25 great music-making tips from musicians

Posted: August 12, 2013 in Artist Corner

In the results of the Music to make you happy survey in February, the things that impressed me most were the answers to the question “What’s the best piece of advice about making music that you’ve ever heard?” Within the 1,100+ responses are hundreds of great tips – some old, some new, some obvious, some arcane. Like these, for starters…

  1. Like Kraftwerk, have a non-music day every week or so(Anonymous computer musician)
  2. If things go wrong, just maintain that you were playing jazz (Max/MSP enthusiast)
  3. Play less (Guitarist, and lots of other people)
  4. When learning to play a piece of music, play it first so slowly that you don’t get a single note wrong. Then slowly increase the speed. Then, play louder than normal at the proper speed and you’ll play more confidently (A bass player and a synth tweaker)
  5. When editing, don’t cut the breath off before someone starts talking or singing (Guitarist)
  6. Finish the first draft (Bass plyer)
  7. It’s essential to begin every recording by asking ‘Are we Recording?’ (Guitarist – is that you, Peter?)
  8. Before you start for the day, go for a long walk (Computer musician)
  9. Listen. Listen very carefully. No. REALLY listen. (A guitarist, although 115 people used the word ‘listen’ in their tips)
  10. Wear earplugs (Drummer)
  11. Hit it hard, ye massive ponce (Drummer)
  12. Grab some string and bend it. If it doesn’t sound right move up a fret and try again. (Guitarist)
  13. Start now, don’t wait (Keyboard player)
  14. Get into the groove / Boy, you’ve got to prove / Your love to me (Guitarist)
  15. Retune your guitar, so you don’t know the notes, then try making music with only your ears as guides (Keyboard player)
  16. Tune your guitar, play in time (Guitarist)
  17. Do it in triplets! (Programmer)
  18. Make, go sleep and check again tomorrow… (Synth tweaker)
  19. You may think you’re playing your instrument, but what you’re really playing is the audience (Studio engineer)
  20. Keep your cigarette lighter away from my drummer – He’ll set fire to anything that burns (Nord Modular enthusiast)
  21. Do something every day. Even if all you do is make a beat or write some lyrics or a bassline or whatever, do something. Even if you just have a few minutes a day to spare, the material you have quickly builds up (Field recordist)
  22. “Play more things that make me dance around and less things that make me sit and look miserable in a plastic chair” – Brian Eno (Guitarist)
  23. Learning any instrument is about scales. Scales. Scales. Scales. The trick is to make learning the scales interesting. Which is hard. And I’ve never done it. Which is a shame (Studio engineer)
  24. Never listen to the same loop for longer than 10 minutes (Beat maker)
  25. Write as many songs as you can and pick the best (Guitarist)
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