Genres have their specific characteristics and when you start producing music, you can easily fall into the trap of becoming a copycat of other songs in the genre you are producing in. In the following article I will give you 7 tips and tricks on how to avoid being a generic producer.
Think Outside The Box
Pretty obvious, huh? This one is for sure easier said than done. When you first start learning about music production, you are being taught how things are usually made. That doesn’t mean that other things are not allowed or wouldn’t work. The opposite actually. Here are a few examples of what has worked for other producers & me in the past and what is definitely more “outside the box” thinking:
- Jerome Isma-Ae uses conga samples for his basslines
- Orjan Nilsen often layers his clap sound with tonal layers in the root note of his track
- Spektre love to use real recordings as layers in their tracks. They often layer these recordings with their clap for example
- Spektre also use any kind of recording, pitch it down, high-cut it and use it as a rumble in between their Techno kicks. As long as it fits tonally of course
- Mark Sixma likes to use a very narrow bell boost on his kicks to give it some extra click. The frequency depends on where the boost sounds the best (doesn’t have to correspond to your root note, for example)
- Genix loves to take toms and bongos, distort them with Trash2, and then use them as a tonal beat element
- My track “Memoria” has a pad sound that was actually created by using a long vocal atmosphere in a sampler that I heavily distorted and then gave a lot of reverb
- The main arpeggio in my track “Playing With Fire” is layered with a tonal kick from Kick2. Of course thre’s a low-cut and it has a very short decay
- Most of the kicks in my tracks are either layered with a closed or open hit or even with a snare. Again, very short decay, just to give it that extra punch
Do not Copy Structures & Arrangements
Yes, this is great when you start producing music to develop a feel for the right structures and arrangements. But once you have learned that, atmospheric arcs can be built way better when unexpected things happen in your arrangement and structure. A great example for this would actually be “Camelphat – Hypercolour (Artbat Remix)”. Listen to this at 3:18:
You can start by first building a more generic structure and then think of ways on how to make unexpected things happen in the arrangement and structure. You can make it a rule for yourself to at least do 2 surprising structure or arrangement changes in your tracks. This way you kind of force yourself and learn subconsciously how to avoid being a generic producer.
Use Samples & Sounds From Other Genres
Getting inspiration from other genres is one of the best ways on how to make your music sound fresh. I often buy sample packs or soundsets from other genres and use them in a whole different genre. Fair to say that this will make your tracks sound way different.
Splice is actually really great for that. You don’t have to buy a whole sample pack to use stuff from other genres and their library is evergrowing. I cannot even count how often I have used stuff that was meant for hip hop or trap in my EDM productions.
Here are some ideas:
- Trance music with a techno kick? Sounds great!
- Techno with a dark trance melody and drop? Yes, please!
- Future house with a saxophone? Ibiza, I am coming.
- Psy-trance with Indian chanting vocals? Oh wait, this has been done already multiple times…
Make Your Own Sounds
Tricky one as it definitely takes time to be able to do your own sounds. But it is definitely worth it to look deeper into this. This can set you apart from other producers.
Imagine, other producers asking themselves how you did a certain sound, asking their producer mates in online forums and on Facebook. First of all, this will give you additional free exposure. Secondly, you will earn the respect from your producer colleagues. And thirdly, listeners will also notice and you will most likely sound unique to them.
In my opinion, Serum is the best and easiest synthesizer to learn sound-design. Why? Because it’s so visual. You see exactly what the setting does that you have just changed. It’s a What You See Is What You Get approach. If you don’t want to invest much into a synthesizer like that, you could get Serum as part of a rent-to-own plan.
Use Uncommon Keys & Scales
You can really stand out by using scales that are relatively uncommon within your genre. Everyone knows the major and minor scale. But what about lydian? Maybe you have seen the word, maybe you know it’s a scale and maybe you are even more knowledgeable than me about it. But most likely you will not have heard about it.
So many tunes are being produced in either G Minor, A Minor or C Minor. And while it’s true that it may increase your chances of DJ support as these are pretty common keys, it can also decrease the chances of standing out because everyone is using these keys.
A good example of an uncommon key (and some pretty weird structure and polyrhythm stuff) is Enrico Sangiuliano’s “Symbiosis”. Enrico seems to be a master in knowing how to avoid being a generic producer. His stuff always stands out, his tracks are always different.
Find Fresh Voices to use Within Your Genre
I am usually getting very excited when I hear a fresh voice in a track where I would have expected a completely different vocal. I love getting surprised like that.
For example, I really appreciated how Avicii at one point used singers that sounded as if they were mainly singing on Country music. It worked so well and made his music really stand out in the EDM world.
Another example would be the vocalist Green Velvet on Techno music, just like Adam Beyer and Layton Giordani did:
It’s almost as if rap was being done on Techno and I love that. So fresh and unique!
I would recommend using SoundBetter to find your unique voices! Follow this article to get up to $20 discount with your first order:
Watch Tutorials in Other Sub-Genres
A fresh approach on how you do music is always a great idea. The approach for certain sub genres of EDM can be very different. Techno for example is being produced a lot by trial and error. Randomised rhythms or polyrhythms are more common than not. In Psy-Trance sounds are often being extremely modulated and change every few milliseconds. Drum’n’Bass has a really cool drone bassline under the drumbeat. All these kind of characteristics can be taken out of context and you can change the approach on how you do things usually within your genre.
Great melodies make a huge difference. But what’s even more effective is a sudden chord progression change that came unexpected but worked well within the whole set of progressions. Play around and see what works. Don’t be pleased too quickly when you found a great 4 or 8 bar chord progression.
Here are 3 tips:
- Instead of trying to find another chord variation that may work, first just play the bass notes and see if you can find a bass note variation. After that you can figure out the chord on top of that.
- Try to vary the kind of chords you play. Simple major and minor chords are boring. Try other chords such as a minor 7th chord.
- Add countermelodies that work with the main chord progression. You can try vary the rhythm for some interesting effects. This is more of a trial and error approach but can be really worth it.
Conclusion – How to Avoid Being a Generic Producer
I hope these general tips help you overcome some of the problems you may face in being an innovative producer. Do you have any additional ideas or comments? Write us a comment. Always happy to add more to this article!
- Producer In Studio: Image by Daniel Peters from Pixabay