reference track collection look like this? Photo Credit: Broken Haiku via Compfight cc

A smart choice is to keep at least 3 to 5 reference tracks in your project. You can always solo them for real-time referencing, constantly keeping you on the right track.

Listen to the reference tracks closely – what makes them so great? Aim to make proper corrections and decisions while you mix – and you’ll get one step closer to the best mix you’ve ever done.

-JP

How do you find reference tracks for yourself, and do you approach them from an emotional or technical perspective – or both? Leave your comments below.

Automating Delay Plugins – 3 Methods to Add Depth to Your Mixes by Using Delay Automation

Static mixes might be good-sounding, but they are often not very interesting. For this reason, it’s necessary to take the extra mile while mixing, and automating your  plugins to add depth and interest to your mixes. Here’s three different methods to add spice to your tracks by automating delay plugins.

In these examples, I’ll be using EchoBoy by Soundtoys, but the effects are fairly universal using any well-equipped analog-style echo plugin.

Automating the delay time in milliseconds (ms)

In the first example, I’ll be automating a delay’s echo time to vary the frequency of the echoes throughout the duration of the delay. Make sure to crank the feedback of the delay to create a long loop of delays. The important function in this method is the time knob.

1

The delay time automation graph for the first effect. The recorded effect in audio below.

2

The “Echo Time” -knob in EchoBoy is the important part to achieving this effect.

Listen to the audio example below to hear the tape-style speeding up and slowing down -effect.

 

Automating the groove of the delay

Second, another interesting method to squeeze some advanced effects out of a delay is to automate its groove or swing function. If your delay has a function like this, take advantage of it to change the groove in real time.

3-swing

The “Groove” -function in EchoBoy is how the effect is achieved.

Listen to the audio example of achieving the “swinging” effect. You’ll hear the audio start gradually swing.

 

Automating the delay feedback

Lastly, one of my favorite uses for a delay – automating the feedback. The feedback of the delay can be used to create interesting, spacious soundscapes, tails and effects to any sound. Notice that I enabled the “DM-2” style in EchoBoy to give the delay a gritty, analog feel.

5-1st

The automation graph for the delay feedback.

5-feed

Automate the “Feedback” -knob in your delay to create interesting sounds. Use an analog-modeled delay style so the feedback doesn’t get out of hand and start self-oscillating like crazy.

Listen to the audio example below to hear the automated feedback -effect. Nice, eh?

 

Delay your music!

As you can see, lots can be achieved with a simple delay. It’s only a matter of imagination, really. So go ahead and take your favorite delay, and squeeze sounds out of it you’ve never heard before.

-JP

What’s your favorite delay plugin? Do you use a stock delay or a commercial delay? Leave your comments below.

How to Get Rid of Distractions – Make Music More Efficiently

Music producers have the ability to manufacture a track after another – in an ideal world. The reality is, unfortunately, that distractions are everywhere we turn our heads and there is no escaping them. How to get rid of distractions is no easy task in this technologically advanced world, forcing people to multitask on every single issue in their life. Read on for some simple, mind-cleansing tricks.

Distractions, what are they?

Does this look like a distraction? Photo Credit: vernhart via Compfight cc

Does this look like a distraction? Photo Credit: vernhart via Compfight cc

Music producers have a tendency to be somewhat lonely people, caved up in their music production dens for long periods of time at once. Online media such as Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging and various apps (yes, I’m talking to you neurotic Tinder-swappers) act as roadblocks on the music production street.

Of course, it’s normal to use these media, but when they get in the way of making music, we’ve got a problem.

Here’s a usual situation: you’re on your way making a track, progressing nicely, just getting the drum groove sound tight. Then you get a message on WhatsApp, and the side of your eye detects the incoming message instantly, the phone lying on the desk next to you. Of course, due to your natural curiosity, you need to see who sent you a message and what did they say.

Well, say goodbye to a nice music production flow. It’s gone!

How to tackle the distractions?

Notes are a great way to tell yourself what you need to do. Photo Credit: libraryman via Compfight cc

Notes are a great way to tell yourself what you need to do. Photo Credit: libraryman via Compfight cc

For your own good, you need to start building certain routines. First, you need to plan ahead on what you are going to do next (e.g. “make music for the next few hours”) and stick to it. Prior to start proceeding in your plan, you need to take some precautions in case of possible distractions.

