Tag Archive for: being a producer

The creative burnout no one is talking about

Around 2008, as I was coming back from the doctor’s office, I felt completely lost. He told me that I had to change what I was doing because I was heading straight for creative burnout. At that time, in my career, I felt like it was in its peak: I was touring, releasing music, making remixes, was invited to great festivals, and had an occasional part time job as a teacher. I had nothing to complain about; I felt I was pretty much living my dream.

So what was going on exactly?

Before I explain, I want say that this post is about sharing what I’ve learned the hard way. I’m talking about an important thing no one will tell you:

It’s not because you do what you love that you’re shielded from your limitations. It’s mostly because by doing what you love, you may overlook that it remains a form of work.

When you do what you love, you feel invincible. This might be related to the feeling of flow, explained by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, which is a state you get into when you create or become really focused. The thing about music is, it’s about inspiration, and inspiration doesn’t come about “when you need it”, it just happens.

How do you recognize the signs that could announce you’re on the verge of crashing?

  • Negative output in discussions. Do you observe yourself talking negatively to your friends or on social medias? It’s interesting to look at a week of posting on Facebook and see if you’ve been more positive or negative.
  • Lost of interest for music or anything you used to love.
  • Desire to announce you’re “retiring” (from DJing or anything), selling all your gear, deleting projects, quitting.
  • Cynicism towards the music world, what you do, others who make music.
  • Jealousy, envy, feeling discouraged when being around other artists who are doing OK.

Keep track if any of these are persistent.

These obstacles may lead to burnout:


Going from a “normal” full time job to transforming a hobby you love into a job involves a pretty steep learning curve. There are multiple things to take in consideration . Money in the artist’s life is the source of a huge amount of stress. Not only can you not predict when things will work, but when they do, you don’t know how long the ride will last Since there’s no obvious relationship between the creative work you do and what you harvest, it becomes very easy to overwork. Pair that with the pleasure of making music, and at first you’ll feel you have too much time on your hands to know what to do with. As I described in a previous post about how spending a long time in the studio is counter-productive; you can easily ruin a lot of your own music. During the early years when I was making music full time, I felt I didn’t create music that was as meaningful as when I was working and doing music on the side; this realization has changed my way of making music for the better.

In my case, with my label (Archipel), mastering, touring, and everything else, I really was working up to 60 hours per week. I forgot to take care of my health. No wonder I couldn’t keep up the pace after a few years went by. When you do what you love, it never feels like work, but it is.


Managing your expectations is extremely tricky in the arts domain. The ultimate goal is to get recognition, because many things unfold after that. Or do do they?

It’s very difficult to tell, and it messes up your zen. For instance, if you believe that this release on a specific label will give you certain opportunities, or you think that playing in a gig will lead you to get better gigs, or working with an agent will give you more visibility, etc, all these things – in theory – could be true. You admire specific role models who’ve made it to a level you want to reach, but you might never seem to get there even by doing the same things.

Why isn’t there a recipe that you can follow that will guarantee results?

The arts are a big gamble; a lottery where the turn out is not determined by anything rational other than – most probably – timing and networking. And even if you have those right, it might not lead to anything at all.

The only thing you can control is your patience and resilience. That’s about it.

Some people will tell you that hustling hard might make a difference, but you might get to the opposite of what you want; people don’t like artist who are constantly “pushing their brand”. Knowing when and when not to have expectations is certainly incredibly healthy, especially if you can reduce them to be realistic.

In conclusion, what I’d recommend based on my experiences with creative burnout:

  • If you can live a healthy life of work/music making, try to keep doing it as long as possible. It’s not only good for you, but you will have money to invest in your craft. Balance is everything.
  • If you are brave enough to try to live off music making, treat it as a job. Give yourself time to not work – that’s equally valuable.
  • Find a new hobby. Since music used to be yours and now it fills your whole time, try doing other things.
  • Sleep long nights and nap. Avoid partying on a regular basis.
  • Collaborate, delegate, ask for help. Connecting with other humans is always amazing for recovery!


SEE ALSO : Mindfulness for Creatives

Managing relationships, parenting, and music

I’m a father and have a family of my own. I’m often asked how I can still manage to find the time to make music amidst the chaos of all of the moving parts of my life. There’s no perfect way to balance everything life throws at you–balancing music and parenting is a challenge–but I manage to run a record label, play live sets, and release recorded music, all while being a parent. The life of someone who has the responsibilities of making music and parenting is very different than the life of a person whom only needs to focus on themselves and music alone. Knowing this fact and accepting it was, for me, the first step in taking ownership of my own time-constraint frustrations.

Your free time will become sacred

As a parent, you have to eliminate any possible distractions to when you’re ready to make music, because your time is limited. “That’s obvious” you might say, but when it comes down to it, as a musician and parent, this is the most important point I find one must follow to make the most of his or her time.

