Production Tips for Success
Whether you are a decorated professional producer, or just getting your feet wet, it never hurts to read up on some tips that may have helped someone else. There are a few questions that I had when starting out that I have received my own answers for through people than me as well as trial and error. I don’t like a lot of fluff, so let’s get to them.
Why is my beat muddy?
“Why do the sounds I use sound great to me by themselves, but as soon as I combine them everything sounds kind of muddy?”. I’ve asked myself some form of this question multiple times over the course of my career and the answer is almost always one-of-two things; either I need to EQ the sound, or it’s the wrong sound.
The concept of EQ-ing sounds can be simple if you let it be. The SlapDash First & Last Rule of EQ: Every element needs its place. Most samples that you download have what I call “baggage” frequencies with them. You don’t need them and you may not even see them with the tools you use, but they are definitely there. Think I’m lying?
Try this. Get a dope 808 and snare and make them hit at the same time…not perfect, right? Now put a high pass filter on the snare (at about 110 Hz) and a low pass filter on the 808 (at about 80 Hz). Better? That’s because you defined where the snare should live and where the bass should live. This allows the kids to play well together. Side note: this concept is also how you can get that kick to punch faces.
There is a lot more nuance to equalization that we will get to in a more advanced post later, but this is the basic concept.
Why is my beat clipping and distorting?
Ever have a beat with only a few sounds, but it’s already clipping or distorting? I felt like an idiot with this one…turn everything down! Not the master fader. Each individual sound should play at around -12db (give or take depending on your setup). If you want the beat louder, just turn up the monitors, but make sure your levels are set for success by leaving room for mixing and mastering later. Nothing worse than playing a beat for an artist and HEARING the compression slam your hours of hard work and ultimately degrade your product.
How do I win?
At the end of the day, there is no right answer to music. It is art. Thus requires a level of artistic license. Be you. Make your music different. Define new sounds and try new things. This is the only way we progress musically. Don’t like what you’re hearing on the radio? Make something better and stop complaining. That, young padwon, is how you win.