The DJ'ing/Producing dichotomy

Production | Feb 23, 2012

  1. CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon


    CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon

    200 posts
    Since Feb 16, 2009
    I feel like I'm driving myself a bit mental with this obscure issue which I cant really explain, so will share to the grid.

    I've dj'd for years, played out, got bored of standing looking at the wall for hours while mixing tracks, then got into my normal career. Pretty much the same as most 32 yr olds who have dj'd for years.

    I got Ableton, spent shit loads on books about music and mixing, read them, made some tracks with my new knowledge of harmonics and mixing, put them on Soundcloud, got a few "nice track, check mine" type comments.

    So now I'm at a hugely defeatist point of view where I know that because of time and lack of effort on my part, and probably a complete lack of a clue, I'll never be able to release a track via Ram/Toolroom/Sony/Freebie netlabel/Delete as applicable.

    But now I find myself in a quandry, I see Dj'ing a bit too easy, but producing anything worthwhile a bit too hard. The pleasure of dj'ing has gone, partly because of the saturation of the dj market, but the time/family/work constraints preclude me from really sitting down and hitting the production hard. Every time I stick on the decks to have a mix I feel its all a bit beneath me as I'm not really creating anything, and really time spent mixing should be spent creating my own music, but everytime I boot up Ableton I sit there for half an hour, make a dub techno chord, then save it and turn off and do something else, like listening to a load of decent dub techno tracks made by other people.

    So pretty much I have completely lost track of my point. I just feel like dj'ing has lost its edge, producing is too hard. I sometimes wish I didnt bother with the production and just stuck to the dj'ing, at least its a bit simpler.

    Anyone else find themselves in this ridiculous over analytical situation and wish life was a bit easier again, or am I just creating my own barriers?!!

  2. CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon


    CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon

    200 posts
    Since Feb 16, 2009
    I did post this before I read through the "I will never shit some good music out of my anus into the DAW " thread, quite a lot of overlap, apologies to the housekeepers if they are too samey!
  3. Momentumdnb Deconstructed Rec


    Momentumdnb Deconstructed Rec

    2,551 posts
    Since May 18, 2005
    dude, you need man the fuck up and stop staring at the computer and really focus on making music starting with your own shitty tracks, bad techniques and general crappiness before you get that "happy accident" that will ultimately get some momentum for you and hopefully lead you to a solid track. Sometimes you need to make 50 tracks/ideas before that happens, sometimes sooner.

    I totally understand what you are saying about djing.
  4. peace aTTACK

    peace aTTACK

    peace aTTACK

    299 posts
    Since May 2, 2007
    sounds like you want to make music but are upset because it's difficult. No one finds it easy. Forget Ram, just make music for yourself, if you still find it joyless then you wont make a good pro anyway. It's a really hard job.
  5. CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon


    CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon

    200 posts
    Since Feb 16, 2009
    Completely agree with the pair of you. I think its a time and priorities thing. Making music is hard so I wont do that, I'll have a mix which is easy, hour goes by then oh shit, time for bed then work so wont have any more time until the weekend. Rinse and repeat!

    I think manning the fuck up is the way forward!

    @Momentum - Glad you agree on the dj'ing front!
  6. padillac



    143 posts
    Since Sep 15, 2010
    Someone told me about a pottery professor in college who split his class into two groups and had different grading criteria for each group. One group would be graded on the quality of one pot they made for the semester. The other group would be graded on how many pots they made in a semester. Basically quantity vs quality. The people graded on quantity ended up producing way better pottery because they had way more practice. Now that's just an anecdote and we can come up with lots of examples where the lesson holds true, but the point is simply what you've known for years: deliberate practice makes you better.

    Work on tunes, and finish them. It doesn't really matter how bad they are. You have to get into a habit of making stuff and finishing before you'll really get good at it. I mean, you can't know what's wrong with a tune until you have a tune to begin with!

    Try not to sweat those hour-long sessions as long as you get something usable from it. Sometimes I feel like just goofing around with a synth or trying new processing techniques. Whatever I'm doing though I always make sure to bounce *something* down to audio and add it to my library for later. And usually not just one thing…if I made a bass patch, sometimes I record three riffs and sometimes I record 15. But I always end up with at least one new audio file in my sample library.

    The point of that is to constantly be making progress towards my musical goals and to always have something to show for it. I may not be *proud* of it - and I've definitely deleted a lot of shitty bass lines a few days later - but at the very least I've got something that I created that I can use in a larger piece of work.

