GRiZ: 5 things I’ve learned about music production

(Image credit: Jason Siegel)

A student of funk, old-school hip-hop and dance music history, producer GRiZ’s fifth album, Ride Waves, comes off the back of an eight-month-long period of social media abstinence, personal self-discovery and artistic growth.

Fortunately, the man who also goes by the name of Grant Kwiecinski has found time to write some seriously large tunes, too, and to rope in an eye-catching list of collaborators. Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, Matisyahu, DRAM, and Bootsy Collins all feature on the record, which, as its title suggests, is GRiZ’s take on “the emotional rollercoaster that is life”.

We asked Grant to take a few moments away from this philosophical fairground ride and talk production. Based on a career spent in the studio, here are his five essential pieces of advice.

1. Being critical is as important as it isn’t

“Having a sense of quality control is a good standard to keep when you’re producing. But when you get too caught up in whether something you’re creating is good (or not), sometimes you can lose style or personality, or lose a sense of direction.

“Maybe your first idea was one thing but then you kept carving away at it. The music often finds its own way instead of you telling it where to go at every moment. Let yourself be weird, offbeat, off-key, technically incorrect. Great things will lead themselves out of strange places. Let ideas be ideas and then come to look at them from a greater perspective once you’ve given yourself a chance to really let go of your standards.”

2. Practice and stay in motion. You are never wasting time creating (especially for yourself)

“I always keep myself into my craft. It’s not always an album or a single or a released song I’m working on. It’s not always about that for me. Most of the time I just let myself create until I run out of steam, and then I take a step back to see what it is I’ve come up with. Just because I spent 20 hours on a song and it never gets released doesn’t mean that it was a waste of time. 

“The process is everything for me. The time spent is practice, fleshing out new ideas and techniques; growing. That is so important for me. Doing different things, learning and then applying those lessons to other projects that might develop into releasable songs.

“The process is everything for me. The time spent is practice, fleshing out new ideas and techniques; growing."

“I try not to let myself get stuck on anything, either. If I’m working through a vibe and it just doesn’t feel right, often I save it and then try something else. I love sitting with something until the last possible minute, but don’t be afraid to scratch something completely and move on. It feels good to just delete a project and move on.

“Remember: time in the studio is practice, and practice helps you develop your ideas with more quality.”

3. Feeling stuck? Switch it up!

“If you feel like you keep ending up in the same spot, try doing things differently. Work at a different tempo but apply all of your typical methods to it. Work without any digital synths. Try resampling unmelodic sounds into instruments. Download some new drum samples that you would typically stay away from. Use a vocal for a bass sound. Try using 808s! Try not using any 808s! And then see what happens from that.

“Take all of the rules you’ve created for yourself and throw them out of the window. Redline your master and then resample that into a new session. Whatever it is that you haven’t tried, do it. And do it with a completely open mind. Go fully into it.” 

4. Simply put

“I’m really big on hearing the overall sound of the sound, and not just that there is a sound present in the mix. That is what makes the sound interesting. If there is too much going on, you’ll bury all the good stuff in noise.

“An idea that is good should be good without all of the cool mixing tricks up your sleeve. So let good ideas be the main thing and then gloss it up from there, whether that is the melody and chords, bass and drum groove, or vocal melody. If you’re mixing and it just isn’t what you’re happy with it could be the original idea that’s the problem. The core of the song should be something that you love in its most basic presentation.”

 5. Comparison sucks 

“You’ll honestly only ever feel horrible about what you’re doing if you start comparing what you do to others. There is a reason why people will like what you do, and that is because you are the one doing it and not someone else.

“Your touch and the thought/decision processes that go into your productions give them your specific style. And there is a fan for every creator. Your whole focus should be about expressing and satisfying that drive within your heart. So do that. Don’t bog yourself down with the interference of comparison.

“From personal experience I can say that it’s easy to fall into a pit of self-doubt and insecurity, then in the next moment you feel on top of the world. Creation is a sensitive balancing act. So I try to give myself every opportunity to practise gratitude and self-love rather than self judgement. Love what you do, because why not!?”

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.