1. Lengths of Notes
This is much more powerful then you think, shorting the sustain of a drum sample will change the entire groove. specifically in hip hop music.. for example if you have a long drawn out snare drum and you wonder why your drum mix sounds dull – try shortening up the audio clip, cut the reverb tail off.. use a faster attack envelope. plucked and fast attack sounds bring more energy overall into a mix.
2. Learn The Tools
A lot can be done with the stock plugins of a DAW, a lot of the cool features aren’t even in the plugins or FX channels. Mess around with the ADSR like I mentioned above. A lot of the time we have a sound in our head and we cant translate it because of the fact we aren’t using the tools we have properly. A lot of producers just hit buttons until something sounds good, but REAL producers know exactly how to add some mid range to a kick drum with a transient shaper. It’s like a car mechanic, you don’t use a blow torch to change the oil! Learn what the tools are doing to the audio first.
3. Play It Out
Sometimes you find yourself with a dull boring track and you’re wondering why it’s not hitting how you want. There are three main things to fix this… The first is groove.. do you understand funk and jazz grooves vs. classical? learn to play the drums in a style of music, even if it is on the pads of your MPK.. making your own groove will bring the song to life, the groove might suck cause you just suck, but it’s vital to a fire mix. The second is you over processed the shxt out of everything, go back to square 1 and level the mix first.. then when you add an FX (with a purpose) as mentioned above – make sure you gain match back to correct volume level. The third thing is play a great melody.. there are endless examples of melodies and chord progressions that are simple and great. (bonus.. use great instruments and if you can, make your own instruments)