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06-01-2015, 09:35   #1
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Biggest mistakes beginners make?

Hi all.

When you started out producing music what were the biggest mistakes you made?

I've recently started messing around with FL Studio 10 with the intention of attempting to create a few tracks.

Knowing what pitfalls are before me might help out. (Although I know a lot of people learn well from mistakes, you can learn from others mistakes too )
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06-01-2015, 11:18   #2
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This is a very good question from a beginner. Usually effort is put fully into learning and it results in picking up bad habits that you will later have to change, so to begin with a question like this shows good thinking.

The #1 mistake I made was misinterpreting the 0dB limit.

As a beginner you hear everybody ranting and raving about loudness so you tend to try and make your track as loud as possible at all times because that's what everybody else is doing.

Essentially it would be wise to gain an understanding of "headroom" as early as possible. Headroom refers to the distance between the loudest transient in your track and the 0dB limit.

I used to mix with my kick peaking at -3dB. This seemed sensible to me as it wasn't clipping and it was never going to clip at -3dB. However, when it comes to mixing other elements around a kick that's peaking at -3dB, certain things breach the 0dB limit to sound balanced against the kick.

For example, to have a snare sounding well against a kick at -3dB, the snare's transient will most likely be peaking above 0dB which causes digital clipping and is just not acceptable in sound engineering.

So, what we need is more headroom, more space for the snare to fit in. To do that, we bring the kick back until it's peaking at -6dB. That leaves plenty of room for peaks and transients to fit into your track without clipping.

*A side note here while I'm at it - mixing can be confusing to begin with as far as setting levels go. It's very wise to have something central to mix around, some element whose volume doesn't change. The reason for this is that it's used as a guide to mix everything else around. For me and probably many others this is the kick. Once the kick is set at -6dB it should stay there. Then, if the kick sounds too loud it's actually because other things are too low, because we know that the kick is in the right place at -6dB.

Hopefully that makes sense.
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06-01-2015, 11:28   #3
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I decided to make a new post for another pitfall that I incurred in my learning - to add it to the above would only complicate things.

"Under-use of the filters and envelopes"

When you research mixing, a lot of the time you will found information that is relevant to mixing physical instruments such as guitars or actual drum tracks. So, the information will innevetably tell you to reach for a compressor to get the attack right, or reach for EQ to get the tone right.

However, in electronic music we have other more appropriate ways of doing certain things that don't involve reaching for the EQ or compressor straight away.

1. The filter and resonance on the synth goes a long way towards shaping the tone of your sound. What you subconsciously learn from using these will be very beneficial to your music making.
2. Envelopes on your drum machine and synthesiser often do a lot of what compressors aim to do to the sound:

to increase the transient of a sound, lower the sustain and play with the decay (of the amplitude envelope).

to soften the transient, bring the attack parameter up a little.

*One more side note - It took me a long time to realise how important it is to get the volume level-balance right in the first place. It will solve a lot of problems if you don't overlook the importance of such an apparently simple parameter. Volume is king of mixing controls.
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06-01-2015, 12:05   #4
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For me the biggest thing that I neglected at the start was spending time EQ'ing.
Now I put frequency analyzer on every track (Voxengo Span, it's free) as well as a 7 band equalizer. That way I can see what frequencies are clashing and adjust accordingly. In conjunction with mixing tips mentioned above you'll at least have a clean, well sounding track even if the track itself is rubbish (which in hindsight early ones always seem to be ;-) )
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15-01-2015, 13:36   #5
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The biggest mistake I made was buying a load of kit. Back in 2000 I had a PC and a keyboard and was writing stuff, and without actually learning how to use it all I decided I needed more, so I got a big loan and bought everything I could possibly need. This was great initially as I had so many new sounds and things to play around with, but when I hit a wall with one piece of kit I'd quickly give up and move to the next, so I never really learned how to use them. I had a Waldorf XT Wavetable synth which could create the most amazing and ****ed up sounds, yet I never got beyond the first couple of pages of the manual before selling it.

Things are different now, especially with software as (and I'm still guilty of this) it's easy to get stuck with one VST synth, search Google and download another that you think may be more appropriate, without really learning how to use the first one. The thing is that a lot of what you learn on one will be relevant to all synths, so it's a counterproductive practice. These days, with Youtube, you can find so many tutorials on how to not only use a specific synth or instrument, but how to create specific sounds or effects - it's a brilliant resource for learning to write electronic music.

