How to Create a Deep Kick

One of the most important parts of electronic music today is the quality of kicks. Back when I started making techno in the 90s, kicks had greater or lesser importance. You could use a drum machine like a 909, select a kick, and that was pretty much it.

Things have drastically changed.

The rise of the Funktion One and the emergence of better sound systems in clubs led producers to create kicks that were better defined. Club-goers began to show more interest in the well-crafted kicks, and producers have responded by putting a whole lot more work into the design of their low end.

Music fans know a great kick by the nice body sensation that gets you up and moving on the dance floor. But to better understand what goes into making a beautiful kick, you’ll need a bit of a sense of how sound is used in clubs.

four voices sound systemVoices. By voices, we’re referring to how the sound is defined. The typical club will have a sub and a top. Since some tops have 2 voices, the average sound system would feature 3 voices at most. But while most of the kick is heard in the low end (ie, the sub), it actually comes through all voices. One thing new producers sometimes won’t realize is that hearing the kick is more about increasing the presence of the mids than about boosting the low ends.

Crossovers. This technical term refers to the frequency setting used to divide two voices. For example, the sub usually covers a frequency range going from 20hZ to roughly 80-100hZ. The mids will fall between that first crossover and the next one, which will define the frequency range covered by the highs.

Why it matters. Because knowing how sound is used in clubs will allow you to produce music that sounds the best it possibly can. And the more your music stands out for its technical quality, the closer you’ll be to standing alongside the top producers who have mastered their sound.

DJ mixers. If you look at DJ mixers like the Xone series by Allen & Heath, you’ll note they support 4 voices, with separate knobs for the lows, low-mids, high-mids, and highs. These mixers are a good way to get a better sense of how DJs will control your sound when playing it live.



What is a deep kick?

In more underground and non-commercial strains of techno music, deeper kicks are central to crafting that deeper, warm sound. Physically, you feel deep kicks heavier in the lower part of the body, hitting you below the hips for extra warmth.

There are different kinds of kicks:

The full kick: This one covers the frequencies ranging from super-low all the way up into the high-mids. It is very punchy, well-defined, and direct.

The mid-kick: Popular in lo-fi music, the mid-kick, as the name suggests, occupies more of the mids. The lower end of the song might be covered by a bass, or might not be as present in the genre. This one punches you right in the chest. It’s punchy, but lacks thump.

The low-kick: This one places the accent on the sub part of the kick. This means the bass won’t be struggling there, since it will move up to the lowest end of the mids. This one has less punch, and creates a warmer effect by landing below the hips.

One thing about kicks that often gets overlooked: you’ll benefit a lot by finalizing your kick as the last part of your mixdown. Why? Because until the track is completely finished, you can’t exactly know your track’s needs. This is a detail, but an important one. Try it, and you’ll see that adding the kick last can produce incredible results.

Once you determine your track’s needs, you can use these tricks to make your own kicks. I’ve also created a macro that should make things a lot easier, but first, here are some important tips:

Synthesize the sub. Use Operator or your favourite VST synth to create the low end. Using a sine wave can be a really effective way to create that warmth.


Layer another kick for the mids. Use a sample of a kick you like for the mids. This means you need to cut its lowest end to avoid conflict with the sub. The simpler the lows, the better the results.

Saturation. This is not really a trick, so much as something to use freely and without hesitation. Saturation will add warmth and oumph.

EQ. A good method here is to slightly cut down the 160-to-200hZ range. This little hole you’ll create will allow the crossovers to breathe, and will open more room for the lows. You can lightly boost it around 1khZ to help define the transient and attack.


Compression. Use at the end of your chain to glue everything together.

Pheek deepkick maker, kick maker, deep kick, kick drum machine, analog


Here is the macro I created to help get you started. Having playing with it. Download it here: [download id=”30199″]

Let me know what you think of it!



SEE ALSO :  Sound design: create the sounds you imagine inside your head  

Conversations with Clients: Kike Mayor

In Conversations with Clients, we bring you an honest and unfiltered look at Pheek’s services, straight from the mouths of those who know — and want you to know too! For this third piece in our series, I spoke with Kike Mayor, a Peruvian techno producer based in New York. 

