Production Tips

Throughout our social accounts, we post all sorts of different production tips, advice and discussions. Here's a compilation of all of them for you to learn and share.


Intro arrangement

Be thoughtful about how you arrange your track. The most common reason your breakdown might sound a bit boring is that you start it off too full.

A rich and full breakdown will always sound right to your ear; however, a rich and full breakdown for 32 bars straight is going to bore the living hell out of your listeners.

Instead, try to start your break very simplistic and almost too empty. After just 8 bars start adding more instruments like synths and drums. You'll notice very quickly that that way your breakdown is going to sound a lot more exciting.

Pro tip:
Never start your break with a bassline. If you start your breakdown without a bassline and add it just after a few bars instead, it is going to sound extremely pleasing to the ear and make your track feel like it's evolving.

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Producer Motivation 001

We decided to compile some of our most interesting quotes from the past few production tips and advice posts we put out.

This is one of the more recent ones. Putting out music is such an importance when you're starting your music career.

An empty profile simply isn't going to fill up itself with a following.

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Decoded tips - All My Friends

We took a closer listen to 'All My Friends' by @madeon and thought the production techniques we discovered were worth sharing.

What makes this track special is the jamming bassline, the incredible vocals, and the vibrant mix. Just swipe through all pictures to see what we were able to decode from this production.

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Everyone starts with 0 followers

Don't think that in five years you're magically going to go from 0 to 100k followers just because your music sound professional now. Being scared of releasing your music is the worst thing you can do as an upcoming producer.

If you start building a following now, imagine how much easier it is going to be to grow that following even quicker and bigger in five years. Starting now is simply going to give you a big, and essential head start in building your own brand.

Thinking that your music isn't going to be listened to by anyone is wrong. If you finish a song and you think it sounds good, it will most definitely sound just as good to other people around the world.

Even after two years of releasing music you end up thinking that a few of your songs aren't up to your standards anymore, you can simply archive them and take them down.

Take us an example. We started with creating music and recreating music, and we did for well over three years. We then slowly transition into creating and recreating sounds. However, having the following we build up earlier was extremely important for us and gave us a good head start in the sound design business.

The point is – if you are trying to become a successful artist in the future, start releasing your music now. Also, try to release as much music as possible. The more music you put out, the more chances you create to be discovered.

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Kick and bass

We all know that mixing your kick and bass can be a big struggle, especially if you don't use just a simple sub, but rather a full bassline that covers the entire frequency spectrum.

In that case, using a regular sidechain that ducks the entire bassline down, is going to take away a lot of the energy. At the same time, you don't want to duck the bassline just halfway down. That may let some of the high-end through to bring back the energy but also some of the low-end, which in return will mess with your kick drum.

The solution? Multiband sidechain. If we use two different sidechain settings, one for the sub and one for the rest of the bassline, we can ensure that the low-end ducks 100% whereas the rest of the bassline can be ducked, e.g., just 60% instead.

Pro tip: In our example, we used a plug-in called "Shaperbox" by Cableguys as it has multiband sidechain functionality built into its sidechain unit. If you don't own this plug-in, you can quickly achieve the same effect by duplicating your bass, adding a high cut at around 100-200hz to the first bass and adding a low cut at the same frequency to the duplicated bass. Now you can use different sidechain settings on both layers.

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Try to collaborate

Two sets of ears are always better than one. While collaborations can help you teach all sorts of production methods and workflow tips you didn't know about – it also gives you a second perspective on your ideas.

When collaborating, being honest is the key. If you present your partner a terrible idea, you would want him or her to tell you that. So never be afraid to voice your honest opinion as well.

Think of collaborations as a one-on-one lesson with a production teacher that you can always ask for help, ask any production questions, ask for advice, etc.

