Success is a very broad topic, however, for the sake of this blog, I want to really talk about progress towards your own goal as a music producer, whatever that may be. One thing I think we can all agree on is that no matter what our goal is, we must finish plenty of music to achieve it. My research and experience are based on many years of working with mentors/music producers that were far better than me, and a lot of harsh learning curves that really stopped my progress along the way.
These six habits are not the ultimate guide to success, but what I have implemented in my music writing to get over the frustrating hurdles that myself and many other producers I come across have faced. So, I hope you cannot only understand it, but also use it to your benefit.
1. Write music every day
What I have uncovered when it comes to success (which is really progress) is that it is habitual, and no matter what industry you are in, whether it’s going to the gym to get bigger or lose weight, training to become a pro athlete, or learning a musical instrument like the piano, is it all requires daily actions which intern create movement, momentum, and ever-increasing progress toward becoming a pro or master to your own expectation.
I, like some other producers, used to underestimate the importance of writing music every day. My mind would make excuses and say, “Well, you only have about half an hour tonight. What’s the point? Just leave it for tomorrow”.
Is this you too?
Whether you have just 30 minutes or 3 hours, the whole idea behind successful habits is you need to take action daily whether you feel like it or not. It’s training the subconscious mind to make better decisions once on autopilot. Meaning, when you start to implant daily practices, the music almost starts to write itself without too much conscious thought, which in the majority of cases, can completely destroy entering the flow state, which is another word really for channeling creativity and insight.
Your brain tends to both sleep on a problem and solve it the next day or so. If you’re not making music every day or ticking off one less thing on your list, you will get distracted by life and everything else in between and lose the momentum of breaking through the barriers to overcome problems and solve them at a rapid rate. Here is an awesome video by Mike Monday explaining the importance of habits and momentum.
2. Deliberate practice
Along with daily practice, deliberate practice involves specifically aiming at bettering your weaknesses that perhaps have been pointed out to you by a mentor, coach or feedback from a fellow producer. For example, as I have stated in a previous blog, that is worth repeating, my weakness was writing a good melody, so as a form of deliberate practice, I would practice every night my melody writing skills on its own for 30 minutes, then usual production on top of that separately.
I would model and learn what constitutes a great melody in terms of patterns chords, notes, etc., and grab examples of melodies I love as an artist and implement how I can create my own using the moods, harmony, rhythm, and philosophy/story from those examples, to make my melodies better.
Focus on one thing at a time habitually until you have developed self-satisfactory skills in that area.
3. Finish what they start (Whether they like it or not)
It’s always easy to start a brand new exciting project because it can sound better than the one you started a week ago. I fell for this one all the time. Successful producers know you never get better at the entire process of the production game by only doing what feels comfortable or good, because you think to yourself what is the point of finishing music I don’t like.
That may be true to you, but your perception is not like everybody else’s that is going to be listening to your music. This is really a typical fear-based mindset that spells out “I’m not good enough” and it is an excuse to pass off the frustration, which is really the growth phase we all encounter to get better. It’s also a fixed mindset that is always going to do what’s easy and not hard. A great book that explains this which I highly recommend is called Mindset, by Carol Dwek. I highly recommend you read it.
4. Listening to old and new music daily for better ideas
Music is an obsession for a successful producer; it’s second nature to listen to music every day not just for analysis and ideas, but for satisfaction. Combining and listening to different genres of one’s music is the key to breaking the mould of generic music that sounds the same and like everything else out there. To break the mould requires drawing on other genres of music that are not currently in the one you are known for at the time. This is how you can become not only a specialist but an industry transformer and lead the way if you are bold enough to step outside of the tribe and recreate a sound/style.
It will be the hardest thing to do because it requires both a high level of skill, innovation and willingness to go through mass criticism because you will be creating your own genre in a way, many people don’t like change, but it is necessary for an artist’s evolution.
5. Have both set goals and daily/future outcomes
What is it you want as a music producer?
Why do you want it?
What steps do you take daily to achieve progress on that goal?
Successful people know what they want to the finest of details and why they want it. But, more importantly, can also detach themselves from the outcome and know in good time, that they can achieve what they set out to get. Many times, people (myself included) can get too attached to a specific goal, and when we don’t get it when we want it, we almost just want to give up. The aim is to be patient and turnover the work, it takes quantity to get quality.
This may sound like a little contradiction, but it is not if you pay attention to it.
Focus on what it is you want and do the work. Your music might not sound what you want it to be like in your head, but you have to be OK with that. You are aiming at a target that is to get you further than what you were yesterday, progress not perfection. Goals are really stepping stones to a larger vision that is all; they are simply a measuring tool that you can later draw back on to improve for next time. It’s a growth-seeking tool.
6. Continually developing their skills and mindset
Just like taking daily action in the studio a successful producer is always on the lookout to develop both their skills and mindset. Production has a lot to do with psychology and how the mind thinks and acts on decisions. It involves challenges, problem-solving, innovation and testing and trying new things. Your ability to adapt to change is massive when it comes to success. Continual learning is crucial to get better along with continual action and doing what feels uncertain and uncomfortable. This is how you become more versatile and capable of adapting to change. Which means you will keep up with the times and won’t get left behind with other producers that don’t value their education because it cost’s both money and time.
Learn something new every day and act on something every day, which is what successful habits mean.