10 pitfalls of creating electronic music

According to a common belief, one should write as much music as possible in order to gain experience and make less blunders. But in most cases the real problem of music producers at a certain stage of their professional development is lack of understanding of basic production principles. Together, we will try to gain insight into the most common mistakes.

1. Wrong lead voice level

This is one of the most common mistakes, especially when the same person acts as the author, performer and sound engineer.

It is much easier for a person who knows the nature of every sound in a music setting to distinctly hear those sounds in the mix. But this is not the case with people who listen to the mix at once. This problem is typical for both beginners and experienced producers. We can suggest a number of possible solutions for it.

Take times off regularly and give your ears a rest from the phonogram for a couple of days, or even for a week. Then, with renewed strength and clear perception you will be able to continue your work. In this way, your evaluation will be more objective.

Besides, experienced producers always use reference tracks – examples of high-quality music in the same or similar style as that of theirs. For instance, when you are mixing the vocal, you may use a song in any style as a reference track if you like the vocal sound in that song.

Another reason for the wrong lead voice level is stylistic mistakes. For example, in rock music the voice is expected to sound as if "from the inside" of the mix, whereas in pop music or in ballads the voice should be more "on the surface". Without being aware of these subtleties it is easy to make a mistake.

Remember that most people listen not only to the music itself but also to the lyrics. For an experiment, try playing a mixed track to a person who has never heard it before, then ask if the words were distinct.
2. Music setting is overloaded

This is an artistic rather than technical mistake. Nevertheless, a track overloaded with different sounds in most cases will be perceived as chaotic and unprofessional.

In this connection, technical aspect should also be duly taken into account. In order to make all the sounds clear it is sometimes necessary to equalize the track or use other techniques that are not always successful.

There is an excellent phrase referring to this situation: "Quality music setting is the best mix".

3. Overuse of effects

In an attempt to improve a music work one is likely to use too many different effects such as reverberation, delay, flanger, chorus etc. This results in an unbalanced and unclear mix as music effects rather overlap than support each other.

One of the most common mistakes among the beginners is excessive spatial processing. An ordinary sound acquires depth and beauty with the help of reverberation or delay, and an inexperienced producer may want to make the best of these effects and as a result, overuse them.

Try to control the use of effects at all stages of your work in order to have a clear mix in the end.

4. Using samples of poor quality

In the process of electronic music creation various audio materials are widely used such as a capellas, instrumental and vocal samples, loops. But the quality of such materials is not always adequate. For example, many percussion samples contain inappropriate low-frequency elements, and producers need to be aware of this problem. Imagine using 10 samples of different drums, each of them containing unwanted low-frequency sounds. When combined with each other and with the basses, they make up some low-frequency hodgepodge instead of a clear and well-balanced mix.

That is why it is recommended to use a frequency analyzer in order to identify and filter out unwanted frequencies while using samples in music production.
5. Using samples with inappropriate key and tempo

Melodic, vocal and other tonal samples are predominantly recorded in a certain key. Quality sample packs specify the key and sample in the file name. In this case you only need to adjust the audio file to the key and tempo of your track. These processes are mostly referred to as transcribing, warping and time stretching.

There are situations when a bass drum, or kick, or percussion sounds are incompatible with the mix in their key. In this case they should be processed in the same way as tonal samples. At the same time, one should be careful in doing so as excessive processing may result in artificial sound. For this reason, it is better to select a more appropriate sample than trying to adjust the one that does not match.

6. Using stylistically incompatible samples

Unless you work in some experimental genre, and if you are planning to perform for a specific target audience or work with some specific label, you should have a clear understanding of the influence of every sound used in a music work on its stylistic perception.

Imagine a completed mixed version of an electronic track in Drum & Bass genre. Then imagine replacing its kick with a softer one. You might think that one of about a hundred of different sounds used in the music setting is not likely to make any difference. But in reality, replacing a single bass drum leads to a different, much softer sound of the whole mix, which is in most cases unacceptable for a style like Drum & Bass.

7. Checking a mix against one monitor line

Novices in music production tend to believe that purchasing expensive equipment is a halfway to success. But in reality, most people listen to music using earphones or inexpensive home acoustic systems. In this case the mix that sounds perfect on the monitor may fail to do so in usual conditions. Professional producers and sound engineers always check the sound of a mixed version by listening to it in a car, via TV speakers, or even in earphones in a noisy underground. The most widespread problems concern low and ultra-low frequencies, which leads us to another typical mistake described below.
8. Poor quality of ultra-low frequency sound

Sometimes a track that sounds perfect with professional acoustic systems may appear quite faulty when listened to in ordinary earphones. Unbalanced bass is a typical problem of an inexperienced producer. Bass should be mixed and equalized carefully in order to ensure quality sound in any acoustic systems.

9. Sharp high frequency sounds

While mixing a track one should keep in mind that it is easy to overuse high frequencies and make a mix "grate on ears". DAWs are widely used to generate high-frequency partials. The most reliable way to check and control these frequencies is to use a spectrum analyzer. Also, it is recommended to listen to a mixed version on a mobile phone or a laptop as these devices as a rule efficiently reproduce high frequencies.

10. Unbalanced mix

Nowadays, a great variety of video tutorials on music production and sound engineering is available for novice producers. Still, the notion of a balanced mix is often misunderstood. Instead of proper mixing and arranging the instruments and sounds n a track, inexperienced producers often use some single sideband stereo extender in combination with a master bus, which results in unbalanced track with weakened mono part. The most serious blunder in this case is the weakening of low frequency sounds that constitute the basis of music pattern.

All the above recommendations are based on frequently asked questions online and, importantly, on our own experience. We do hope that you have found valuable information in this article that will help you develop your professional skills in the field of music production.

Yours sincerely,
ExpertMusic Team.

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