The journey from amateur to professional in music production is a gradual process of honing your skills. While raw talent plays a role, most composers develop professional-sounding work through diligent practice and learning from mentors.
In this article, I’ll share seven tips from seasoned composers on how to make your music sound less amateurish. Let’s dive in.
1. Clean Up Muddy Low Mids (200-500 Hz)
One of the most common “amateurish” issues mentioned is muddy mixes in the 200-500 Hz range. This buildup happens when multiple instruments occupy the same low-mid frequencies.
The solution starts with smart instrument selection. Most instruments meant to be heard loudly contain a full range of frequencies. When you layer multiple broad-range instruments like guitar, piano, etc. the low mids accumulate.
Use EQ to carve out space for each instrument in the low-midrange. Cut frequencies around 200-500 Hz on some tracks so others can shine through. A thin mix is better than a muddy one.
2. Use Dynamics and Expression
Simply playing notes at different velocities isn’t enough. Mastering mod wheel, expression, and careful CC programming brings virtual instruments to life with natural dynamics.
Don’t just set it and forget it. Develop intensity and interest by varying loudness, using crescendos, decrescendos, accents, and silence. Dropping to zero intensity before a chorus hits much harder than going from medium to loud volume.
3. Develop Ideas Over Time
Music shouldn’t stay static from beginning to end. Let your ideas unfold gradually to engage listeners.
Use transitions to pivot between sections smoothly. Introduce or remove instruments. Develop melodies by passing them between voices. Add and remove effects. Anything to provide forward momentum.
4. Find Your Unique Voice
When starting out, it’s helpful to closely emulate your musical heroes. But to progress, you need to incorporate influences into a distinctive style.
Learn what you love about various genres and artists. Combine favorite elements to create your signature sound. Artificial constraints can spark creativity.
5. Fully Finish Tracks Before Sharing
It takes discipline, but submit only complete, polished productions when asking for feedback.
You may feel the urge to share works-in-progress. Fight it. Spend time mixing, even if it means redoing things later. Each session makes you better.
6. Research Genres Thoroughly
Really digesting the nuances of a genre is key to recreating it convincingly. Don’t rely on surface-level pastiche.
Listen and analyze excellent examples. Study techniques. Capture the overall feeling. Match production and vibe, not just the melody. Allow yourself to learn unfamiliar ways.
7. Add Live Instrumentation
For maximum realism and human feel, incorporate live musicians however possible. Even a simple part can bring samples to life.
Finding ways to barter, trade skills, or record friends can provide organic sounds on a budget. Value your skills, but also build relationships. Remain open to collaboration.
Remember, “amateurish” means learning. Use these tips from the pros to incrementally improve your music production craft. Let me know in the comments if you found this post helpful!