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Thread: What to do after learning basics?

  1. #1
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    What to do after learning basics?

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    Hey guys, I'm struggling. I'm definitely no idiot (breezed thru AP classes in HS) and this just could be my ADHD at its finest but some advice would be helpful.

    I have watched countless hours of youtube videos on the basics of Ableton, Sound Design and Theory. I would say i grasp the concepts at at least a passing level, however NOT A SINGLE ONE of these videos ever tells you what to do with this information and how to bring it all together into a real, finished professional sounding track. I have the basics which are not THAT hard, but when i try to actually use these basics together the songs i come up with are terrible and don't capture emotion whatsoever. I often find myself rewriting verses and drops 4-5 times before scrapping the track altogether, making it very difficult to finish anything and hurting my confidence.

    There are certainly SO MANY holes in the process of start to finish that I'm missing because youtube teaches the bare minimum and is not in a course format, and I never see anyone else struggling with this. Experienced producers always recommend more time in the DAW than youtube but I feel like a 5 year old trying to solve a Rubix Cube, theres just so much going on and it's overwhelming trying to make everything fit. Also, every track/genre seems to have very different sound design and theory so why do youtubers always seem to treat all production the same?

    So the actual questions I have are:

    Is this a result of trying to copy/paste midi clips too often? (ADHD, me being impatient and wanting the song to sound good fast)
    Do you guys feel I would benefit from a paid online course and do you have any recommendations? I've been looking into Udemy's ableton course.
    Did anyone else struggle with this at a beginner level?
    Am I just not meant to produce? Seriously, self confidence is crushed after months of this cycle.

    Sorry if this was too long or in the wrong category, I'm new to both this forum and forums in general.

  2. #2
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    Welcome to the forum and it is imperative that you remember that the supply of producers and all other titles regarding the entertainment industry is greater than the demand for them.

    More importantly remember that the new generation of producers have only known DAWs, home recording studios and online promotion in regards to the aforementioned so as a result everyone is branding themselves as experts.

    There is an assembly line approach to music in today's era of production because tech has given the illusion that making music take little to no effort and this is far from the reality.

    Theory is a means to an end and the means is knowing how to use the language of music to get to the end which is to express any emotion within you.

    What is your level of music education and what are/is your goal(s), if any, regarding music?
    Last edited by OGBama; 05-09-2017 at 01:45 PM.
    "Once black music leaves its original context, it begins to take on different meanings and serve different functions, and it is interpreted very differently." Portia Maultsby

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  4. #3
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    Two quick things...

    1) I wouldn't recommend paid online courses, most likely going to have the same experience/frustrations you're having with youtube tutorials

    2) It's all about the drums and bass. If your track just doesn't sound professional or have the raw edginess or emotion you're not alone. Most of the time when I hear people that are frustrated with that, it's because they need to spend a few hours sifting through drum and bass sample to build with. Not saying that's your problem, but it's worth considering...
    Hit me up on Facebook! Producer album on Spotify and Bandcamp if you want to check it out.

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    Thank you both for the swift responses

    Quote Originally Posted by OGBama View Post
    What is your level of music education and what are/is your goal(s), if any, regarding music?
    I'm huge EDM fan/Raver, so my ultimate goals would be Festival DJ.

    I understand the saturation and I'd be willing to settle with making at least a decent living out of the industry somehow (selling presets, education, studio sessions etc), and as I understand from what other producers have told me is that that is not unreasonable at all.

    I want my style to essentially be melodic, but banger-y, dubstep.

    As far as experience goes, I've had Ableton since i was 16 but mostly just messed around with a bunch of different subgenres until New Year 2017. But since January i feel like i have gotten only marginally better after watching and practicing for at least an hour every day, often more. Youtube has been my textbook so far, everyone has always told me you can learn everything from it. But like I said I have often found myself not knowing what keywords to search to figure out what to do next. I want to learn more and I feel like I could do it but I don't know how or what I'm doing wrong.

    I'm also a local DJ for High school events. Not very good tbh, but all I have to do is play fetty wap and they lose their shit lmao. I borrow a mixer so hard to practice but I'm focused and interested in production first.

    And yes FunkJunkie I started out as a cheap ass but I have started to realize that paying for a few extra packs and VST's are worth it. Cymatics has been a blessing. Just slightly broke as a 20 year old so I'm limited.

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    Sounds like you're not doing enough research or experimentation. Personally I would not spend money on online tutoring for something like producing, since youtube and the manual exist but that is something that varies from person to person I suppose. I intend on going to music theory school in the fall myself, since I already knew how to read sheet and junk I figured it'd be good to learn how to be adept at an instrument that wasn't my drumpads and control surface for once : /


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    Hard work and active listening are two good starters for your situation i think. Make a lot of music and you'll see that you progress (in small steps with each track). Also a tip is to try to finish every track so you dont just practice making main melodies and never counter-melodies, hooks, backing parts, etc etc.

