In this episode I speak with PeaceTreaty member Angelo Patino. He is an extremely insightful musician who brings a ton of knowledge and experience to our discussion.
We talk about everything from generating creative ideas, to prioritizing elements in your song, to the type of mindset necessary to succeed as a producer.
In this article you’ll learn:
- How to find creative inspiration
- How to strategically approach mixing
- Strategies for making your mix sound as full as possible
- Considerations when collaborating with vocalists
- The power of setting goals
Check out these lessons from PeaceTreaty below (or listen to the podcast episode for even more details).
1. How to find creative inspiration for any track
Sometimes starting a track can be tough. Even finding an initial idea can be a challenge every now and then.
One of Angelo’s favorite techniques is to just use a reference track to generate some initial creative ideas.
He finds a song he really likes, or just a song that has been on his mind, and simply drops it into Logic X.
Angelo will then examine the waveform, assessing what kind of dynamics and arrangement the track has.
This helps him understand what elements of his song should go where, and what he might want to include in each section.
Use drum loops to accelerate your workflow
Once Angelo is ready to begin progressing the structure of his track, he will often use drum loops to create an initial groove.
Drum loops can really save a lot of time when your trying to get down your creative idea. They help you avoid getting stuck for two hours processing a kick that you’ll probably swap out later anyway.
He will use the loop to help piece together a 16- or 32-bar loop he likes, and will just continue adding and subtracting things from there.
Samples are your friend
Sampling is something Angelo strongly encourages. He likes to tell producers to “think outside the box.”
Instead of going to your favorite samples every time, try experimenting more with new samples.
Try using samples in unique and unconventional ways. You will learn a lot about sampling in the process, and will definitely create some interesting sounds.
Angelo also recommends producers use a sampler. Doing so really expands the number of creative options you have, rather than just manipulating a piece of audio.
He’s a big fan of Nerve because of its ability to easily audition different samples in the context of your whole mix.
2. How to strategically approach mixing
Getting your levels right is the most fundamental part of your mixing process.
If your levels are off, you’ll never be able to have a solid mix or master, no matter how many expensive plugins you use.
Angelo recommended producers start their mixing process by focusing on the foundation of their track: drums.
Your drums will be the backbone of your track, and should be used a reference when placing all other items in your mix.
It is also important to have a clear understanding of what the focus of your track will be.
What is my main sound? What do I want my listeners to pay attention to? What will be most memorable about my song?
Once you identify which sound(s) you want at the forefront of your song, you can then mix all other elements around them.
Angelo recommends producer try mixing at a very quiet volume to identify which elements in your track will be most audible.
BONUS: Want more tips? Learn how to strategically approach songwriting, sound design and promotion.
3. Strategies for making your mix sound as full as possible
Layering is one of the best ways to beef up your sounds and help add fullness to your mix.
If you want to thicken up a specific sound, begin by analyzing where that sound is lacking. Use a spectrum analyzer to see what frequencies may be missing in order to figure out what kind of sound you will need to be layering in.
Ensure that any sound you’re layering is serving to enhance the primary sound we discussed in #2.
Once you begin layering your sounds, use EQ to surgically carve out any supporting sounds to ensure they don’t conflict with your primary sound. Always be sure you’re EQing these sounds in the context of your whole mix.
To glue these layers together, Angelo likes to group the channels and compress them as one.
4. Considerations when collaborating with vocalists
When collaborating with a vocalist on your track, its important to build a genuine connection from the beginning.
You should understand what their goals are as a singer, what they’re looking to get out of the collaboration, and what direction they might want to take the song.
Its also important to make sure the vocalist feels a real connection to your song. If they don’t, it will be very difficult to get a great vocal take.
Getting a great performance from your vocalist can save you hours and hours of clean up work later on during the post-processing stage.
Once you have your vocal recordings ready to go, the post-processing you choose to do is what can really help set your vocals apart.
5. The power of setting goals
Without a goal in mind, it can be very easy to get lost in production process.
Whether you’re mixing your drums or just figuring out how to design your logo, having an end goal in mind is crucial.
By having a clear understanding of what you’re aiming towards, you can optimize your path to get there while also assessing your performance along the way.
Finding your signature sound as an artist
When setting these goals for yourself, avoid any goals of sounding like another artist.
Instead, focus on experimenting with new sounds and techniques in order to develop your own unique sound.
Nearly every successful producer has spent countless hours experimenting in the studio, eventually stumbling on a combination of techniques which together create their own signature sound.
Your signature sound will be a result of countless hours of trial-and-error in the studio. Angelo noted that he is a strong believer in the 10,000 hour rule.
We actually posted a fascinating video of Ed Sheeran discussing the topic on our Facebook page this past week.
Use your circumstances as motivation
During your journey as a producer, you will encounter a lot of setbacks. It happens to everyone.
What really matters is how you react to the circumstances that present themselves.
Your new track isn’t getting the attention you hoped for? Your best friend got signed to a label and you didn’t?
Instead of letting these situations create negativity in your life, use them as motivation to propel you forward.
A positive mindset and a belief in yourself will be absolutely essential to having a long, successful career as an artist.