5 Truths I wish I knew before I started producing
You will feel like quitting regularly.
When you start you have a lot of excitement and unchecked creativity. However, in order to progress, you need to learn new things. These new things like compression for example, are often complex concepts that take years to master. As a result there are times when you get fed up with your music not sounding how you want. In the first few years, this is particularly true, especially when you try to get your music sounding as good as your reference tracks. Keep at it though, keep learning, slowly chipping away at the block is necessary to get good at anything. Just persevere with these moments where you feel like giving up, or even take a break and come back to it a week or 2 later with a fresh mind.
2. You will end up spending a lot on gear.
Unfortunately creating high quality music requires good gear. I’m not saying that you can’t produce good music without expensive equipment, that isn’t true. However, if you are to compare your sound sonically to music recorded/mixed/mastered in great sounding rooms, with great processors and experienced professionals, it probably won’t stand up. In order to get to that level, it requires investment. Particularly in a good monitoring system, ideally a treated room, quality plugins and some good quality instruments. (I noticed huge jumps in my own productions upgrading from Logic’s orchestral sounds to third party sound libraries like Vienna or Spitfire, or from my entry level Strat to an American Deluxe Tele. So unfortunately, you will have to invest a good chunk of change in order to reach the heights of sonic excellence.
3. It will take you years before you have any ‘success.’
I started writing music when I was 14/15 when I first got a guitar and started dabbling with Fruity Loops. Maybe even earlier I had Dance EJ (a rudimentary loop based software on PC.) It would be about 10 years later, at age 25 when a small label requested to sign one of my tracks. That was only for a single track, and was essentially one guy taking care of digital distribution and some basic marketing. I don’t think I ever saw anything from that apart from a bump in soundcloud plays. Still, it gave me confidence and reassurance that had often dwindled that what I was making was ‘good.’ It would then be another couple of years before I signed my first music publishing contract. So strap yourself in, it is a long journey, you have to love the process of creating music or you won’t make it.
4. There is no such thing as a perfect song.
Perfection kills productivity. I have spent so long trying to make something perfect to my ears, only for someone to say ‘Oh I don’t like that bit.’ I think Dave Grohl said something like ‘when you are singing a song live, then 10,000 people are singing it back to you for 10,000 different reasons.’ Anyway, we often try to reach perfection as producers, and there is nothing wrong with striving for the best, but don’t give up on a piece of music because it doesn’t reach your expectations. Just finish the damn song, let the audience decide.
5. Less is often more.
We are often looking for the next technique, the next plugin, the next video tutorial that will help us. When really what we need to do is just learn how to use the tools that we have at our disposal. I, like many producers, went through the phase of stockpiling plugins, having about 10 different distortion plugins - ‘wondering which is best?’ However, nowadays, my workflow and plugin collection is quite modest. I have collections from a few of my favourite plugin creators Fabfilter, Waves and Soundtoys, alongside Logic’s stock plugins which do a lot of the heavy lifting. It’s better to know less tools inside out and know how to get sounds out of them than to have a hundred choices, not knowing what to use.
Hopefully this is relatable to some of you, if you're new feel free to shoot me any questions about production!