13 Myths About Music Production
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
In the age of the internet, it’s easy to get confused about what music production advice is actually legitimate. It’s thankfully easier than ever to learn music production without having to leave your home, but it’s also just as easy to pick up bad habits.
Today, we’ll cut through the noise and debunk 13 myths about music production that are commonly shared online. Let’s get started.
1. Longer sessions are more productive.
I can’t tell you how often I hear about 6 or 7 hour sessions from indie artists that end up coming home empty handed. While a long session can be necessary depending on your time constraints and budget, I think it’s worth opting for a greater number of small sessions rather than trying to get a song out in a sprint.
For one thing, ear fatigue exists-- Our ears adapt so rapidly to our environment that it can be difficult to maintain perspective while listening to a mix. Having a clear end to your session can also provide a greater sense of urgency, helping you to stay on track while you’re at the studio.
While there’s certainly no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to conducting a studio session, don’t assume that more studio hours equates to more music. Work on finding the sweet spot in terms of your budget and focus during sessions.
2. You need to invest in plugins and gear to make quality music.
This is a narrative sold by YouTube advertisers and plugin companies alike, but it simply isn’t true. Plugins can certainly improve your production efficiency and make it easier for you to create a desired sound more quickly. That being said, most sounds you can get out of a plugin can be made with the stock tools you already have.
In order to make great music, you need a DAW-- That’s pretty much it. Don’t get me wrong, I have plugin and gear lust as much as anyone else. However, it’s important to ask yourself, “Am I getting this plugin in lieu of learning a new skill or because I know it will improve my workflow?”. If the answer is the latter, it’s probably worth it. If it’s the former, work on learning the skill you’re seeking instead.
It can also be helpful to have a plugin waitlist. Write down your desired plugins and gear in a list and if you’re still thinking about the gear in 3 months, it might be a good time to invest. Plugins can help you make better music, but that growth is marginal compared to investing in your personal growth as an engineer and producer.
3. Good music doesn’t need marketing.
We’re often told that you should simply make music that “is so good, you can’t ignore it”. While it’s true that “good” music is more shareable, every artist needs to have a hand in marketing their music.
Consider your favorite artists. Chances are, some of them, if not all of them, have a robust marketing team and a regular presence on social media. It’s worth mentioning that marketing and clout can enhance the listening experience itself.
As listeners, we take in information holistically. We’re not just thinking about the song-- We’re looking to the branding, virtues, cover art, and any other information we have on the artist to see if it aligns with ours. Marketing isn’t “selling out”, rather it’s your opportunity to create a clearer vision of your music for your fans.
4. There’s only one right way to make music.
One of the most beautiful things about music is that it’s entirely subjective. Don’t listen to those who feel there’s only one right way to record, produce, mix, or master a song. The most experienced engineers understand that their approach needs to be adjusted every time they contribute to a piece of music.
Different genres require different things. At the end of the day, all that matters is whether or not the end track sounds good. If it does, no listener is going to ever ask about your EQ settings, effect chain, etc.
5. Some DAWs are better than others.
The war of the DAWs is pretty irrelevant. While it’s true that some DAWs may lend themselves better to certain genres of music, all DAWs are able to put out quality music, including mobile DAWs. Studio engineers may need to know their way around multiple DAWs for their clients, but if this isn’t you, feel free to stick to the DAW of your choosing. What matters most is the producer behind the DAW, not the workstation itself.
6. Music theory isn’t essential.
No, you don’t necessarily need music theory to be a great music producer. That being said, understanding the basics of music theory can help save you a lot of time and the long run. It also helps you communicate as a more professional musician, which is enough to make the learning process worth it.
Learning theory isn’t the most exciting aspect of becoming a producer, but it can be thoroughly understood within a month and benefit you for a lifetime if you’re willing to put your head down and learn. So while music theory isn’t essential, it’s certainly helpful.
7. A great mix and master can make up for a poorly produced song.
Mixing and mastering should be thought of as creating a great balance and polish on top of an already great song. A great mix can help make a good song better, but it cannot turn a bad song into a good one. When it comes to producing, make sure you’re truly excited about your demo before moving on to mixing or mastering. At its core, a great demo makes for a great song.
8. You’re only a musician if it’s your full-time job.
If you make music, you’re a musician. Don’t let naysayers fool you into thinking you need to make it your full-time job in order to be considered as such. Doing so takes a lot of hard work, and plenty of luck along the way. Whether you work a day job or are lucky enough to get paid for your art, you are a musician and artist just the same.
9. You need to be naturally talented to make great beats.
Thankfully, music production is a skill that can be strengthened over time. You can easily learn how to build great beats through the power of the internet. Another great way to learn how to make amazing songs is by listening to your favorite artists. Take time to actively listen to music and notice how your favorite songs are structured. You can learn just by pure exposure if you’re willing to pay attention.
10. Using loops is cheating.
I’ve never understood why some musicians believe that using loops, or samples for that matter, is cheating. It takes a lot of insight to understand where a loop should be properly placed within a session. Producers still need to produce an entire song around a loop, so in my mind, it’s no different than using a fun effect in your session. Use loops to your advantage and don’t feel guilty about it-- Chances are, plenty of your favorite songs use them, too.
11. You need to get a degree in production to make professional-grade music.
If you can afford it, learning music production or related skills in a formal environment can be incredibly helpful. With that in mind, it’s certainly not necessary to get a job in the music industry.
Unfortunately, having a degree in music production doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re more likely to land a career in music down the line. The proof is in the pudding-- If your music is great, you should be able to transfer your skills to your clientele regardless of whether or not you have a diploma.
FINNEAS is a great example of a Grammy award-winning producer that didn't need any formal education to craft his signature sound.
12. I can only produce when I feel inspired.
This is one of the greatest limitations spread throughout the world of artists. Sure, it’s easier to make music when you have a flash of inspiration. However, constantly waiting on the flash of inspiration as the catalyst for making music? Unrealistic.
Music production is a skill that needs to be cultivated over time through frequent practice and experimentation. If you aren’t feeling inspired, force yourself to use a new sample and build a beat around that. Alternatively, follow a YouTube tutorial in a genre outside of your usual wheelhouse. Not everything you create needs to end up on your Spotify, but you should be creating on a regular basis for the sake of improving your skills.
13. I’ve learned everything there is to know about music production.
If you ever find yourself believing this, you’re simply not looking hard enough. There are plenty of ways to keep challenging yourself within your DAW and the broader music industry. When you stop learning, you stop growing, so make a point to learn new production skills on a regular basis.
There’s no shortage of advice surrounding music production. At the end of the day, stick to what you know to be true and keep making beats!
Which myth resonated with you the most? Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below!