  • Schedule dedicated time for creation. This also involves your partner’s help, as she/he also deserves to get his/her own creative time in return.
  • Try to make music outside of your home. If this is possible, either share a studio with someone, or try to find a place where no one can interrupt you.
  • Turn off electronic notifications; social media, your phone, etc.

The number one enemy to creativity is to focus on too many things at once. Try to steal some time away from less productive things like playing video games or watching movies, to instead do things like learn how to use certain plugins that will be beneficial to your craft.

Echo Beach and Dahlia (Photo by Katherine Hoos)

Work faster, fix later

One thing I’ve noticed since becoming father, is how I’ve had to optimize my use of the little free time I have to maximize my productivity. For example, I’ll squeeze programming a percussion loop into a 5 minutes window of spare time. I’ve also developed tricks for myself to turn a loop into a full song in the fastest possible time. I tackle certain things in the creative process that don’t needed much critical thinking as fast as possible. Here are a few advisory points you can use to do the same:

  • Predetermine how you’ll be using your time. This will require discipline, but for instance, I know beforehand that my incoming session is meant to focus a specific task, like remixing or mixing. This helps me, once in studio, stop my mind from roaming to unrelated topics or chores. One of the things I realized after becoming a parent was that when I would get to the studio, I would be so excited that I wanted to do too many things at once, and ended up not progressing on anything at all.
  • Plan in advance how this or that track will be like. You’ll have to apply this to song making. Is there anything you can decide beforehand will free your mind from time consuming decision-making? For example, how long will the track you’re working on be? Is it ambient or dancefloor? Punchy or subtle? Athletes can go beyond their limits by visualizing in advance what they’ll do and this applies to you as well. The clearer things are beforehand, the more efficient you’ll be. Use a notebook if you have to.
  • Don’t focus on details until later. Details are time drains, so try to focus on the big picture and then do a sprint to fix all the small details in a future session.
  • See your time limitation as a creative tool, not a constraint. I’ve learned a lot from working in accordance with Matthew Herbert’s music manifesto and one thing I’ve learned from this is that leaving mistakes in your tracks isn’t a big deal. It can even be an artistic statement if you believe in imperfection. Sometimes, they can actually end up being okay… if you can let them go.

Not making music isn’t a waste of time

One of the things I’ve had to deal with is daydreaming. When not making music, sometimes I feel anxious that I might be behind or that I’m going to miss an opportunity. However, some of the best music ideas have come to me while I haven’t been making music at all. Sharing this with others has made me realize that I’m not alone in this phenomenon. It seems as though the brain can hatch great ideas when doing other things; everything comes in due time. In a past post I explained how to spot your creative triggers; this can be a game changer in this context if you are aware of them.

Echo Beach and Dahlia (Photo by Katherine Hoos)

Echo Beach and Dahlia (Photo by Katherine Hoos)

Don’t wait for the perfect conditions to start making music. Just get used working sometimes with headphones, at a very weird moments of the day. Get things done.

Make room for healthy habits

For some reason, I see a lot of people resisting the idea of forming habits. They associate music making with debauchery, partying and going a bit off the hook. Yes, it can definitely be that way, and if that’s how you see it, why not? But at the same time, if you aspire to be a bit more professional, organized and to actually get things done, you’ll need to focus on priorities. One of the most useful things to do is to make your art healthier.

  • Play more sports. Sports helps with concentration and ideas. This is factual. In my case, I can do way more creative work after jogging, and I’m usually am more enthusiastic about new ideas after I do yoga.
  • Don’t have dependencies. I don’t mean “dependencies” as in a partner or kids, but that if you’re dependent on substances or any odd conditions to make music, it’s time to break them. Making sure you can make music with no preparation, or lots of preparation, much is one of the most liberating things. If you need to “party” to make music, this will greatly limit your options.
  • Make the most of your morning hours. If you don’t already have experience with this, mornings are actually an excellent time to be creative. Some people believe they can only work at night, but this is–for the most part–not true. You can get a lot of things done with a clear mind and fresh ears. I always do mastering in the morning as at this time of day my ears are at their best.
  • Meditate. Actually, this was probably my secret weapon to remain productive through my parenthood. A simple 5-10 min practice of Mindfulness would clear out my mind and help me remain very creative, seeing through issues.

Last but not least, try to involve your child or loved ones in your music. It’s not something that has to work but it can help them understand what you do, how you do it and what it implies in terms of focus.


I hope some of these points help you maximize your time as a parent or partner! Remember that you can always ask for help, too.


SEE ALSO :  Make Your Music Bucket List Happen 

Besides music, labels are searching for these traits

If your productions are tight and ready to go, and you have been looking for ways to get labels to sign your tracks, the natural next step would be to send out a ton of demos to labels and wait for them to call you back with a deal. It’s time to start living the dream right? You’ve done all your homework and followed the advice you’ve read online about how to get the attention of label reps. The thing is, and I hate to break it to you, there is another bit of info you probably don’t want to hear, but it’s important that you know.

Labels don’t want you to contact them. 