    I would seriously consider putting any purchased sample libraries aside for a while and just come up with stuff on your own. It doesn't really take that long to get into it. The night I deleted my sample libraries I focused on drums, using hits I sampled from around my house. At the end of the session I had 13 kicks, 5 snares, 2 rides, 2 hats, and 17 beats. Then I started doing that for other stuff. I'd go through my synths and find patches that I liked, play something, twist some knobs, bounce to audio. Now when I go through my library I've got all kinds of sounds to pick from, and they're all sounds that I chose because I really liked them at one point or another. But the best part of it is having all these sounds in context of one another…bass lines that I wrote a few weeks ago don't sound as good compared to other stuff I've come up with more recently. So I feel comfortable deleting them, whereas with sample packs for some reason I never felt comfy deleting someone else's work.

    Also I think you should definitely incorporate DJing into your production education. Take some tunes that you like and chop them up and edit them to include new sounds that you've made, or to do mixes between songs that you might not be able to do live. That'll help you get a feel for what makes tunes work, what you like about them, and how to write parts that fit. Also as soon as you've got something that passes for a tune, DJ with it! It won't be up to snuff but when you listen to it in a mix you'll discover (a) whether it works as a tune idea and (b) how to polish it so it does stand up to the other pro tunes.

    Sorry for writing a book here…but I definitely know what you're feeling as do a lot of other people. And I think as long as you have *something* to show from each session - even if it's a two bar bass line - over time you'll amass a collection of sounds that you can put together into 16 bar loops, and that you eventually turn into songs. It's all about building stuff, building small bits and using those to build bigger bits and on and on.
  7. padillac



    143 posts
    Since Sep 15, 2010
    and to make one point clear since most people probably won't read that: ALWAYS bounce stuff down to audio to store in your sample library. It feels really good when you can click through 300 basslines that you wrote and pick your favorite. And if you want to change it up, you'll probably be able to remember the synth patch you used, and you'll be able to work out the riff you played. But having audio clips that you can just drag and drop in your daw and arrange stuff and get something going quickly is huge.
  8. La Yinn

    La Yinn

    La Yinn

    34 posts
    Since Aug 26, 2009
    I'm not gonna make this long cause I'm tired as fuck.. but props man, read the long version of that. Amazing advice, motivated me to bounce multiple choir patterns just now. Gonna be doing this a lot more from now on! :teeth:



    62 posts
    Since Jun 11, 2010
    I also understand the part about dj'ing...
    Been dj'ing for like 1,5 year in some crowded clubs after playing loads of years in metalbands and I just have like 3 worthy selfmade dnb tracks which (I believe) can blend nicely with the pro tracks (I have made a lot more tracks but different genre).

    Somehow it's not 100% fullfiling for me if I can't play at least 30 minutes or so of selfproduced tracks. If you know what I mean.
    SO I spend a lot of hours every day to finally achieve what I personally want.... let people dance on my own creations.



    62 posts
    Since Jun 11, 2010
  11. padillac



    143 posts
    Since Sep 15, 2010
    haha seriously. I'm trying to make shit that I can dance to. So the goal is to start making music and start dancing as quickly as possible. I'm doing well when I'm not spending much time in my chair :)

    oh and another quick workflow tip: if you make a loop or you're working on some song sections, be sure to bounce the whole thing as well. That way when looking through projects you can just click on one file to audition the whole thing. Also you might bounce each part, fun to mess around with loops from different projects in ableton live and stuff.



    62 posts
    Since Jun 11, 2010
    true true, I'm always standing up after a session and try to dance on it :teeth:
  13. cmgoodman1



    213 posts
    Since Jun 4, 2011
    I honestly find myself in the reverse situation. I've been producing for a couple years (not saying my music is good or releasable, but I do have a general grasp and have had some tracks played out by a few local friends with decent feedback). I'd really like to get into dj'ing. I have turntables and a mixer, but it all just seems so daunting to me. I'm just now getting to the point where I actually like some of the tunes that I make, and thinking about learning a whole new craft just seems unmanageable.
  14. speziale explorer


    speziale explorer

    313 posts
    Since Aug 12, 2003
    I DJ'd for years before I got into producing and found the same.
    DJing gives you instant gratification. Production is completely different, it takes time, practice, commitment and the ability to keep on going even when you are struggling.

