Aspiring to be the next legendary and transcendent producer like J Dilla, Pete Rock, Alchemist, Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Kanye West, or NoID? We asked friend of the brand and frequent contributor Scotty Banx to share his tips for taking your production to the next level.
Scotty Banx is a very DOPE producer, artist, and engineer from Baltimore, MD. In 2008, at 13 years old Scotty recorded his first mixtape after convincing his mother to let him go to the studio by leaving a few demo songs he recorded on an MP3 player up on his computer. By age 14, he was performing in night clubs around the city where he soon realized that rapping over other rappers beats won’t get you that far. “If you go to the show and you do a freestyle over the hottest beat out, there will always be at least one other artist over that same beat and you won’t stand out anymore.” says Scotty. However, in 2012, Scotty decided to take producing seriously after seeing his favorite rappers J.Cole and Big K.R.I.T produce their own projects by themselves.
“I think that's what did it for me. Seeing them have that creative freedom for their projects is beautiful. Making something for yourself is great because you know exactly what you want".
1. Pick your DAW
It doesn’t matter what DAW you use. They’re all capable of the same thing, the only difference is the work flow. Think of your DAW as a kitchen. You can make a sandwich in your kitchen easily because you know where everything is, but if you come to my kitchen you might need a little help finding where certain ingredients are. Nevertheless, it’s still the same sandwich in the end. Find what works for you and stick with it, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other DAWs once you get comfortable with one.
2. Learn As Much As Possible
If this was 1983 and you said that you wanted to get into music, but couldn't find anybody to teach you, you’d have a valid excuse. Fortunately for you, it’s not 1983 and we live in a time where information is more abundant than ever. Utilize YouTube as much as you can; there are literally thousands of video tutorials on producing and understanding the work flow in whatever DAW you’re using. Don’t ever feel like you know everything there is to know; there’s always some thirteen year old kid that knows one little trick you probably would’ve never thought of that will take your sound to the next level.
3. Find Collaborators
This is one of the easiest ways to learn. Find people you really want to work with and get in the lab with them. Don’t be a creep and have a notepad and jot down their every move, but if you pick up on something you like, try it out. When you’re beginning to find your own sound you’ll notice that you initially sound like a mix of everybody you work with and everybody you’re influenced by. It’s fine, give yourself time to grow.
4. Listen To Music
It seems like common sense, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated in the studio after trying to make something I liked but couldn’t. I realized the problem was I wasn’t listening to the type of music I wanted to make before i got in the studio. Of course, we all want to say “I want to make something no one’s ever heard before” but everything is inspired by something that came before it, so that’s bullshit. Listen to some music to get your creative juices flowing, listen to a specific genre if thats what you’re going for, or even a specific artist.
5. Study The Music You Listen To
The same way you have to study things you don’t really care about in school, you have to study the things you do care about in real life. Listen to each song and really analyze what’s going on in it. If you have the time, write it down. Make a note of every change and what time it occurs. If a brass section comes in around 45 seconds, write it down. Pay attention to how things are mixed, how things are panned, what you like and what you don’t like. Then apply these things to your own music and you’ll begin to see improvement.
6. Use A Reference Mix
Never get caught up in “if I like it, that’s all that matters”; it’s a lie. If you’re making music solely for your own enjoyment and no one else’s, that’s fine. However, chances are you’re making music with the hopes of starting a career. How can you do that if your music doesn’t compete with what’s already on the market? When you’re mixing, find a track that’s similar to yours, or has similar characteristics you’d like to emphasize in your mix (ex: Bass) and mix until your track sounds just as good. Even if you only have a laptop, it’s possible.
7. The Gear Doesn’t Matter
Don’t be discouraged by the people you see in million dollar studios making hit records with all the fancy gear. It’s cool to have a lot of toys, but what’s cooler is knowing how to achieve that same quality with less than half of that. It wont happen overnight, but with hard work and persistence you’ll see that it’s possible. So in reality, all you need is a laptop, an interface and headphones to start producing. Thank God for technology, right?
8. Study Music Theory
One thing a lot of laptop musicians (myself included) neglect is actually learning theory. Instead, we like to just go in and press keys until something magic happens and we make a track we like. While that’s a fun process, what do you do in your career when you’re in the studio with Rihanna and she tells you a specific feel she's going for and you can’t deliver? Yes, it’s easy to make trap beats. There are a trillion trap producers though, what makes you different? Learn theory and doors will open effortlessly. I’m still learning myself, don't feel bad.
9. Trust The Process
Making music as a hobby is fun. it’s a great way to kill time and express yourself. However, getting into the music business is a different ball game. Understand that no matter what, you should ALWAYS put the MUSIC first. There will be times when you feel like people are doing better than you. It’s okay. Your time will come, until then, keep networking and perfecting your craft. Never give up, it’s all a part of the process. Give it time. If you’re really putting in work, the results will show.
10. Have Fun!
Always have fun in sessions no matter what! Bottom line. I don’t care if you’re working on music for the pope. Part of being creative is having fun and letting ideas flow. Surround yourself with people that bring nothing but good vibes and just create music you love. The minute you find yourself feeling burned out in a session, simply take a break, go for a walk, watch a movie, take a nap or anything else you can do to let your mind rest for a while. Once you’re feeling inspired, come back to it. If it’s not fun, it’s not meant to be.