#1 When composing a new song (especially when your new to producing) do not fall in love with every part of the song. You may end up needing to take out a part or changing it entirely to improve the song. If you think,”But i’ll loose all of that work!”, you can just save that part as a new song and work on it another time. Once you have worked on something and then gone to bed and “slept on it”, you should play the song the next day. You may notice some parts do not work or can be improved or you may still love it. Any place you feel the song being “off” write out that time and look at the parts of the song, maybe you accidentally muted something or pasted something off time. There can be so many errors, just be aware of keeping your productions as clean as possible without automation clutter.
#2 So what do you do when your not in the mood to produce or mix? What happens when the muse has gone on a coffee break and your sitting in the studio staring at the wall. When that happens to me I do what I call “Grunt work”. That is I work on things that do not take much talent to do but they NEED to be done. Things like: Listening to your samples and taking out the ones you will never use or sounds that are too close, fixing file names/extensions, making generic templates for genres, saving your self made sounds in their appropriate folders, BACKING UP YOUR SYSTEM, edit/clean up sounds, read about signal processing, experiment with an effect you do not know well or well enough, do research on a genre or instrument you want to use, look up new artists and songs to inspire you, and much much more that I will eventually get to. =)
#3 To fully understand how a sounds “eq range” works you should load up an eq visualizer (spectrum analyser) on your main output so you can see the frequencies that are being used by sound(s) and the song overall. By using your ears and eyes you can tell what freq’s need to be added or taken out. But be careful, you should be using your ears more then your eyes so do not get stuck gazing at the computer and not “listening” to what your really doing.
#4 Now that your looking at a spectrum analyser, look at various sounds and their frequencies. You will be surprised how some sounds look. Take a Pad or Strings for instance, some seem to be soft and seamless but will have HUGE curves in frequencies and usually a lot of low end. This now gives you a better idea of why a bunch of sounds put together can turn into muddiness unless you eq out frequencies, add reverb, panning/stereo panning, take out sounds, change pitches of sounds, and change volumes to make them fit together.
#5 Pitch pitch pitch… is all we do is pitch and complain? (pun intended). Should you pitch the drums,percs, and fx to the key of your your song? It really matters on what you want the timbre to be and the emotion conveyed. If your doing dance/club/top 40 I’d pitch as much as possible. But some genres rely on finely tuned off key sounds for a less comfortable feel like some jungle, hardcore, trip hop, etc. Although a lot of old skool songs are a bit off key due to using sample loops and not having today’s tech to easily warp the sample. But all in all its what you want to do. If you like it and it works, keep it up. As for me I pitch each song as needed but on most occasions I pitch as much as possible to keep things cohesive.
#6 The best way to stand out is to make your “own sound”. This means having certain techniques in your sound sculpting and mixing so you do not sound like every other producer but still have your songs sounding large and professional. This takes time but it is well worth the effort. One way to help find your sound is to explore and experiment and save your presets so you can clean them up later when you understand the signal processors your using better. You may find some rare sound/effect that isn’t used much or at all. Try placing effects in different orders to see what the outcome is. Lastly, never stop learning and expanding your knowledge on music theory and production. There is so much information our there that there is no excuse.
#7 Most producers use a technique called “Layering” to make any sound larger and/or more complex. This is where multiple sounds/synths/etc. are played over each other following the same pattern. Each layer can (and should) have its own frequency area, spacial area, and movement so that every layer fits with the other and makes 1 whole sound. This is done for most genres but a good way to envision it is to think of DubStep. You have what sounds like 1 HUGE screeching bassline coming at you with HUGE drums. Whats really being done is the Producer is making the bassline and then duplicating parts and adding synths/samples to do the same pattern as the bassline but in higher pitches and panned/stereoized differently to cohesively fit to make 1 huge sound. Same with the drums, besides having the drum sounds the producer adds a layer of drum effect sounds that follow the pattern of the drums. This gives the producer the flexibility to eq quickly and have many patterns that can change easily. There is more tricks then just layering to make your sounds huge and complex, but layering is an essential skill to have as a producer.