As with mordeith the most important thing I've learned recently is correct EQ'ing. It's changed my tracks from sounding decent, to sounding more like what I'd be listening to on the various mixes I hear online. It's a simple change really, but it's made the world of difference and I haven't really even scratched the surface.
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20-01-2015, 11:24   #6
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Pick a DAW (learn that), pick a few multipurpose vst's (learn them), finish tracks (even if you dont like them anymore). I suppose in general dont be looking for the next thing all the time learn/master the tools you have and try to finish tracks.
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18-03-2015, 14:29   #7
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biggest mistake i made as a beginner was getting bogged down in technical issues.
second biggest mistake was taking some advice off an ableton member staff who did a tutorial video in which he said to just make and collect loops during the week, and then at the weekend when you have more spare time to try and bring them together into a composition.

i just ended up with gigabytes of loops and unfinished projects lol
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14-04-2015, 13:58   #8
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The biggest mistake I made was downloading tons of plugins before I even knew how to use the DAW (Ableton). I was consumed with what my favourite DJS were using and had to download all the plugins they had, childish really. Then as time goes on you realise you're not really getting anywhere.. So yea focus on the DAW and when you have an understanding of it then get plugins to spice it up.
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03-12-2015, 10:20   #9
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Too many plug-ins, thinking your stuff sounds good when it doesn't, posting too much stuff online at the beginning (you'll regret it, trust me), worrying about "mastering" too much, thinking you will become the next Oliver Heldens and expecting to be able to make amazing music directly!
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07-07-2016, 03:12   #10
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I've learned a few things the hard way so listen up. Not mixing with the volume down low. The most obvious part of this is protecting your ears from loud noises. If your mixing your tracks on high volume for three hours without a break and 100dB is pumping through your head. By the end of that session your going to have ear fatigue at best and it will probably take a couple of days to reset your ears to hearing normal levels. At worst you'll be doing long term damage to the fibres of your ears and once the damage is done you can say goodnight Josephine. You know that high pitched sound you hear in your head after a loud concert. Yeah: well that's a frequency that your ears will never hear again! So the next time you hear it take a moment to pay your respects (or if your at a keyboard just press F)

The recommended safe volume to mix on is 65-83dB lots of debate on it though. For a beginner who wouldn't understand what 70db is think of it this way if you can hear yourself humming with your mouth open when you have your headphones on your within safe limits. It depends though if your using closed back headphones its going to block out volume even with noting playing so slightly take them off your head to gauge the volume but it will not be 100% accurate. A SPL meter will give 100% accurate readings on dB. Of course mixing through studio monitors or speakers will be a little different but the safe guards and principles will be the same. When you hum and you can't hear yourself its called masking. The louder volume will in your head cancel out other sources of sound.

I monitor at lots of different volumes. Personally I find 80dB a bit too loud, so I stick around 65-75dB. Honestly though you should be moving the volume knob up and down periodically to see if things stick out, become harsh. If you listen to the mix with your volume all the way down so that its barely at the threshold of your hearing you will find that whatever sticks out might need adjusting in the mix. But there is a plus side to that too if you want something to just stick out you can use the same trick to just make it be more noticeable. Also stereo width is more noticeable with the volume down low.

I think one of the other things I for sure made a big mistake on is normalising the master fader. That is having the mix peak at -0.1dB just so it wouldn't clip. Give your tracks plenty of room for mastering. -5dB would be, to some too loud for mastering. If you leave yourself plenty of room for mastering in the end the track its going to be able sound more beefy because there is room there to make adjustments on the master effects.
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31-05-2019, 13:59   #11
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Figuring out the DAW first, try and make a full song from start to finish, even just using one shot samples to make it so as not to confuse yourself with the intricacies of some VST’s,

(Example; some VST’s only work on certain piano keys in the piano roll editor, so when you have entered notes, you see the keys being pressed but are hearing no sound)

Don’t worry about mixing/mastering/panning/FX rack and volume etc,

Just try and compose an arrangement that you like the sound of for now from start to finish with all volume level set exactly half way, realistically you should be able to complete a basic track in one week.

When thats done, you can export your track and listen to it on a few set ups, stereo in your kitchen, in your car, in your bedroom and hear how different (and poor most likely) its sounds from system to system.

When you now hear something is to loud, to low, to overpowering, return to the DAW and adjust volume on the areas you noted then assign the individual tracks to channels on you FX mixer,

The rest from there on is the rabbit hole…………………

(But the above as first dive into the DAW will teach you quite a bit)
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10-05-2020, 18:26   #12
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Modulation Fx in Master Channel =)
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