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Etherealurtz

Music Production - Where do I begin exactly?!

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Hi guys! I've been tinkering around in FL Studio with mixing and music production, trying to refine my music making. I've watched tutorials on using VST's properly and mixing and others, but I just need some tips on this one question.

What is the best start when making music?

I can't seem to get started on a music track simply because of this question. The idea comes in my mind and I try putting it in notes first, but then I realize when the bass and other instruments come in, they all sound too muddy (they overwhelm each other, I don't get the sound I like) and I start thinking "Maybe I should've started fixing the mixing first."

But then if I try starting mixing on a song by assigning tracks to channels, etc., I'm stuck with mixers and plugins ready to mix but no notes to translate. When I do start putting in notes, if they don't sound too well I go back to tweaking the mixer and I end up getting nothing done.

The thing is, I can't seem to get organized because I seem to go back and forth between putting notes, thinking of the notes, mixing it, fixing it, etc. so much that I never finish anything.

So long story short, can you guys share some advice on how to organize oneself to complete a song from conception to completion? I use FL Studio by the way, along with several VST's, such as Sylenth for synths, Kontakt 5 plugins for guitars and drums, etc. Oh, and the kind of songs I like to make are pure instrumentals.

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Everyone does it differently, unfortunately. I know people that put the melody down first, and I know people that put the drumbeat down first, and I know people that put the bassline down first. I know people that write 100% of one part, then 100% of another part, and then I know people that fill out the "A" section before they even start working on the "B" section.

My advice is to just START WRITING. Listen to lots of music and analyze it. There are also plenty of youtube videos out there of people building songs from the ground up - you can see what their workflow is, that way, and you can adapt from there.

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The thing about mixing is that instruments in a good mix don't encroach on each other's territory. They all have their place, and will sound weird on their own. You might have to automate track levels or even some eq parameters or reverb mix to put instruments in place after they've had a solo part.

You can't mix until you have things to mix. You can design your sounds, but you cant put them together until you have more than one of them. You can't mix piano if all you have is a piano. Once you have more instruments, you have to change their sound so they sound good together - and that's what mixing is.

Get a few instruments together and make them sound good together. Write what you need to write to test, whether that's gonna be in the final song or not.

If you're a melody-focused person, write the melodies and add the rest later. If you're an arrangement-focused person, write out the arrangement first and worry about the rest later. If you're a production-focused person, get your instruments t sound good first and worry about the rest later. Everyone does it differently, but there's some thoughts on how you can get started.

You're overthinking it. Add instruments, add notes, mix, fix. :D

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Check out the .flp files included with FL Studio in the 'Cool stuff' folder to see how expert producers mixed and arranged their tracks. This has been more helpful for me than anything else, and I think I've developed pretty decent production chops.

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I do believe the question here is, "where do I start when it comes to writing and producing a full song?".

My belief is that you would have a hard time establishing a solid, satisfying atmosphere when your instruments are used out of the already-mixed context. What I actually do is

. I imagine how I want most of the atmosphere to sound, with general tonal qualities of more than 3 instruments figured out before saying, "hey, this has real potential". Then I sequence notes in by mouse, mostly, and do the velocity humanization as I write the notes.

The key is to refine your workflow so that the hard stuff becomes second nature. That way you aren't freaking out when you want to do everything at once. I think, by your wording, you're trying to learn too quickly. i.e. You're trying to run before you can crawl. Slow down, take your time, and gradually find your niche. Then, try working on what you found hard before. Clearly you aren't brand new to mixing---you hear muddiness when that's present.

It sounds like one of the many ways to overcome the problems you feel you have is to have a general idea of what sounds work together before you write, so that minimal mixing is needed. For that to work nicely, it also helps to get comfortable with making the connection between what you see in the FL Parametric EQ 2 and what you hear. If you can know how what you hear looks, it speeds up how quickly you EQ and how well, exactly, you can pinpoint the most fitting sound at any moment in time that, whether or not it sounds "perfect", fits snugly in terms of its internal EQ distribution (its harmonics; its pre-processed EQ) and lessens the hassle of needed external EQing. It at least works for zircon, and for me as well. I personally found that a huge hurdle, and getting past that should be a very helpful turning point in your composing/producing workflow. It's the case that bad stuff in often equals bad or okay stuff out, so start out with good stuff in and you could get good or great (or even awesome) stuff out.

