A New Approach to An Old Trick: Rethinking Your Techniques

Let’s face it – just about every trick in the book has been tried and tested when it comes to production.

You can send just the kick and snare, just the room and overhead mics, you can bus them out separately – the combinations are almost endless.

Just like with all things in any artistic venture – nothing is completely new. Sorry to burst your bubble on that. You’re not going to invent something completely new and groundbreaking all by yourself.

But guess what? The Beatles didn’t either. Nor did Elvis Presley. And no matter what he says, Kanye West isn’t creating anything completely new either.

The very nature of music (and science, art, politics – pretty much everything) is that it builds on what comes before it. You have to know about and appreciate the tools, ideas, and music of earlier times in order to create something awesome today.

So what’s the point of this thought? Glad you asked.

The point is much deeper than any “quick tip” you’ll find on how to make your kick drum sound better in your mix. While these are very useful and important to take in, they’re only the “if you give a man a fish…” part of the saying.

If you embrace this mindset, you’ll actually be fishing for great music and recording techniques, taking your productions to the next level with every “quick tip” you find.

It’s all about putting a new approach on an old trick.

Take this kick drum tip for an example: to get a fatter kick drum sound, compress it and then EQ it. Pull out around 200 Hz and boost around 50 Hz.

That’s a pretty good tip that will usually result in a better sounding kick. So how can you take a new approach with this tip?

After trying the tip out, I would start experimenting. Try that on your entire drum bus. Try the EQ first and then the compressor. Do this in parallel and try blending it with the original.

These are all just slight variations on the same basic technique, but they can yield very different results. This is how you start to put your own spin on things. Start to learn what you like and what you don’t like.

Another very important step towards using quick tips like these is to ask yourself why.

Why are you putting it on that track? Why are you using this tip a certain way? Why does it sound better or worse than before?

These important questions will help you to gain an even deeper understanding of the tip you’re applying to your tracks. Why does it sound better when you pull out 200 Hz on a kick drum? Does it sound clearer? punchier? smoother?

If you can start filtering out these tips and trying to add your own spin to them, you’ll be much better off in the long run. Before long, you’ll find that you’ve learned more and developed your own style. Like I said before – no one has done anything completely original. Yes, you’ll need that something special to make your productions your own. Use production techniques you learn from others as a starting ground. Tweak them, try them in different combinations, and make them your own.

Skrillex makes awesome music, but he didn’t invent the LFO, synthesizer, or even the concept of ducking and chopping. He just took all of those and filtered them into his own style. Do the same, and your productions will certainly start to have your signature sound.

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