Some of these might seem fairly obvious, some of them might not… But I thought I would write up this post as a basic reference… So here you go…
1.) A Good Night’s Rest
This seems like a pretty obvious point, so I won’t go into a terribly long analysis of why it’s important to get a good night’s rest. Of course you need your sleep!
I have an especially hard time getting my sleep, as I have to get up early, so to get a full night’s rest, I try to get to bed around 9.30 at night. That’s the hard part. Getting up early isn’t as difficult as getting to bed early. But, luckily, most people don’t have that problem. But whatever your schedule is, if you get the proper amount of rest, you should wake up feeling refreshed… Or, perhaps you need some coffee to wake you up. I know I certainly do.
Alright, enough of the ‘good night’s rest’ point, as I don’t feel I need to elaborate on this one anymore. It’s fairly obvious, so, moving on…
2.) Keep Food and Coffee In your Body
It’s not only important to get a good night’s rest, but it’s also important to eat well. I’m not going to lecture you on the ‘proper diet,’ exactly, but I will say this: make sure you put enough energy into your body that you will be able to put enough energy into your music. It’s really as simple as that.
Like I said earlier, I drink coffee. Some folks will definitely say you should not drink any coffee, as it’s… bad for your…. I don’t know… your soul, or something? Or it’s an addiction, blah, blah, blah. Well, I say, ‘sure, it’s an addiction, and an addiction I’m comfortable with!’ I don’t see why having an addiction to coffee should keep you from making good tracks. The trick is to know your body. If you feel like you’re drinking too much coffee (if you DO drink coffee) well then, sure, stop drinking so much! But if you’re like me, you enjoy a good half a dozen shots of espresso… Now, I’m not recommending you drink THAT much…. I probably shouldn’t be. In fact, I should probably warn against drinking that much, as it’ll probably lead one’s heart to explosions… but that’s really for another article. But I will say that when I drink that much espresso, it certainly doesn’t hinder me from making music, in general.
Wow, got into a coffee rant. Hmm… I suppose that was bound to happen. Ok, moving on…
3.) Set Time Aside
How the hell are you going to make music if you only set aside an hour a week for mixing?
Sorry to curse at you, I’m just trying to make the point that you’re probably going to need more time than that. I would set aside a good afternoon-sized chunk of time for yourself, at LEAST once a week, if you plan to make electronic music. But, I should’ve prefaced that point by saying that, well, if you plan to make music on a regular basis, and learn the ropes of what it means to become a decent musician, you’re really going to need to spend some time at it.
When I say one afternoon a week, I’m talking about a basic amount of time… Obviously, you could do it everyday, and do it for nine hours. There is, of course, the ‘ten thousand hours’ philosophy… the idea that, if you spend ten thousand hours on something, you will become a master at it. Well, I can tell you one thing for sure: if you DO spend that much time on pretty much anything, you’ll probably be somewhat decent at it. But it’s not just about quantity of time, it’s about quality, too. Maybe you don’t need ten thousand hours, you just need ten hours every week for three years… That would be 1560 hours.
The point is, you can’t spend two hours on a Sunday morning doing it, and expect to get decent results. Whenever people say things like, “oh, I don’t have any time at all for THIS or THAT, not EVEN two hours on a Sunday,” then I assume one of two things…. 1.) They clearly don’t have enough interest in it if they’re not able to spend just two hours a week on it, or, 2.) They’re lying. Straight up. They can spend how many hours watching movies and getting drunk or stoned or going shopping for things they don’t need, but they can’t spend at LEAST a couple hours on something they claimed they have an interest in? Nope, not buyin’ it.
So, do yourself a favor and decide whether or not you really do have an interest in making electronic music, or whatever kind of music you’re interested in, and commit time to learning everything you can about it, and commit time to making it. Like I said, it’s good to have a good chunk of the afternoon set aside, but obviously it differs from person to person. But you want multiple hours set aside because you need to get yourself into the music-making mode, and that sometimes takes a little while, especially if you’re new.
4.) Listen. Inundate. Internalize.
Figure out what artists are making music that sound similar to the kind of music you’d want to ideally make. It’s probably not super-hard to do. One you have that figured out, go and listen to their music. That’s it. Listen to their music, listen to music similar to theirs, and inundate yourself with the types of sounds you want to reproduce. Internalize it. Get so familiar with it that you can’t help but make something similar… I don’t mean that you should copy them, I’m just saying that if you’re REALLY into the sounds of Flosstradamus, and want to make music in a reasonably similar vein to Flosstradamus, well, then you should probably listen to as much of their music as possible, eh?