    With active listening i mean that you should study music you like and really really listen to it. What about their music do you like? what does each element of the track do? etc etc. By listening and dissecting the music you like you'll have a clearer goal that you can work towards rather than doing random stuff.

  8. #7
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    let's say you've got an idea - try making it a 'song'
    so you need to arrange your idea for example with intro-main part-different part-outro or whatever form you like for the song.
    label these parts in your daw (markers) and fill them up. you don't have to work horizontally, you can start with your main part and later work on the intro for example.
    this way you dont'get stuck in a 8 bar loop and you see your 'song' as a whole
    give it a try!

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    I listen to all music analytically, my biggest issue is going from the basics to anywhere even close to a finished project.

    I learned the arrangement markers a few weeks ago which has helped and if there's one thing I have really improved on it's that.

    Maybe it's just my sound design/mixing, I could spend days in a single Serum instance and still have it not fit with the mood of my track whatsoever. There's just INIFINITE combinations when it comes to sound design and mixing and I have the basics of what each knob does but how is that supposed to help me find the one little sound I'm looking for? Needle in a haystack scenario.

    Its the very small things that are sometimes undetectable in professional music that make it sound perfect. There's typically at least 3 effects applied to a track right? I can pick out a sound while listening, but struggle to wrap my brain around how that sound actually works and why, knowing only the basics since there are so many possibilities as to what it could consist of and what I actually hear is a nice crisp and clear sound, not specifically "oh that's a saw wave with fm from B which is a sine wave and x kind of filter with reverb and x kind of eq with x extra effects and x automation. Lot of x's there that I can't seem to understand just by listening.

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    Also that is not to mention the 15+ knobs within each effect or synthesizer that could be tuned or automated any number of ways.

  11. #10
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    Sounds to me like you should actually stop analysing music.. and start making it! I mean, get back into the fun and discovery of it.

    Don't try to figure HOW an artist did a certain thing a certain way... that's pointless. Try to figure the WHY of it.
    What you call 'perfect' is actually imperfect. Perfect sound is a perfect SINE wave played at a constant pitch... that sounds horrible. Things "sound good" because they're imperfect.
    What sounds good now, will probably technically sound like shit in 10 years, but by then people will have a developed an attachment to that sound. Technically, the TR-808 is a horrible
    piece of trash...especially when sampled through that ugly ass E-MU SP-1200... 12 bit samples, are you kidding me?

    Culturally though, that's the basic sound of early house and hiphop. Without those boxes it wouldn't exist... or at least sound completely different. So trashy devices from the 70's and 80's
    are what everybody wants.. the real 808 clap sounds a bit different everytime, because of the cheap analog circuitry producing the sound. As a dry sound it's terrible actually, you need to drive
    it through some compression and reverb, work on it, to make it sound 'good'. The pure 808 kick is even 'worse' in that regard.. it's also what makes them great sounds, you have to flavour them yourself.
    That flavoring can become a signature.

    The problem nowadays is that you can have everything running on a single PC.. probably everything going on in real-time too, perfectly synced and pristinely represented.
    That's a VERY recent development. Even when I started out (and I'm not that old), you could use a PC but it was only powerful enough to run a couple of tracks with some very basic effects. You didn't even get into the 'colorisation' of this compressor versus that one.. or how the emulation stands up to (imperfection of) the real thing. You just went with what you had.. you made fat sounding drum track, bounced it out and then figured out a bassline around it... or vice versa.

    So to me it actually sounds like you have giant luxury problem.. you don't have a lack of inspiration, but an overload of it.

    You should look up some interviews and things with classic producers where they get into how they work. You'll see they often talk about limitations and 'committing'. If you have to rely on just a sampler and a separate reverb unit... if you want reverb you play the sound from the sampler through your reverb unit and record that. Now you're committed to that particular reverb sound, unless you want to go back and endlessly re-record for different settings. Suppose you don't have a compressor, but you want to create a fat sound? How do you go about that?

    Really, most electronic music originally comes from working and thinking like that. Most artists back then didn't pick a workflow..
    they just had some gear or (limited) access to a studio that they had to make work for themselves. It forces you to think more creatively, go with what your gear allows..
    It becomes less: i need this VST to get this sound, or that one to make this sound good... and more 'hey, I got these tools.. let's see what I can do'.

    It really works.. the luxury we have today is that you can pick and change the limits you want to work with... but you have to pick something.
    Think of like this, you can describe a song by the sounds it uses.. but also by the sounds it doesn't use. You can't have screeching metal guitars in an ambient piece...
    or maybe you think you can and the challenge is to make ambient with metal guitars.. I'm pretty sure someone is already doing that, lol.

    So you should try dumping all of the possibilities. Pick a couple of VSTs or instruments you like, dump the rest and work with them. Or completely switch up your workflow, just to challenge
    yourself to think differently. Get some simple hardware if you can afford it and play with that. Like I said back at the beginning: get back into the fun of it and leave any notions of 'perfection' at the door.
    Perfection is an unworkable concept.

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