  • Put your phone on silent and place it at the other side of the room, behind you. In this way, there’s no possible way you’ll be constantly looking at the phone, causing a continuous distraction for yourself.
  • If your computer is connected to the Internet, pull out the plug, shut down the router or disable Internet access from your OS. Next time you try sneaking to Facebook, lying to yourself that you are actually making something, you’ll get a reminding “no Internet access available” message. Good. At least you’ll get some work done this way.
  • Take a sticky post-it note, or write down on a piece of paper: “Make music, 2pm-4pm” and have it in your vicinity. This note will remind you to stick to your plan.
  • Make sure to tell your partner, roommate or parents that you are going to make music and you shouldn’t be distracted, until you are finished. They should understand.

In an ideal world…

This dog isn't messing around. You shouldn't be either. Photo Credit: Andrew Zaragoza via Compfight cc

This dog isn’t messing around. You shouldn’t be either. Photo Credit: Andrew Zaragoza via Compfight cc

Of course, in the real world, we will always receive some kind of distractions, since the situation rarely is ideal for having a music making dream session. In the end, it comes down to the personal strength and willpower to decide what kind of man/woman you really are. Are you in the music production game for real, or are you just messing around.

Ultimately, the amount of music you finish will answer this question. The pros in the music making scene always have something to show for.

Do you?

Don’t let the distractions and vices of life take over the best of you.

-JP

Share your own problems and music making distractions below.

Spice Up Your Music Production Process With a Hardware Synthesizer

While we live in the golden age of plugins and software, it’s more than easy to forget that hardware was there first. Before any plugins were invented, actual hardware existed and people made music using them. Though plugins are great for a modern workflow, it’s worth owning an actual hardware synthesizer to support the music production process, solely for the authentic hands-on feel – and just think about the sound it lets out…

Ten plugins or one analog synth?

Which one is it now? Photo Credit: hitzi1000 via Compfight cc

Which one is it now? Photo Credit: hitzi1000 via Compfight cc

Here’s a common scenario: you are a bedroom producer, owning a bunch of different plugins and softsynths. However, you don’t know how to effectively use half of them. Instead of owning 10 plugin synths, get one quality analog synthesizer to sit on your desk, ready to be fiddled with.

Not only does a real synth look and sound awesome, it is an actual instrument to be played. Just tell me that twisting the filter on a softsynth has the same feeling as actually turning the filter knob, feeling the effect the analog processing does to the sound. I didn’t think so.

The advantages of hardware

It's hardware! Photo Credit: Epillicus via Compfight cc

It’s hardware! Photo Credit: Epillicus via Compfight cc

The advantages of using a hardware synthesizer are real. The workflow in sound design is taken to a whole another level, not being limited to looking at the screen as you can simply trust your intuition as you turn the knobs.

The sounds you make with a hardware synth tend to become more personal due to its hand-crafted nature, which is a huge bonus. For purposes of learning synthesis, a hardware synth is the best choice. Sometimes using software, learning the actual synths inside and out is not that interesting, which results in using presets all the time.

Hardware synths support the learning process.

The beautiful sound of true analog oscillators and filters is a rock-solid fact. Aside of a great, organic sound, producers can easily trigger MIDI straight from their digital audio workstations to take advantage of the best from both digital and analog worlds. Also, modern synths usually communicate with your computer via USB, so it’s really that easy…

Suggestions for a first synth

Here are a few great, affordable monosynths to consider (except for Waldorf Pulse 2, which is technically a monosynth but has some polyphonic abilities, letting its user play chords with it!)

Waldorf Pulse 2

Waldorf Pulse 2 Analog Synthesizer

Waldorf Pulse 2 Analog Synthesizer

Waldorf Pulse 2 is a great choice for a first hardware synth. It is capable of producing powerful basses, leads, smooth pads and keys, even drums and special effects. The speciality of the Pulse 2 is its paraphonic mode, letting its user to play chords up to 8 voices. The Pulse 2 has a built-in arpeggiator and a great-sounding filter section.

Korg MS-20 Mini

Korg MS-20 Mini

Korg MS-20 Mini

Korg MS-20 Mini is true vintage in a modern and affordable package. The sound of the MS-20 needs no introduction, able to create fat analog basses, drums and all kinds of electronic sounds. This is a sound designer’s favorite, with a semi-modular patchbay for modulation possibilities.

Arturia MiniBrute

Arturia MiniBrute

Arturia MiniBrute

The MiniBrute by Arturia is a fun and fat monosynth, great for organic-sounding leads and basses, featuring a sub oscillator for the lowest frequencies and an intuitive oscillator mixer section, letting its user tweak until a unique timbre is achieved.

Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine

Korg Volca Beats

Korg Volca Beats

The Volca Beats by Korg is truly a small bundle of joy, with its intuitive user interface and great sound. The Beats has a 16-step sequencer for making drum patterns.

A new perspective

Analog synths offer a fresh perspective. Photo Credit: miskan via Compfight cc

Analog synths offer a fresh perspective. Photo Credit: miskan via Compfight cc

For any music producer and electronic music enthusiast, there really is no excuse not to acquire one quality hardware synthesizer, as the synth market is blooming, with a variety of options available.

Get out of your comfort zone of softsynths and get yourself an early birthday present. You’ll gain a whole new approach to making music with a hardware synth in your arsenal.

-JP

Do you own any hardware synths already (and if you do, which ones)? Are you thinking of getting one, or has it never even crossed your mind? Let’s discuss in the comment section below.

Effective Listening Skills – Make the Most of Your Music by Monitoring Correctly

Effective listening skills are vital for any music producer to be able to produce a good sounding record. It’s recommended to take advantage of a variety of monitoring levels, to avoid staying static and make sure the music sounds good at every volume level.

The following three monitoring levels have different purposes in making music. Each can be used for their own purpose, as well as doing an overall volume reference of a piece of music, using all three levels.

Loud Listening Volume

Listen at high volumes to feel the emotions of your music. Photo Credit: EpicFireworks via Compfight cc

Listen at high volumes to feel the emotions of your music. Photo Credit: EpicFireworks via Compfight cc

Sometimes it’s useful to stay very loud. This is especially true when making music – producing the actual track. During times like these, you simply need to feel the music, transferring your own emotions into a track.

In the initial stages of writing a track, it is almost essential to blast out the music at high volumes, to capture the most of the emotion.

Be aware though, this doesn’t mean you should be listening at very high volumes for three hours straight. Your ears won’t like it, and it’s not healthy for them in the long run.

Think of the loud listening volume as the “creative” or “songwriting” volume level.

Normal Listening Volume

Normal monitoring volumes roughly equal to the volume of regular human speech. If your friends are around, you should hear them talk while the music is playing.

A normal monitoring level is useful for everyday audio editing, audio effect plugin comparison, producing and slight mixing work.

Think of this volume level as the one you’ll be doing the most of your work at. It is the regular level to produce music at.

Quiet Listening Volume

Quiet levels are great for mixing. Photo Credit: tristangage via Compfight cc

Quiet levels are great for mixing. Photo Credit: tristangage via Compfight cc

You’ve achieved a quiet monitoring volume when you can barely hear all elements of the track. In practice, it is really quiet. You also need a quiet working environment to be able to work properly.

This kind of monitoring level is handy especially in mixing. When putting together a mix from scratch (all faders are down), it’s recommended to use a low listening volume.

The advantages of quiet monitoring levels are many, such as being able to hear every instrument’s volume in relation to others, therefore being able to place them in the mix more effectively. Also, when a track sounds good and punchy at very low volumes, you can be sure that it sounds banging when blasted out.

Usually, the low monitoring level is used only when starting the final mixing stage, with all production, arranging and songwriting already done.

Stacking the skills…

Volume levels Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

Volume levels are important. Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

In the end, as you develop better monitoring skills, you will find yourself using them in every situation that needs them. A good practice is to change your monitoring level every once in a while, especially during long sessions to keep your ears fresh and not fool them by one static monitoring level.

I hope this article helps you in finding those correct volumes to monitor at. While monitoring levels vary from person to person, it’s good to have at least three different levels to yourself – low, normal and high.

-JP

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How to Make Time for Music

The most important trait to any musician, or any profession to that matter, is to show up doing what you do on a regular basis. If one wants to make music, they have to, well, make music. The road to success is really that simple. On the other hand, our lives are so busy in this modern era that it feels like there is absolutely no time during the day for activities such as making music. To learn about how to make time for music, read on.

Time…

Busy

Yup, we’re busy people… Photo Credit: id-iom via Compfight cc

We all have busy lives, that’s a fact. You and I have 24 hours per day to make good use of. In reality though, you’ll be sleeping 8 hours of it, which makes the day only 16 hours long. To be even more realistic, take out 8 hours from that because you need to go to work too. That’s only eight hours of spare time, minus lunch, dinner, phone calls, etc.

To be fair, you’ve only got about six hours to spend as you will during the day on average. Now how on earth do you plan on spending it on music of all the activities possible? Mental strength and willpower.

