“I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.” - Pablo Picasso
There's a lotta misinformation in music that can cause confusion and chaos to starting musicians and hopefully, this blog, I, and the amazing artists I talked to can help provide useful tools and tips to help any musician wherever they may be in their musical journey.
I want to start this off by saying “You don't need the best plugins, hardware (synth modules, analog, etc.) to get good quality music”. Read that again. An EQ is an EQ, a compressor is a compressor, and so on. Sure some stock plugins don't have some of the advanced nik naks that some of the paid plugins come with but at the end of the day, you can achieve the same thing. When first starting out I would research plugins and watch Youtube videos to see what plugins certain artists were using and what effect chains they were using in hopes of getting that “Pro” sound they always promise and always found myself not satisfied with my results. I would become frustrated and get lost in a sea of Youtube videos spending hundreds of dollars on plugins that I barely touch now.
Speaking with Wheelie, one of the lines he said that stood out to me was “The best music comes from when you understand your instruments”. A lot of musicians don't really deep dive and understand what their plugins/effects do. I myself was guilty of this in my early days and even sometimes now but let me tell you… once you get under the hood, use the help topics/plugin manual, and start to experiment… you open the door to a whole new world of sounds and effects. A tip I wish I had when first diving 2 into the buying plugins that I got from Wheelie was “Go slow when buying plugins/hardware”. Music gear is expensive and if you don't know what you're buying it can be very disappointing and a hard hit to your wallet. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Know what you're getting into. If you can demo the plugin DO IT. I know for me hardware is very rare to come by and demo so if you're like me look up a Youtube video on the instrument or synth and make your final decision.
Is it a career or hobby?
Talking to Rok he asked me some questions that have impacted my musical journey tremendously and I want to share them with all of you. I want you to answer these to yourself and write them down to look back on later in life. He asked “Are you starting music to learn a new skill or to build a career? Who are YOU? Have you envisioned your future”? We all have goals and dreams we want to accomplish in music but have you thought about how you're gonna get there or if you're willing to make the necessary sacrifices for a career in music? Are you gonna practice the guitar or watch your favorite show? Spend 30 minutes playing a game or use that time to better your productions? It's the small sacrifices like the examples given that we have to make on a daily basis but don't overdo it. I'll explain more in the Mental Health section.
Chris Rocha (Guitarist and producer USA)
To normal people, music is just a song on the radio or a movie but to the artist, it's a lifestyle, a career, a business. Whether you're aiming for a career or making music as a hobby I would advise you to stay focused, make your decisions consciously, and reach out to other artists locally or from around the world! Remember, you're your only limit.
Something we don't take into consideration when first starting out is “Producer Block”. There will be some days where you're on your A-game and other days where you can't come up with anything and that's okay! We're all human; we all go through things that affect our daily lives, work, relationships, and our hobbies. Burnouts are inevitable but there are ways to prevent them from happening. If you're constantly burning out, try some of these tips and see how they work out for you.
Try a different approach - Instead of spending hours fine-tuning a single sound try a sound that has similar characteristics to the sound you're trying to acquire. If the mix isn't sitting right have a friend or family member(s) take a listen. It's crazy the things they can pick up with listener's ears compared to our calibrated ears especially if your ears are burnt out from a studio sesh. If things still aren't working out try making a different genre. There are endless possibilities when it comes to making music let your creative side go wild.
Taking necessary breaks - If you find yourself getting frustrated or being a “studio rat” it's time to take a break. Go outside for a couple of hours, get some fresh air, go for a drive, hang out with family and friends, plan a trip somewhere and get ideas from the experiences/memories you make. You're not hurting your music by taking a break. By taking breaks and breathers from the studio you can come back with a fresh mindset and get a different angle on things. As Wheelie told me, “Are you working for you or the hive”?
Comparing yourself to others - Stop doing this. It hurts you more than you know it. The only competition you have is yourself. By comparing yourself to others you start to build insecurities with your music and start having doubts. We all progress and grow differently; it all depends on how dedicated we are to the craft. We all start differently as well. Early 2020 I was making music on a literal cardboard box but did that stop me? No haha in fact it motivated me into building a better studio for myself and the future artists I'd get to work with. Make the most with what you have, hone your skills, be authentic and make it happen! Work hard for what you want and don't get lost in the noise.
Set goals for yourself - Have goals set for the month like completing 2 songs, learning something new to help your sessions go quicker, or dialing in your skills. Set 4 yearly goals; with these, I like to set them bigger from my monthly goals and with each month get closer to completing them. Goals are goals, it doesn't matter how big or small they are as long as you reach them! Surround yourself with people that have the same goals as you or that motivate you to better yourself. Stay away from small-minded people… they are dream killers. If somebody tells you “you can't” give them a smile and move on with your life. There's already enough negativity in the world; it's not worth your time arguing with peeps like that. Remember you're doing this for YOU, not for anybody else.
Stay humble - Too many people lose sight of who they are as soon as things start happening in their careers. Remember the peeps who had your back through the rough patches, the peeps who helped contribute to your growth, your day ones. It's very easy letting the material things get to your head but be very careful. That is a dark path with a very very lonely end. Stay true to yourself; remember why you started this journey. Instead of putting others down, uplift them. You'll build friendships that last a lifetime and expand your network leading to possible opportunities.
Tips from the Pros
Something all the artists said was “Keep it simple”. As musicians, we tend to overcomplicate our productions thinking more is better or adding unnecessary things to the mix we don't hear that take up important space. Danny kept it simple and said, “If you feel it and it fits try it”. He also gave me some amazing tips and these are some of my favorites I'd like to share.
- “Keep things simple”
- “Less is more”
- “It's better to take out than put it”
- “Find your own voice”
- “Be proud of doing your thing”
- “Be the best you can”
- “Invest time in a good production”Danny Gomez
They're simple but go a long way in helping get the most out of yourself and your own productions. Rok gave some input and said, “Just go for it and don't overthink it. You've gotta put in the work and go the extra mile that others won't”. Wheelie said this, “Music isn't rocket science; have fun with your productions, get creative and go crazy”! As well as giving some useful tips.
- “If it sounds good DON'T touch it”
- “Doing anything with no reason is to avoid”
- “Try new things and stay curious”
- “Mental health is important”
- “Go out and build relationships”
- “It's not by luck, it's not the talent, it's not the skills… it's everything plus more”
If you take anything away it should be this; Be yourself. You can accomplish amazing things through music, inspire others and change lives with your music, save lives and uplift others through your music. To you, your song could mean one thing but to somebody else, it could mean something totally different! Crazy right? Enjoy the journey; every up and down you go through, every person you meet or collaborate with, cherish the small wins just as much as the big ones, and before you know it; with a little hard work, dedication, and some small sacrifices you'll be right where you want to be! Make sure to follow me on my social media(s) and join me and my artists on our musical journeys! We'd love to have your support!
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Author - Sebastian K Velasquez
Photo - Sebastian K Velasquez featuring, Danny Gomez, Rok Gulic, Chris Rocha
Special Guests - Rok Gulic, Danny Gomez, William Robertson Wheelie and Chris Rocha.