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Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself and your experience as a producer?

Well I started DJing back in the year 2000. I started collecting my first records at the end of the 90s, it was during my last years in high school. And then right after, I started playing records, and playing local parties in my hometown in Peru. Shortly after that I found myself playing at these big parties, and I was the warm-up DJ for every single act that came out of the country. Then I started making music around the year 2005, and from then I just kept doing it and made a lifestyle out of it.

You’ve been producing for a long time now then, just over 10 years.

Yes, 10 to 12 years. My first record came out in 2007, so 10 years in the market anyway.

And throughout this time, have you mostly mixed your own music? What’s your experience with sound engineering in particular?

It’s not much. I’ve pretty much been doing my own mixdowns based on my ear training, and it took me a while to realize how important [the mixdown] is. Last year I found Pheek, and he explained to me how a mixdown can really make a difference on the final product. It’s just amazing. And it’s not that he… like, he does nothing to a track that is already produced, he just, how to say it… he puts every single part of a track in its own space. Do you know what I mean? And from that, the tracks sound clean. And like, I never had any complaints about it [before], but I just feel that he improves the final product. Pheek is an amazing sound engineer. He’s my sound engineer!

Until now then, you’ve basically just been doing your best on your own?

Yeah, I was trying to do my best, but I think that having sound engineer knowledge is very important, you know? And I don’t have that. I was always making music and loving my tracks. I don’t think there was ever a problem. But I also think it’s a matter of my own practice as an artist, as a producer, that I always want my stuff to sound better and better and better.

So what inspired you to seek his help, did you just discover his services through his Facebook page?

So I got signed to a vinyl release with a label from Detroit.

Detroit Vinyl Room?

Yes, Detroit Vinyl Room. The owner got in touch with me and said that Pheek was going to take care of the mastering and mixdown.

Isaac Prieto you mean [another client of Pheek’s]?

Yeah, Isaac, yeah [haha]. And so it was really good for me, because – I’m going to be honest – I was trying to get in touch with Pheek before that. I started seeing him offering all these services, but I was always wondering, I mean, would that be alright, would that be good? I didn’t know. Because there’s also the fact that then you have to spend money, you know what I mean? When it comes to spending money on your music, it always has to be a really well thought-out decision. And then Isaac offered to do this for me, and I was like okay, I want to try it for free for the first time, it doesn’t hurt.

Then he introduced us and I sent the project to Pheek, and I loved the final result. I have the test pressing of the record here. It sounds amazing. So from then on, we started talking and talking and talking, and I’m really happy that we started working together, and now we’re friends.

You sound very satisfied with having spent the money! So what was the difference exactly?

The difference was that everything sounded in its place. Like when I see the spectrum of the track, I feel that the spectrum has layers, you know? There are some sounds that go in the back, and some sounds that come in the front, and in the middle. So the tracks stop sounding flat. I don’t know if that’s something for advanced ears, but I got to a point in my life when I realized that that’s what I want. I really found that with Pheek, and I’m very very happy about it. I love making music so much, and I love my music so much, and I want to spend the money to do that. It’s a great service.

Just to hear how my track sounds after Pheek does the mixdown is inspiration for me. I love how every time I send him projects now, he takes less time every time. And that means to me that the previous mixdown I made is improving. It’s just some specific things that maybe a regular ear wouldn’t feel, but I feel it, and sometimes it bothers me.

Would you say then that having Pheek do your mixdowns is helping you develop your own ear and skills at mixing too?

Exactly. 100 percent. I think that Pheek's mixdown services changed how techno producer Kike Mayor views musicas an artist you have to have the inspiration of working with somebody that is a big name – and as I told Pheek, I’ve been following his music way, way before I knew him. Something that I was always highlighting was that thing I told you about with the layers in the music — I was like, how does this guy make his music sound like this?

So when you get the mixdown back, is the track finished, or do you work on it more?

