Think about the last time you listened to the radio. What did you hear?
Most likely, you heard songs that were copies of copies, unoriginal tracks that are no different from the competition. As an indie, DIY, or unsigned musician, you are on a never-ending quest to sell music, book gigs, and increase your fan base. The question is, how will you stand out from the crowd and get noticed?
As a producer, it’s my job to help artists create new and exciting music, which requires an original approach to music production. Here are 8 tips on ways that I keep myself, and my artists, coming up with fresh ideas to create award-winning tracks.
If you play a live instrument or are a band, experiment with your music using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Reason, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, or Logic. If you already utilize a DAW, try mixing things up by adding new audio and midi effects plugins, samplers, soft synths, or even producing music using other DAW’s. Each DAW is unique and offers great built-in effects, grooves, and sounds that can enhance your songs. As far as software synths are concerned, there is a ton of them out there as VST, RTAS, AU, and TDM plugins. One of my favorite soft synth plugins is by Toontrack called EZKeys because it not only features awesome keyboard sounds, but it also allows you to see the notes you’re playing in real-time.
2. Play Live
On the flip-side, if you produce or create electronic music like hip-hop or EDM, try adding in live instruments. If you don’t play any instruments, find artists to collaborate with, or learn an instrument yourself. Outkast’s Andre 3000, taught himself how to play guitar, and the rest is multi-platinum history! Take a piano lesson, work with a vocal coach, or sign up for DJ lessons at the Scratch DJ Academy. If you have, the time and money learn how to use other production tools for making music and you may discover a whole new world of possibilities. Aspiring songwriters should learn how to play the piano or guitar because creating melody is an essential tool for songwriting.
3. Get Social
Rather than randomly spamming social networks with URL links to your music on YouTube and SoundCloud, try reaching out to other artists and ask them if they would be interested in collaborating on a song or writing to a track you produced. This has worked for me many times, especially on Facebook and Twitter.
“Freshen up your music by asking artists you know through your social networks if they want to collaborate.” – Sahpreem King [Tweet This]
If you want to be one of the greats, listen to the greats. Do a little crate digging, and find inspiration in classic rock, soul jazz and funk music collections (your grandparents might even have some of these records lying in their attics). Try listening to music from around the world. Find inspiration in the music that inspires you.
5. Forget Boundaries
Never limit your creativity by setting musical boundaries. Just because no one has ever rapped over a polka beat doesn’t mean you cannot be the first. We all understand the formula for making pop music; however, change the game by coloring outside of the lines. Experiment with new chord progressions, arrangements, and vocal effects. Write songs about new topics. Don’t be afraid to try something outside of your comfort zone.
“Find inspiration in the music that inspires you.” – Sahpreem King” [Tweet This]
Breaking the habit of routine is difficult, so go easy on yourself. Rather than focusing on what you’re not capable of, focus on what you’re able to do, and where you want to be in the next 6 months as an artist. Learn to appreciate and respect your talent and set attainable goals for yourself as a musician and music business entrepreneur.
7. Change Your Scenery
A change of venue can breathe new life into your music. Spend a week or two checking out recording studios in your price range. Pay particular attention to the acoustics of the room, the recording gear, and the audio engineer’s professional experience. In addition, look into recording studios that offer amenities such as spas, remote locations, food service and the like. Make your next recording session a getaway. On the other hand if money is an issue and it probably is, barter with other musicians, producers, and engineers to use their facilities or maybe rent a space for a few days to break up the monotony of recording in your bedroom, basement, or garage.
Artists can find motivation by reading articles in music magazines and blogs. For instance, artist/producer UpperCase 5ive learned how to produce and mix music by reading Future Music and Computer Music magazines. Magazines that are production oriented offer great advice from famous producers, artists, and engineers, as well as, tutorials, free loop CD’s, and download links for audio plugin trials. What’s more, magazines like Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Music Connection offer artists, in-depth interviews with labels, A&R people, and music supervisors, who provide valuable music career information. Read books on music by legendary artists, like “How Music Works” by David Byrne.
What else do you to stay inspired and keep your music fresh? Tell us on Twitter or in the comments below.
Sahpreem A. King is a multi-talented music professional who has worked in the industry for more than twenty years. His long list of roles includes multi-platinum music producer, songwriter, DJ, music-consultant, music business educator and author, DJ. Sahpreem contributed as writer and producer to the multi-platinum albums “It’s About Time” (SWV), “Shhh” (A.B. Quintanilla Y Los Kumbia Kings), and Latin Mix USA 2 (Sony). In addition, he has worked with artists, Wyclef Jean, Beenie Man, and Eric Benét, as well as Latin artists, Ivy Queen, Adassa, and DJ Laz. As a writer, Sahpreem has written several, top-selling music production and music business books, such as, “Gotta Get Signed: How To Become A Hip-Hop Producer” (2005), “Surviving the Game: How to Succeed in the Music Business” (2012). He has authored articles for numerous industry publications, and served as a speaker at renowned music conferences, including SXSW, Ultra Music Festival and Midem Music Conference. Find Sahpreem on his website at or on twitter @SahpreemKing.