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Posts Tagged ‘beatmaking’

Setting Goals as a Producer

May 17, 2013 1 comment

Forum hound Griffin Avid chimes in over at FutureProducers and drops a gem or two…

A poster named Benjah had this thought and question…

Music Production Producer at console

Without a definite end, you may find yourself at the beginning.

Setting Goals as a producer.

So my summer has started and I am trying to Create a goal and a Plan for improving my production skills.

My only problem is the goal is extremely fuzzy. ” Considerably improve production skills.”

All research suggests that goals are best set as Specific Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Time-Framed statements.

So how do i go about Making a Goal like this for production? What do you guys do? What is your goal setting process like? And while your here you can also give me some general suggestions on the process of improvement.

What is your goal setting process like?
=============================================================================
So how do i go about Making a Goal like this for production?
I say if your goal involves becoming a better producer, you need to do some producing.
Make your end goal to produce a real record by summer’s end.
If that’s the finish line; to release a project, then you can work backwards, step by step figuring out what you need to do and be doing week by week, day by day.

I don’t know too many people who just keep getting better and better (forever).
I know early on, it’s technical concerns…how do I…what fixes….what’s the best…
But after that, it’s all what you choose to do….
and I don’t think you make better choices without EXPERIENCE.

What I see are artists who always like their newest stuff more so they think they are improving-
when really they are just staying in the same place, which is slightly behind the curve.
When strings were poppin, they made 100 beats with strings….
When 808s were what’s up, they made 100 beats with 808s…..
When trap beats are….you get the idea…that guy will always be following the current trend trying to be relevant and always remaking his catalog.

That is also close to eras, like when you kept making the same kind of beats….and then you switch up. It’s possible that people could like a certain style of tracks more, but you don’t really find that out till you get out there and show some consistency.

What do you guys do?
First, pick your lane/direction. Understand that your goal is to be the best (you can be) in that direction.
I say you get past the technical concerns.
Can you make music? You got that part down yet?
Next, grab some acapellas and make some remixes.
Mostly, it’s about working with vocals. If that’s what’s at the end, why spend all your time playing around with loose beats and unfinished instrumentals?
Make some songs with other rapper’s vocals. That is the process.
You’ll learn to work harder and construct bridges, hooks, intros, outros, variations and you have the original track as a bar to rise to.
Not only can you share that music as a primer for what’s to come, you can use that feedback (FROM A LOT OF [regular = not other producers] PEOPLE) to figure out your weak/strong areas.
Real data on what works and what doesn’t.

Your music needs to improve to the point where NO ONE has technical concerns and feedback is only like or dislike or they like one track better than another.
When people want copies of your music to listen to and rappers want to rhyme and make songs with them…
makes it pretty easy to figure out how close you are. People should like and want to listen to your remixes. Someone should suggest you send it to the artist.
Comments like that are your gauge. If everyone just says “That’s nice” or “That’s cool” you’re not done yet.

What is your goal setting process like?
I write a list and have documents called planners. Planners are outlines for projects [title, song names, artists, business ideas even a tally of money spent]
There is also a list I have with things to do. It’s on one sheet of paper and as I do something I cross it off. When I get everything done that can be done in a day, I can relax fully.
There are so many things to do, you can’t possibly carry them around in your head, you’ll need to write them down. One column might be small stuff and another might be far off stuff that needs prep time.

And while your here you can also give me some general suggestions on the process of improvement.
Honestly, the simplest one is to decide who your target audience is and expose yourself for feedback.
There’s no point to using your imagination. “Boy when they hear this…”
“This is something they ought to like” “I wonder if…”

I’ve already typed too much but there is a balance between pleasing yourself and pleasing others.
You can do both, but if you (mentally) can’t; then you should pick one and accept your decision (and its consequences and/or benefits) and keep it moving.

– Griffin Avid 2013

Advice on making better beats

October 20, 2011 10 comments

Advice on making better beats

Strangely enough, most of these thoughts DO NOT center on buying more equipment, better sounds or taking lessons.

