As a composer who works with Hollywood Trailer Music labels, I often get asked by aspiring producers & friends how I went from not having any musical knowledge at all to reaching the level I’m currently at in three years.
The answer is that when people ask themselves how to get better at production, they tend to look for technical tutorials on “how to sound like Successful Producer X”, but neglect the most fundamental aspect they should nurture if they want to enhance their artistic growth.
The truth is that there is more to the equation than just the technical stuff.
Music production knowledge is great to have, but developing a good mindset is equally, if not more, important.
If you want to get better fast, you need to analyze and reverse-engineer the mindsets of the artists you look up to and understand how they got where they are.
In this article, I’ll talk about the three key mindsets that helped me get better way faster than many of my peers who started off more experienced than myself.
The notion of “The Process” is something I wish I discovered way sooner. Before I started to compose music, I used to listen to people like Daft Punk, Madeon, Hans Zimmer and Nobuo Uematsu, and I remember thinking something on the lines of:
“Wow, those guys are incredible – they were definitely born to be musicians. I wasn’t born with the same talent and inclination, so it’s clear I am never going to be as great a musician like that.”
That was the wrong assumption to start from because it basically separated myself from those guys, who are not very different from the rest of us, really. The only thing that’s different between them and you and me is that they went through what I call “The Process”, which is about all those hours they put into their craft before they became world class at it.
It’s been scientifically proven that the amount of hours required to become a virtuoso at something, you need to go through circa 10.000 hours of deliberate practice on that particular thing.
If you want to get to the level of your idols and beyond, know that you definitely can, as long as you are willing to go through “The Process”.
This is something many people tend to overlook, because yeah, the idea of doing something everyday isn’t that sexy, but it is fundamental if you want to get better fast.
When you do something every single day, you are basically rewiring your brain in such a way that it becomes way easier, more intuitive and more natural for you to do that thing.
This is how people learn to play instruments so flawlessly by “second nature”.
Whenever you stimulate our brain to do a certain activity, if you do it often, your brain will sort of “transform” itself and create some neural pathways inside it to help your neurons become way more automatically responsive to that activity you’re doing.
Even just twenty minutes a day is crucial to develop a skill. Because as long as you’re consistent about it, the neural pathways in your brain will become stronger and stronger and more connected until the point when you become biologically wired to be a virtuoso at that thing.
Most people tend to think on the lines of:
There’s no point in having a short session – either I produce for three hours, or I prefer not opening my DAW at all.
To those of us who are short on time due to their commitments like day jobs or studies, setting aside three hours to produce might be very daunting and impossible to do every single day, so what ends up happening is that they find themselves not producing anything, sometimes even for weeks because “it’s not worth it” unless they sit down for three hours.
If you’re sly instead, you will sit down at your DAW, even just for twenty minutes a day every single day, to finally find yourself far way more ahead than most in this marathon.
Yes, those sessions might be short, but man – you’ll find that they add up to something huge in the long run. Many small streams make up a big river.
Now of course, if you can produce daily for even more than twenty minutes, that’s even better!
The third idea is something a lot of people miss out on – the idea of treating your creative mind like a muscle.
When it comes to producing music, many of us tend to sit in front of their DAW just to compose something which is not too far from what they’ve achieved before.
They basically rarely exceed their limits, never reaching that point where they would meet challenges that would make them improve as producers.
The thing with the creative mind is that it works exactly like our muscles in the sense that it needs exercise.
If you want to improve your muscles and make them stronger, you need to put them under some very intense bursts of resistance, challenging your body to do things that go beyond its current capabilities.
Your brain is no different!
If you want to get better fast at producing music, then you must set out to write something that goes a bit beyond your level – Almost every single time.
I tend to do this with all of my tracks, by focusing the next track on one of my flaws I’d like to get better at.
Taking my last track as an example: since I’m not that great at orchestration, I decided to write something with the most complex instrumentation and arrangement I could think of. After spending about one hundred hours at it, and stretching beyond my limits, I have to say I’m very proud with the result, but mostly, with what I learned in the process.
Now, that same level of improvements would’ve taken me various months, instead of just weeks, to make, if it weren’t for the fact that I really went over my comfort zone with this one.
This is crucial for reducing the amount of time you’ll need to get through “The Process”.
You have to both train consistently AND intensely.
However, make sure to remember that resting is still definitely an important part of a good workout – don’t be too demanding of your brain.
These three key mindset should always be fun to work with, and should make you feel, if anything, more charged, concentrated and inlined with your passion.
If you feel like you’re overworking yourself, like it will surely happen if you go hardcore at it, it’s okay to relax a bit by still doing something creative, like writing a track without going over your comfort zone, playing an instrument, or writing a blog post like I’m doing right now.
I hope this article shined some light on this subject, on the importance of these three mindsets and will help you out on the days to come!
I took quite the time to write it because I feel like this kind of topic is NOT discussed as much as I think it should.
In case you liked it, feel free to come check out my YouTube Channel where I’m starting to make Tutorials on Cinematic Music and also vlogs about the good mindset every producer should have to be their best artistic self.
Composer, producer and sound designer from Milano, Italy. Shares opinions regarding creativity, the power of psychology and music production tips.