I listen to it, and I pretty much just copy/paste the link and send it to the label. I trust it 100 percent. It sounds awesome. There’s no difference when I mix my tracks with tracks from other artists, with the volume or anything – and I definitely mix my music with music that is awesome, amaaazing – and when I’m playing live, I feel no difference, which is great. That makes me really happy.

How beneficial was it to have a second set of ears on your music? Because usually, when you mix your own music, you’re listening to your own track a million times, right?

Oh, well, I would say there’s a difference with having someone else, and then having Pheek, you know? Just the fact that I respected him so much from before. I mean him being the one now that listens to my music… It’s great, man.

Have you taken anything from the experience that has impacted your production in a more lasting way?

Umm… well basically, the music that I’m making now… I mean I just listen to it and I really love it. I find myself very, very focused right now on producing music that will be, like, timeless.

So it’s really inspired more confidence in your own abilities.

Yeah, exactly, yeah, 100 percent. Because, I mean, it’s been 10 years that I’ve been producing. I started producing progressive house, and then I produced tribal house, and then I produced tech house, and then I produced deep house. And now it’s all about the evolution. I feel like it’s different for every artist, but for me it really took me a while to get to the point where I am now.

Do you know why it took you so long to find someone to do your mixdowns?

Well, I think it depended on my environment, you know? When I was in South America, everything was different. Music was different, the crowds were different, my needs as an artist were way different. Since I moved to New York everything changed, and I started trying to develop a new sound like 3 years ago, in 2013. I’ve been constantly trying to improve and improve since then, and I have changed too. I’m producing music now that is way different from the music I was producing back in 2013, like quality-wise. And now with Pheek, everything is going great.

I’m assuming you have a lot of other friends who produce music too?

Yeah, yeah.

And do they usually do their own mixing too?

Yeah, I guess it’s normal for people that… maybe they don’t want to, maybe they don’t trust. They might think that a sound engineer that does a mixdown for them, if it’s not in person, in the studio, that maybe they would change the song, that they’d regret it. For me it was really easy to trust, because it’s Pheek. 100 percent. I’m planning a trip in February to Montreal, so I want to get down to the studio.

And before Isaac had spoken to you about Pheek’s services, did you have some of these same fears?

Yeah, with my own music, you know… like, I would never give my music or a project to anybody. But I knew Pheek, I’d heard all of his music, and I knew who I was dealing with.

I am very, very happy with his services man.

That shines through!

Awesome [haha]. And also I like the fact that Pheek is helping me. He is always pushing me, and giving me advice.

So you get more than just his mixdown services you mean.

Yeah, I would say that he’s my friend. He really supports me a lot. A lot. Like he always tells me that he loves to work on my projects because they’re fun, and he loves the music I make, which means a lot to me. I’m always like, “Aw, dude, stop!”

– Check out Kike Mayor on Soundcloud.


The Changing Dos and Don’ts of Contacting Record Labels

It’s understandable that producers can let their eagerness get the best of them when contacting record labels. They might make one or a few tracks, and then immediately start to hunt for a label to release them. This is not the most effective strategy though, for a few reasons.

vinyl records, store, shoppingTry to think of it from the labels’ point of view. You get a generic email where someone you know nothing about tells you they “love your label,” and straight away asks you to listen to their music. It kind of looks like a phishing scam…

How do they know you love their label? How do they know you’ve been following their recent releases and aren’t referencing something they put out 5 or 10 years ago?

It’s true that in an ideal world, the music would speak for itself. But in a world where label managers are stretched thin and flooded by email requests from hundreds or thousands of aspiring artists like you, they have to filter their messages. The few emails that catch their attention are the ones that look professional and make a real connection. Remember, they have their own roster of artists do keep up with as well.

It requires a lot of hard work, persistence, and patience. To give you an idea of how difficult it is: since I founded Archipel almost 12 years ago, only 4 (yes, 4!) of our releases began with email outreach. It took all of the producers multiple email attempts to reach me, and we had many conversations before they led to anything concrete.