I don’t believe you get better by making more beats either. I see advice like “Just keep making beetz and you’ll get better”

In the beginning, it’s mostly about technical concernsHow Do I…?

Eventually, it’s about Control. You want creative freedom to do what you want in the way you want to. You want what fits your style.

A better MIDI controller/keyboard/DAW.  A Simpler work flow. A more organized system of production.

After control comes the quest to control your creativity. You want to understand WHY you get the results you do and even what went wrong when you don’t.

Is it tied to your mood? Your focus? Some cosmic…energy or synergy?  Why were those last 4 beats usable, but today I just made okay stuff?

Let’s go back and answer some early questions and see what bubbles up.

What helped yall to make better beats?

1. Putting your ego aside that you don’t know everything. Lots of producers make consistently “good” beats and think they suddenly know it all. That causes them to stop progressing. Even when every beat is ‘excellent’, you can still continue learning/improving.

2. When you listen and adjust to feedback. What’s the point of asking for opinions if you are already convinced that you are the best you can be. There needs to be a balance between pleasing yourself and pleasing others. Avoid making beats that you don’t like, but you think others might. (mostly) Avoid making beats that are fun to make or nice to listen to. You want to create music that is usable in whatever context you are aiming for.

3. Stop building beats/songs/tracks around drum kits and sounds. Ideas and concepts make memorable records. When you merge a mood to the music, you have something special.

4. Aim for the top. Accept that your career is what happens AFTER you make a hot beat. When rappers begin to think about performing in front of a large audience, they make different rhymes/music. When rappers think about standing in an office pitching their music, suddenly a lot of things that seemed cool in the studio or on their profile page are no longer good enough. Imagine that THIS RECORD/THAT BEAT. That union of rapper to your music is supposed to make it happen. Are you turning out the kind of music someone (rapper + label) can bank it all on?

5. Focus on learning what you need to know. And knowing it WHEN you NEED to know it. Lots of cats try to master aspects of the production chain when they only need a working knowledge. I see cats trying to find DA BEST EQ and learn EVERYTHING about EQ when they need to only understand the basics of mixing and what EQ is for. It’s better to grasp what it’s for as opposed to using it on EVERYTHING because you keep reading that it’s the answer to HOTT BEETZ (along with over-used compression). Why are you studying the intricacies of Publishing when you still haven’t learned how to deliver a finished track in the proper format(s)?

6. Sharing them with the intended audience and seeing what happens. My girl loves my beats. So do my homies. The local rappers aint really feeling them. They mostly say They Aiiight. Do I need to step it up?

And when did you realize that your beats were starting to sound good?

1. When people wanted to use them for records.
2. When people are willing to pay for my time and talent. I would start charging for beats when people ask “How much do you charge for beats?”
3. When people started calling the room with all my equipment in it- a studio.
4. When I started wanting to share my music with rappers and NOT with other beatmakers.
5. When people began to imagine known rappers over my beats “You should give this to…”
6. When my music stopped sounding like beats and started sounding like the instrumentals to records.
7. When people began hearing my beats and asked questions. How did youWhat did you
8. When I began to answer those questions without naming drum machines, synthesizers, DAWs or samples.

I don’t believe you get better by making more beats either. I see advice like “Just keep making beetz and you’ll get better”
So what’s the friggin answer, Griffin?!

Look outward for the reality, look inward to make reality real.

Mighty Zen of you.

Sometimes. Would it be clearer if I said develop the YOU and YOUr music will improve?

Still too hard to understand.

How about “Make music as an exercise in self-expression. Take inspiration from everything around you and NOT just what you hope to gain from the exploitation of your art.”

Okay.

What should I use to make beats? or Music Production: Where should I start?

November 12, 2010 3 comments

Music Production: Where should I start?