Now of course, you’ll need to do some physical exercising activities, such as sports, with that time as well. But you don’t need to do it every day. A couple days per week will do just fine. Just to get it out of the way. There is no mental power if the physical energies are drained out.

And now, onto the tips!

…make some!

  1. Get a large whiteboard where you’ll write your daily schedule – and follow it.

    Whiteboard

    Whiteboards are cheap. Get one. Photo Credit: FotoDB.de via Compfight cc

This is an important one. It’s also one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It’s simple really, you just write what you have to do the next day on the board the night before, and upon waking up you follow the schedule. Here’s an example:

8:00 Wake up, make tea and do 30 push-ups

8:15-8:30 Answer emails and messages

8:30-9:30 Sound design for the next track

10:00-4pm Go to work

5pm-9pm Make music

9pm  Evening hangout with friends

12am Sleep

Now, when you make a schedule for yourself, do yourself a favor and follow it, because otherwise what’s the point? The advantages of creating a schedule are: you’ll be able to visualize your day and your time, stay organized and you don’t need to worry about what to do next or have the feeling of being lazy and useless.

  1. If you’ve made plans with people, realize them. If not, learn to say no and follow your own schedule.

Enough said. Photo Credit: your_dost via Compfight cc

Enough said. Photo Credit: your_dost via Compfight cc

This is an easy mistake. Imagine your best friend calls you in the middle of a music making session. You’ll answer the phone and he/she wants to do something with you. Since you’re such a good friend, you don’t want to miss the opportunity of doing something fun together.

Sometimes, you need to say no. People won’t be offended. Everyone’s got things to do, and so do you. Just be polite and say: “It would be really nice to hang out, but I’m in the middle of my music making zone. We could do something later in the evening though, or tomorrow. How’s that sound?”

Since I like to hang out with my friends a lot, I’ve made this mistake quite often in the past. If you want to get work done, you’ll need to stay inside and actually do it. In fact, you’ll feel a lot better when you decide to have your leisure time after work.

  1. Be super effective with your music making time.

Imagine this scenario: you’ve found yourself in your studio, in front of your computer, finally enjoying the moment of pure music making bliss. But then you get a great idea: “Okay, before I fully get into it, I’ll just watch this quick video on YouTube. Only the one 3-minute video.” And what happened? You’re still sitting there 30 minutes later, watching brainless videos on YouTube.

Don’t do it.

When you step in your studio, create a new mindset for yourself. And that’s for making actual music. Fire up the DAW, open your latest project and off you go. It’s that simple.

To be even more effective in this process, take look at the next tip…

  1. Put on the timer when you start making music.

Timer. Easy. Photo Credit: jfingas via Compfight cc

Timer. Easy. Photo Credit: jfingas via Compfight cc

There’s a timer on my digital watch, which is a really good friend of mine. Often I find myself in situations like: “Okay, I’ve got to make a bassline” or “I need to create the sound effects for my track”. These kinds of situations need a small push from my part. I need to push myself. This is why I turn on the timer to force myself into the zone.

Just think “How quick can I do this? Let’s see.” …and click on the timer.

The timer will help push yourself in making music. There’s a saying I once heard: “The faster you do it, the faster you do it.” Makes sense, huh?

  1. Use the non-music making time to evaluate your music, so you won’t lose time actually making music.

When you're sitting here, don't waste time! Photo Credit: noise64 via Compfight cc

When you’re sitting here, don’t waste time! Photo Credit: noise64 via Compfight cc

Here’s a common situation: you’re sitting on a bus, tram, train, car, plane or any other transportation you might have, every day going to work or taking care of business. This would be a great time to take advantage of to progress your music, wouldn’t it. Here’s how to do it:

Bounce your latest track out of your DAW and put it on your iPod, iPhone, or whatever you use to listen to music on the go. Now while you’re sitting there riding a bus and doing nothing, play your latest piece and open a notepad to take notes.

As you listen to the track, take notes of how it progresses. What’s still needed as far as instrumentation goes? How is the mix sounding? What do you need to add/take away? What’s wrong with the arrangement?

Listen closely and make good notes for yourself you can take back to your studio and get right into it, fixing whatever you think needed to be fixed. Who said one can’t make music while not being in the studio?

That’s it!

I hope these tips provide some aid for you in your music making journey. To be a successful music producer, you’ll need to make music. The only hard part is to make time for music in our busy lives. But that’s totally up to you to do, and no-one else.

-JP

You've got the power. Photo Credit: JimmyMac210 via Compfight cc

You’ve got the power. Photo Credit: JimmyMac210 via Compfight cc