    However, I have found as padillac suggested that I can kind of bridge the gap if production is getting stale by creating DJ type mixes / mashups that are much more studio based. This is partly forced cos I moved countries and had to leave my decks and records behind but it was a good limitation. You can make mix tapes cutting up bits of tunes, adding effects, adding your own loops blah blah blah in a way that maybe you never could on the decks, plus there'll never be any train wreck mixes! Actually everything Padillac says is right, just read that again.

    And do suck it up, just get your head into it. There's fuck all money in releasing tunes anyway so just have fun and see what happens.
  15. CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon


    CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon

    200 posts
    Since Feb 16, 2009
    Cheers for all the serious replies. When I posted this I expected loads of "shut up and stop moaning" responses.

    @ Padillac - Thats some serious inspiration right there. I have always seen my projects as very individual and unlinked, but your idea of loop collecting is one that I am really going to push on with. Thanks so much for taking the time to write that response, it has really perked me up!!

    @ Speziale - Some really good ideas there. I'm actually picking up Novation Twitch tommorrow to use with Itch/Ableton so in terms of being able to do mash ups on the fly and such it will be a lot easier to do so. Hopefully this will give me some food for thought for my production. (After all my bitching about DJ'ing yes I'm shelling out 400 notes on a new bit of kit, go figure!)

    So for those like me who have done the whole dj'ing for years, then going to production... How do you view dj'ing now? Is it a poor mans production? When you speak to someone who says they dj do you become an instant cynic? Thats the way I find myself now, as I said, I think its my way of trying to make my own ego feel better, like I've been there and done that now I'm onto the thinking mans art of production. Hope that makes sense?!!
  16. Eli Rorschach

    Eli Rorschach

    Eli Rorschach

    451 posts
    Since Jun 18, 2011
    Honestly? Best advice: get away from production forums, books, tutorials, issues of sample ethics and ego. Or at least learn to completely detach all that from your music making.

    Think about environments like production forums, or the environments which are conducive to people having the time/energy to write out tutorials or books on recording: they're environments of people who, by nature, do everything wrong. Approach everything backwards. And they exist to self-reinforce. There are industries as big as the music industry built around this.

    Production shouldn't be a major time-sink or quest. Many of the greatest D&B tunes were written in an afternoon, or over 2 or 3 days at home (back when people had to chop every beat by hand with a shuttle wheel and a tiny LCD display). Just think: what's the most logical/practical way to assemble the track I want to be able to play out? Think and work like a DJ. Don't think of the production as being some kind of achievement. (And don't touch EQ or work with inferior sounds.)
  17. Tits McGee

    Tits McGee

    Tits McGee

    433 posts
    Since Jan 4, 2012
    how do you think music is made?

    hey op, let me throw an idea your way that might help you realise the situation your in....

    have you ever considered that, after djing and producing for so long and not getting anywhere, that your actually not very good at it?
  18. CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon


    CleetusVanDamme Richard Nixon

    200 posts
    Since Feb 16, 2009
    The thought did cross my mind. Certainly in the production sense. Dj'ing I'm good, just never really got anywhere with it. But lets be honest, to be good at dj'ing is a subjective thing, most DJ's are good, but how many get anywhere with it? I've had a mix downloaded a few thousand times, I've dj'd at Ministry of Sound, am I good, are these things barometers of goodness? Who knows!!!

    Production is far easier to judge if someone is good or not, with DJ'ing you can be good in about half an hour if we're honest, but still get nowhere with it.
  19. Agonist



    410 posts
    Since Apr 7, 2010
    this does sound familiar...

    However, i consider myself to be a more than capable producer both in the box and with bands, but i got to a point where i felt like giving up because i was forever competing against others.

    i concluded it was because i was trying to be part of something, whilst at the same time trying to have the edge over others, within the same scene. So, how can there be a love for music with this competitive attitude? i enjoyed many releases on both vinyl and digital, but it was very unfulfilling.

    i decided to make the music i've always loved and felt more a part of, which is roots reggae and i'm churning out so many tracks, that i love, it's ridiculous. (even taking the time to record the instruments, i know, shocker)...enjoying the process, being at one with what it is i am doing.

    i get no admiration from 'the kids' anymore, our sound cloud page get's no comments...but the further away i am looking inwards at current movements in music, the more plastic and soulless they appear to me given where i am at, it makes me realise how much i was wasting my time listening to anything else but myself. Now i'm enjoying a different kind of success. My tunes still get picked up/played and i DJ but it's a different world.

    i think the moral is, follow your heart. You may think you are doing this, but if you are unhappy, surely you can't be? And where music is concerned, i find it difficult to comprehend competitiveness, if this begins to become what is important, then you are not being true to yourself and the love is not there.
  20. ROKONE Hello Tyranny, goodbye gunz.


