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5 Mistakes I Made When Getting Into Production

It was months after I’d downloaded the Top 100 Trance and Techno Songs compilation. I was sitting in my bedroom, a young high school kid, and a thought crossed my mind.

I should try and make electronic music.

So I went ahead and typed a few keywords in to Google, completely unaware of the fact it would take over my life.

Years later I realized that I made a lot of mistakes starting out, and while these mistakes aren’t necessarily bad – they can be avoided.

So, here’s 5 mistakes I made when getting into production…

1. I thought it was easy

After spending a few hours watching YouTube videos and mucking around in FL Studio (this was after I accidentally downloaded a tracker and fell into utter confusion), I thought I had it all sussed.

“This is easy! All I need to do is click there, there, and there, then put it all together and click export!”

I got ahead of myself

There’s nothing wrong with thinking music production is easy, you’ll find out the truth eventually. But my problem was that I got ahead of myself. I felt entitled, like I had a special talent that enabled me to produce great music where my peers couldn’t (they had no desire to produce music). Keep in mind this was still only a few days after the Google search incident.

Eventually the ego trips over itself and you get the cold hard truth – this shit is going to take a lot longer than you thought. This was my realisation.

My tip to new producers? Have patience and stay humble. This venture takes a lot of time and effort.

Take-away: Keep your cool and put in the hours. Music production takes a long time to grasp let alone master.

I disregarded precious learning time

As a result of thinking music production was so easy, I disregarded education.

Instead of sticking my head in books, I spent time working on a logo for my alias, making sure my Soundcloud bio was perfect, and not to mention the 5 second dubstep wobble clips I sent to experienced producers.

I was that guy.

If you’re a new producer, then learning is the utmost important thing you should be focusing on. And yes, learning includes practice. Reading 100 books isn’t going to help that much if you’re not spending time in your DAW.

Visit: If you’re looking for learning materials, why not head over to the Resources page?

2. I Purchased new gear to try and improve my sound

After getting past the “I’m amazing and this is easy” stage, I slowly crept into the depression stage.

The stage where everything you make sounds bad, and you have no idea why. It’s incredibly frustrating.

The frustration slipped away for a moment when I realized that I had money in my bank account. Time for a shopping spree!

So I purchased a MIDI keyboard, a number of plugins, and some other useless stuff. What, did you think I was going to purchase monitors or quality studio headphones? Pshhh. I wasn’t that intelligent.

I did all this in hopes that the quality of my productions would improve, but of course, I had no success.

Gear is important, but it’s no magic fix

There’s no denying that a pair of monitors or studio headphones will have an impact on the quality of your music, and that a MIDI keyboard helps aid workflow and idea creation.

But what gear doesn’t give you is magic powers. It doesn’t give you skill. Skill is something you have to build through your own efforts.

Take-away: There is no easy route. There is no quick fix. Don’t waste money on useless products.

3. I tried to get signed too early

As the depression stage passes, you get this second gust of confidence and perceived skill. At least, I did.

I’d just finished two dubstep tracks (I’m not ever going to show them to you guys to avoid embarrassment), and I thought I’d try my hand at releasing on a label seeing as all my Facebook producer friends were. I felt left out.

So off I went, I sent the two tracks to all the big players as I didn’t want to waste my time with the small time labels. Oh, the arrogance.

I felt accomplished. All there was to do now was to wait for the response email stating they wanted to sign my tracks.

But it never came.

Three weeks, and it never came. My tracks just weren’t up to standard.

Take-away: Releasing on labels can be very enticing but getting denied is discouraging. Be critical and seek other’s opinions first.

4. I Disregarded music theory

Back when I started, I viewed theory as an inconvenience. Something boring that was completely unnecessary.

I could tell when something was out of key, but other than that I had very little knowledge of theory, and it showed. 

As a new producer it’s difficult to pay attention to music theory when there’s so much focus on sound design, mixing, arrangement, and everything else. Plus it’s boring, right? Who would want to learn about scales and chords? We’re living in the 21st century!

