101 Inspirational Music Production Tips and Ideas

inspirational music production tips

You are staring at your blank DAW thinking, “I can’t start another track the same way for the millionth time. I need to change things up”; You feel your track is missing the secret ingredient that makes it special; Your inspiration ran dry and you want to spark it again. – In these and other scenarios where you are lacking inspiration, as well as in the pursuit of becoming a well-rounded music producer in general, it comes in handy to have a list of inspirational music production tips and ideas. In the following you will find such a list, full of inspirational sparks. This collection of 101 tips and ideas grew over the last 5 years of my music production career and today I would like to share it with you. Come back to it every once in a while out of curiosity or out of necessity when you feel stuck in a production. You could probably spend at least 30 minutes on every point, so lets don’t waste more time and dive right into it.

Music Production Tips and Ideas

    1. When you are almost finished with a track, take a reference track from an artist you admire, import it into your session and listen to the differences between your and his/her song and production
    2. Start with the climax
    3. Draw and plan the stereo image of your tracks
    4. Listen to interviews of Brian Eno
    5. Take a short sound sample and loop it to get a nice rhythmical texture. For example, Loop a snippet of a recording of ocean waves and loop it every 1/8 note
    6. Transform a big band recording to MIDI and play around with it using a MIDI controler
    7. Study the basics of counter point to crank up your melody and chord progression skills
    8. Take an existing percussion loop, add it to your beat but slice out some blocks of 8th or 16th
    9. What is the essence of your track? Get rid of everything else
    10. Speed it up, slow it down, double-tempo, half-tempo
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    11. Stop for a minute and listen to music you would normally not listen to
    12. Reverse it, add reverb, consolidate and reverse it again
    13. Google polyrhythmic
    14. Take two separate song ideas that you never finished and put them together
    15. Send your vocals to a reverb bus, put a compressor on the reverb bus, sidechain the compressor with the original vocals (or use an enhancer instead of the compressor)
    16. Pan an instrument to one side, make a copy and pan the copy to the other side, delay the copy for 5-25ms
    17. Close your eyes
    18. RTFM (read the fucking manual)
    19. Layer instruments to get richer sounds
    20. Draw and plan the tension curve of your tracks
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    21. Reverse melodies or flip them horizontally
    22. Create a chain reaction using synths and effects
    23. Add side chain compression creatively
    24. Research John Cage and be inspired
    25. See silence as an instrument
    26. Shift 1 instrument or percussion loop couple of beats to the right or left
    27. If something sounds to harsh, add a slight chorus
    28. Look around, take two objects, bang them together and record it. Voila, that’s your new snare sound
    29. Take a nap
    30. Make the dishes and play your track in the background. Don’t listen to it too consciously. What disturbs you?
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    31. Send a synthesizer through a guitar amp or, if not available, use Guitar Rig simulate it
    32. Think about which of your instruments are responsible for the following roles: Melody, harmony, and rhythm
    33. Put a subtle ping-pong delay on your hihat
    34. Watch the documentary “Sound City
    35. Sample parts of film music you love. Horn or string sections normally work well
    36. If you work with a rhythmic guitar riff, cut out everything in between the notes to make it sound super clean and tight
    37. Always start with high quality samples
    38. EQ your reverb
    39. Use 3 kicks to create a new one; 1 for the low, 1 for he mid and 1 for the high frequencies
    40. Always save up the samples you created in your production: Use them in new productions
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    41. Less is more
    42. Frequencies lower than 100 shouldn’t be panned because our ear can’t hear direction in the low
    43. Be open to happy accidents
    44. When creating you are either divergent (expanding, creating new ideas, open) or convergent (narrowing down, working on the details, goal oriented). Identify which state you are in and don’t jump between them too quickly
    45. Take an element from another genre or field and use it in your production
    46. Learn about parallel, bus and side-chain compression
    47. The essence of music can be described as tension – relaxation
    48. Try to emulate the sound you are looking for using your mouth
    49. Take a walk in nature
    50. Tune your drums to match the key of your song
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    51. Layer Snares, shift them slightly and/or pan some of them
    52. To keep your mixes clean use 2-3 reverbs and delays only. Put the effects on an aux channel and send instruments to them
    53. Download some presets for your synth plugins
    54. Put effects on your master channel like DJ’s do and play around with them
    55. Keep it simple
    56. Plan your track ahead on paper (or mind map)
    57. Study traditional music forms like fugue, sonata form, rondo, canon etc.
    58. What are you always doing? Change it up and break the rules!
    59. The Groove of your track is often defined by the hihat
    60. Trust your taste
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    61. EQ and compression are overrated
    62. If you lack inspiration take a visual piece of art and let it inspire you
    63. Keep it fun and don’t take yourself to serious
    64. Study how tempo influences feeling
    65. Put a gate plugin on a rhythmical instrument (like a guitar) and play around with the threshold
    66. Use your wah-wah paddle on a synth
    67. Listen to your music through the ears of a fan
    68. Everything is a remix
    69. Allow yourself to create crappy music
    70. What is the unique selling point of your track?
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    71. Don’t think you can do everything on your own. Collaborate!
    72. One thing at a time
    73. Load, Fire, Aim!
    74. Automate your master fader slightly. For example add .5 dB at the beginning of your chorus or drop
    75. Develop a vocabulary for frequencies
    76. Think about how the Digital Audio Workstation influences your creative process
    77. Add filtered white noise to your snare sound
    78. Create a mood, not a genre
    79. Let the lyrics guide your composition and sound
    80. Play with expectations
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    81. Use a controller like the Akai APC40 and perform your track live for inspiration
    82. Use lots of automation, even when you don’t produce EDM
    83. Listen to your track while you are in a different room than your speakers are
    84. If you want to produce a hit song, produce for the ladies
    85. Always start with subtractive EQ
    86. Ask yourself what the purpose of your song is
    87. Use a multiband compressor as EQ
    88. Study psychoacoustics
    89. Reverse the first word of your vocal track, add reverb, bounce in place and reverse again
    90. Use shuffle rhythm in EDM music like this guy
      earmonk
    91. Make music tuned in A=432 Hz because love
    92. Don’t be afraid to be bold!
    93. Find out what the purpose of the loudness button on your old stereo system was
    94. As a modern music producer you are a sound designer as well! Therefore, study sound design masters like Ben Burtt. Check out this short documentary
    95. More often than not change parameters in the mix rather than solo
    96. Check out my article on how to describe music
    97. When you quantize time, automate volume to add human feel and variation
    98. Delay your kick slightly to get a really laid-back and lazy groove
    99. Don’t get stuck in the loop
    100. If you lack inspiration take a loop from a song you like, add melodies and layers and eventually delete the loop
    101. Keep on pushing, keep on moving and never give up! Promise it to yourself!
By | 2017-10-06T19:21:57+00:00 May 22nd, 2015|Categories: music production|Tags: , , |3 Comments

About the Author:

Who is writing? Dario, a german-born internet citizen, professional music producer, composer, teacher, blogger and internet entrepreneur who likes to help you become a well rounded music producer!

3 Comments

  1. […] “Good engineering comes with time. Meaningful composition should come first.” – […]

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  3. Joy September 8, 2016 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    spire presets for music production !

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