How to properly copy artists you like a PRO?

Copying music is one of the most effective ways to learn how to produce and develop yourself as a musician. However, copying can be seen negatively if you don’t do it the right way, and that’s what we’ll talk about today…


1. Reference multiple sources at once instead of just one song. By having multiple sources that inspire you and using them as reference tracks, you’ll be exposed to multiple ideas and ways to construct your song, and you’ll have multiple ways of implementing things you like into your song, which can trigger a lot of ideas on how you can build your song. Not only this, but this can also trigger your song to be different than one individual song since you’re taking bits from here, bits from there, which helps your ‘copy’ to go undetected. For example, when you can copy the idea of the break from song #1, but then drop it like song #2 while having a lead that resembles song #3, while using a different chord progression, rhythm, or lead melody, the likelihood of your song being a copy is almost none. However, having these songs as references can help you by (1) guiding you with the elements you could add to your song and (2) expanding your knowledge by exposing you to different ways of making a song, which helps your development as a producer. Of course, you can’t copy the main melody or the main chord progression of the song, but the elements that surround it and the construction/arrangement of the song are up for grabs, so take advantage of it. What matters is how you can make what you’ve copied your own, and that’s where the originality of your songs starts. Therefore, don’t feel afraid to pick elements from songs you like, but remember to expand your view to get little things from various songs to make your song more diverse and different from one single song.

2. Copy the sounds from your favorite artist, but use them in a different way than they are using it. When someone creates a cool sound, like Anyma did with their Anyma shots in his track Running, everyone starts copying it because they want to sound like them. However, when you copy a sound that everyone else is copying, how will you stand out? Instead of using the sounds you like the same way someone is already using it, what if you get only the concept and apply it in a different way? For example, what if you picked the classic ‘Anyma shots’ and used them with Claps or Vocals instead of a synth? In a completely different scenario, what if you picked sounds from Hip Hop and used them in your songs (If you don’t know, that’s how Drum ‘n’ Bass was born when UK producers sped up old school Hip Hop beats from the US as mentioned in the movie ‘Pump up the Volume’)? Remember that when you sound the same, you will sound like a copy, and no one wants that especially when you have tons of others already doing that. Therefore, pick an element that everyone is so used to using in your genre, but use it with a different context or use different kinds of elements to start creating something that people can associate you with, which is what eventually can create your Signature Sound, as you can read in this post.

3. Copy the things that people can’t detect you’re copying. When people think about copying, they always associate it with the main lead, the main element, or the chord progression, but there are a bunch of things all the PROs are copying, sometimes even without knowing. For example, (1) copy the tonal balance of a song by balancing your elements just like someone’s song; (2) copy the level of the kick and bass of a reference track with a spectrum analyzer; (3) copy the structure of your favorite song while having a completely different melody or purpose in the song; (4) Copy the elements that help a song build up in the break but, again, not necessarily using the same samples, but ones that evoke the same feeling. Especially the mixing and the arrangement portion of your songs are parts that you can easily copy from any track and there are a bunch of tutorials, including from us, on how you can do that properly. The reason why I love doing this, and I heavily rely on it, it’s because it gives you a guide of where you need to go with your song without you needing to guess, and that’s especially useful when you’re not in a PRO studio. For example, if you want to make your song sound like your favorite, why not leave the high end as loud as the reference? Again, it’s just the balancing and not the composition, so it’s fine. You’re essentially picking on years of experience from a sound engineer that is imprinted on a song and replicating it to your track, and that’s something I show in this video about EQ Matching and in this Start To Finish Mix and Master. Therefore, instead of mixing or arranging your track blindly, use references to guide you through and help you understand what you need to do next.

4. Copy as a way to learn and develop your skills. Copying an artist is one of the most effective ways to learn how to: (1) produce like any artist, as it will implicitly show how an artist develops his track; (2) choose the right elements and sound design for your songs as even though a clap is just like any other clap, to get the same vibe as someone you need to find the clap in the same vibe and aggressiveness; (3) mix your songs as you’ll need to balance the elements the same way someone did it. In any case, copying can be a great learning exercise, even if you’re just copying a start-to-finish tutorial on YouTube because it will help you develop yourself and your skills, which is a step forward to making better songs. If you’re too afraid a song you did resembles another song too much, change the melody, change the key, or anything that could give you away and ‘hide your copy’ by merging other sounds, and making it your own. Or, simply use this copy project as a learning project, don’t release it but then implement the skills you learned in another project. Lastly, if you’re lost on how to build a song, just copy the building blocks of a song, without actually placing the sound, but just detecting which sounds are in there, so you can learn how you need to pace your own song when you sit down to make music.


What other things do you need to do when copying something from someone?
1. Don’t copy the same chord progression, lead melody, or vocal of a song: When you copy these elements, you’re copying the theme of the ‘copied song’, and that can easily be spotted as plagiarism. “But no one will know, Leo”. Don’t undermine the internet police on that…
2. Don’t copy and release it as your own. As happened, when you copy someone on YouTube, regardless of what it is, change it somehow. We recently had a case of a producer on a big label copying from another big producer, who will remain unnamed, and the fight got nasty. Therefore, if you spot a cool lead and melody online, make sure to change it and make it your own.
3. When you want to be creative, consider not copying anyone. A friend of mine heard from the producer AVIRA that he hardly ever uses references because he doesn’t want to sound like anyone, which is a point when you know what you want to make. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t ‘copy’ other songs when in the mixing stage, right? Second, that is something that AVIRA does because he’s an experienced producer and he knows what he needs in a song, but when you get to this point, that’s a really nice way to sound fresh.

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Leo Lauretti

Leo Lauretti

Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Leo Lauretti has been producing since 2013. With releases on SONY Music, Armada, Enhanced Music, Leo Lauretti accumulates multiple supports from artists like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Nicky Romero, and many others all over the world.

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