Ask any professional music producer how they got their start, and they’ll likely tell you a story filled with trial and error. Making mistakes is simply part of the journey from amateur to pro. However, some mistakes can seriously hinder your growth if you don’t correct them early on.
In this article, we’ll explore the five biggest mistakes amateur music producers make, along with actionable tips on how to avoid them. Whether you’re just starting out or have been producing for a while, correcting these errors can help fast-track your path to music production mastery.
Mistake #1: Not Finishing Enough Songs
One of the most common amateur producer problems is getting stuck in an endless loop of 8 bars with no idea how to turn it into a full song. This often happens because we wrongly assume every track needs to be an instant hit right out of the gate.
In reality, quality comes from quantity. Prolific artists like Ed Sheeran understand this well. As he shared in an interview, he wrote over 300 songs in just 5 months when he first got started, even though most of them weren’t very good. You have to push through the countless bad songs to get to the great ones.
So how can you get yourself out of loop limbo and start finishing more full songs? Here are two simple but powerful tricks:
Use a Reference Track
Choose a recent favorite song in the same genre you produce. Import it into your DAW and dissect the arrangement. How many bars is the intro and buildup? When do elements get added or subtracted? Reverse engineer the song structure, tempo, and key to create the blueprint for your own track.
Focus on Quantity Over Quality
Forget about making the next chart-topper for now. Set a goal to finish one or two songs per week, even if you think they’re not amazing. Finishing tracks will teach you more about song structure and arrangement than any tutorial. Embrace imperfection and keep the creativity flowing.
Mistake #2: No Clear Mixing Process
Mixing is part technical skills, part art. But having a solid process to follow makes a world of difference between an amateurish mix and a pro one. Here is a simple mixing order you can use to get cleaner, clearer mixes:
- Tame Before Boosting: Reduce unwanted frequencies with EQ cuts before using saturation or boosting. This prevents exaggerating undesirable frequencies.
- Shape Reverb Sends: Use sends instead of inserts for reverb and time-based effects. This allows you to shape the effected signal separately from the dry source.
- Set Reverb Levels Lower Than You Think: It’s easy to overdo reverb as a beginner. Start with the reverb send quite low, then bring it up gradually. Less is often more.
- Shape Bass & Drums First: Get your low-end and groove sounding solid before focusing on the melody and highs. Your track will feel more cohesive this way.
- Listen On Multiple Systems: Don’t just mix on headphones or studio monitors. Test the mix on phone speakers, earbuds, car stereo, etc. to expose any issues.
Mistake #3: No Fundamentals Framework
It’s tempting when starting out to skip straight to sound design, melodies, and other creative tasks. But lacking core music production fundamentals will always hold you back. Make sure you understand these essential concepts:
- Basic music theory – scales, chords, song structure
- Critical listening skills – identifying problems by ear
- Mixing processes – panning, EQ, compression, reverb
- Synthesis and sound design
- MIDI editing and automation
- Exporting and mastering basics
Learn the fundamentals well before trying to reinvent the wheel. All the pros mastered the core skills first before developing their unique styles.
Mistake #4: Seeking a Unique Sound Too Soon
Another common trap amateur producers fall into is obsessively trying to find their “sound” right away. It’s great to experiment, but don’t worry about being completely original early on.
You first need to learn how to effectively use the tools and create well-crafted songs. Emulate your favorite artists and note what you like about their work. Combine multiple influences to create your initial style.
Once you have the fundamentals down, your unique flair will emerge organically over time. Don’t rush or force it. The best way to find your sound is by finishing a lot of music first.
Mistake #5: Ignoring Feedback & Critique
It’s easy as a beginner producer to get attached to your creations and avoid sharing them to avoid critique. But regularly getting objective feedback is critical for improvement. Here are some tips:
- Share work-in-progress tracks with producer friends and ask for their honest input.
- Post clips on forums and music subreddits asking what needs improvement.
- Participate in feedback threads to practice giving and receiving notes.
- Review your work after taking a break to hear it with fresh ears.
- Listen on different systems to spot issues in your mix.
Having a growth mindset means embracing feedback and being willing to tweak things that aren’t working. You’ll avoid mistakes that pros would catch right away.
The path from amateur to professional in any creative field is filled with hurdles. But being aware of the most common music production mistakes upfront will enable you to sidestep pitfalls on your journey. What matters most is showing up consistently, finishing music, and continuing to learn. If you stay disciplined and treat your craft seriously, you’ll be joining the pros in no time.
Becoming a skilled, professional-grade music producer doesn’t happen overnight. But following proven advice from the experts can fast-track your progress. By avoiding these five major mistakes amateurs typically make, you’ll be off to a great head start. Establish strong fundamentals, finish more songs, get quality feedback, and keep polishing your craft above all else. Your future fans are eagerly awaiting the great music you’re destined to produce.