If you’re not getting the desired results or feedback from your songs, maybe it’s just a matter of making your music sound better. Here at Tunedly, we believe that musicians should always be striving to improve their craft. But we know it can be hard finding the right information to learn from or emulate.
That’s why we have done some of the hard work for you by studying the works of some of the best musicians in the business and extracting some of their best practices. So, how can you make your music sound better? Here are 8 tips music creators can apply to their works to ensure the end results are above par.
1. Begin with good writing and structure
Like a good foundation is to a strong building, good songwriting skill is also at the base of making your songs sound better. Having a strong hook, catchy lyrics, and a good overall flow makes it easier to put music to your songs and make them memorable.
As noted in a Music Think Tank article by Larry Butler, a musician and record company executive, great songwriters will tell you that getting good at it takes time, even if you’re naturally talented. The important thing is to practice, practice, practice…like other forms of writing, the more you do it, the better you will get. Also, be aware that you most often might need to rewrite numerous times before getting a song just right – and you’ll know when it is or when it isn’t.
Take it from songwriter, Phil Bentley: “Don’t settle, until every part of your song feels undeniable. If it just feels “good enough” it probably isn’t good enough.”
2. Know what a song that “sounds good” actually sounds like
Most art today imitates the works of past masterpieces in some way or the other. Songwriter, Lauren Christy, puts it quite well: “There is no original thought, just original presentation. Say it in a way that’s never been heard before.”
It follows that if you want to make good music, you should listen to what is deemed as the “good stuff” actually sounds like. This means listening to songs that have made an impact on the radio and charts - and taking notes.
Zone in on classics that have stood the test of time, but also pay attention to songs that currently dominate the airwaves, even if you don’t necessarily think they are your cup of tea. Pay attention to the different parts that make up each song – the lyrics, hook, melody, instrumentation, how it’s mixed, etc. – to understand the anatomy of a song that moves the public.
3. Take stock of your talents
What are you really good at? Knowing what your true talents are will help you to focus on your strengths and become more aware of what you need to double down on or seek help with.
For example, you might be an awesome songwriter and be able to come up with great melodies and hooks, but when it comes on to the technical aspects, such as mixing instruments and production work, your skills might be weak in this area.
In such a situation, it’s possible that you might become good at producing your own tracks over time, but it’s probably best – in order to ensure your music is at a certain standard – to rely on someone else who is talented in that area. While there is nothing wrong with learning all aspects of making music, you should know what you’re really good at and things you’re able to accomplish within your power.
Working with other music creators can open your eyes to new techniques and different ways to make songs. Being in a setting where everyone is sharing ideas and feeding off each other’s energies can help to bring about works that you possibly could never have dreamed up on your own. It’s little wonder why an analysis of 2016 hit songs by Music Week and written by Editor, Mark Sutherland, found that most of today’s hit songs are co-written by two or more people.
One thing to remember when collaborating with other musicians is to make sure a record is kept to indicate who contributed what. This makes it easy for royalty payments to be shared equitably in the event that the resulting project manages to get commercial success.
If you’re not living somewhere that makes it possible for you to easily meet up with other musicians, it is still possible for you to collaborate with professional musicians online, using Tunedly, for example. In addition to gaining access to all the talent and tools you need to make all your songs sound better, one major benefit of collaborating on Tunedly is that you don’t have to worry about sharing up royalties; you get to keep 100% of the rights to your songs.
5. Be clear on the genre you’re working in and its main components
Every genre has its own sounds and techniques to help the song connect with the audience. With pop, it’s all about simplicity and catchiness, country is characterized by its folksy sound, usually with string accompaniment, while hip-hop focuses on beats and rhymes.
There is also rock, R&B, EDM, and a host of others. Whichever you choose to make a song in, understanding the genre makes it easier to write the lyrics, as well as put music to the words when you’re ready to take the next step.
6. Trust your work to the professionals
The abundance of DIY methods to make music makes it all seem pretty easy for almost anyone to create a song from scratch. And while that is somewhat true, it is often not so if you want to make music for anything other than a hobby.
Professional music producers, as well as audio engineers, are not only trained to use the right tools to give you industry-standard results for your recorded songs, many also have the ear training and experience that can transform a song from blah to a masterpiece.
It is fine to do your own rough mixes or to experiment, but when you’re ready to create radio-ready music, definitely turn to the professionals who know how to make your songs sound better. You would be surprised how much better a professionally-mixed song can sound from one that is home-produced.
7. Keep working on your own skills
In every discipline in life, those who spend time working on continuously developing their skills are those who usually become the best, even without raw, natural talent. So keep finding ways to improve your songwriting and music skills in general, whether by subscribing to music blogs and newsletters, watching video tutorials created by professional musicians, reading eBooks and articles on making your songs sound better, or even taking courses. There is always something to improve upon, regardless of how much you might already know.
8. Be passionate about what you do
“Just become obsessed with it. To become good at anything, you have to think about and live it every day and after a while, you will become good at it.”
Those were the words of songwriter Alex Da Kid, when asked to give advice to aspiring songwriters at the BMI “How I Wrote That Song” pre-Grammy event in early 2017. That pretty much sums up the fact that if you’re passionate about making music, your work will only get better if you stay immersed in it each day and in every aspect of your life.
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