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How do you challenge yourself?

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  • How do you challenge yourself?

    I'd be interested how you go about improving your production skills. I realized that while I do not share the urge to sound like someone else and I do not intend to produce a top 40 hit anytime soon, all these "How do I sound like...XXX" -threads (not here, so far ) actually are useful to the OP because they often focus on particular parts of production, say stabs, basslines, leads etc and aiming for a particular sound proves a manageable small projects, whose different stages can be clearly mapped. So the question is, how do you set your benchmarks? Or put differently, how do you get better at - mixing, etc. when you're actually fond of lo-fi aesthetics - this is not a complete opposition of course. What are your techniques for setting goals? Do you tackle certain skills methodically, or do you take a more comprehensive approach?

  • #2
    That's the problem. I haven't truly challenged myself yet, but I hope to soon by attempting to make some rhythmic Ambient and use proper layering and EQing.

    Something else I'm going to be doing is attempting to recreate various sounds in my synths, not to use them, but to try to learn how to properly program synths so I can apply those techniques to my own sounds. Once I know how to quickly shape a sound the way I hear it in my head I'll be off and running.


    • #3
      There are different things... 1) listening to very good music that others are doing, which makes me want to do better as well [that's where all you guys come in!]; 2) learning new skills by trying new things and also taking advantage of things like the Groove3 tutorials, etc.; 3) going back and trying to do something that I was not successful in doing before; 4) sometimes, learning a new instrument - which presents new challenges [mostly talking about 'real' instruments here, although not necessarily]; 5) sometimes forcing myself to use a different instrument than the one I would be tempted to reach for first [this has to do with not falling into the 'comfort zone' and letting the mechanical side take control]; 6) trying to replicate certain sounds, etc. that I may have heard on favorite albums, etc. and in the process learning how to be better at programming; 7) not being afraid to ask questions, especially from those who have done things better than I have; 8) not being afraid to make mistakes.

      The list goes on. I think I've gotten pretty good at number 8!
      My Soundcloud:


      • #4
        Well I don't tend to set challenges for myself per say, but my goals are mainly to be constantly improving my music and skills, and also try to be musically diverse. I do tend to try and explore new ideas and work with different instruments often which leads to happy accidents a lot of the time. I tend to discover and learn a lot of things this way.

        That said when I discover some idea, technique or production aesthetic that works well, I try and refine these as I strive for excellence.
        facebook | | soundcloud

        A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians. - FZ


        • #5
          Oh man I'm going to try and tackle this one. Ever since this topic was created, I've been pondering the question which is why it's taken me this long to respond. I am so glad someone finally decided to start a thread like this!!! To me, this is something I take VERY seriously as I'm not one to rest on my laurels. I think that feeling comes from a deep understanding of what it means to be humble. I am always trying to improve because to me, I know there is so much more I can learn as a producer. Even though I've come this my eyes (and ears) my tracks have so much further to go!!! Part of that comes from being so inspired by what other people are doing. I want to do it all...master every synth and production technique in my arsenal. I also want to inspire others, create works that people will sit back and say "Wow, this is absolutely AMAZING!" the same way I do when I hear other people's tracks I truly enjoy. When I was in college I discovered an old book by a zen buddhist monk who was pretty much the first guy to ever bring zen buddhism to America, Shunryu Suzuki. This masterpiece of a book is called "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind." I haven't read it in a long time but the moral of the book never left me. If you can see things, all things, as a beginner would...all possibilities are open to you. No path will be closed off...and therefore you will never stop learning. Once the mind or ego starts to believe it knows too much, learning stops and stagnation and ultimately suffering kicks in. Mind you, that's a very zen buddhist way of thinking...but hey, whatever works, right? I try and approach music production with the same mindset. I LOVE the music I am making...which I think is also very important. Why make it if you don't love it? I have such a deep passion for it it's almost infectious. Wouldn't you say?

          So how do I challenge myself?

          Beyond the immediately obvious things like "make a track sound like this, use this synth, etc." I set goals for myself internally and for each piece that's in front of me. I try and work myself out of design issues. I sometimes suffer from doubt midway through a piece...but then I keep pushing myself. I think I mentioned this once before in another thread. I come from a background of habit of not finishing tracks I would start. I wouldn't take them "to the next level" I'd just leave them as sketches and nothing more. Well I'm older now and more mature, and not only that...aware that if I don't push myself to the edge I'll never see what it looks like. I can't live without knowing what I could have been or had the potential to be but never found it. I start a track with simple (ok not so simple) textures...deep wide "panoramic" sounds that really ignite my imagination and I start messing with it. I start layering stuff on top of it...and if that gets too stagnant, I'll add an arp for movement, or percussion...something. Then comes the hardest part for me, sequencing it!!! Taking each track to that next level. That's the challenge for me, and probably always will be throughout my career. I think acknowledgement is the key to overcoming obstacles in the mind and with that, I hope to be well on my way. They say the journey of 10,000 steps begins with just one. This is mine.


          Last edited by S1gnsOfL1fe; 02-02-2013, 08:53 AM.
          Synphaera Records
          Space | Time | Matter


          • #6
            I've found that goals tend to set themselves (as in life), and I am subconsciously moving forwards as a result. Little opportunities seemingly pop out of nowhere and they provide a springboard for improvement. On Friday I mastered a track for one of the KVR guys because it seemed like the right thing to do. It wasn't planned, but it gave me an opportunity to work with a track which was different both sonically and in style to my own music. Consequently, I had to take new factors into consideration and work outside my comfort zone. It's just a little thing, but it makes a difference.
            Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello


            • #7
              Originally posted by seismic1 View Post
              Consequently, I had to take new factors into consideration and work outside my comfort zone. It's just a little thing, but it makes a difference.
              That's another key right there!!! Sometimes I feel like get too you've got to change it up and move outside the box to see the box you're working in. Great point Tim!
              Synphaera Records
              Space | Time | Matter


              • #8
                Yes - leaving the comfort zone is a good point! My current policy is to create tracks and collect feedback. Then I will try to go back and improve upon the first versions. At the moment it's more of a general 'practice makes perfect' approach.


                • #9
                  For me, it's been a long ride of working in different areas of music. Mainly i get this mad inspiration from somewhere sonically, or just inside my brain, to make a certain sound. And then i work on it until i've made something that satisfies that image in my brain. It can take years.

                  I also try to stay critical about my stuff and think in new ways about expressing myself.

                  But so far, i think my biggest challenge is actually finishing things. God knows how many unfinished projects i've got lying about my hard drive!