The problem is that many producers have been formatted into an old approach that’s become obsolete. Gone are the days of label-hunting as a transaction — you send a demo, they like it, bam, you get signed. There are just too many producers and too few labels out there for it to work like that anymore.

Today it’s all about building up trust and establishing a relationship, to eventually get to the point where the label feels comfortable investing in your success.

In short, finding your label match is a process with many steps, and every step — especially that first contact — is equally important. You can’t just skip ahead to the finish line.

The good news is that the first step is the hardest part, which is just getting a reply. You should always do your homework to know who you’re dealing with and what the label’s been up to most recently. Then you can try to get your toe in the door by engaging a conversation, but keeping it brief.

A good strategy is to ask short questions that are quick and easy for them to answer, and that show you’re genuinely interested in their work.

For example, does the label have room in their calendar for new releases? What direction are they pursuing in the next few months?

Our approach to contacting record labels needs to evolve to adapt to new realities.These exploratory questions are useful for you too. They’ll save you time and help you decide if it could be a good match. Try to think of it as a job hunt. Be friendly and courteous, and most importantly, don’t make it all about you. What they really want to know is what you’ll bring to the label, and whether there’s the potential for a fruitful collaboration over time. It has to work for both of you.

Just as resumes are being increasingly overshadowed by LinkedIn in the job market, networking and relationship-building are changing the way artists and labels connect. The game has changed, and we need to change our approach to adapt.

At the end of the day, the winners will be the ones who are invested, persistent and consistent over time, so that they’re well-positioned when the right moment arrives.


  SEE ALSO :   How To Define Your Label’s Identity With Your Sound Engineer  


How to Turn a Loop into a Full Song

By far one of the biggest topics I’ve covered in my coaching in the last year has been how to turn loops into full songs. A lot of producers get a thrill out of making a loop. But they often get stuck there, as if a psychological block of some kind were stopping them from going further. That’s why I wanted to write about a method I’ve been using that can help you get past this hurdle and move from loop to finished track.

Let’s say you have a loop you really like. I believe a good loop alone, if well arranged, can be enough to carry you through a 5-6 minute track. In theory that loop will contain an idea, either in its sounds or in its melody. There are no rules about whether the idea should come before or after the loop, so you could want to make a loopy track just for the fun of it.

Once you have your loop, drag it into the arranger part.

How to turn loops into full songs: drag your loop into the arranger

Now there are 2 options. I always recommend that you first import a reference track into your session. This is not about copycatting, but about giving a direction to your track. It’s useful for both the mixing and the arrangements.

Now you need to develop a rough idea of how long your track will be.

  1. You can use your reference track to decide the length of your track.
  2. You can choose an end point but change it later.

Drop a marker at the end of your track. Zoom out, and you’ll see the whole project.

From loop to finished track: screenshot of track in Ableton

Now, let’s turn that loop into a block. It’s up to you whether you want the loop to start your track or not, but for the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll say it comes in later. A block is a version of your loop, but on a 4 x 4 structure. If your loop were short, like a 1-bar loop mostly, then we’d make this 4 bars.

Note that melodies loop over longer periods due to their complexity. That is normal.

So, one block equals 4 bars.

If the block repeats 4 times, you have a section.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to be consistent in how you organize your sounds. For instance, if a clap happens at the same precise moment every 2 bars, then keep it that way throughout the entire track.

What makes a track hypnotic is the steady time reference in the listener’s mind, mixed in with fun and unexpected sounds.

When building your block, always start by what is constant, and then build around it. For example, the the lows (kick, bass, toms) are the foundation of your track. That is what remains the most constant the whole way through.

Use variations, and replicate that loop over four bars.

turning loops into finished tracks: screenshot of loop replicated over 4 bars

Bring that main idea into the middle of your track. This is the heart of your song, and you could duplicate it to double its length.

Now that you have the heart of your track, it’s time to deconstruct the song from the beginning to there.

You might get ideas from the reference track about where to put key elements. This also a nice way to know if your track is DJ-friendly.

I could delve into more detail about how to build your track, but this simple tutorial is all you need to unblock you and get you using all those loops sitting idle in your hard drive.

Just keep in mind that until you finish the structure of your track, you shouldn’t bother with the mixdown. That will come later once everything else is mostly settled.



Hacking the Self-Release Option

Self-releasing an album or EP has become a growing trend for producers who want to get their music out. It’s not hard to see why: with the proliferation of producers, finding a label to release your music has become increasingly competitive. Especially if your goal is to release on vinyl, you can have a long road ahead of you. Everyone wants a vinyl release, but the pressing plants have limited capacity and waiting lists are very long. This can lead many to give up on finding a label and try to go it alone.

searching label, label hunting, demo submission, self-publish, entrepreneurTempting as it can seem though, the self-release option can also be a trap. The last thing you want to do is make a rash decision based mostly on your frustrations, because you can end up regretting it for a long time to come.

The self-release option can make sense for some people, but the decision should be made for the right reasons, and taken only after careful consideration.

As artists, we believe in our own music. It’s our baby, and this self-confidence is what motivates us to keep going. The downside of this is that it makes it extremely difficult to find constructive lessons in failure, or to interpret rejection as anything other than a personal blow.

It’s not personal. The truth is that if you’ve knocked at tons of doors and no one has answered, there could be a reason. This is definitely not the time to go for vinyl! It’s important to heed the red flags, and to learn from them. It could be that the music isn’t there yet, that the label match is wrong, or that the timing is wrong for the genre/style you’re aiming for. Sometimes, ideas can be outdated… but what’s “passé” one day can make a comeback tomorrow, so it’s important to get feedback from active DJs too.

The fact is that timing is crucial. It’s been said that a hit happens when the right artist arrives with the right song, at the right moment. Today, pretty much everyone would agree that Michael Jackson’s Thriller is a classic, but at some point, the record label had to make a tough call about whether the album would resonate with people. Of course, it’s more of an art than a science to try to gauge if a song might break through. But this is what labels do.

With this being said, there are times when self-releasing could pay. But in addition to having the right reasons, you also need to be smart and strategic in how you pursue it. Here are some tips for making the self-release option work for you:

Release on Soundcloud with a free download. There are pros and cons to taking this route. On the plus side, it allows you to consolidate and build up your fan base. But be careful: if you’re letting your eagerness get the best of you, you could also be wasting an opportunity. Just imagine — you’ve given your EP away on Soundcloud, only to get an email a few months later from that sick label you thought had passed you up. Labels can take time to get back to you — a lot of time. Don’t let your lack of patience get in the way of sound judgment.

Release on Bandcamp. Bandcamp has been positioning themselves as the best new way to reach the masses, providing artists with a great platform to gain new followers while getting  paid for their music. You can stream your music, sell it in any format, and set your price, with a pay-what-you-can option that lets you set the minimum amount. If you do go with Bandcamp, be sure to link your page to your Soundcloud profile to get the most from it.

Pursue undercover releases. Finding a middleman to release your music can be a very smart move for your career. Having your music vouched for by someone with reach or influence lends it credibility, and lets you tap into established networks that can carry your music to eager ears. There are a couple different routes you can try here:

  1. This might sound controversial, but try reaching out to music blogs and pirate sites personally, sending your music to them and seeing if they’d be interested in sharing it. If you offer it to them as an exclusive scoop, they’ll be more likely to boost it. (So go site by site, giving them a week or two to respond before moving down your list). We have to think of any outlet with a big following as today’s answer to traditional broadcasters. If a huge number of people are listening to what a site pumps out, then why not try to become their ally? Plus, these sites are usually very knowledgeable about what people want to hear, so they might be able to give you some useful feedback.
  2. Give it to DJs personally by contacting them one on one, especially if they have a podcast. Here too, they’ll be more likely to bite if you offer it to them in exclusivity. Even better is if the DJ does a podcast for an awesome label. If they pick it up, your music will be touched by the label’s soft blessing in a way, and you’ll be killing two birds with one stone by riding the label’s coattails and boosting your exposure even more.

Whichever way you go, always, always be sure to target your outreach carefully, thinking strategically about how to connect with your audience. Whether we’re talking about publications, blogs, DJs or labels, the way to grab their attention is always by making a human connection. It’s hard work, but you can’t cut corners with this. The more time and energy you invest in finding the right people and personalizing your messages, the greater chance you’ll have of piercing through the noise and getting noticed.

Good luck, I’m also here to help, as always.


SEE ALSO :   Strategic Guide To Releases Planning And Production

The New Face Of Albums

A lot of articles have predicted that the album as we know it would die off in the face of the rising popularity of viral single tracks. These are bold statements. But to understand the future of albums, we need to understand where they come from. Some years back, they were also forecasting the demise of vinyl production around 2012, after all — and yet in 2016, revenues from physical formats still outpaced digital sales. So, careful with predictions.

As artists, our role is to take control of the options we’re faced with by charting a creative path through them. I’m saying this because I increasingly see clients/artists who seem more interested in repeating the patterns that worked before to get known or get bookings, while fewer people are trying to break the rules (to echo a pretty epic rant by Mr. C).

When it comes to albums, we’ve been repeating a model that has been there for so long we can’t even remember when or how it started. Maybe it goes back to classical concerts over a hundred years back that had fixed durations, or maybe it goes back to the important albums released in the 1960s, at a time when vinyl’s limitations determined track lengths. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Manuel Göttsching, who recorded himself playing a live session in the early 80s that went almost an hour long. No one could release it on vinyl because they would have had to cut it in half. It took the arrival of CDs to make that possible, but until then, Göttsching had no idea how to release his music (there was obviously no Bandcamp back then…).

One important detail about Göttsching is that it took him almost 30 years to really get known in Germany, and he got a super late gig at Berghain around 2006

Personally, I think an album should be audacious and unsettling to the commercial model. Something that forces the rigidity of conventions to bend to your artistic expression.

We have more freedom than we think we have, and we have become too timid or lazy to fully embrace it. Mostly for a few reasons:

  • Concerns over reach. As in, what will happen if I release something but only 10 people hear it? Will it be a waste of all the work and money I invested in it? No. Putting something online and promoting it are two different things, and if promotion is what stops you from creating what makes you happy, then you don’t have your priorities straight. Being present and available when people search for you is far more important than instant success.
  • Fear of missing opportunities. People think if they release their album themselves, they might miss the chance to release it on the label they wanted to work with. It’s possible, but if your music is great, it might also attract some labels who want to work with you. The main challenge with getting signed to a label is that it’s often a bad match, with one side wanting it more than the other. If you have published material, it might travel to the ears of people who care.
  • Sales. People are terrified that it might not sell. But sales aren’t an indication of success. Whether sadly or thankfully, success is something that’s impossible to quantify, because it’s different for everyone. If you have poured a lot of money into promotion and are everywhere, but the return on your investment is none, then you’ve also lost in a way.

The question really comes down to this: As DJs are increasingly shopping for tracks they can play, and people are more and more interested in listening to the only track on an album they like, what’s the use of throwing a bunch of tracks together to call it an album?

Because with an album, we can fully express ourselves and think about something to say instead of just trying to sell. People still care about stories. And even if it’s only 2% of people who will listen to what you do, I believe that the very experience of going outside your comfort zone and trying to make something is essential for self-growth.

There was a time when the dream of reaching the masses with your music was more attainable. The fracturing of audiences today into smaller bubbles of  scenes and sub-genres might make it almost impossible unless you make something that goes viral. But these denser networks of fans also create even greater opportunities to reach the right people, which can pay off much more in the long run than trying to reach audiences at-large.

