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This sticky will highlight actual issues (i.e. no personal opinions caused by the individual taste in music), as well as mentioning common feedback made by members of Future Producers Forum (that are more likely based on personal opinions many times), to encourage the readers to check their music for potential basic issues before posting (making it easier to focus on artistic stuff when giving feedback instead), as well as preparing them for what common feedback there is, and what more experienced producers often complain about in newer artist's tracks.

This sticky will be to the point and more highlight these topics rather than doing a deep explanation.

If you want to read more you'll have to do some research on your own.

Lastly, music is art, but please take a look at this and ask yourself if this perhaps apply to your tracks.

The reason behind this sticky is that we've lately noticed a pattern of reoccurring issues, and want to address these so the users who wish to give feedback don't have to repeat the same things again and again.

Actual issues:

  1. For FL Studio users; the Fruity-Limiter-on-the-master-squashing-everything-issue: I'll start with this one since it's very basic, yet so common.

    This is a constant problem in many people's tracks, they don't know what the Fruity Limiter on the master channel is doing, and can't understand why their music sounds so squashed (or "overcompressed").

    What does it do? It's a limiter which threshold is set to 0 dBFS, and its input gain boosted to +5.5 dB.

    Long story short, the limiter reacts very aggressively because of the input level, squashing the audio.

    The quickest solution is to simply remove it. Or even better: start FL Studio empty, and go File -> New From Template -> Minimal, and select "Basic", so it doesn't load up automatically when FL is started in the future.

    There's nothing wrong with using limiters on the master, but then you should understand its purpose and have control over it. Until then, we recommend you to avoid using it.

    b) NOTE! Not all squashed (or overcompressed) music is made in FL Studio of course, so we beg those who use other softwares to check their songs to make sure it's not squashed. A hint is that all compression and limiting on the master channel should be intentional and done with care.
  2. Too loud playback volume: To be brief, listening to your music loud while producing it, as well as mixing and mastering it, is a very bad habit.

    Why? Because it's fooling some of the most important parts in the making of a track - your ears and your judgement.

    Naturally, a producer is in general much more engaged to his/her track than the average listener would be. And we all know that music gets less engaging the quieter it's played.

    So by cutting your playback level, you lose your own emotional bond to your track, and get closer to a listener's perception of your track, making it easier to have a non-partial view on your music.

    More than that, our ears respond differently depending on what level a sound is. And at what level do you get the most "true" perception of a sound? At a moderate level of course.

    So naturally, what level you play your track at have a crucial effect on the quality of the music itself, as well as the quality of the mixing and mastering.

    But what level is a good level? For mixing and mastering, engineers usually say it's when you listen to the track and can have a normal conversation at the same time, without having to raise your voice.

    As for producing, there's no limit how far you can go (as long as you can hear that it works musically). For me personally, the track which has received the best critique from people, was the track that had the lowest playback volume while producing it (I intentionally dropped the volume severely as an experiment and challenge, and sometimes had to turn it up to make sure things didn't musically clash).

    Note that there's nothing wrong with testing your track loud every now and then (especially if you're producing in a genre where the music is normally played loud), but then you should plan it so you don't have to wait for your ears to reset and lose valuable time.

    One final note: If it sounds awesome, then imagine it at the full volume later. :) I challenge you to make it as appealing as possible at a low volume!
  3. Scales that are clashing: There are many cases where the scales of 2 or more sounds musically clash. This might not sound that horrible for a newer producer, but for a little more experienced musician the whole body shivers.

    It's one of the worst "mood breakers" that can happen in your music, and could easily kill the emotional message that you try to convey in your track.

    If you're not that familiar with music theory, we strongly recommend you to have a look at it. Also, if you're not sure whether you have that good musical ears or not, take your time and exercise them.

    Hint: The most noticed occasion of scales that are clashing is when someone has made a remix and used an a capella, and the a capella clash with the rest of the melodies.
  4. The lack of transitions: Different styles and genres require different approaches, and some producers or listeners prefer less while some prefer more. Though you should at least take a look at your track for this matter.

    What is a transition? In short, it prepares the listener for what's about to happen next in a song, or a passage between 2 different parts of a song.

