I have been creating music for about 10 years. I learned from many hundreds of hours watching YouTube tutorials, but the vast majority of my learning has been through trial and error. I think I've made just about every mistake there is to make in music production, but that's the best way to learn in my opinion.
I currently use Ableton Live 9 Suite, but I started on Ableton Live 7. It was the first music-making software I used, so I stuck with it and made every effort to master it and get the most out of it. If it wasn't for how much Ableton Live improved their DAW, I probably would have switched by now.
I don't have a lot of gear to use in the first place, but I guess one of my favourite pieces would have to be my Roland DJ-202 controller. This little guy allowed me to go out and perform my first few DJ shows last year. And performing has catapulted my production to another level. So, it's definitely a valuable piece for me.
I suppose my studio monitors would also be considered a favourite piece of gear. I own Yorkvilles and I really like them. My mixes wouldn't be nearly as good as they are without having these monitors in my setup.
I probably have too long a list to go through, but I will highlight a few.
Ableton Live 9's stock plugins are fantastic. They are very clean, and many of them are great for modern sound design. My common go to's are the Amp, Overdrive, and Erosion plugins. Overall, Ableton's stock devices cover about 90%+ of my production needs.
TAL has some pretty neat plugins as well, which are all free. One I use quite often is TAL-Elek7ro (has some nice vintage 80's sounds). I strongly recommend this one for anyone looking for that sound. The bass patches sound great as well.
I have a whole bunch of other synth plugins in my collection, but the clear winner for me is Nexus 2. It's an older product, but I've used it in most of my projects over the past eight years or so. It has a very nice library of sounds, and they still sound really good.
I have started a track in some many different ways. But the more common approach would be to start with a strong core melody. From there I may build a drum rhythm around it, or perhaps a bassline before that. Once I have a strong core and one or two complementary melodies, I'll start arranging the track.
I tend to use YouTube as a learning tool if I want to learn a specific technique or find out another way to do something. Outside of that, I listen to a lot of professionally made music of various genres and dissect the different elements of production. It's really helped me to understand which of these elements help a track be impactful. The musical composition is important, obviously, but there are so many other factors that go into making a track great. Of all things, that's what I study the most now.
I watched a video called 'Mastering Won't Save Your Track' from one of my favourite music production channels called MixbusTv. I recommend his content in general for all aspiring music producers. Although the subject matter does touch hardware much of the time, he does have a solid philosophy when it comes to mixing, mastering, and overall music production.
The biggest take away from this video, hopefully, is that the majority of the sound that you want your track to have must be present in the mixing stage. DON'T rely on mastering to give you the sound you want.
I wish I learned about proper gain staging. I believe this would have solved at least half of the issues I struggled with for years. I also wish I learned the importance of mixing with volume before doing anything else. I can't count how many tracks I ruined from overprocessing with EQs and compression.
I think time constraints have been a factor, and occasionally I'll get stuck on a composition that isn't coming together. But I think being a perfectionist hurts me more often than not. This causes me to leave a lot of work sitting around because I'm dissatisfied, or for me to spend way too long working on one track. Thankfully, I've made quite an improvement in these areas and have officially released 12 or 13 tracks since the beginning of this year.
This may seem a bit obvious, but it's gotten me a long way over the last couple of years:
KEEP IT SIMPLE.
My best songs use maybe 10-12 tracks tops in a project or even fewer if there are no vocals. A strong song just needs one strong melody, a couple of complimentary melodies or so, and some drums and effects. If you're building a song and continue to add on to it constantly, it usually means the foundation is weak. Often times, less is more as long as it's not lacking any essential element.
When it comes to actual songwriting, think of the voice as another instrument in the song. Just go with what feels right and flows along well with the music. Be diligent, try to work on the writing process regularly, and be patient. Once you have a good song sketch, just finish it. Don't let it sit around, even if it means it isn't in its perfect form.
Yes, I do. I have a few music friends that I'll send unfinished tracks to for feedback. And of course, I use RepostExchange for that as well. I usually run campaigns for tracks that are 80 to 90% done, just to see how they're perceived. This combination has worked quite well.
I'm tempted to say it's my latest release Iwato, but I think I will go with 'Lost In My Head Again'. The creation of this track was a very personal process reflecting a dark time in my life. I've made a lot of tracks, but this one was very different in that I really went outside of the box with my production to make a very simple track to tell a detailed story.
'Lost In My Head Again' is a song that I mixed over and over because I really wanted it to sound as good as I thought it could and I got it about 90-95% there. Even though I can still hear room for improvement, I'm still proud of what I was able to do with this song within my equipment limitations.
I definitely has. It's made me confident that I'll be able to get ears to my music and that's important to me because I make music all of you, not just me. I'm happiest when I know my music is being enjoyed by someone else other than myself... or my Mom(!)