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What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby Johnnylissimo » Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:00 am

Hey guys, I’m very new to music production (EDM), and was just wondering how should I start learning all the skills and knowledges linked to it.

Currently I’ve been looking at the basics of reverb, compression and EQ. What would I need to know to produce good quality music? I.e. aside from making melodies, chord progressions, base drops and the arrangements, what aspects of mixing would be essential to learn? From my messing-abouts in my DAW (Logic), I cant seem to always achieve effects I hear from songs of major EDM producers using only the basic tools of mixing (reverb, compression, eq).

I do have 2 finished tracks, they sound very flat and lacking something but I’m not sure what. I’ve attached the soundcloud link to one of them, any feedbacks will be welcomed!

https://soundcloud.com/johnny-generalisimo/dimension

Thanks in advance!
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby desmond » Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:27 am

The same as any creative endeavour - do it a lot until you get better!

There are no shortcuts, despite the wealth of educational tools on hand these days. You have to develop your tastes, your tools, your experience, and your chops, and this is a continual process, and it all comes from making music...
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby Watchmaker » Thu Jan 02, 2020 2:46 am

The first thing to learn, from one who learned it very late, is to let others in.
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby N i g e l » Thu Jan 02, 2020 4:14 am

try to recreate your influences and appreciate what they did
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby Butterfried Bacon » Thu Jan 02, 2020 5:15 am

One word about compression... It can be overused. I know that after I started understanding compression, I started thinking it would be wise to use it quite a lot. There was a project I was working on in which I basically compressed almost everything in the mixer. Then, one day I just decided to go through and turn all the compressors off. That's when I realized the music had lost all of its sparkle due to compression. And I hadn't even been compressing it all that heavily. But those subtle peaks add gentle dynamics to the music that's lost when compressing. So compression should only be used when it's really needed, like if you've got a sample that's spikes to the clipping point when it's still not punchy enough. Compress it and increase the gain. I also used compression on a lead synth preset that spiked with painful resonance annoying frequencies. Equalization wasn't extraordinarily effective on that one.

Additionally, the actual sounds you're using has a lot to do with it. There are producers of music who go through amazingly deep and time-consuming steps to craft a perfect sound for the music they're working on. I use FL Studio which has a plugin called Patcher that allows you to drag into it multiple synthesizers, equalizers, and effects plugins where you can chain things, route things here and there, and even create a "Control Surface" to adjust various parameters of what you've built with a single interface. People will actually drag multiple instances of a synthesizer (or several different synthesizers) into it to just create ONE instrument. Then they can do things like use compression and distortion on the synthesizer providing bass frequencies, and maybe stereo manipulation and delays in the higher frequencies. Midrange frequencies from other synths they give other treatments to. It's actually fascinating. You can get nice sounds just with one synth, but layering synthesizers and processing frequencies differently just goes to provide clarity that might not even be possible with just one synthesizer and one parametric equalizer.

I know I watched a Yanni Masterclass video in which he played a few notes on one of his synthesizers and explained that what you were hearing wasn't just one synthesizer, but maybe five or six. So synth layering really is a thing that professionals do. I've used layering myself and the difference is amazing. What I heard in your SoundCloud example didn't seem to have any evidence at all of synth layering.

Another thing EDM producers use is a lot of automation of filters and other effects. Filter sweeps with a resonant peak at the cutoff frequency is quite common in EDM, and psytrance, too, by the way.

They also use a lot of sidechain compression which ducks instruments a little (or a lot, depending on the taste of the creator) to make the kick stand out more and to also give the song a bit of bounce. I find that when they use heavy ducking, it gets to be highly annoying, like the melody, chords, and pads are all out of time with the kick, but light sidechain compression/ducking on select instruments actually adds a nice effect that kind of makes me feel like dancing, and I don't dance, nor can I.

