Max Styler: 5 things I’ve learned about music production

(Image: © Joey Vitalari, VTL Media)

Having signed to Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label at the tender age of 18, Californian Max Styler could be considered something of an electronic music production prodigy.

Now 21, he’s spent the past three years playing at festivals around the world and honing his skills in the studio, and recently released his new single Promises, featuring GØLDN.

He may be young, but Max has already learned plenty about the music production process, as he’s about to tell you...

1. Simplify

“I’ve been producing music now for five years and its taken me about four years to figure this one out. Personally, I think simplifying your song is the most important thing you can do as a music producer.

“For a long time, I would continuously stack more and more layers on a lead to try and make it more full. I would add more drum samples in order to fill in all of the empty spaces. All this really ends up doing is cluttering your overall mix as well as masking the main idea of your song.

“If you’re a producer and this relates to you right now, I strongly encourage you to be more picky with the synths/drums/samples you decide to use for your song and instead spend more time refining a single sound that makes sense rather than stacking more on top of it. All that does is hide your main idea. Keep it simple!”

2. Inspire your own creativity and style

“When I sit down in the morning and want to work on an idea, opening up a blank Ableton session can be daunting at times. In order to keep my creative flow speedy I like to start with a basic template. What I mean by this is having groups and busses already set up before I even start laying any sounds/chords or whatever down. If everything is set up from the get go and colour-coordinated, I will feel less flustered and my creativity will be able to flow much more smoothly.

“This brings me to the next way to expedite my creative flow, and that is making sure that all of my samples and customised audio effect racks are organised. It’s a must to have all of your samples in one specific place so everything is extremely easy to find. It’s much harder to be creative when you know in your head what sound you want to use and you know that you have it, but it’s lost in your giant library of samples that are scattered all over your computer.

“Another thing that helps me keep the ideas flowing quickly is recycling channels and saved sound presets from plugins and previous songs that I’ve made. There’s no shame in reusing your own customised sounds and effects. This is what will give you your own unique sound.

“The end goal here is to be consistent and nurture your own sound. You want people to be able to know if the song was produced by you without even having to read the title of the song.”

3. Listen to all genres of music

“This is pretty straightforward. Having a broad understanding of many different styles of music only benefits you as a producer. I encourage you to listen to all different kinds of music if you don’t already. Listening to songs outside of the genre that you are comfortable making may give you some new ideas to use in your own productions.”

4. Don’t be afraid to experiment or take a little break

“This is a big one for me, and there are a couple obvious times when I like to experiment around. Sometimes I’m not sure what I want to make but I know that I do want to produce. Also, other times I might feel stuck and not know where to begin, what sound to use, or what vibe i want to create. These are the times to either start experimenting and pushing yourself creatively, or just step outside, go on a walk, throw a frisbee for a dog; whatever you like to do.

“Experimenting around can be really fun and surprising. Don’t be afraid to use sounds and plugins that you don’t normally use. Set the tempo of the track to something outside your normal tempo range. Sometimes you might surprise yourself and love what comes of it, and other times you may hate what you made, but in the end it might help you get out of the creative rut or uninspired mood that you are in. I know this has definitely helped me in the past!

Listening to songs outside of the genre that you are comfortable making may give you some new ideas to use in your own productions.

5. Optimise your computer and keep backups

“I’ve dealt with this and it sucks. There is nothing more frustrating than being in a creative mood and trying to write a song, but having your CPU meter going bananas and not letting you work.

“To avoid having a slow computer, make sure that all of your samples and sessions are located on an external HD and not on your main computer. All it does is bog down space and slow down your machine.

“Another way to keep your computer speedy is to install more RAM. This depends somewhat on the computer you have since you can’t upgrade RAM on [more recent] MacBook Pros, so you need to make sure that you buy as much as you can afford if you are using one.

“Lastly, take the time to clear out excess clutter. Delete files that you never use and remember to empty your trash can. Ideally, you want next to nothing on your computer except for the bare minimum. Keep your files organized and don’t use your production laptop for anything else other than production.

“Another thing I’d like to touch base on here that is hugely important, is to make sure that you are constantly backing up your sessions. Losing sessions is the worst thing that can happen. I think it’s something that most producers have dealt with at some point in their career. I know I have! The way to fix this, though, is to keep a backup HD in your studio that never leaves your studio. I schedule backups to my external HD once a day so that I never lose anything.

“To be clear here, make sure that you have two separate external hard drives. One just for backing up your entire computer, and one just for your sessions and samples.”