How to Strategically Approach Songwriting, Sound Design, and Promotion with Dack Janiels

Meet Dack Janiels. ?

He is a successful music producer, internationally-touring DJ, and label owner.

He started producing when he was just 16 and hasn’t looked back since.

In this post, you’ll learn how Dack accelerated his learning and growth as a producer, as well as strategies to ensure your music gets heard by the right people.

Specifically, you’ll learn:

  1. The benefits of going to production school
  2. How to strategically approach songwriting
  3. Ways to choose sounds that go well together
  4. How to balance production and promotion
  5. The best ways to gain support from other artists and labels


Check out these lessons from Dack Janiels below (or listen to the podcast episode for even more details).

Subscribe on iTunes  –  Subscribe on Android  –  Subscribe on Stitcher

Download our Major and Minor Scale Cheat Sheets FOR FREE


1. Why you should consider going to production school

Dack Janiels really started take music production seriously when he began attending Icon Collective.

For those 9-months, he was completely immersed in production.  Studying everything from composition, mixing, mastering, sound design, promotion, and everything in between.

The energy at his school was infectious, and inspired Dack to push his production abilities to the next level.

That same energy was what helped propel Icon alumni like JAUZ, Slander and NGHTMRE to stages around the world.

He had a very positive experience, but had a specific recommendation for producers considering going to music school.


Get the basics of production down first

Dack said that producers need to put in the time upfront to get down the basics, before forking over the cash for production school.

He said this is one of the biggest things that enabled him to excel at school.

So if you’re ready to take production to the next level, and you’re not finding that path on your own, production school is definitely something to consider.


Use the success of other producers as motivation

It can be tough to not constantly compare your own success to that of producers around you.

Instead of looking at other producers’ success with envy, Dack uses the success of those around him to propel his own music forward.

He said that to succeed, producers need to really stay focused on their own brand while paving their own path in the industry.

By doing this, you can begin to look at the success of producers around you with excitement, rather than jealousy or negativity.

BONUS: Want more tips? Learn workflow and arrangement tricks to accelerate your productions.


2. How to strategically approach songwriting

While Dack said “the drop” used to be the focus of his songs, he’s begun to spend much more time on the music elements of his songs.

He now typically begins with the intro of his songs, and by doing so, the drop begins to write itself in his head.

Dack likes to start his songs with a big impact.

From there, he will begin his sound design by layering some pads underneath the impact to add some space and movement.

To design those pads, he likes to use both Dune and Gladiator.

Once he has his pads in place as a foundation, he will begin building his melody on top of it.


Adding layers when songwriting

One trick Dack does when songwriting is once he has a cool pad melody in place, he will begin layering some strings on top of it.

He’s personally a big fan of Kontakt for these types of orchestral sounds.

From there, he takes those notes and chops them up to be 4x faster than the initial pad melody.

He then layers an additional lead on top of that to help add some space in the mix.


Make it easy on the DJ

One of Dack’s mentors, Trollphace, gave him some words of wisdom early in his career.

He said that if he makes his songs as easy as possible for DJ’s to play during live sets, you’re making their job easier and setting yourself up to get played.

By starting each song with a big transient, Dack makes it extremely easy for any DJ to mix his tracks into their live set.


Know what you want your listener to be feeling

When describing his intros on his upcoming releases, Dack had a whole vision in his mind for what he wanted his listeners to be feeling.

I wanted to go for an 80s vibe that someone driving their car down the highway would want to push down the gas pedal and start speeding a little harder.

It is a good idea for you to always understand the emotions and energy you want associated with your song when your songwriting.

Where will your listeners be? What will they be seeing? What do you want them to feel?


3. How to choose sounds that go well together

When first starting the Dack Janiels brand, he struggled to create and use sounds that blended well together.

His sound design sessions would result in sounds that were each really interesting on their own, but together would just clash and sound muddy.

What he began doing is taking the entire processing chain from his first sound, and adding it to his next sound.

By processing them in a similar way, they become much more sonically and tonally congruent.


Use just one sound as the foundation for your drop

Dack recommended that producers start writing their drop with just one sound.

Add all your processing, then duplicate the channel.

Now create a new sound, using that initial sound as a foundation.

By doing this, you’re synthesizing sounds that will be cohesive and sound good together.

They share the same basic sound design and will have filters in the same place, similar processing, and even the levels will be similar.

BONUS: Want more tips? Learn the vocal processing strategies of The Chainsmokers, San Holo and Post Malone.


4. How to balance production and promotion

One of the biggest mistakes Dack sees new producers making today is focusing too much on promotion.

One of the pieces of advice he gives his artists at 40oz Cult is that its fine to sit on 3 or 4 songs.

Once you have a couple of great songs, you can begin to invest some time into the promotion side of things.

You can really focus on your branding and making sure your songs are heard by the right people.


Tips on how to find a balance

  1. Outsource – focus on your core competency, don’t try to do everything yourself
  2. Make connections – find people that can help you and grow with you
  3. Reflect – asses your project and brand to identify what areas need to most attention


Download our Major and Minor Scale Cheat Sheets FOR FREE


5. How to gain support from your favorite artists

Dack has received support from some of the biggest names in electronic music; Excision, NGHTMRE, Modestep, JAUZ, Figure, Must Die! and many more.

As much as it all had to do with having cool songs, the reality is that he foud a way to build relationships with all these people.

As for Excision, he had released several songs on his label in the past.

In the case of  JAUZ and NGHTMRE, they are all alumni of Icon Collective.


Networking is key

If you’re trying to gain support from your favorite artists, try to be in the same places as those artists when you can.

Your favorite DJ is in town for a show? You should be there.

Dack said there’s nothing wrong with handing over a USB if you get the chance to meet an artist.

He even received a USB just this week from a producer who he gave a shoutout to on the show.


Take the initiative

Even if you’re not able to make it to a show, there’s still a lot you can do to get your music heard.

Check out their SoundCloud and Facebook pages for a promo email and send them a tune.

Write up a friendly tweet asking them to check out your music.

BONUS TIP: All of these strategies go a much longer way if you provide value first.

Maybe help the artist spread the word about a local show, or help promote their recent single.


Subscribe on iTunes  –  Subscribe on Android  –  Subscribe on Stitcher


Connect with Dack Janiels:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Soundcloud


Connect with 40oz Cult:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Soundcloud