Words by Griffin Avid

Studio Picture

Gear to share what’s in your ear, right here

One of the most frequently asked question is ‘What do I need to get started with Hip Hop production?’ It’s overheard in music retailers and posted on forums. The typical answer usually consists of entry level software, a staple drum machine or workstation keyboard. More important that what you should get is what you bring to the table and how you intend to work.

My initial foray into Hip Hop consisted of commandeering the home stereo system (a phonograph was my first turntable) and digging through my sister’s closet for a microphone that came with her tape machine. The first sampler I ever used had 90 mins  sample time. Don’t sleep on the dual tape deck. My parent’s record collection was raided for my first sound library. Today, you might be utilizing mom’s old computer and the Casio keyboard you received for your 12th birthday.

No matter how you approach a production task, the workflow will involve both hardware and software. Hardware is controlled by software, software runs on hardware. Increasing the quality of either will have a positive effect on the sound quality of your production work. But! keep in mind it’s the relationship between your creativity and talent in conjunction with your tool set that decides the final results of your production work.

Teach me how to make beats

No one can teach you how to make beats. True, you can pick up a book about production or magazine and read up on the subject, scan a production website and dig through all sorts of tips and tricks. Yes, you can watch videos of another producer laying down tracks and adopt some of their working system. You might even be advised ‘Work at these tempos’ and ‘Put the snares and kicks here and here’. A mentor may even bring you along and share a production style or workflow. Fledgling producers may even snatch up the original samples used in a track and reverse engineer the composition. All these ‘educational exercises’ add tools to your box, but they do not teach you How, Why and When to use them. The actual learning occurs as you are producing.

What’s In a Studio?

The level of a studio is obviously defined by the sound coming out of it. There is base level of equipment any producer should aim to stay above. For the analogy of a tool set, you can imagine a wrench that was machined improperly. Now, instead of gripping and loosening, your tool is stripping the nut and damaging whatever you were working on. It follows then, you don’t need the most expensive tool set available to achieve great results, but I also stand by the cliché of selecting the right tool for the job. We won’t be discussing budget here since the ability to actually produce music is more important than assembling the ultimate studio on your first trip to the gear shop.

Audio Interface

The soundcard is a very important part of your studio chain and often a huge factor in the overall sound quality. The default card in a computer is usually inappropriate for music production since it lacks the base level connectors (RCA [back of your VCR]) and the number of adaptors needed to make studio connections degrades the signal too greatly. Be sure to take note of the actual connection points in your studio before you pick up a dozen XLRs and find you needed ¼ inch cables instead. Also pay attention to the end points. ‘Males’ are the plugs and ‘females’ are the sockets/openings.

MIDI Connections.

MIDI allows computers, synthesizers, MIDI controllers, sound cards, samplers and drum machines to control one another, and to exchange system data. MIDI does not transmit audio—it simply transmits real time digital data providing information such as the type and intensity of the musical notes and technical cues played during a performance.

Flexibility is key here. There is more to MIDI-ing  up a studio than Out going to IN. If you have several tone modules and drum machines all connected, you can use any MIDI interface to trigger any sound source and increase the total possible combinations of tools/sounds available. A MIDI interface is an excellent addition to any studio.

Keyboard and MIDI Controller

A MIDI keyboard is a viable option for the producer who wants to use rack mounted tone generators and VSTs. Full sized keys and a full length board increases the playing options since you may not always be the only producer working out of your studio. The aim here is a well rounded studio which is able to accommodate various workflows without the avoidable limitations. You may not play the keyboard well today but…

Microphone, Vocal Chain and Acoustics

There are many opportunities to record artists beyond making demos or pre-production tracking. Even for the recording of ideas or inspirations, a microphone is a vital tool in any studio. It is always best to record the vocals dry (without any effects like reverb) and minimal processing from a compressor (to decrease the variation in volume level) and Gate (to eliminate ambient noise). The reflection of sounds off the walls of your studio will adversely affect your ability to properly hear your production and negatively impact your mixing curves. Padded walls and bass traps are recommended.