As for finding a "perfect" sound for a situation, that involves learning sound design to develop sound selection intuition, which you've probably thought about at least once already, considering you have at least one synth.

If you have a hard time writing what you hear in your head, just go with the flow and fix it up if you think it's necessary/helpful, and recycle it if it's not working how you want it to at that moment in time.

Edited by timaeus222

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basically you start wherever you want to, there is no right or wrong answer. but as far as mixing and mastering goes worry about that later. for mixing you will basically be mixing as you create the track (adjusting levels etc.) i highly recommend this guys blog he has a few guides that i've found very helpful and while they don't go into crazy detail it gives you an idea of where to start.

http://tarekith.com/helpandsounds/

hope that helps.

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I know exactly what you're going through, I had a lot of trouble figuring out where to start for the first couple years that I produced music. I know that "start where you want to" doesn't help all that much, but it's really the best advice that we can give. I would suggest that you just start making music and having fun with it, and don't try to limit your options by thinking there's a "right way" to do things. Also, digest as many tutorials as possible, you'll learn so much just by observing what other people do.

Personally, what I usually end up doing is designing a really neat sound or an interesting riff that I build off of. For example, this song:

https://soundcloud.com/loaf-of-dread/struggling

... was based entirely off of the cello riff at 0:12 - everything else was either added harmonies or variations that I messed around with until I liked the way that they sounded.

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Its like asking "where do i get inspiration?" and for there's no Tutorial our there to cover that important part for Music. Everyone has its own possibilities to get some inspiration like listening to other music, looking up to other artist, transcribing already existing pieces into the Genre you have grown up with or sometimes the melody that suddenly rings in your head. I won't ever ask anyone where to start with Music or Production.. i just do it, because i feel like doing it... that occurs extremeley often sometimes or ill hit a total wall and need a break of a few days, some weeks or even month.

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Its like asking "where do i get inspiration?" and for there's no Tutorial our there to cover that important part for Music. Everyone has its own possibilities to get some inspiration like listening to other music, looking up to other artist, transcribing already existing pieces into the Genre you have grown up with or sometimes the melody that suddenly rings in your head. I won't ever ask anyone where to start with Music or Production.. i just do it, because i feel like doing it... that occurs extremeley often sometimes or ill hit a total wall and need a break of a few days, some weeks or even month.

Personally, I interpreted the question as "how can I efficiently write music", rather than "how can I confidently write music without fear of it not being to my expectations". Inspiration does help, but if you're inspired and you are hindered by your workflow, for example, the inspiration just goes away before you can write out what you were thinking of. Therefore, with good workflow, the inspiration is more likely to be retained long enough for you to write it out. :)

Edited by timaeus222

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One thing I can recommend when it comes to "muddy" tracks: I'm the same way. I have trouble really writing with any intention if my tracks fight each other. Following on the tail of what timaeus said: yes, it absolutely helps to think ahead of time on what timbres and instruments will work together well in a mix before committing a ton of energy to making a song work.

But one technique that can really help right away is using high- and low-pass filters. A lot of instruments or sounds have a primary frequency range that you want to hear, but they may have some acoustic energy in other areas that isn't useful. For example, if you have a hihat or ride cymbal track, use a low-pass filter in your EQ to remove the frequencies below what is useful to the hihat. Where that falls in the spectrum is dependent on the makeup of the sound-- you'll have to just use your ears.

Similarly, you can use high-pass filters in a similar way, though be careful on this side-- It can be easy to cut upper harmonics that give a sound some definition. Still, some bass and kick instruments can lose some HF noise.

I've found that a lot of times, if you even do this little step (i've got it hot-keyed in Cubase) as soon as you load an instrument track, it can really clarify the initial mix. Plus, you can always fudge it later!

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