I’ve heard many producers talk about having beat block (producers form of writer’s block). Here are a few things that I’ve done to counteract not being able to make anything-
For me, having beat block is all about starting a beat. Once you have a good idea to start out, the beat usually comes together. To help fight my beat block I try to start a beat multiple different ways to gain some inspiration. Being a keyboard player, I usually start with chords. To change it up, I might try to start with a drum loop and then lay down chords. Something that is also fun for me, is to come up with a melody line and then write chords to match the melody line. Another thing that can be helpful is to write on different instruments. For instance if you are a keyboard player try writing a song on the guitar, bass or drums. Always push yourself and try new things you never know what you will come up with!
Drums are often my favorite things to program in a song. They set the groove and tone for the rest of the creation. No matter what “style” of music you’re creating, having a solid kick and clap/snare will always get you far. Any extra percussion or FX sounds can be added at your own discretion, but it will depend on your artistic preferences and genre. Here are some things to consider while programming drums.
-While EQing kick drums, usually stay within 50-125Hz for any adjustments in “fatness.”
-While EQing snares/claps for “fatness” or heavier “attack,” usually stay within 1-2kHz
-Be aware of “phasing” when stacking multiple sounds together...
Depending on the frequencies they occupy, or their placement on the grid, your layered sounds can end up cancelling each other out despite all of your efforts.
-Compression/sidechaining can always be a helpful factor when you want a kick or snare to cut more in your mix
As a musician, performer, or songwriter, it is vital that you go to see live music. Sometimes, you learn more from watching a specific performance than performing yourself. I recommend going to as many open mics and live shows that you can in your community. Even if you don’t perform yourself, you will learn from watching. We go to an open mic in LA called ourmic, and their whole philosophy is “You shine, I shine.” This is a great philosophy to follow at every show or open mic. Give the performer your full attention - because they will do better if you do! (And that’s what you would want yourself). Be inspired by other people’s music and performance and learn how to incorporate what you see that you like into your own performances.
Pt 5: Backing up your work
One of the most important and basic things you should learn about the process is saving and backing up your work. Your hard drive is the most irreplaceable piece of equipment in your studio. You can replace gear with money but you can’t replace hours of work that you did on a session that you didn’t back up.
Some things you should always do to avoid losing work:
Pt. 4 Cleaning up vocals
One of the most time consuming processes while mixing and tracking is cleaning up vocals. Usually when I get sessions from other people, this process is much more time consuming, because I don’t know how the tracks are organized. Again, this is why it is important to keep your sessions organized.
Cleaning up vocals usually involves deleting breaths, creating fades and lining up background vocals. Making these small changes make a huge impact. If you don’t do this, you run the risks of having weird pops and clicks that occur when the artist wasn’t actually singing. These small tasks may seem dull, but I find it to be strangely calming and rewarding when I finally finish.
Pt. 3 Tracking and Comping
When tracking, it is extremely important to organize all of the different takes. I highly recommend keeping notes or labeling takes inside Pro Tools during the recording process. This way if you take a break or decide to work on the session the next day, you will know which take to listen too. When recording vocals I like to pay close attention to every take. I’ll remember or take note of which takes I like the best, and then comp the vocals immediately after recording, so the takes are fresh in my mind. Find what works best for you and then stick to it because there is nothing worse than reopening your session and not remembering anything about it.
Pt. 2 Color Coding and Grouping
One of the best tools for organization is color coding and grouping tracks. I usually color code and group everything so it is easy to see, and I don't have to search for anything too long. I like to color and group the vocals, instruments, and drums different colors. From there, you can get more intricate. If you have a lot of guitars, you give them their own color. Keeping all of these tracks in their own groups is very important too as it allows you to manipulate the whole group together. Whether you are adjusting all the volumes at once or flying a background vocal to another section, grouping is just as important as color coding. Color coding and grouping will allow you to not only track instruments and record vocals more efficiently, but it will make things easier for you in the post production (mixing, mastering) stages.