Every producer goes through multiple development phases, and each of these phases comes with different tasks and things to focus on. Therefore, here are the most important things you need to focus on in each stage of your career
5 THOUGHTS FROM ME
1. Focus on developing your understanding of music production to start finishing songs. When you’re beginning, your goal is to understand how music production works and how you can build a good song. At this point, you need to focus on developing your ability to translate your ideas into full & finished songs. For this to happen, you have to focus on developing your production skills, and the best way to do this is by copying songs from other people and also making your own songs. This will help you by (1) understanding the basic parts of a song; (2) exposing the different sets of skills you’ll need as a producer; and (3) making you practice these skills when following along or making your own song. By doing that, you’ll soon be able to arrange and compose full songs, which may not sound perfect, but that will be the foundation for your future perfect songs. Therefore, if you’re in this stage, focus on developing your basic skills by working on and finishing as many songs as you can without overthinking them. Remember, at this stage, they don’t need to be perfect. In the meantime, here are some additional ways to develop your skills: (1) Watch youtube walkthrough videos and get feedback can help you see tasks that you need to do that you’re not doing (We have multiple production videos that show us producing live); (2) Work on Remix competitions since they will help you understand how to work with vocals and the importance of a LEAD/VOCAL in a song; (3) Do a music theory course since it can help you make better compositions and write better chord progressions (free course here).
2. After you’re comfortable with how to develop a full song, it’s time to start enhancing how it sounds. After phase 1, you’ll have a better understanding of how to make your own tracks, but they will likely not sound perfect because you need to master how to choose and develop the best sounds. Therefore, your focus now is to understand how to develop sounds that will complement the arrangement and composition of your song and how to make all these sounds work together. For this, you’ll need to focus on two things: Sound Design & Selection, and basic mixing. For Sound Design (in no particular order), understand (1) what makes a good lead?; (2) what makes a good kick?; (3) how to make a consistent and powerful bass; (4) what kinds of percussive sounds your genre uses?; (5) what kind of melodic elements are present in your songs, etc. To do this, listen to reference tracks and pay attention now to why the sounds that were selected help the song. Also, developing your skills with a synth will help you understand how to tweak presets and how to use sound design to give more intensity and expression to your music, and the best way to develop this is by recreating presets (check our sound design playlist to help you get started). Then, you’ll need to develop a basic understanding of mixing as mixing will help your sounds glue better and also will open space for your songs to add more elements and make your songs sound fuller, but not crowded. The four main things you’ll need to understand here are (1) getting your kick and bass at the right level and space (video); (2) sidechaining your elements properly (video); (3) balancing your additional elements and low cutting almost every non-bass or non-kick element (video); (4) always listening to the full context of the mix, and not elements in solo. By understanding this, you’ll be able to make your songs sound a lot more professional and developed, which will be key for you to start releasing tracks.
3. Hustle through the dip of phase 2 to avoid burning out. Phase 2 is hard and takes a lot of time, and self-doubt can creep in many times, but you can’t let yourself go. A lot of the things that I mentioned in Phase 2 require time to understand and you may need some help to go solve them or to speed up the process, but since it takes time, it can lead you to feel that you’re not making progress anymore. If you’re in this stage and feeling lost, (1) Get feedback on your songs as this will help you learn things you didn’t know and discover mistakes you might not be seeing; (2) Go to online forums and/or youtube channels and learn how they solve the issues that you don’t know how to solve; (3) if that’s not working, find a mentor that can guide you and take you out of that dip. By solving the issues that were bugging you, you’ll be able to expel self-doubt and feel confident again about your music, which is key to moving past phase 2. “But I can’t pay for a mentor…” Well, explain your issue in these forums/discords mentioned (our discord server) and you may be able to solve your problems, but a mentor can definitely help you fix these issues and possibly even ones that you don’t know. If you don’t solve these issues though, you’ll likely start losing motivation or feeling so bugged that you’ll eventually get in a rut, and eventually burn out. So, don’t wait until you’re there to start taking action. Make a list of the things that you need to fix on your music and work to get rid of them one by one until you’re back on track.
4. It’s time to put yourself out there and look for the right way to start releasing your songs. When you’ve gone through these 3 stages, you’ll eventually start making tracks that you really like and want to release. To make sure you’re ready to start releasing. (1) play your song in a set and see how it compares against other songs you like. Let’s say it lacks bass… when you play among other tracks, it instantly shows up. In addition, you can also understand if your song fits into a label if you play it among other tracks from that label; (2) get feedback from people you like as they can help you perceive something you didn’t know or you’re just not hearing to due to ear fatigue; Lastly, (3) send your songs to labels and see how they react. If they sign your songs, that’s a sign that you’re ready, and if they don’t, you likely still have something to develop (or just need to find a better label fit for your song). Any of these three steps will help you understand if your song is ready, but #1 and #2 can be a preview before you send it. And, if you’re not ready, identify the top 5 reasons why, list them, and start tackling them one by one.
5. Focus on writing good-quality songs more than anything. When your songs get to the point that they have the quality to be signed by any label, it will have more to do with writing amazing and catchy songs than ‘the quality is not professional’. Therefore, you’ll have to keep your songwriting sharp and always ready to go. For this, you’ll need to start practicing it, and that requires deep studying on how to write catchy leads and pumping basslines, and there’s no better way than repetition. Pick a preset pack you like with over 30/40 presets, and write one 4-bar loop for every preset in less than 5 minutes for each. This will challenge your creativity to write different kinds of basses, pads, plucks, and leads, and how to do it fast. Not only this, but when you write 10 lead melodies in a roll, you’ll need to exercise your creativity, and this will likely spark a few good ideas that you can later convert into songs. Essentially, the more you expose yourself to different writing styles, the easier it will be for you to be more assertive when writing your own melodies as well.
1 QUESTION FOR YOU
What additional stages do we go through as music producers?
1. Marketing: After you get a release, it’s time to start marketing your songs, and that can be a pain. To help you out, you can check our post where we list 8 pre-release tasks you should do for all your songs;
2. Experimentation: After you get really good at what you do, doing the basics will not be enough anymore. Therefore, focus on trying a new technique or a new way to use your elements and that’s how you’ll eventually find your sound;
3. Wanting to quit / Lack of Motivation: I’ve almost quit music 3 times and sometimes that comes and goes. The best solution here is to try different genres, buy a new plugin, or work on a collab with a friend… something that will help you regain your motivation and the fun of making music back (read more here).