    A very simple example is a Riser in electronic music, or the classic whooshy white noise sweep, or dropping out an essential sound for a few beats (such as the kick). But of course it has a lot more "faces" than that.

    Sweeping, rising, and booming sounds are just one kind of transitions among endless kinds. Sit down and listen to a lot of music in in many different genres, and learn how you can add creative transitions.

    Some tracks have been noticed to almost completely lack transitions, while some have had transitions that were too low in volume (making them passive), while some have had too short transitions (also making them a bit passive since the moment is too short to properly prepare the listener).
  5. Too little headroom: Too little headroom in the individual mixer channels can make it a lot harder to find the right volume balance between sounds, making the track's volumes sound off, simply because you can't boost certain sounds any more, because then they might clip.

    Now, there are a lot of suggestions of how much headroom you should have, but a reoccurring suggestion is that you should have at least 10-12 dB's of headroom between the loudest element in your track, and the 0 dBFS-line.

    Note that how much headroom you use in the digital domain doesn't have any effect on the audio quality itself (as long as there's enough of it!), since the sound goes great-great-great-great-horrible (clipping).
  6. Too thin or weak elements: Take a look at your track. Does it have enough depth and/or fatness to it (if it's supposed to have that)?

    If not, there are countless ways to add depth, fatness, thump etc to a sound.

    But one easy and basic way is to simply add further layers to a sound that complements each other to get a fuller sound.
  7. Dozens of songs or themes in one: In conclusion, it sounds like a track has 3+ different songs trying to fit within one, or endless themes, all of which makes the actual theme of the track that the producer wants vague.

    This doesn't have to be an issue if you know what you're doing and have a lot of experience, but at least take a non-biased look at your track and make sure that the progression of the themes in your track sound logic.
  8. Transients are too weak: The best description for a transient is "snap", or the initial peak of a sound.

    Too little of this can make it hard for some sounds to cut through the mix, since our ears are more sensitive to peaks (part of our survival mechanism). The same goes for the initial strum in a sound.

    More than this, too weak transients or strums kill the vibe, and sounds get too weak and sound passive and non-engaging, which can limit how much your track affects the listener.
  9. The sounds are too robotic/digital: Sometimes this is desirable and a matter of taste, but there are many occasions where a piece of music sounds like it has been produced by a robot, when it wasn't supposed to sound like that.

    To prevent this, make sure to add the "human touch" to sounds, or in other words: imperfections.

    To be more precise, use different volumes/velocities, timings, lengths on the notes or hits. Extra "fill-in" sounds between the current ones can also contribute to a more human feel (though this method might not suite each track).

    Another way is to use other timings than the standard 4th-notes, 8th-notes, or 16th-notes, such as swing.

Common feedback:

  1. Too repetitive or too long sections: Don't forget that you're supposed to entertain the destined listener.
  2. A part (or the whole song) lack a final and crucial sound: Not much to add here more than experimenting with adding further sounds. Most of the times, those who complain about this also gives a suggestion of what you could add.
  3. Too little thump or too unstable bass (both kick and bass line): Try your kick on a few systems to make sure it's working.
  4. Some sounds are cheesy/corny: One easy workaround for the future on this is to simply pull up a bunch of sounds and "let the hunger games begin".
  5. The song isn't big enough: This is a bit of a vague description, since there are so many things that contribute to making a track "big", but take a step back, and ask yourself, "Is this really big enough?".
  6. Certain sounds are too dry: Meaning those who gave the feedback want more effects on it.
  7. Certain parts of the song didn't get as "big" as they were expected to be: A simple example is this: If you have a massive rising section or a massive bridge, then the chorus/drop/etc really needs to be even better (unless you want to be a bit experimental or trick the listener). A simple fix is to simply make the part before less dramatic.
  8. Too weak side chaining: Simply dial in more ratio, or adjust the timings of the reduction to create a heavier shape. One tip is to turn the ratio all the way to its maximum, and then dial it back until it sounds good, rather than dialing in more and more.
  9. Too weak or boring kick: Pick better sounds, and/or treat the sounds better.

If you have any suggestions regarding the content of this sticky, please don't hesitate sending me or one of the moderators a PM.
Big thanks to the moderator Bandcoach for his support in this matter.
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