Using multiple delays with different timing on short notes can add a lot of rhythmic interest. Filtering the delay output with various filter types makes it even more interesting and it gives the illusion that you've got several different instruments playing a complex rhythm when it's all actually just one instrument! The nice thing about delays is that they can even get you out of a creative slump in a project. If you're not sure what to do, just put a delay on something that's playing eighth notes or sixteenth notes. When you hear that, suddenly new ideas come to mind.

Use automation not only on filters but on other characteristics of the sound to give your instruments "movement", as they call it. Instead of sounding like one stale instrument playing an unchanging sound, automating something like a phaser or a flanger and some of their settings will add a lot of interest to the actual sounds you're using.

I hope that helps. Good luck! :D
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby ef37a » Thu Jan 02, 2020 7:44 am

I really know nothing but am surprised no one has asked about your monitoring arrangements?

From what little I have heard of the genre it needs some pretty serious speakers to do it justice and a room of decent size well treated?

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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby Kwackman » Thu Jan 02, 2020 9:54 am

Johnnylissimo wrote:Hey guys, I’m very new to music production (EDM), and was just wondering how should I start learning all the skills and knowledges linked to it.

Check out this forum's EDM guru, Zukan.
His site is well worth a visit, especially given your style of music.
https://samplecraze.com
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:41 am

Like Dave above says, understand first that your listening environment is the foundation of any decision. If you can't hear it, you can't mix it.

Since EDM requires often loads of bass - which is hard to get right in a normal room - a good pair of headphones would be probably very useful. Alternatively, the first thing you should learn is how to build and install bass traps :D

For general mixing, Mike Senior's "Mixing Secrets" book is one of the best investment you can make.

That said, Zukan here is a master of the EDM art and his tutorials at SampleCraze (https://samplecraze.com/) are definitely where I would go should I wish to mix EDM. He's here often and a very approachable fellow.
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 02, 2020 10:46 am

Without meaning to sound trite, I'd suggest the first* thing to work on is your critical listening skills. There are various free tools and courses around that can help you get started on this.
I'd also second Zukan's stuff (referenced above) and also Mike Senior's book 'Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio'.
There are no short-cuts here, you're going to have to learn the theory behind all the tools and techniques and Mike's book is a good place to start with that.
Oh yes, and with regards to the monitoring question above, get a decent set of open-backed earphones. :thumbup:


* This will probably always be on your list of things to work on. ;)

[EDIT - CS70 beat me to it!]
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:10 am

All of the above, plus... develop an appreciation for what makes rhythm exciting - variation and response to song structure. Get away from 'pick a loop and repeat it forever'.
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby ef37a » Thu Jan 02, 2020 1:20 pm

"Since EDM requires often loads of bass - which is hard to get right in a normal room - a good pair of headphones would be probably very useful."

I did, fleetingly, consider this but considering the constant debate can you/can't you mix on headphones and the supporters of the former claiming "every ducker listens on cheap buds anyway.." EDM is surely ONE form of music really made to be enjoyed on BIG mother speakers?

Must harken unto some Zuks!

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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 2:48 pm

ef37a wrote:EDM is surely ONE form of music really made to be enjoyed on BIG mother speakers?

I am not sure enjoyment's got anything to do with EDM :bouncy:

That said, mixing and dancing - two different things
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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby ef37a » Thu Jan 02, 2020 3:12 pm

CS70 wrote:
ef37a wrote:EDM is surely ONE form of music really made to be enjoyed on BIG mother speakers?

I am not sure enjoyment's got anything to do with EDM :bouncy:

That said, mixing and dancing - two different things

Now now!

What I mean is, you are mixing FOR dance repro.

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Re: What do I need to learn first as a beginner?

Postby James Perrett » Thu Jan 02, 2020 3:24 pm

Johnnylissimo wrote:Hey guys, I’m very new to music production (EDM), and was just wondering how should I start learning all the skills and knowledges linked to it.

One thing that really helped me was to spend some time as a DJ and watch people's reaction to different tunes. Take a listen to the music that people like to dance to and work out why the songs work when other songs, which may be equally well recorded and mixed, don't work with an audience.
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