Music Production 101: 15 Ideas to help you finish a project

Stuck on a project? You know it needs something but you’re not sure what? Well, here are 15 different strategies to get you out of this rut and turn ideas into masterpieces…

by LANDR

Music production is a challenging process.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an emerging creator, you’re bound to encounter some roadblocks along the way.

The good news is that it’s normal—even if it’s no fun while it’s happening.

If you find yourself stuck or unable to move forward, you’re probably looking for some quick advice to get you back on track.

That’s why in this article I’m giving my top 15 general tips to help you get the most out of your workflow.

Let the music production tips begin!

1. Learn your DAW

It might seem simple, but it’s worth it to spend some time getting comfortable with your DAW.

Once you know its basic functions you’ll work faster and more fluidly with additional confidence.

There’s nothing worse than getting stopped in your tracks trying to figure out a standard function while your fresh ideas are slipping away.

The antidote? Take a few minutes every session to learn something new about your DAW’s workflow.

It could be as simple as looking up a few key commands, or as serious as taking on its comping workflow.

The key is to keep building your skills all the time!

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an emerging creator, you’re bound to encounter some roadblocks along the way.

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2. Take breaks

It’s important to take regular breaks to give your ears a rest during long sessions.

Once ear fatigue sets in, you’ll have difficulty making decisions on critical issues like mixing or audio editing.

The best way to fix it is to avoid it altogether. Make sure to break up long sessions with short breaks away from your speakers to let your ears recharge.

Headphones are especially prone to causing this effect, so take care when using them for long periods.

But the single most important rule? Turn it down.

Monitoring too loud is not only more fatiguing, it’s less accurate. Blasting your speakers drives their amplifiers closer to the limit, causing a change in response. It can even affect your listening environment in small spaces.

Keep it at a reasonable volume, and don’t stress your ears—they’re the only pair you’ve got!

3. Focus on finishing

Many producers express the common frustration that they can’t finish a track.

If you have plenty of ideas and few complete songs, you may be experiencing this issue as well.

While there are plenty of creative strategies that can help you breakthrough blocks, it’s important to set your sights on the goal.

Do your best to orient your process around the big picture, rather than obsessive details.

After all, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done!

Try a songwriting challenge or just set yourself a goal without stressing over the quality of the results.

Doing so will hone your skills and help you grow.

4. Always be learning

You should always be on the lookout for new ways to improve as a producer.

Even if you have the basics down, learning continuously is important to keep your ideas fresh and your practice evolving.

Luckily, there are plenty of places to find inspiration and get caught up on new techniques.

Whether you prefer to learn from videos, tutorials or other producers, the most important thing is to keep your curiosity sharp.

5. Change it up

Getting stuck in a rut is another common complaint, especially among producers who work in a single genre.

Do your best to orient your process around the big picture, rather than obsessive details.

If you find yourself going through the motions, do whatever you can to shake up your workflow.

That could mean trying a new genre, an unconventional technique or even a new instrument!

Plenty of notable figures swear by the benefits of “beginner’s mind” to unlock new creative insights.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to cultivate in music by simply trying something new.

Are you a guitarist? Try writing a song with synth.

Do you start every track with the drums? Try writing the chord progression first.

There are endless ways to shake up your production process, so don’t be afraid.

6. Be consistent

Once again, every piece of advice has another side to it.

In many situations in music production, the simplest solution is best.

Many of the best producers are known for their distinctive sound.

Consistency and the ability to reproduce results are considered valuable in any industry—music production is no different!

If you have presets, samples or techniques that just work, don’t be afraid to use them.

Eventually, your go-to methods will form your signature producer pallet.

7. Don’t overcomplicate things

In many situations in music production, the simplest solution is best.

Don’t be afraid to use loops, samples, pitch correction or other time saving measures if they help you stay focused and make headway.

In many cases, your listeners will never be able to tell you did something ‘the hard way’ even after you agonize over it in the studio.

Part of developing intuition as a producer is knowing when something is good enough.

If it truly is, you’re ready to move on!

8. Don’t cut corners

The flipside of the previous tip is that sometimes, more effort does produce superior results.

Some processes like audio editing reward careful attention and stick out when done hastily.

Make sure you understand the situations where putting in the time is worth it. Then knuckle down!

Chances are the most time consuming tasks can be made shorter with practice and expertise—see tip number one!

9. Focus on your capabilities

It’s easy to get bogged down by fixating on what you could do—if only you had a particular piece of gear.

That mindset stops you from moving forward with what you can do in the moment.

Try to reframe it as discovering new possibilities with what you already have.

A good sound is a good sound, no matter where it came from.

The best producers understand their gear inside and out. They know how to squeeze the most performance out of even weak points in their studio.

Use what you have, and don’t sleep on the full potential of your equipment.

10. Get dependable basics

On the other hand, any artisan needs quality tools to do their work.

A good sound is a good sound, no matter where it came from.

Learn to recognize when your equipment is holding you back and do your best to put together a suite of tools that work.

That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot—just make sure you have quality basics that get the job done.

Luckily for modern producers, capable production gear is pretty accessible in 2022.

As long as you have a serviceable audio interface, DAW and headphones, you’ll be able to make strides with your production skills!

11. Have a plan

The best way to avoid an aimless workflow is to go in with a plan.

What do you intend to accomplish in your session? Or on a more fundamental level, why did you choose that plugin? And how exactly do you plan to use it?

Knowing the answers to these questions will give you the confidence to move forward and make good decisions.

12. Be adaptable

With the above tip in mind, nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan.

The best producers are generalists with the skills and mindset to make the most of any situation.

If the song calls for something out of the ordinary, you shouldn’t hesitate to embrace it.

That means knowing a little bit from all the disciplines in music.

Are your synth presets too boring? Basic synthesis technique lets you build your own.

How about trying to write a bassline? Maybe you’ll come up with something if you know how to improvise.

And of course, mixing your own music gives you the final say over its aesthetic presentation.

13. Use online resources

No one should be expected to learn everything about music production on their own.

Luckily for today’s producers there’s a treasure trove of educational material available online.

Whether you need DAW tutorials, beat making tips, gear guides or mixing help, chances are someone has covered the answer to your question already.

Take a look online and find some resources you can turn to when you need a helping hand

For example, you can always visit the LANDR Blog and subscribe to the LANDR Youtube channel!

14. Take everything with a grain of salt

On the flipside, there are plenty of voices out there with advice to give about music production.

While most of them offer compelling information, some are more valuable than others.

Treat every perspective with the assumption that no one is correct 100% of the time.

Some approaches may work for you and others may not.

Just don’t take anyone’s opinion as the settled truth on any subject in music.

Instead, see it as a direction to experiment and find out for yourself!

15. Know basic theory

Production techniques are every producer’s bread and butter.

But understanding the deep structure of music itself can elevate your skills above the rest.

Understanding the deep structure of music itself can elevate your skills above the rest.

If you work primarily in the DAW, music theory might not seem relevant at first.

But anytime you deal with chords, progressions, melodies, structure or rhythm, there’s some underlying musical theory that can help you navigate them.

You’ll even find that knowing theory gives you access to new ideas!

Production powerhouse

It may feel discouraging when your creative flow isn’t as easy as it usually is.

But the important thing is to keep going. The tide will eventually change and you’ll be back in the driver’s seat of your own creativity.

Until then, use these 15 tips to help you make headway.