Another important point about internalizing music is this: find out who inspired the artists you’re inspired by. Learn the history of the music, and allow yourself to be influenced by that music, as well. It’s one thing to take influence from the present, but do you really think all the artists out there right now are ONLY taking influence from songs made in 2012? Of course not! They’re taking influence from the great canon of world music of the last ten thousand years! (well, some of them aren’t, but these fly-by-night one-hit-wonders tend to dry up creatively PRETTY quick…)
So learn some history, internalize your favorite sounds until they’re a part of your essence, and listen to your favorite tunes in your selected genre-of-choice to get yourself into a specific music-mindset, and then make the best damn song of the decade!
5.) Skeletal Preparation
Prepare with pencil and paper. Or draw up a rough skeleton of your track in the sequencer. Or, if nothing else, write down a list of ideas you have for your tune(somewhere you’ll see them) and look at it often, as you’re recording your masterpiece. It’s one thing to have notes in your head, but you might find, halfway into your track, that you’re straying from your original vision. What do you do then? You go back to your notes and see what you originally wanted to accomplish.
I do want to point out, however, that sometimes it’s good to let a track stray. Sometimes I’ve started a track and thought, “Ok, I’m going to be working on a junglish glitch hop tune, and then it turns into some kind of weird chopped-n-screwed acid-glitch tune. And sometimes, that’s great! So on this point, I’ll have to leave it up to you to decide what to do, as it’s all about what you want to accomplish as an artist, and one of my rules of respecting Artistic Integrity is to appreciate that an artist can delve into whatever territory they want to. Having said that, if you’re first starting out, it can be helpful (to say the least) to have a few notes (at least) about what you want out of this track.
Your notes could be both vague as well as specific… What I mean by that is that you might have some open-ended statements in your notes, such as, “make it bass heavy,” (a statement which could really lead your track in a thousand different directions) but you could also get incredibly specific, like, “incorporate hi hat triplets at 100-ish BPM,” and, “try to recreate pitched-down short-vocal repetition for the intro, like the one in that ‘Roll-up’ track by Flosstradamus,” etc (I’m using Flosstradamus as an example, because I mentioned them earlier…)
The point is, it’s NEVER a bad idea to have some notes. Even if you decide, halfway through the track, that your notes were great but that you’d like to take the song in a new direction; it might happen this way, but it might not, and having notes still wasn’t a BAD thing to do… So, try to make notes. I’d recommend LOTS of notes.
6.) Think Big, Fuck Haters.
Ok, so I’ve covered all of the essentials, but here’s something else to consider. Think big. Think REALLY FUCKING BIG. If you’re just starting out and don’t think you can conquer the universe with your beats, well, at least you could hope to get there at some point, right? And, why not? There are so many god-awful artists out there who ARE making it, why not pulverize their influence on the club by making something ten thousand times as good as the shit they’re upto? Why not? You can’t give me one good reason why you shouldn’t. Nobody can. Decide to make the best fucking Flosstradamus-influenced bass-trappin’ or neuro-glitchin’ or electro-stompin’ tune you possibly fucking can! (Again, the Flosstradamus reference… lol. Insert whatever artist name you want, though…) If it’s dope as fuck, I’d love to hear it, and so would everyone else. Don’t try to be good enough, try to be the best.
Modesty is overrated, and you deserve to make the best track you possibly can. Don’t let haters influence you, either. What are the haters up to, when they’re not hating? Working boring jobs, dating some lame boyfriend or girlfriend who sucks, and getting their teeth pulled next week? (woah, got pretty specific, there, didn’t I?) Maybe they’re hating because you get to spend your time making awesome beats, and they’re stuck in their dead-end life, going to youtube or facebook and hatin’ is their only means of having a good time.
Whatever the reason, don’t let them get you down, and don’t let them keep you from being your best… because with enough motivation and practice, you CAN become an amazing musician. It’s not just wishful thinking, its mathematics. It’s logic. How do you think the Beatles got so good? Were they just insane geniuses on acid? (Well, that’s part of it, I suppose…) No, that’s not really it. They played hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of shows, and fine-tuned their craft and their sounds for years before they got big. I mention the Beatles because to a lot of folks, they’re the pinnacle of modern music… (Wait, is pinnacle the right word? Or cornerstone? Yea, that sounds better, I guess…) They’re the cornerstone of truly great music, to a lot of folks… and they were around for about seven years before they were on the Ed Sullivan Show and electrified audiences by singing about holding underage girl’s hands.
My point is: give it time, but set out to be as incredible as possible. It won’t happen overnight, and it’s a good thing it won’t too; because if it does, people will soon find out that you JUST started, and that you likely have no idea what you’re doing! If you spend time with it, you, too, can do some truly great work.