Also, make sure you reach out to a possible collaborator the right way. Simply saying, "Collab bro?" is not going to do the job. Here are four things you should do instead.
1. Introduce yourself briefly.
2. Let them know why you want to collaborate with them and why they should collaborate with you.
3. Send them a recently finished track of yours so they can check out your production quality.
4. If you already have one – send them a demo of an idea that you want both of you to work on.

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Effect chains

The first effect in your effect-chain is not going to be affected by any other effect you put on top of it whereas your last effect in your effect-chain is going to affect all effects below it.

Here are some practical examples that you should watch out for when setting up your effect-chains.

EQ:
Your EQ should almost always be the last effect in your chain. If you use your EQ to clean up the sound or get rid of unnecessary low-end – putting effects like reverb or saturation after the EQ is going to reintroduce unnecessary frequencies which won't be cut away by the EQ.

Reverb:
Your reverb can be one of the first effects in your chain but doesn't have to be depending on which other effects you want to put on the chain. If you use distortion, for example, putting the distortion after the reverb is going to distort the reverb as well whereas if you put the distortion before the reverb, the reverb is going to sound clean.

Sidechain:
Your sidechain effect should also be one of the last effects in your chain. If you have other effects like reverb or delay on your chain set up after the sidechain – your reverb and delay won't duck.

Compression:
Your compressor should be set up somewhere in the middle of your chain. If you put it after your reverb, it is going to help bring out the reverb a bit more whereas if you put it before the reverb, it won't affect it at all. Also, ideally, your compressor should be placed before your sidechain as a compressor after the sidechain would reduce the ducking effect of your sidechain.

There are many other types of effects that you should look out for when setting up your effect-chain – but those four are some of the easiest to mess up and cause an unknowingly muddy mix.

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Don't layer everything

Layering is one of the most powerful techniques in music production. With layering, you can easily take an element and make it sound a lot bigger then it actually is.

Often, layering is overdone, which in return leads to a muddy element and not a richer one.

If you feel like your element is missing some high-end, add a layer with a focus on high frequencies to it. Does it need more low-mids? Add a layer with a lot of low-mids to it. Do you want to make your element feel wider? Add a layer with a lot of stereo width to it.

The point is – you won't need an extra five layers just to add "more high-end" to your element.

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Hi-hat patterns

Hi-hat patterns can be quite simple and do the job; however, more unique patterns sound a lot more fun and create a different bounce.

One easy way to achieve more unique rhythms is to set up a few crazy delay settings that you'd usually never use. Set up a simple hi-hat pattern and turn the delays on and off within different sections.

This trick works with pretty much any genre but benefits genres like House and Hip-Hop the most as your hi-hats are one of the elements that create the bounce within these genres.

Pro tip: In our demo, we build everything around a simple off-beat hi-hat pattern. You can also create a more advanced hi-hat pattern from the beginning and make it even more unique by adding delay automations.

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Your listeners aren't producer

Many of us producers are continuously interacting with each other to get better and better at music production. Because of that, we tend to forget that 99% of the people who listen to our music are non-producers.

Non-producers perceive your music in a completely different way. You may be proud of yourself that you spent hours and hours tweaking your reverb to perfection. In reality, however, your listener won't even be able to distinguish your excellent reverb from any other cheap reverb.

The point is – sometimes we get lost in all sorts of details, and unless that detail adds substantial improvements to your overall mix, you're probably better off finding a more straightforward solution.

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Reverb reset

This trick works best when you are using huge reverbs. A big reverb can add a lot of width and power to an element as well as help make it sound euphoric and energetic.

A big reverb tail, however, can easily make things sound muddy. To counteract that you can automate your reverb on and off to reset the reverb completely and prevent huge reverb tails from fading into your next notes.

Be careful that you don't over-use this trick. Automating your reverb on and off too many time can make it feel unnatural.

Pro tip: In our example, we left the reverb at 100% to better show the effect. Once you dial down your reverb again, the unnatural reset of the reverb is going to blend in.

