Students often ask me the loaded question, “How do I become a great music producer?” Now that’s an easy one to answer in a thirty minute chat, not. But, actually, the answer is deceptively simple. The key to becoming a great music producer is to be a finisher. That is, complete your songs, wrap your productions, put an end to the tweaking, stop being a perfectionist, just finish it.

Every time you complete a production you move one step closer to becoming a great producer. This is because every time you complete a project you have a finished work to show for your efforts. Plus, you get the added bonus of learning something new each time you wrap a song and honing your production skills in the process. There actually is a formula for getting your songs done, but it is a personal formula that only you can develop for yourself, over time, one production at a time, with study, practice, and the feedback of contemporaries.

Begin by setting manageable goals for yourself. “This month I will finish one song, it doesn’t have to be perfect but I will get it done.” Don’t let your perfectionist side stand in the way of moving quickly through the process of completing the production, from the writing, to the recording, to the production, and the mixing. If at any point in the process you find yourself stuck and taking more than a few hours on a part or a tweak, forget about it and move onto the next step. The part in question will still be there for you to tweak later, but if you don’t get the whole song down, the entire production mapped out, fretting over a single part without the whole picture in view is myopic and self-defeating.

Your first several productions probably won’t sound that great. This is to be expected, you aren’t going to produce a hit overnight. However, somewhere down the road, in five, ten, or two dozen productions your tracks will start to sizzle. You will lock into your own personal production formula and start to roll with it. This year you might only finish four not so well produced tracks, but next year, if you keep at it, I guarantee you that you’ll find yourself completing ten much better tracks. The next thing you know you’ll be producing two dozen “radio ready” tracks in a year. If you keep at it on a daily basis you will become increasingly better at what it is that you really want to do, finishing great sounding tracks.

To quote the hit songwriter, Diane Warren, “I just kept doing it. In a nutshell, I just kept doing it no matter what.” (You can read the complete interview with Diane Warren, by Michael Laskow, the president of TAXI, here, http://www.taxi.com/faq/ar/warren.html.)

Alvin & The Chipmunks

    I posted this article on BeatCreators.com

    Enjoyed the read. I use Nuendo 3.2 Is there much difference between Nuendo and Pro tools.I use windows xp with a tara bite.Plug-ins 2 many to name.I started out with Cubase 4 but prefer Nuendo there is a difference in these two products. I Master with Wave Lab. Are there better products available that you could share.

    Thanks,
    John

    John,

    Nuendo and Cubase are also wonderful programs. Most professionals use more than one program to get their jobs done, but usually prefer one over the others for specific tasks (such as audio recording, mixing, composing, or audio editing).

    It really comes down to two things, what program you feel the most comfortable working with and session compatibility. I love Pro Tools for its session compatibility, every top studio has Pro Tools and its session files will work on both Mac and PC.

    Great article. Very self-assuring. I love music and I envision to be a great producer. But like anything else that I love, I want to create the perfect track /sound and that can be frustrating since I am very new to this.
    Anyways, I appreciate the read.
    Cheers,
    Hesam

    this is great advice to finish your work, lord knows this is my greatest problem. I have literally 100′s of unfinished tracks. But after reading this page I vow to finish the next song I start.
    thanks for the info

    i used to use fruity loops to become a great producer but since the introduction of reason i,m now a perfect producer thanks to reasons

    even though as producers or any other person interested in the field of music production there are challenges that face us every other day for example unfinished projects but thank to our man erik hawkins for the invention of reasons our problem solver

    Thx this topic is great !!!!
    Just the answers a was looking for.

    I have been saying this for years, and it’s great to see my opinion be validated. Most of us in this field are perfectionists, but there’s nothing quite like getting lots of tracks out there. You will naturally get better, and you’ll get way more exposure. Anyway, thanks for the post :)

    Hello Erik Hawkins …
    nice article …
    few years earlier i was thinking about my works and got to the same point … ” I am not finishing any of my songs …” then i started to finish every track i have bean working on …
    but still i got to say .. perfection is not a bad thing and still today i still giving any minet i can to make my track sound the best in my ears,,,
    because after all i am the one that first of all should be satisfy from the work because only then you would not be shy giving it to lables …
    corect me if i wrong :)
    any way i enjoy to read this artical ison-the-mark

    Hi Erik,
    Checking out your blog here…I agree completely with you that learning to let go and finish a song is a vital skill of a great producer. There are times though that I find myself writing a lot of unused riffs/loops. I call it idea writing, and I keep them saved for a while, but then once a month I go through them and either categorize them into genres or styles, or delete them forever if they just don’t work.

    Sometimes I just write impulsively (open up the program and just randomly program without prejudgment), and I find that this process gets you out of the writers blocks mode. However, there comes a time when you have to stop creating new ideas and finish the good ideas you’ve created.

    So I think there’s necessarily wrong with having hundreds, even thousands of unfinished “riffs”, just as long as you are keeping them organized so you can actually find them, and making time to process those unfinished ideas into full songs.

    Great stuff! : )

    Craig

    Thanks, I spent my last 2 months mixing the same song over and over. I’m letting it go now…

    Here I thought I was the only one who was burdened with the ” its not good enough/perfect mind scape” The advice to let it go is something us OCD artists need to take to heart.

    This is so true and something that I think we all need to hear time and again.

    Thanks Erik!

    As constructive criticism, this sounds like an article written to artists who are working without a producer. The overall mantra “just finish it, it’s ok if it sounds like crap” is one, as a producer, I take serious issue with. The biggest problem with artists today is the tendency to rationalize songs and recordings that flat aren’t very good. Perhaps a better message would be: if you’re an artist, and you want to be successful, then get a producer. If you want to be a producer, then get a mentor.

    my 2c.

    Really good point! I am of course assuming that as you finish each song your skills will improve, from your songwriting, to your musicianship, and your engineering and producing. I mean, if it sounds poor, you should be able to recognize that improvements are required and get busy trying to correct these shortcomings.

    However, that said, it’s certainly not always easy to recognize your own shortcomings. And, recognizing this, it’s certainly a good idea to get some professional help, either from a producer, a mentor, or a reputable school such as Berkleemusic.com (yes, that’s a plug :-) When I think back on my career I’ve had several amazing mentors that have helped me on this journey and who I definitely owe a lot to in terms of my musicianship and production skills. I guess the moral is, finish your tracks but don’t forget to get feedback on them too, so that you can make the next one better!

    Nice article…I use fl studio and suck at it and need tips to just get started with something like useful quick tips??

    Wow!this is a very good advice, now i know that perfection comes in after failure. Thnx a bunch!

    Ehn bro, have been producing for a year now and am not progressing,how do i know the solo to fix for a song, and mix the tones…if u can help i swear down i will be grateful thanks…

    Keep studying and practicing. It’s a never ending process :-)
    If you don’t have the money to sign up for online classes, pick up some books on Amazon. They’re inexpensive and a great place to start learning.

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