I’ve worked in recording studios most of my life, and also tutored Music production and sound engineering at Point Blank Music School. Over the years i keep getting asked the same question from musicians and students alike, “why doesn’t my music sound like a professional record?”

Well this can be for many reasons, firstly as a music maker, I believe that just because you can add parts and infinite amounts of detail to a track, doesnt mean you have to. It’s the point that just because he or she is a musician and can do it, doesn’t mean that it has to be there in the track, it’s not a contest!

Making a good tune is not about showing off your musical skills, it’s about creating a track/song that people will love.

When asked to produce a tune I will take the parts supplied if its a song and strip it right down to its basics. Drums, Bass and Voice. Does it still feel like a vital tune? You should hope so, as good song should be able to rely on this basic interpretation, then everything else for me is production.

I have found people create tracks where they listen to it at a point in their production process, and think, ‘hmm the tune ain’t right, it needs something else’. So more parts are added and the production gets more layered and more complicated.

Well, over the years i have come to realise that the brain can really only handle about 5 components in a track, (drums/rhythm being 1), any more and the listener tends to find it complicated and hard to listen to.

So if you get to a point in your production, where you feel it isn’t right and needs more, maybe you should be asking yourself, ‘Are these parts I have the best they can be?’ . Covering and layering more parts isn’t a solution, and as a musician, dont think you’re being a producer either. The sign of a good producer is know what to leave out of a production, and keeping what really works.

So what inspired me to pass on this nugget of information, is a very cool article and essential reading I found on the Music Radar website.

10 tell tale signs of an Amateur mix will help you find and spot faults with your production and help make your tracks stand out for the right reasons. Here they mention using the wrong sounds…

The wrong sounds

Sometimes tracks don’t sound right because the constituent parts don’t make a whole. This can be caused by using sounds that simply don’t fit – synth brass being used in place of a real part, or a sample with slightly incorrect timing or pitch, for example.

It can also be down to the use of boring-sounding presets, too many or incorrectly applied effects, or roughly recorded samples. Don’t misunderstand this last point, because rough, lo-fi audio can sound fantastic in the right context. It’s all about getting the right sounds for the track.

The mix is also extremely important here. Of course, you want some sounds to stand out – the hooks, lead vocals and so on – but it can be jarring when other sounds that make up the arrangement are so poorly mixed that they end up taking over (we’ve heard tinny percussion loops that take your head off, and sub-basses that blow your speaker cones… we could go on and on!).

You can read the article in full here.