What I didn’t realise was that although music theory is not 100% necessary, it’s actually incredibly helpful and would have saved me hours worth of unsuccessful note plotting.

Take-away: Music theory isn’t completely necessary, but it is helpful and well worth learning.

Read: How Important is Music Theory?

5. I didn’t focus on quantity

Sam… I think you made a typo. Shouldn’t it be quality?

Nope, I meant quantity.

As a new producer I would spend weeks on end working on a track, trying to get it to sound perfect.

But it would never sound perfect. Simply because I didn’t have the technical skill and capacity to make it stand out.

If I had to go back in time, I would have aimed at producing as many tracks as possible. 5 a week if needed. It goes against everything we’ve ever been told about creative endeavours, but it’s true. Quantity beats quality almost every time.

Why?

Because it promotes repetition. If you spend months on one track, then you’re only working on sound design, arrangement, mixing, and composition once. On the contrary, if you produce 20 tracks in a few months, even though they might not sound as great – you’ve worked on sound design, arrangement, mixing, and composition 20 times!

But of course, there comes a stage where quality becomes a lot more important, and spending 2 hours on a track just isn’t feasible. The point where quality takes the upper hand is up for you to decide.

Take-away: You’ll develop skill a lot faster if you focus on the quantity of tracks you produce rather than the quality. With that said, don’t set out to make bad-sounding tracks on purpose.

Read: Why Quantity Should be Your Priority

In Summary

Music production is an awesomely complex and intricate field of work. It involves an incredible amount of sweat in the beginning stages for little visible return, and that’s why a lot of people give up or don’t try in the first place. Mistakes are inevitable, but it’s how you respond to them. Put in the hours, ask questions, seek feedback, and you’ll improve exponentially!

On a related note, read this tongue-in-cheek post I wrote about the effort involved in music production. 

Comments 28

  1. Really nice post, i started ~ 2 years ago with making some music and i did like all the same faults like you did, expect the thing with sending my music to labels because i am too afraid to send them my tracks. I think i will send this article too all my friends which want to start with music too, and i don’t think that they have to do the same faults and wasting lots of money for useless stuff. ~

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  2. Great post!!!! This sums up pretty much the mistakes I made as well. There is definitely that stage where you think to yourself, “I’m just not that good,” or, “I’ll never be that good.” I also decided that buying gear was a bright idea. WRONG. Get monitors or headphones first then get gear. Learn some basic music theory first like scales, chords, inversions, counterpoint and it will help you to build better melodic structure quicker.

    My biggest issue when starting out producing was trying to get everyone to listen to my substandard beats. They got annoyed quickly. Instead, you should try posting your Soundcloud links in Facebook groups that are specific to the genre of music you are producing. Also, post into different Soundcloud groups. I personally think that this can be a better way to get the type of feedback you need in the early stages of your music production career. Best of luck. Cheers

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  3. Hi Sam, great piece of writing.

    After 6 months of recording & production of sometimes, 5 to 6 hrs per day, I can relate to how you felt as a beginner. Haaa, I think I must be in the ‘depression’ stage. I’m trying to work out why a very long orchestral piece I just finished recording & ‘mixing’ sounds, ummm….we’ll just say, ‘less than adequate!’
    I have a big repertoire of short tunes in lots of different styles that I’ve finished & am quite happy with the sound of each but this one!!?? I’m not exactly sure where I went wrong. The 1st thing that I remember going south was the piano sound. So I mucked about with that, doubling it, changing eq’s, panning, adding some compression etc until I got it to sound OK, but not great. The orchestral sections sound somewhat ‘squashed’ in parts. I wonder if it’s the monitors that I borrowed to do the mix with as I’ve never used these before. (I won’t mention brand names). After I bounced the track to CD & listened to it on my little (probably less than adequate really) player in the lounge room, I was shocked at the difference I was hearing between monitors & home stereo.
    I remember a little while ago talking to you about this venture & you said that if I wanted you to have a listen then that would be OK! Does that offer still stand? I won’t be offended if you only listen to parts as the whole thing is half an hr long.
    It could be just an overall EQ or something simple.

