The other night while watching yet another tutorial video I got an idea. Sometimes when we’re learning music production, mixing a project, watching a tutorial or even chatting with friends, we can pick up random tips and tricks along the way.
Many of these more nuanced methods don’t require a lot of explaining, and often don’t fit into some larger process. They simply are what they are – super handy tips – and that means they’re still worth writing about.
Over the years, I’ve amassed countless nuggets of information that I frequently incorporate into my workflow. This stems from back in my engineering days, before I ever got into EDM production, all the way to today.
However, due to the very fact that these quick tips are often so short and sweet, they can also be easily forgotten. So, to that end, I thought it might be useful to make my notes public (and, better still, searchable), not only for myself, but also for the benefit of anyone else who’s on a similar journey.
Music Production Quick Tips #1
My aim is to list around 4-5 music production tips as regularly as I discover them, as well as reaching into my archive of notes from over the years, and share them with you. Although I specialise in Logic Pro, not all tips will be limited to this DAW and many will be general to all music production. Wherever you see ‘LPS’ this means that the tip is ‘Logic Pro specific’. So, without further ado, let’s get into my latest set of useful tricks – it’s time for…
Tip 1: Parameter reset
Although I work in Logic Pro, this keyboard combination is common to a number of DAWs and applications (albeit with a slightly different key combination). Many times it’s useful to reset a fader, a knob, or some other parameter back to its default value e.g. ‘0 dB’. To do this, hold ‘Alt’ and click on the parameter, and the value will return to default. Simple.
Tip 2: Level trim in Waves
Many people use Waves plugins so I figured this was definitely worth a mention. I only found this out this last week and I can’t believe I didn’t know about it. When using Waves plugins, often the input or the processing within the plugin is too hot, causing the output to clip. The output meter will indicate how much over 0 dB the level has peaked. A number of the Waves plugins have a ‘Trim’ button – rather than dialling down the input level manually, or the effect, you can simply hold ‘Alt’ and click the level display and this will automatically trim the output level to prevent clipping. Marvellous.
Tip 3: Elastic audio [LPS]
This trick was really useful in my acousmatic music days when I wanted to quickly stretch or shorten sounds to fit certain timings, or to warp the audio in a particular way. To change the length of an audio file without affecting the pitch, hold ‘Alt’ and move to the lower corner of the audio region – the mouse pointer will turn into a duration sign. You can now drag the region forward or backwards depending on whether you want to shorten or elongate the sound. This is particularly useful in dance music if, for example, you have a sample that’s been recorded at 128bpm, but you want to use it at a slower or faster tempo. In this case, simply stretch or shorten the region until it snaps to the grid and completes the bar.
Tip 4: Zoom magnify [LPS]
Sometimes when we’re focusing on a specific part of the arrangement, or something detailed that needs a keen eye, it’s useful to hone right in. In the Arrange area, press (you guessed it) ‘Alt’ and drag over the location that you would like to magnify. You’ll then zoom straight in on precisely which part of the arrangement you need to modify.
Tip 5: Loop until end [LPS]
This is a basic one but it’s sometimes surprising that people don’t know it so it’s worth mentioning. If you have a region that you’d like to cycle until the end of the project, just select it and hit ‘L’ to loop it continuously. This is particularly useful for things like sidechain source signals that you want throughout a track.
I hope some of these tips were useful! They may be painfully obvious to some but not-so to others, so I think it’s always worth making a note and sharing with people. I know from experience that often simple tips can be an enormous help in speeding up workflow and generating some creative ideas, particularly if you’ve never happened to come across them before.
What about you?
I’m intending to release a ‘quick tips’ post pretty regularly as it’s also beneficial for me to remind myself of some of these handy tricks! If you know of any simple techniques that are an essential part of your production arsenal, feel free to leave a comment below.
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‘Til next time, happy producing!