    ROKONE Hello Tyranny, goodbye gunz.

    15,924 posts
    Since Jan 25, 2005
    To qoute Dj Shadow "If you start thinking too hard about music it's not going to work".

    Same thing goes for if you are not enjoying it.
  21. Ascension Uncertified Music


    Ascension Uncertified Music

    446 posts
    Since Jun 19, 2003
    Your story mirrors mine pretty much completely, DJ'd for years but never really been able to get into production as it was too daunting and I couldn't find enough time to dedicate to it.

    The answer I found to getting round this? Breaking my wrist and having a month off work at home with no distractions or excuses not to get on with it, simple :teeth:
  22. luthatron \o/


    luthatron \o/

    53,674 posts
    Since Feb 3, 2004
    do what you feel, the world doesn't need another dnb producer or dj!

    do what you enjoy, i feel strangely compelled to produce but hardly ever mix, and it doesn't really matter either way, i'm not going to turn into marky or ed rush eother way.
  23. kid kryptic i like music

    kid kryptic

    kid kryptic i like music

    695 posts
    Since Feb 27, 2002
    I've been there man, and know how it feels. The last couple years I've been so busy between working and going to school I haven't had time to work on my DJing anymore. But for me, I can't simply stop writing tunes!

    It's never good to force yourself to do something you're not feeling, and if DJing is boring you, take some time off on it. Find and tackle the challenges you have with making music and focus on making each tune better than the next. Try not to get so caught up on making a tune that can get released on a big label - constantly comparing your tunes to other artists tunes can lead to a lot of frustration.

    I've always found a good way to help improve is to sit down with some of your favorite tunes and just study them. Listen to 'em and take notes on what you like about them that makes them shine in your mind. Figure out the break downs, how long intros and drops are, how minimal or busy they get, how many different types of instruments and SFX are going on over the tune.

    It's always taking me months to finish tracks, but that's just me and I accept it - some people can bang out killer tunes in a few hours though, we're all different. The bottom line is to have fun with it and challenge yourself to make something better than the last tune. Try splitting up your production time too - maybe some days you just focus on making sounds or getting good samples together for a project, and then the next few sessions you work on actually writing something. Keep at it though man!
  24. padillac



    143 posts
    Since Sep 15, 2010
    I've been slow on the tune-making lately but my goal is to get tunes to be DJable as quickly as possible so I can play them in sets. That's fun and I get to hear the song in different contexts which can bring more ideas.

    That's the theory, anyway
  25. DJ_SykoPhiend Fire on the Dancefloor


    DJ_SykoPhiend Fire on the Dancefloor

    2,054 posts
    Since Dec 13, 2001
  26. rjp



    2,363 posts
    Since Dec 13, 2001
    To the OP:
    Yes I totally hear you on that one.
    I would definately recommend an instrument. You get the instant gratification of musical involvement after work, but still can chart/plan/whatever a bigger sense of progress across longer periods. You can also tie ANY instrument into some production :twothumbs:
    But yeah, keep a studio diary so even 15mins is useful. All this weeks and weeks of eqing to perfection is shit. IMVHO
  27. Tube Jerk

    Tube Jerk

    Tube Jerk

    2,374 posts
    Since Dec 17, 2003
    just man up and make some music
  28. techskunk Banned by DOA


    techskunk Banned by DOA

    2,715 posts
    Since May 5, 2011
    as if it's that easy ,man... your tunes are very pro sounding and u exactly know how hard it is..

    its easy to say what u said for someone so talented and knowledgeable like you
  29. Ibunshi Mpc Pilot


    Ibunshi Mpc Pilot

    8,401 posts
    Since Jun 8, 2007
    it is easy, though of course not necessarily to become good.. but you will never find out or become good if you never put in time

    only ever thinking about doing things puts you way behind the people you might like to call losers, but that actually is doing things. :tea:
  30. Rogue Trooper Giant Smurf

    Rogue Trooper

    Rogue Trooper Giant Smurf

    5,155 posts
    Since Jan 22, 2004
    Producing is hard if you listen to pro tunes and try and compare yourself to them. It's like looking up at Mt Everest and thinking "OMFG I'll never get to the top of it". You have to take things one step at a time. Do it because it's fun to just fuck about with synths and beats. Don't be daunted by its perceived difficulty. Rome wasn't built in a day, so pop your ovaries back in and man up like Tube Jerk said :tea: