Electronic Music is a unique industry all its own. There are specific things that define what makes a great dance or trance track. We are all familiar with the 32 bar build, the climax and recovery, nut not very often to we talk about the elements of electronic music that can make a song sound weak or amateurish.
Over many years of dealing with different kinds of music, I have found these to be the 7 most repeats offenses that would show an amateur track over a professional electronic music track. Here is a list of the 7 worst offenses and how you can avoid falling victim to them.
1.) AutoTune overuse – I had to put this at number one. How many times do I have to say, “do not abuse autotune, do not abuse autotune, do not abuse tune.” AutoTune can be a very handy plugin if it is used correctly. The key point is that it has to be used tastefully and correctly. You do not need to autotune every track of your song. Doing this will quickly make your song sound like a robot wrote it. There is a general movement towards the tasteful usage of using atuotune. Your track will sound much better if you can play the music in the key that you are writing the song, and you can find a vocalist that can sing on key (or really close), and then use autotune to clean up what really needs to be done.
2.) Looping abuse – This is usually mistake number one for amateur artist and producers. No one wants to listen to the exact same beat for five minutes. People naturally want to hear change, builds and releases in a song. You need to diversify your song and not be afraid to change things up for the different components of the song, like the verses, chorus, and bridge. Another common is mistake with Loop abuse is to loop a track throughout an entire song. This will become death to you music. If you are going to have a lopped track throughout the whole song, make sure that you add some variation to the loops and give it different dimensions.
3.) Loose beats kill songs – As obvious as it sounds, your beats and rhythm have to be extremely tight, at all times throughout the song. I see very commonly that people never take the time to quantize their tracks after they have completed their midi recording. Remember, there is always going to be a bit of a delay between the time that you hit the keyboard or pad and the time that it is received in the system. Quantizing your midi sequences will correct those problems. Like anything else, there is no need to “over quantize” your sequences. This can also over format your song, and take away form a natural feel. Balance is key.
4.) Your music sounds muddy – This gets into the basics of sound recording and understanding how frequencies work. You have a spectrum of available frequencies that a song can use, there is a limit to the frequencies that you can use. If you want to have a clean, and full bodied sounding recording you will need to make sure that you have a good balance between all of your frequencies. To commonly, I find that artist do not give this any attention, and the resulting factor is that the song sounds muddy. The reason for this is that your frequencies are probably overlapping and they are drowning out their tonality. Give some attention to mixing your tracks where your sound frequencies do not over lap. Any recording program will give you the basic tools to do just that.
5.) Poor quality and cheap effects – When it comes to the world of effects plug-ins for our digital recording studios, we often want to go the cheaper route to save money on that $1200 dollar plug for your pro-tools (or other system). The major problem with this is, that you really do get what you paid for. If you want to use that crappy reverb that came pre-installed with your digital studio, then go right ahead, but more often then not, I find that low quality effects and plugins often lead to low quality recordings and low quality songs.
6.) The curse of Presets – This topic is very debatable, but let me give my point of view on this topic. More often than not, prefab beats and loops sounds absolutely fantastic when they are by themselves. The problem is that typical when that premade beat was made, it was made to sound crisp and clear by itself (to sell the beat, obviously). Usually when these beats are made they are created with a lot of high and low frequencies, and when you add a couple of them together, they drown each other out. This goes back to the concept of your music sounding muddy, which never looks good in the electronic music world. The major problem with a premixed loop or beat is that, you do not have the capability to adjust the mix of that loop. My personal opinion of presets is, to use them very sparingly of not at all, plus making your own can be quite fun.
7.) Lack of a full sound – Another common trait of an amateur is that the basic concepts of sound recording as a whole have been completely overlooked. In other points I talk about not allowing your frequencies to overlap, but there is more than just frequencies that point to a por sounding recording. Do not forget to get your recording mastered properly when it is finished, control those volumes and using the right compression can REALLY bring out the song to sound amazing.
Avoiding the common mistakes of amateur electronic music producers can help give you an edge over your competition, and give you some insight on how you can bring your music to the forefront. Avoiding the simple mistakes above can make you music more audible to yoru listening audience and make your writing and recording process even more enjoyable. I hope that you can learn from the mistakes of others.
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