Posted: Jun 22, 2020
**Guest post by Caleb J. Murphy, a songwriter-producer based in Austin, TX, and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog to help part-time musicians succeed.
"Anyone can be their own producer. Don’t believe me? Read on and I’ll show you the whys and hows of producing music yourself.
Here are three solid reasons why being your own producer could benefit you.
As an indie musician, you may have a limited budget. And this seems to be the main reason many musicians don’t hire a producer, but without setting themselves up properly, their music suffers because of it.
Producers can be very beneficial: they can be an objective pair of ears, they have different musical influences than you, and you can bounce ideas off each other. But if you can’t afford a producer, just don’t get one. You can work within your budget and do it yourself, as long as you make the effort to learn how to record and mix and invest in some decent gear.
This is the main reason I produce all of my music. I’m a control freak when it comes to producing songs I’ve spent hours writing.
So if you’re like me, you want the final say (and every say before it). Plus, if you hire a producer and realize you don’t vibe with them, that can actually hurt your songs in the end. Instead, produce everything yourself then share it with a few trusted friends who have good ears and who will give you honest feedback.
Remember how I said producers can be expensive? Well, many musicians prefer to work with a producer and also have the money for it. And you could be the producer they hire.
Spend a lot of time producing your own music and other artists will take notice. If you get really good, paying customers will come to you. You can start reaching out to local musicians you know and offer to produce their album for a discount to get some practice, and eventually transition to higher paid clients.
Now that we’ve covered why it’s worth it to start producing your own tracks and albums, let’s talk about how to get your feet wet.
You cannot move onto the next step unless you have the right equipment, software, and recording space to start producing. Here are the basic things you’ll need to start:
It may also be a good idea to get some plugins and virtual instruments if you plan to create a diverse array of sound design. You never know when you’ll hear a cello or a drum-machine in one of your tracks. Here are a few plugins I use and recommend:
There’s always something new to learn; whether that’s learning more about music theory to build more complex chord structures, learning how to write a memorable top-line melody that gets stuck in your listeners’ ears, or learning to record, mix, and produce music from your own home studio.
And taking a full course, rather than coming by the information piecemeal via YouTube is highly recommended so you get the most out of the time you put in learning something.
There are a ton of places you can go on the internet to build these skills but I highly recommend checking out a platform like Soundfly. Known primarily for their six-week mentored online music courses, Soundfly has just launched a new unlimited access subscription that allows musicians like you and I to take whatever courses we want, whenever we want, and to take as long as we need to get through them at our own pace.
What you listen to will naturally come through in your productions. But you can also intentionally study your favorite producers and attempt to use the aspects of their sound that gravitate with you in your own work. For example:
You may have also heard that tons of mixing engineers use reference tracks as a guide to getting their client the most accurate sonic picture according to what’s in their head. This means mixing a song alongside a professionally recorded, mixed and mastered song from one of your favorite artists to mimic elements like panning, leveling, reverb, delay, and even song form and structure.
Drop one of your favorite pro-level tracks into your DAW. Then structure your song like it. Ebb when it ebbs, flow when it flows. Try using similar instruments and sounds. Begin and end the song the same way. Don’t rip off someone else’s production—get inspired by it.
The best way to be your own producer is simply to do what you want to do. I don’t mean doing things incorrectly to sabotage yourself; but doing things in your own way, for better or worse, can help you grow to understand your own musical identity better than anything else.
Follow your gut during the production process. It’s your best option. If something you record moves you in a powerful way, it will probably move others too.
In the end, a “successful” production is one that you’re totally happy with. You define what a “good” track is. Your taste in music will determine your style of self-production."
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