Many labels won’t come out and actually say, stay away don’t bother, but before you throw in the towel let me try to explain what this means in the most helpful, and constructive way. I’m also speaking from experience here, so please don’t assume this is standard for every label.

artist, electronic music, demos, label

Photo credit John Hult.

With the enormous and ever increasing stage called social media, a never-ending flood of new artists emerging daily, all wanting the same thing – your attention. With free and new tools available to make marketing and promotion easier by the day, the credibility of the ‘artist’ has become diluted from the perspective of the consumer.
Whether you believe this is good or bad, a new impression has been created which is:

  • Everyone is a producer, and,
  • They all seek some level of attention because they’re not getting in touch. Ironically, people want to listen to music more than ever, but the vast flood of new music leaves many listeners overwhelmed by it all. It’s the same experience for labels.

After such an onslaught of new artists sending in demos many labels become numb to the possibility of finding something great. This makes it harder for those who are truly deserving of attention and recognition.

Does this all mean to give up and stop sending in demos? I would say not necessarily. I’ve covered this topic in previous posts, but I’ll cover this point a more in depth here.

There is one important statement I’d like to point make out about our industry though: The whole concept of promotion has become obsolete and alienated. I’m talking specifically about the promotion from artists to label, artists to fans, artists to promoters as well as labels to DJs and labels to fans.

But still, labels will always find quality music and prefer if they find you. This is a fact. Think of Perlon for instance, they largely release music from their circle of friends and the track to be released will need to be tested by the core of the label (Zip mainly, but Ricardo too) in multiple contexts to see how well it’s received by the crowd. Serious label owners have a very particular vision of their sound platform, and your music will (in many cases) need to follow their established sound to get signed.

In my honest opinion: if you want to be on a label’s radar, you will get better results by getting played by DJs. 

Besides music, labels are searching for these traits in you:

Patience. this is perhaps the most prized trait a label will appreciate from you. In this fast paced world, patience is not only rare but it is also a quality that we all need to work on. It’s about having trust that things will work out in the end and that one’s results will be something that happens in some distant future. Parallel to patience, this goes hand in hand with trust. One goes with the other. It means to be able to have a bigger picture of things, that perhaps somewhere down the road, something great will be happening. Maybe not… but to not lose patience over delays is critical as these are common in the music industry.

Get organized. Being organized is super important and will make everything easier. An organized artist should have a solid promo kit on hand – professional photos, your music project and files in order, ready to be retouched or fixed in case of a problem. There’s nothing more annoying than having to go back to fix a sound, but if you’re all over the place, you might cause delays which then moves the entire schedule, or can even destroy your opportunity for exposure. It’s helpful to start off your productions right, follow these mixing and production tips and save yourself headaches later.

Reactivity. Fast replies to emails, answering promptly, precision with your communication will make you pretty awesome to work with. Busy people appreciate this, and it goes a long way.

Flexibility. This is the opposite of being finicky. Things will never be perfect so let’s try to make the best of it.

In the end, it’s up to you to put in the work, which can be made easier when you step back and look at the big picture. What are your goals? Work backward and determine what action needs to be taken in order to achieve your goals. Take a minute and check out my guide to shameless self-promotion here. Add in a little good luck, some magic here and there, and consistent focused daily efforts. Best of luck to you ~


SEE ALSO :    Are online communities replacing labels? 

My Music Doesn’t Sound Like Me

Does this happen to you? You start a project with an idea and a direction, “I’m going to make a techno track”, you fire up a drum machine, get a baseline going, start jamming, looking for sounds, creating a groove, and an hour later you listen back to an 8 bar loop that sounds totally different than what you set out to make? “My music doesn’t sound like me”. Yeah, it happens to a lot of people, and it can be really frustrating to make music that sounds totally alien to you.

There is a special kind of disappointment that comes with not being able to make the kind of music you want to create. Many producers I’ve worked with talk about starting a project with one direction in mind but as the track evolves they find the sounds they’ve chosen and feel of the song completely opposite to their original direction.

Why does this keep happening? What is going on here?

From experiencing this myself, I understand the confusion. I want to suggest looking at this situation from another perspective, which I believe will be much more positive, and productive for you as a producer. It’s all about context.

Firstly, our moods and our thoughts are always changing. We are dynamic, and there are multiple versions of us. What I mean is, you are one person when driving with very loud music on, there is one while enjoying music at a party, there is another you while listening to music made for earphones. There is a big difference between the person you are enjoying music and the person you are when making music. Both matter, both are ok.
Tip– as soon as you start a project, save it right away with a name that describes the genre or feel of the song you want to create. A name as straightforward as “techno …. ” or “house ….” is easy enough.

It’s helpful to start your productions with a clear focus and intent in mind – otherwise, it’s quite easy to drift off. That being said, my personal opinion is that drifting is a good thing, and goes hand in hand with being in the moment, and more in touch with the YOU who is in the studio in that moment.
If you are truly in touch with your emotions or follow the sounds you are excited by, drifting off into other directions is going to happen. It’s simply a process of discovery.

The way I see music is similar to the birth of a strange, alien creature that has come out from nowhere. Even if the music you’ve created sounds completely foreign to you, it’s important to be patient with the material as later in the production or mixing phases, you learn to gently tame something raw and undeveloped into an evolved creature with a unique personality. If your music sounds a little different than what you set out to do, I believe that’s a good thing.

If you’ve been reading my posts over time, you’ll know I strongly encourage The Bonsai Method, and the habit of not spending too much time on any one track. Working quickly and finishing fast will significantly sharpen up your production skills, and you’ll be a much more prolific producer for it. You want your sounds to be a little raw, out of control, and strange. These sounds are the unsculpted gems you can only do when you stop censoring yourself. This is the stuff you are striving for.

Embrace unexpected results, and embrace change.

Imagine the number of ideas you’ll have to work with if you start 20 tracks from scratch as opposed to trying to polish one song for 20 hours. Spending too much time on one track will often take away from the rawness of your initial recording. This liveliness is precisely the sound that made us excited in the first place, and it’s important to embrace these unexpected noises, rhythms, and grooves. Taking away all the rough  charm of your material could be compared to photoshopping a beautiful and natural adult woman’s body into the thinness of a child to achive some measure of perfection. Here are a few essential tips to starting your tracks off right ~

Your work is whatever you want it to be.

As a people, we are always evolving, and our tastes in music will evolve as well. It’s ideal for your music to sound alien to you and progress yet understand that your progression may happen in an order you can’t predict. Through time and work, who you really are as a musician will begin to take shape.

Hearing the music you’ve made in the past is like looking at pictures of yourself from another time. It leaves a stamp. Find the photos of yourself from the past and pay attention to the ones you love. They might be aesthetically good, but I’ll bet that your favorite images will be the ones that recall a particular moment in your life. See it with raw, original sounds you find. The ones that are bold are the sounds that will stand out through years and perhaps bring you unexpected attention.

Tip: Bounce a version of your track before saving and closing your project. Compare how it evolves. Share it to people who know you. See what freak them…

As always let me know if you have any suggestions or questions about this post and leave a comment below and tell me what projects you are working on right now.


SEE ALSO : Deconstructing A Reference Track

Deleting all yours tracks and selling your gear.

Since the very beginning, I can remember many times I’ve questioned my abilities as a music producer. Feeling stuck on a project or coping with negative feedback from a track I was proud of left me wondering if I was starring down the path of a musical dead end. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to consider unplugging, and putting it all away for good. Several colleagues of mine have similar stories, and more than once I’ve seen someone debate deleting all their tracks and selling all their gear.

High highs and low lows. There is a wealth of research which supports the fact that making music can produce a massive dose of satisfaction, a high similar to the effect of drugs or the rush of an intense workout. The thrill after completing a track is huge, yet on the flip side when things aren’t working out the low can often be depressing. At times it can feel like you’re living in a constant state of low-grade misery. Our perspective often governs our moods, and with just a twist our outlook can turn from sour to super very quickly.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading comments within Facebook groups from people flirting with the idea of selling their gear and calling it quits. On the digital side, I hear people talk about deleting entire hard drives filled with a rough version of tracks, and I think about the hard work and time they’ve invested in projects that will never be completed. They feel the work is simply not worth the effort. So often the feeling of excitement and energy from listening back to our next best track can be replaced by frustration and self-doubt when seeing it stored away in the unfinished bin. Another great idea that stays just that, and idea – incomplete, unheard. Back to the drawing board. Again.

A personal rule of mine is never to delete any project or sample. I just won’t do it. 0% chance.

I believe the main enemies that alter our judgment are overexposure and adverse reaction. If I am working on a project that just isn’t happening, I remind myself to simply store it away and come back to it after a time has passed. Once re-opened and listened to with a new perspective, you’ll likely find something that inspires you, or at the very least – something you can work off of right away. As artists, we are always changing. The artist you’ll be a year from now might like or dislike what you’re producing right now. By keeping your unfinished projects somewhere safe, you are investing in your time and talent for tomorrow rather than throw away what you’re frustrated with today.

Tip: This might feel silly but if you don’t feel good about music, try simply saying:”For the moment, I don’t feel like making music.” Insist on “for the moment“, because it takes away the idea that your mindset is permanent.

In past posts I’ve talked at length about the benefit of planting seeds, creating a master project where all your ideas can be grabbed from and used as a springboard to something great with minimal effort. The benefits of having a library of sounds and tools custom-made, ready at a moments notice, is huge because momentum is critical to completing your tracks.

One thing that’s common is the search for old gear to achieve a particular sound. At some point, it’s natural to feel like you’ve outgrown your equipment and you’re sure that buying new (old) gear will solve the problem. We are constantly being tempted with new products and tools that promise to solve our problems and make everything that much easier. Even after buying new gear we sometimes don’t take time to truly audition them. How often do we ask ourselves what it is we truly need to fix? Can gear solve this? The hype and marketing work for sure, yet without fail the next time we turn around there is yet another must-have tool we’re after, because this one…. man this one, is going to make the difference.

Tip: Some gear can be rented. If you can test drive what you want, that can be really useful.

Take a minute to reflect what your goals are before making another investment.

To truly move on as a producer the best personal investment I can think of is to simply finish something, anything. I believe deleting your tracks reinforces your inability to finish what you started, and doesn’t bring anything good. You certainly aren’t farther ahead as a producer, and you’ll never have anything to show without completing your projects.

Take a moment to look at your progress or lack thereof. Where do you get stuck? Where does it come to and end? Is your sound design weak, do you break apart while arranging it? Find your weakness and draw a circle around it with a big, red, pen. That is your problem area. This is the tough part for you. This is where you give up and call it quits. Nothing you can buy is going to fix this for you. The good part is that now you know where you break down you can learn ways to improve on it.

Youtube. Thank the Lord. Whatever you are looking for I promise there will be a video to help you overcome your sticking point. Just don’t get stuck endlessly watching videos that hours later morph into a totally different topic (it’s easy to do). Also, to wrap things up, here’s a production tip I love doing: At the end of a session, bounce whatever you have, then store this in the folder of the production. Always do “collect all and save” It can be a 30-second loop ,the arrangements you have ongoing, or even export all your session stems.  Doing this is extremely useful when going through older projects but also, you can open a blank project and then import several bounces and play with them straight away. This tip has been so useful for my past albums!


SEE ALSO :  Finishing Your Projects

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

Experimental music

It was suggested to me to write about experimental music. The topic is extremely broad, and even when limited to electronic music production it could make for the subject of an entire blog all by itself. After a long while spent thinking about how best to approach it, I realized that for many producers, it is something that is largely misunderstood. Let’s try to clarify what we mean by experimental music, so you can see how useful it could be for your creative development.

First off, defining experimental music can be difficult, and it’s often a matter of perspective. What’s experimental for one person might seem fairly conventional for others. No surprises here. One way to understand it is “music made with the intention of centering its content around an experience (instead of trying to replicate an existing model or genre).”  An experimental approach is one that chases a bunch of “what ifs…”, and that takes you out of your comfort zones to break free of your usual routine of sound making.

I saw a nice video with Deadmau5, who I’m not a fan of personally, though I respect him very much for what he has done. In it, he was explaining how his life is all about trying things just to see what will happen. A lot of producers seem to want results quickly, and will try to emulate recipes, use presets, or buy samples to get to where they want. The problem is that this lack of experimentation will only slow their artistic development and pursuit of a personal sound signature.

guitar pedals, experimental musicSo is experimental music nothing but pure noise and nonsensical buzzes and beeps? Not necessarily. There doesn’t have to be a lack of structure unless you decide that the structure is what you’re experimenting with. Other areas you can experiment with include:

  • Sound design.
  • Mixing technique exploration.
  • Arrangement reorganization.
  • Unusual routing.
  • Unusual effect uses.

The most rewarding part about experimental music is how you’ll end up somewhere you never thought you would go. Along the way, you’ll learn something new and provide the listener with a fresh experience. Trying to sound like nothing else can become one of the key motivations, but the intention itself is what matters most.


The audience watching the concert on stage.

One of the main reasons experimental music has received a lot of recognition in the last decade is that it’s become an ever-growing nest for new ideas. Some of the now normal tricks found in commercial music initially sprouted from experimental grounds. At some point we completely forgot where it came from. Even electronic music itself grew out of a long journey of trials and errors that lasted nearly 50 years. I mean, back in the 80s, the hypnotic techno we’re so used to today was considered very weird…


So with all that being said, let’s talk about some pointers for how to start your very own experiments.

  1. Create a new project with the sole intention of it being an experiment. I might have just heard you say “duh!”, but having a firm intention before setting to work really focuses your mind on a specific task. Why bother stressing this? Because one of the most crucial parts of making experimental music is learning to let go of any expectations you had beforehand. It’s one of those activities where the journey is more important than the destination. This is a tough one for music producers, because the usual goal is to arrive at the most polished song possible. Let’s try to change our mentality for this exercise.
  2. Decide your area of experimentation. Consult the list above or come up with your own personal focus. I find that listening to music that you don’t really understand is a good source of inspiration. You can test the concept by replicating one sound in that song.
  3. Record the tweaks as you work. This is something guys like Ricardo Villalobos do. He’ll record 2 hours of himself tweaking the sounds. It will become pure chaos at some point, but he’ll edit out the parts he likes the most. The great thing about Ableton Live is that it will also record your knob and fader movements, which can then be edited.
  4. Give yourself a deadline. A good way to leave material in its raw form is to impose a deadline on yourself, and then just bounce the track and declare it done, with all its strengths and flaws. Accepting a track with its imperfections is a great way to move beyond what you initially thought of as a good result. If mistakes can inspire you for the following track, it can actually influence your listeners too!

Once you have a bunch of these experiences, they’re also really cool to recycle into other tracks if you haven’t released them or use the experiment to develop new sounds in new projects.

And please share your tracks with me. I always love seeing what readers come up with!

SEE ALSO : Creating Beauty Out of Ugly Sounds

Spending Long Hours in the Studio

Every now and then I’ll see people boasting in some online producers’ forum about how they spent 5 to 8 hours in the studio working on a song. The same thing sometimes goes for when I’m with fellow Ableton users, who will claim they have spent 3 days on a song. It’s a common perception that the longer you work on a song, the better it must be. Yet from my own experience and reflections, I believe it’s actually the opposite.

crazy in studioIf you’re unconvinced, consider this: how does the producer’s experience level impact on studio time? Might it differ depending on the music genre? Does it change if gear is involved? You see, the amount of time you spend in studio can depend on many factors, and these are just a few of them.

Just think of the long list of artists who wrote their hits in very little time, from “Hotel California” to tunes from Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler or Samim. The minimal movement in contemporary music is another important example of this. By “minimal” music, I’m not referring to minimal techno but to music by the likes of Philip Glass or Steve Reich. The common denominator among these many artists and genres is the understanding that songs are built around one core idea, which is then fully supported throughout. That central concept or component is what people will hum or sing to their friends. It’s what people remember.

So that’s the ideal. But here are where the problems start:

  • You’re not focused on the idea itself. It should speak for itself, you don’t need 4 different layers to do it.
  • You’re distracted by non-essential supportive elements. Because unless you’re a producer, no one really cares if your kick is analog or not.
  • Your ears are tired. Ears get tired after a while and it will become impossible to mix properly. Give them a rest.
  • Your brain is tired. If you’ve played your tune over and over again, you’ve almost certainly lost the plot. To regain a firm grip on your initial idea, you need to take a break and refresh your perspective.
  • You’re forgetting the track’s lifespan. If your track is short, the idea is played for only a moment, and that will be enough. It’s not worth weeks of your time.

spending too long working on a track can ruin even the best ideasThe crucial thing to remember is that the longer you expose yourself to the track you’re working on, the more you’ll lose your sense of what you’re making. You see, humans have evolved with an amazing skill called adaptability, which has helped our species to survive over hundreds of thousands of years, often in the face of impossible odds. This innate trait has an impact on us in the studio. For example, if you listen to something that you mildly like for a long time, you will eventually learn to either love or hate it — and then either want to alter it (to expand its longevity) or delete it completely (because you get fed up). Either way, even if your initial idea is awesome, being overexposed to it might completely ruin it.

So how to solve this?

There are many things you can do, but the main thing I recommend is to simply limit your time in studio. (Though of course, if you’re in the studio jamming away and having fun, it can still be cool to go for long hours.) Here are some other things I suggest:

  • Try my Non Linear Production Technique. To sum it up, don’t work on one project for a long time. Try to work on multiple at once — say 10 at a time — and then rotate between them, spending up to an hour max on each.
  • Swap computer for gear and vice versa. Move from one to another to get a flow.
  • Give yourself some moments of silence to relax your ears.
  • Learn to spot the distractions vs. the essential parts. Do you need to buy a new synth to finish a track? Probably not. Learn to ask yourself these questions: is there something I have already that would do the trick? Is this new idea that popped into my head worthwhile, or is it a distraction? Is there a utility to it, is am I getting carried away?

One of the most important things is to reserve a moment in your calendar for music production. Prioritize it, and learn to respect that moment and not move it. Some professional musicians dedicate one day a week to production and use a routine that is super important to the creative process.

SEE ALSO : When Do You Know A Track Is Finished?

Getting Lost in the Sea of Tracks

Searching for music these days has become a real skill. I was in a few music stores recently browsing for new tracks for an upcoming DJ gig, and I realized just how counter-intuitive the experience had become — not only because music stores are, in general, a huge mess, but also because the noise factor was so high that I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. By “noise factor,” I’m referring to the ratio of songs I found that were irrelevant to my search.

sea of tracks, music production, crowd, vacationsWe can attribute part of this to the accessibility of music softwares today, which helped democratize electronic music by bringing production within reach for so many people. Part of it can also be blamed on the fact that launching a label has become so simple that basically anyone with the resources can start one. It might seem ironic for a music production blog to point this out, but this is the reality. I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this, you’re someone who is dedicated to your art and is looking to really make something happen.

But how do you find your way through this wall of noise?

Consumers have more difficulty than ever finding the music they like. Scroll back in time and you’ll understand that the invention of records was to answer a simple need: to be able to play something again. Once that need was met, a lot of the innovations were centred on making the music sound better. robot, missing hubRadio appeared later as a way of broadcasting over distances. Then, at the same time as music was becoming easier to make, the internet came along to dramatically expand its accessibility and reach, leading to an overall decrease in the quality of what’s available. The sea of music out there today is the result of this over-proliferation caused by these technological advances all converging at the same time. For the consumer faced with thousands of new songs daily, it can be very disorienting. One’s community of peers therefore become an important reference.

Artists have difficulty finding appropriate labels to release their music. If you’ve overcome the technical challenges and are now hunting for a label, you might feel overwhelmed. Like I explained in a previous post, you’ll have to spend a considerable amount of time in music shops and online just trying to pinpoint which labels are a good fit for your sound. But with so little time and so many choices, finding what you’re looking for can be a huge challenge.

What seems to be missing is a hub between both parties.

So what’s the solution?

headphones, music, selectiveStop searching elsewhere, rely on your network. I have a few people who I follow attentively on Spotify or Soundcloud. These guys seem to either have a great radar or amazing connections, because they’re always finding gems. I’ve been told that a great way to keep up to date is to follow as many artists as you can, and then cut out those who are idle too long or change styles abruptly. I also ask my friends who are DJs or label owners to share their recent discoveries with me every now and then, and I do the same. Very efficient.

Find influencers. Influencers are individuals who seem to be at the intersection of multiple networks, who are followed by many people and will make waves with their track picks in charts or podcasts. Each genre has its own influencers, of course. Perhaps check a site like Resident Advisor to get an idea of who they think is trending currently.

SEE ALSO : The New Face Of Albums 

Wisdom From Experienced Producers

So you’ve decided to make music, bought the minimum to get going, and started to learn. But now you have this internal voice that keeps popping up, telling you that you’ll soon need to look for a label to get signed. No matter what you do, that little voice just keeps coming back. One of the reasons you welcome it and listen to it is because it opens the door to the dream of a release.

Well, not so fast. Before making music seriously or getting signed comes a very important step, which is to spend time with established producers. We admire artists who make music we love, and we want to meet them to see how they are in real life.

Just by listening to their music, we often get the feeling of knowing and understanding them, and even of connecting with them on a deeper level than with close peers.

But above all, we can also learn a lot from them, no matter what stage of your career you’re at.

So how do you approach an artist?

volunteering for events like MUTEK is a great way to meet established artistsVolunteer for events or labels. This is a great way to encourage encounters. It’s hard to be around tons of people, so by volunteering, you get to help your community, support something that’s important to you, and meet experienced producers, all at once. Plus it’s a lot of fun.

Befriend them. Artists love company in general, but are sometimes socially awkward. Being warm and friendly to someone really is a good starting point. I’m saying this because sometimes people approach artists in the most bizarre way, as if trying to impress them or something.

meeting your heroes can be intimidating, but remember: they're just people, like you.Avoid being starstruck. It’s hard not to be impressed by someone you admire, but if you feel intimidated, try to focus on asking questions, and then enjoy the moment just listening. The important thing to realize is that some heroes you meet won’t actually fit who you are (any more than when you meet random people), so it’s nice to first see who you’re dealing with.

It’s not to brag, but for me, being involved at MUTEK was a great example of this. Aside from performing, I also got to drive artists around as a volunteer, which is how I made some really remarkable encounters. Some of the discussions we had were so interesting and enriching that they had a lasting influence on my career. Like I explained before, meeting Richie Hawtin was a very positive experience for me, and we got to talk a lot about career choices. But one of the most influential people I met was without a doubt Ricardo Villalobos.

Spending time with established artists is a great way to learn and be inspired.While I don’t necessarily approve of his lifestyle, it always breaks my heart when I read some trashy comments about it, because hanging out with him gave me the privilege of discovering a truly unique and sensitive soul. The first time I met him was at MUTEK 2002, where I had the chance to drive him to his gig. I went to his hotel room to find him running around getting ready, clothes everywhere. Imagine this 6′ 6″ giant, a total goofball, chuckling like a kid as he tried to find all his cables and personal things. It was the first meeting of many to follow. Whenever he would see me, he would remember our hilarious time hanging out. One time I caught him on the street while he was shopping, and we spent an afternoon discussing life, music, careers, creativity, and the philosophies behind our common passion.

I’d like to share with you some of his thoughts that have stayed with me to this day. Often, I pass them on to others when I teach or coach.

Music should be effortless.” As in, you should aim to achieve a state of flow while performing or producing.

Spending time with established artists is a great and fun way to learn and be inspired. For me, meeting Ricardo Villalobos and Richie Hawtin greatly influenced my career.Events are about being with friends, tracks are messages being exchanged.” Rich has a very personal view about music, and for him, each track he plays has a story. Learn it before playing it.

Be different, be personal, be bold and subtle, all at once.”

Take the time to listen. To music, to people, to situations.” If you have ever seen him play in front of a crowd, it’s quite something to see him read it and control it.

So before dealing with labels, try getting involved in the community and meeting people you love. And whether it’s a Hawtin, a Villalobos, or just an experienced local you admire, you’ll find a good dose of inspiration, knowledge, and wisdom — and if you’re lucky, a new friend.

SEE ALSO:  Creating Timeless Music

Useful Music Producer Skills For All

This article will answer one of the questions I get sometimes from people who consider making electronic music, which is: what sort of skills make production easier? It depends on the personality of the music producer in question. My answer might surprise you.

What kind of producer are you?

The great thing about electronic music, and especially at the moment, is how it’s opened a democratic space that makes it possible for pretty much anyone to make music. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get where you want to be, but the doors are opened.

Here, I observe a few different kinds of producers’ personalities.


Six personality types of music producers


Music knowledge is the main skill of the musician/producer, but he is often technology-challenged.

  • The musician: Very often you’ll see the musician who now uses software to be able to do everything they need.
    • Strength: Music knowledge
    • Flaw: Sometimes is technology-challenged.


The craftsman-producer knows it all and learns quickly, but sometimes this skill is countered by his belief that the technology will do it all.

  • The craftsman: Knowing pretty much all the technicalities of software, he loves new technologies and is more interested in tweaking, while not necessarily finishing tracks.
    • Strength: Knows it all. Learns quickly.
    • Flaw: Sometimes he believes the technology will do it all, and he procrastinates.


The partier is fun to be around and has lots of ideas, but often has trouble getting started.

  • The party dude: He loves to party and loves the music but is neither a musician nor a computer guy. He would love to explore making music but it’s not an easy task.
    • Strength: Has tons of ideas and is fun to be around.
    • Flaw: Has trouble getting started.


The DJ knows how to get a dancefloor moving, but can be a bit lost in achieving his goals with music production.

  • The DJ: His main hobby is to spin records. He likes production but it’s not his main thing.
    • Strength: Has a clear vision of how music should be made to work a dancefloor.
    • Flaw: Is a bit lost in how to get there.


The artist-music-producer is highly creative, but is often allergic to technology.

  • The artist: He’s not a musician but has tons of ideas and loves pairing with a craftsman.
    • Strength: Highly creative.
    • Flaw: Is sometimes allergic to computers, prefers gear and gets lost in the process.


A balanced music producer skills profile can mean you're a Jack-of-all-trades, but a master of nothing

  • Balanced profile: He’s a bit of everything above with one as a priority.
    • Strength: Gets things done.
    • Flaw: A Jack-of-all-trades is master of nothing.


Of course, this is all just based on general observation, and there are way more producer genres than this. There’s no best profile, but some will have an easier path ahead because of certain skills that are known to make things smoother.

Let’s see what those skills are.


Important skills for producing music


As a producer of electronic music, a general understanding of computers can help you go a long way.


The very first skill I’d point out, from my experience and also from being an audio technology teacher, is a general understanding of computers. I’d say this is what has been helping my students most in going further in their production.

I know it might sound dumb. But you have no idea how people that are computer-savvy can progress so much faster than someone who’s not so good with general concepts.

They understand simple things such as “Save As” vs “Save,” file organization, installing, keyboard shortcuts, and troubleshooting. Those are skills that are essential because there’s so much time that is lost in studio trying to understand why things aren’t completely working.

How to get there: Follow great websites like Synthopia and Attack Magazine.



What would come next, if we relate to DAWs (digital audio workstations) in general, is not necessarily a skill but a personality trait: curiosity. The more curious you are, the more creative you will be, and the less stagnant as well. These are two essential things necessary to success, but also to fun!

Cultivating curiosity will come by the desire to know what else is being made out there and not to be content with your own circle of influence alone.

You know there are other ways to do things, and you’re curious to know how you can improve your technique. As music producer skills go, you can’t get enough of this one.

How to get there: Program a calendar pop-up based on location or time, so that when you get to the studio after listening to new music you found on Soundcloud, you’ll get an alert to check for technology tools on sites like KVRAudio.



This one is difficult, but patience can be your best ally. It will teach you to:

As a producer of electronic music, patience can be your best ally.

  • Let tracks be unfinished for now and know that they will eventually get done.
  • Not share your tracks immediately after finishing them because you might need time to listen again and fix certain details.
  • Accept that most labels will take up to 3 months to confirm they will sign a track.

How to get there: Set down rules for yourself on when to post a track and when to send it as a demo.

It’s hard to respect your own rules when you’re your only boss.

So you could ask a friend to be a moderator of your Soundcloud, for instance.

Deep Listening

Not completely technical, but oh so essential to get you anywhere. If you can use these tricks to improve your listening, you’ll always be able to discern what has to be touched and what has to be left as is:

  • Close your eyes to listen to your track.
  • Leave a loop playing in the back while you clean or cook.
  • Be able to follow the progression of one sound through an entire song.

How to get there: Practice listening to music with your eyes closed. If you’re a bit more open, try a Mindfulness app.

Ableton Live training, mentoring, and consultation

And to conclude, one of the main skills that will always help: People skills.

The art of understanding people and how they behave is such a precious asset when you’ll have collaborators.

With all this, you have a full set of music producer skills.

Nerds will have it easier, but the great thing today is that music is accessible to everyone — and in any case, not all nerds are sociable!