    Many thanks Sam

    Steve Martin
    Townsville
    Nth Qld
    Australia.

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  4. Thank you very much. I’m old in the music world and finally getting into production. I have alll the gear for a year (spinning for fun over 20 years) and figured it’s time to make my own music. Frustrating yes, but as I spend even 10 minutes to 8 hours as often as I can I’m realizing how much I love it. Your site has been an immeasurable help to push through.

    Thank you

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  5. Dude, I’m sixteen and I’ve done most of that stuff already! Exces for the shopping spree. I was about to do that. Thanks for the heads up. This really helped. I even sent a demo tI armada and was expecting a reply XD

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  6. This article is great and exactly what I needed to read. Do you have any tips on splitting time between learning how to DJ and producing? I’ll spend time selecting songs and making mixes instead of working on a chord progression or melody. I do both and I can tell you that I have a tendency to spend more time DJing than producing because the learning curve with DJing (for me anyway) is much easier.

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      Being a DJ, I too think that DJing is relatively easier. I became a DJ second to being a producer so time was never an issue as DJing was always a side thing for me. I suppose the best thing to do would be to set aside regular time (at least 1 hour) and only produce.

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  7. In my case, one of the biggest error that I did was turning up the volume of each track because I wanted that BIG and FAT sound of the commercial tracks. Then, I realized that I’ve to work on mastering my pieces if I want to achieve the quality of the tracks from the best producers. Excellent post Sam!

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  8. Wow! Wish I found this a year ago, but then again it was probably better I discovered it through my own trails.
    If I were to add anything it would be “Don’t put you idols on a pedisil to the point you forget how awesome you are.” Constantly compairing yourself to someone who isn’t you rarely if ever helps

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  9. I think I can agree with these mostly. My issue is with the quantity/quality one, I do agree with you to an extent, but I find it so hard to not obsess over quality, even if in a few months time I look back and think “That’s bad.” I know I didn’t rush it and put 100% in to making it as best as I could at the time – isn’t it good to dedicate time to a track?

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      Hi Andrew,

      Yes, it’s a tough one to wrap your head around. There are tracks that you’ll naturally want to work on for weeks/months on end. It’s up to you to find the ones that have potential. Quantity over quality really only applies up to a certain point IMO. I tend to lean more towards quantity these days just because of the length of time I’ve been producing, but for a newer producer I think quantity should be the focus, simply because you wont produce a masterpiece as your first, second, or even fifth track.

  10. Dude, I made the same mistakes you did. I’ve been producing (by ‘producing’ I don’t mean finishing) some tracks for one year and a half and I thought I knew how to do it. Poor me. The wisest words one could say to me are ‘be patient and humble’. I admit I haven’t been patient or humble. But you encouraged me. Really. And oh, if there’s a thing I could say to all new producers, it is: produce simpler tracks. Or create tracks of a simpler genre. At least in the beginning. I made the mistake to choose trance and mainstream house music as my genres. But I didn’t realize I still don’t have the required knowledge and experience to make a good trance track.

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      Totally agree. I think we all get ahead of ourselves at times, think we’re better than we actually are. There’s nothing wrong with confidence, but when it leads to delusion then you’re in a bad place.

      I’m not sure I agree with your last statement. I think people should produce what they want to produce. I don’t necessarily think trance is more difficult to produce than genre A or B, there are differences of course. But it’s not like you should start off producing minimal house and then move up to complextro.

  11. Well I just got a laptop, DAW, and midi controller about 2 months ago and in that time I’ve read just about every article on this site. I didn’t expect it to be easy but I didn’t understand the amount there is to learn. One thing I will take away from this is definitely opening my DAW more, once a day, and busting out a a loop or two even if I don’t fully know a lot. Just like anything else, practice makes perfect. Thank you for all these articles!

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      Hey Mitchell,

      Thanks for the comment dude. It’s awesome to see how committed you are to learning! And you seem to understand the importance of practice so I’d say you’re on the right track 🙂

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