Here are a few hints for pursuing new models for albums:

  • Tell a story. As David Lynch said, “A story has a beginning, a middle part and an ending, but not always in that order.”
  • Arrange your songs so they can be played in any order. More and more people listen to playlists on shuffle. It’s interesting to think that the intended order of your songs might not be respected by the listener at all. Thinking this way forces you to consider making tracks that are interconnected in other ways, and that still fit together in a different, more non-sequential sense. Maybe your album can have many different meanings, linkages, or entry points. Who knows?
  • Do something unusual. Try to do something experimental or explore making a very long track.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. This is very personal, but it could mean using a new plugin or trying something new you learned in a YouTube tutorial. Trying something different can bring out something you didn’t know you could do.
  • Collaborate. There are so many ways to do this, but try reaching out to friends or people you admire and see if (and how) they’d be interested in collaborating.

And please, share your own album ideas with me! I’m sure I can learn something from you too.

SEE ALSO : Create Your Own Concept Album

A Day in the Life of a Music Producer

I’m a music producer, and I know many others. I’d call myself an audio producer more broadly, because I also run a label and do sound engineering. My main focus is on electronic music as you probably know already. I wish I could give you a simple outline of the daily routine of a music producer, but the truth is that there is no typical day.

First, inspiration isn’t something you can just summon on command. It has to come by itself. You can tell yourself you need to be in the studio at 9am to start working on a track, but sometimes you’ll get there and find that your brain just isn’t ready to make music. Some days aren’t for creative output. That’s why after 5 years of trying to make music every day, I burnt out (2007). I learned that it’s better to devote your time to other things on those creative down days, because the space between sessions is essential for creative rejuvenation.

There are also days when it works. But before I dive in to those, I need to clarify a few myths about music production:

Myth 1: You start a new song from the beginning and keep working on it until it’s done.

Myth 2: You only work on one song at a time.

Myth 3: Every song should be finished.

Myth 4:  You can work on music for hours. (You can, but you’ll be unproductive.)

You see, music production is a kind of dynamic chaos that evolves, regresses, progresses, and dies — or not — everyday. (I’ve written about these myths a lot before, especially herehere, and here)

So with all that being said, within the life cycle of a track, you’ll go through:

  • Ear workout. Listen to music of any genre and let ideas come. Your ears will be freshest in the morning, but they also need to be calibrated to how the music should sound. This can last from 1 to 3 hours.
  • Research and development. Which DAW to use? What gear to explore? Which synth will fit? Do I have what’s needed, or do I need to try out a demo or buy something new? This is basically the moment where you try to slot your initial idea into the production routine. This phase is ongoing, but I rarely spend more than 1h. There will be a number of sites I visit daily, with my favourites being:
    • Resident Advisor. To get industry news in general and listen to music. I also like to check out the music reviews to get an idea of what’s trending.
    • Attack Magazine. Because it has nice technical articles.
    • KVRAudio. To get the latest news about plugins.
    • My Soundcloud feed. Because I want to see what the people I follow have been into lately.
  • Sound design/recording. This is where you collect all the sounds needed to start your track. It’s very time-consuming.
  • Production. This will take the largest chunk of your time. That’s unavoidable, but you’ll want to space the production sessions out by a day. If you spend too much time working on a track at once, your judgment will blur and you’ll lose sight of the idea you began with. If you come back to your track with fresh ears, you’ll be able to stay focused on the core idea and to assess your work with a clearer perspective.
  • Mixing. This phase is time-consuming too, and you might want to ask another sound engineer to do this for you as a second pair of ears can really help.

So overall, a full day’s work at the studio involves only about 2-3 hours of actual music production. A lot of my time will be spent on tweaking, searching, checking references, checking emails, and taking many breaks that might appear as procrastination.

Why such little time? Mostly because I want to be at the top of my game, and I know that my peak attention is condensed into short spurts. Of course, sometimes I will spend a good 5 hours on a track because there’s a lot of cleaning up and tweaking to do, but it’s mostly micro-editing.

In my case, I arrive at the studio at 9am and leave around 5pm. Lunch is usually 1–2 hours.

I love to have the people I coach over at the studio, and sometimes friends will visit too. The time I spend with others in studio is extremely valuable, because I’m nourished by the ideas we exchange and the music they share.

Being able to do this full time is a privilege and I embrace every single day with full dedication. It is possible to do it but it demands a lot of discipline too.

SEE ALSO : Useful Music Producer Skills For All