Speakers verse Monitors verse Headphones

A car is about the worst acoustic space you can find which is why it’s always a good idea to test your mixes on the road. Home stereo systems tend to have an inaccurate/sweetened bottom end, diminished middle and a curve upward on the highs. The EQ line looks like a smile and is the reason why everything sounds good coming out. Headphones will enhance the stereo field. The best option is a system without as much coloration as possible. Studio monitors are meant to deliver the most accurate account of ‘what’s doing with your audio’. Beyond reviews, salesman recommendations and company reputation, you’ll have to select monitors YOU can mix with. Once you have selected your monitors you will have to ‘learn them’ by listening to well recorded material and hearing the impact of your studio space on the material.

Sequencers

I saved this aspect for last because I feel it’s the most important element. Your interface, whether it’s the LED from a drum machine/groove box or the GUI from a software tracker, is the place where you will spend most of your studio time. It’s the studio tool you’ll turn on first and turn off last. Countless hours will be spent here as you search for inspiration, fine tune ideas, mix and even master your latest production. All of the major sequencers have enough functionality to bring your creative sparks into reality, but they differ greatly on presentation and workflow. Here is a listing of some of the most popular sequencers available.

Ableton Live  http://www.ableton.com/
Apple Logic http://www.apple.com/logicpro/
Digidesign ProTools http://www.digidesign.com/
Cakewalk Project 5 http://www.cakewalk.com/products/Project5/default.asp
Cakewalk Sonar  http://www.cakewalk.com/

Cockos Reaper http://reaper.fm/
Imagine Line Fruity Loops http://www.flstudio.com/
Mackie Tracktion http://www.mackie.com/products/tracktion2/
MOTU Digital Performer http://www.motu.com/products/software/
Propellerhead Reason http://www.propellerheads.se/
Sony Acid http://www.sonymediasoftware.com/products/acidfamily.asp
Steinberg Cubase http://www.steinberg.net/

Steinberg Sequel http://www.steinberg.net/27_1.html

Total Solution Hardware Workstations

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Best value MPC 1000

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KORG Triton Extreme, M3

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Best value microX, microKorg  TR

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Roland Fantom X, G

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Best value Juno-G, SP 404

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Roland MV 8800

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Yamaha Motif ES, XS

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And so…what should I use to make my beats?
A classic production related question that has no definite answer. If you round up any group of producers and pose this question you usually get a suggested favorite workflow. Assuming the talent levels are even you can make music using any workflow or combination of studio pieces.
“Music production is the relationship between the creativity of the artist and the craftsmanship he is able to employ through the mastery of his tools.
When I read that quote I thought ‘damn, that’s an ill definition, but it really doesn’t spell out the hidden tangibles. I consider music production to be “the result of a particular sound placed when.” That’s all you really have to go on. You choose a sound, whether it’s an existing tone or something you created and manipulated and decide this is a puzzle piece and decide next when to place it in time. This encompasses all the aspects of sound design and timing -also known as rhythm. Most of us in the studio have agreed to use the term EAR as in an ear for music. Your ear tells you when elements are out of tune and when timing needs to be tighter or looser.
Should I pick my gear by what other producers use?
You can never buy a piece of gear and suddenly become as talented as another producer. For some elements of sound design, it’s prudent to pursue a particular bit of gear to add the tone many other producers have taken advantage of. There is a confidence that lies behind a studio tool knowing it has been used on countless hits and is reliable to deliver a musical tone. Many artists and producers start out emulating other producers and eventually switch to the pursuit of their own voice and a unique and original sound. It doesn’t hurt to explore different techniques and explore the various methods of production so feel free to mix and match systems.
As stated above, you spend a great amount of time staring at the screen of your chosen sequencer and interacting with your hardware. Features and specs only tell half the story. What may be the most important factor is the comfort level you are able to achieve with your workflow. The final choice rounds down to which method of production allows you the freedom to use your ear and sense of rhythm to produce the music you want to.
Press pause. See you in the lab.
Griffin Avid