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Sometimes less is better

One of the toughest tasks as an upcoming producer is to create a full sounding mix. Although adding a lot of elements in the background is going to help you fill out your mix, this can very quickly be over-done and leed to a mix that may sound full but also very messy.

The best way to overcome this issue is to always double or triple check if an element actually adds something to your mix. Turn an element on and off and pay attention to whether or not the element adds more richness or more muddiness to your mix.

If you have more secret techniques that help you keep your mixes clean, let us know in the comments! 👇

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Create a custom template

This is a huge recommendation from us.

Creating your template is going to improve your workflow tremendously. Every time you open up your DAW, you won't start with an empty project anymore but rather some tools that are going to get you started quickly. It doesn't matter if you just set up a few bus channels that you always use, color a few tracks to keep your project organized or load up a few synths or drums automatically to always lay down ideas quickly. A custom template is simply going to help you focus on your ideas.

Also, note that there is no "perfect" template. Everyone produces differently and therefore, will create a different template. If you do not use a custom template already, I would recommend to start a few projects and pay attention to the first few steps you take. If you notice that a few things are done the same in each project, those steps can probably turn into a template.

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More energy

This is a neat trick to add more energy to your drop.

To keep your drop always moving, evolving and less boring, you'll need to make sure that you add more drums and synths throughout your drop.

One type of synth you could add is a simple synth-lead drowned in reverb. If you then go ahead and make that synth-lead play and hold the route note of your track or follow the top line of your chords, it's going to add a ton more strength.

Pro tip: If your drop is already very full, add the new synth-lead to the sides of your mix so that it doesn't fight with your main drop elements.

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Collect your favorite samples

If you are not doing this already, you have to start doing it.

Creating your own collection of samples is not only an excellent way to keep your favorite sounds ready to use, but it's also going to help you improve your workflow. For example, if you want to lay down an idea quickly, you won't need to search for good samples and possibly lose the idea you had in the first place.

Also, whenever you process or layer a sample out of your collection, save that new version as well. That way over the years you slowly turn the sounds into your own samples, which will help define your signature sound even more.

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Vocal chops

This is just one of many ways to create catchy Vocal Chops.

In my opinion, this is the easiest way to get your Vocal Chop melody right.
It can be quite difficult to get a good melody if you just put a few Vocal Chops together.

With this method, the Vocal Chops do not determine the melody, but you do.

Pro tip: If you do not want to tune every single chop manually, you can export the chops into a loop and drag it into a plugin like Newtone or Melodyne to tune the Vocal Chops faster, level out sliding notes and get rid of vibrato.

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Finish every project you start

This is something every producer needs to do.

Simply finishing every project helped me in the early stages tremendously.
If you have some unfinished projects laying around, finish them now. Who knows, maybe the idea that didn’t even sound good at first turns into a banger once you finish it.

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Create movement

A quick tip to add more movement to your drop!

If your drop sounds a bit stale and lacks some movement, try this trick.
Adding a 1/4 sidechain to a none 1/4 drum beat may sound confusing at first, but the pumping effect of the 1/4 sidechain can add a ton of movement to your drop and make it feel a lot busier.

Also, this secret effect is used quite often by artists like Martin Garrix and San Holo.

Pro tip: If your drums don't cut through the mix properly with a 1/4 sidechain, don't replace your regular sidechain with the 1/4 sidechain. Instead, add the 1/4 sidechain on top of your already existing sidechain.

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Beat writer's block

Writer’s block can be a real pain.

There are definitely a few ways to beat it but I find this method to be the best one. If it doesn’t work the first time it always works the second or third time for me.

If you know any other good trick to beat writer’s block, let me know in the comments!

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Try to be innovative

If you just started producing recently and are still learning the basics of music production, this advice is not for you.

If you know what you’re doing when it comes to music production and you are able to create solid tracks, definitely try this.

A unique idea is going to help you stand out in today’s music world. For example, if someone wants to listen to a Brooks style track, he’s going to listen to Brooks and not your track that kinda sounds like Brooks. However, if you hit the listener with something new and different and it’s actually good, he’ll want more from you.

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Discussion #5

Lately we have been seeing a lot of new artist reaching the top with their unique sound. Is there any artist out there that inspired you lately to produce something new and fresh?

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Chord Sounds

Here's one easy way to spice up your typical saw chords and make them sound a bit more unique.

Taking a vocal shot sample drowned in reverb is going to give your chords a unique tonality while still sounding synthetic enough to provide the energy your chords need. You can be very experimental with this trick by adding different effects like distortion or by sampling other instruments like a violin or piano, for example.

Pro tip: You can also ditch your typical saw chords entirely and use just the vocal shot chords on their own.

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Outsource Producer Friends

Here’s some quick advice for when you struggle during production.

I feel like not enough producers do this. What do you think? Do you ever outsource producer friends? Let me know in the comments!

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Discussion #4

Do you prefer to use a MIDI keyboard and beat pad while producing or do you rather draw everything in manually?

Let me know what your workflow looks like in the comments, even if you use a mixture of both!

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Stronger Pianos

f you are struggling to make your pianos sound big and full, try this trick!

Just layering pianos on top of each other may not give you the result you’re looking for. Instead try to take another piano, crush it with saturation, make it as wide as possible, compress the hell out of it and layer it on top of your clean piano.

Pro tip: If two layers aren’t enough for you, try three layers. Keep the clean layer in the middle and hard-pan the two processed layers to the left and right of your mix.

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Discussion #3

If you come up with an idea, do you already know which sounds you want and simply create them yourself? Or do you prefer to browse through presets and maybe even get inspired by the presets themselves?

Would love to hear what you think about this. Comment below!

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More Presence

How to add more presence to an element.

A unique method to help make an element stand out in the mix is to layer a percussion over it that follows the same rhythm as the main element. With this method, you can use any percussion. Anything from simple congo hits to a recording of you hitting a table would work.

Pro tip: Usually all types of percussion are very punchy and will add a very clicky feel to your main element once you layer them. If you don't want your main element to sound that clicky, you can fade the percussion in to get rid of the punchy click. In most cases, it should still add a tremendous amount of presence to the element.

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Discussion #2

Is it the hard hitting drums that get your creative juices flowing or is it the epic melodies?

Which one do you like to start with? Let us know in the comments.

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Soundscape

Using soundscape samples or other ambience effects (like rain or vinyl foley) in the background can help make your track sound a lot fuller.

Especially soundscape samples that are in the same key as your track work extremely well and can give your mix that last bit of richness it may need.

Pro tip: In our example we purposely made the soundscape effect loud. Usually you want these effects to sit very low in the mix so they don’t distract the listener.

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Discussion #1

Which synth plugin have you been using the most lately?
If there are any secret weapons out there, let us know!

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Smoother Filtering

Quick production tip for smoother transitions!

Using a simple low-pass or high-pass filter on your synths or drums can sound a bit dry and harsh.
To smooth out the filter, drown your synths or drums in reverb and slowly fade out the reverb as you fade out the filter. This works the other way around as well. So if you have a filter fading in, you can fade in the reverb as well.

Pro tip: You can add even more effects like a delay, distortion or phaser, for example, to make it even more exciting.

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Ear Candy

Every production needs ear candy.

Using small fills and creating fx modulation are just a few methods to create ear candy. Ear candy is the perfect tool to not only keep your production always moving but also help the listener stay interested in your track.

In this video, we are showing you just a couple of methods on how you can keep your productions interesting as well.

Tip: Don't over-do it. Having too much ear candy can make your production feel too random and too complicated.

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Time Stretching

A simple but very effective trick to avoid the downsides of time-stretching is to simply cut up a loop into pieces and rearrange them.

It's usually easier if you first put the loop in its original BPM into your session and then cut it into pieces using the grid. Once it's cut up, you can simply pull the BPM up or down and the individual cuts should still be perfectly aligned.

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