Tim Green’s top 10 tips for producers

Tim Green’s reputation was propelled when DJ Mag labelled him ‘Best Breakthrough Producer’ in 2010. His music moves effortlessly beyond the confines of the minimal techno and deep house genres, and his DJ sets are renowned for their inspiring mix of styles.

Originally from Aldington in Kent, London-based producer and DJ Tim Green has constantly experimented across the gamut of club-based electronic music, deftly maneuvering within the realms of minimal techno and deep house, adding his own personal stamp, signified by an unmistakable sense of creativity and fun.

Green burst onto the scene in 2008 with modern classics such as Revox and Mr Dry, snapped up by highly esteemed labels Dirtybird and Trapez Records. Countless high-profile releases followed for Cocoon, Get Physical and Rebellion, while Green has displayed worthy remix skills for artists including Cassius, Claude VonStroke and Seth Troxler. As a DJ, Green’s riotously distinctive Bedlam club nights proved to be a force to be reckoned with, and he has toured the four corners of the earth with residencies at Womb Tokyo, Fabric London, Watergate Berlin and Space Ibiza.

Last year saw Green scale new heights with EP releases Among Wolves and Only Time Remains, plus numerous high-profile remixes. 2017, meanwhile, sees the 31-year-old beavering away in the studio working on his new album. So what better time to ask Tim for some of his favourite studio tips and techniques...

1. Dream big and aim high

“I think it makes more sense to dream big and come up with elaborate musical ideas to begin with - perhaps even too many ideas for a song. If necessary, you can always simmer them down if they are too over the top. 

“I say this because I’m a firm believer in pushing yourself and your music to try new things rather than attempting to sound like everyone else. I’d also apply this to your professional goals. 

“I actually think it makes more sense to go for the biggest opportunities and goals first instead of focusing on lots of smaller goals. For example, if you’re just starting out and want to find a label to release music on, don’t look for any old label to release on. Aim high for your dream label first, as that really is your true goal.”

2. Constantly reference your channel meter levels

“This is a simple tip, but one I didn’t used to do in my early days. Level meters really never lie, be it in your DAW or on your outboard mixer. They can really tell you a lot of information about the quality of your signal and how it’s behaving.

“Most DAWs have great meter levels, but if need be, you can always buy some very useful third-party plugins that can tell you much more information about your levelling. I’ll mainly tend to use the ones in Logic Pro, but have used Brainworx audio plugins and iZotope as well.”

3. Melody comes first

“In my opinion, I think a strong melody that gives a song its own distinct flavour and character is more important than anything else in a song. If you have that special melody that people remember, or instantly recognise, it will always trump a track that has the most amazing production but a weak melody. 

“Obviously, the argument for this depends massively on what type of music you’re trying to write, but let’s take, for example, heavily rhythmic electronic music, where there is little melody, I still believe that a touch of melody in any form (be it just a few notes) will really make a difference, as long as it’s memorable.”

4. Think differently about your studio equipment

“I’m saying this in relation to what equipment you might buy. Don’t be afraid to search for old synths or strange percussion instruments, weird secondhand instruments you can buy online or instruments you can just experiment with even if you don’t know how to play them yet. 

You can get some really great gritty sounds by purposely distorting and implementing too much level onto tape.

“Nowadays, there is an incredible range of new synths, effects and instruments that keep coming out every month, but don’t always think you have to use the latest thing to get ahead. These days, so many people are using the same synths and equipment as everyone else, and I think you can get more for your money and make bigger strides by being adventurous and going against the grain. 

“Perhaps not all the time, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to possess a balance of both common and uncommon pieces of equipment in your studio.”

5. Buy a cheap cassette tape machine

“I think everyone should own one of these to bounce parts onto and playing around with. You can get some really great gritty sounds by purposely distorting and implementing too much level onto tape. 

“If you use it subtly, a tape machine can add character to parts that are lifeless or plain-sounding. Plus, whenever you’re recording in the digital domain out onto a tape machine, you have to commit to your musical idea because there’s no way of going back and changing it. That really makes you question if the part is good enough or whether it can be improved. 

"This is a really important musical skill that can really improve how you write music, as your brain will shift from always having the comfort of being able to go back and change anything you want at a later date when using your DAW to focusing on getting all the musical elements really good first and believing in the quality of your song.”

6. Load a favourite song from another artist into your DAW

“This is a good one for beginners, I think. If you’re having trouble structuring a track or getting enough ideas to finish a track, load a finished song by another artist into your project - one that is the closest to the type of track that you’re going for. 

“Then map it out in your project using blank MIDI parts or markers for each section of the song. So, for example, you can have the intro section, first verse or first drop down and then see how to get from the start to the finish in each section. 

“To go further, you can reference how that particular artist worked on each section - perhaps they used transitional effects or automation? This method can really spark your writing or help deal with a creativity block and move your track forwards.” 

7. Get a really decent microphone

"This is a given, if you’re a vocalist of course. But if you are a producer who is working more in the box, this should be the first gateway to getting out of the box. 

“Recording things around you in your environment can be a really fun way to experiment, and found sounds and field recordings are always a good place to start.”

8. Always record your own percussion

“For me, this could also be extended to ‘always record all your own instruments’ - instead of just using samples. But I think percussion should be a good starting place because you can get much more personality and life into your music by recording your own sounds rather than just using pre-made samples. 

Having someone else mix your music could really free you up to focus on writing the best music you can.

“Of course, sometimes percussion samples work great, but I guarantee the more you create sounds for yourself in your tracks the much bigger difference there will be in the end. This is more important than just focusing on how good your production skills are.”

9. Sample libraries - less is more

“If you use sample libraries a lot, I think that it’s best to go through them regularly and spring clean the stuff you never use or that you think is not very good quality. This method has really helped me to just to cut down so I only end up using the good-quality ones. 

“I’m less and less sample-oriented these days compared to how I used to be, but sometimes I still find it necessary to grab a quick sample to get a song moving along.” 

10. Have someone else mix your songs

“This is a strange tip for me to give as I don’t actually take my own advice on this, but I think that if, unlike me, you don’t feel there is a need to do everything yourself, it can be beneficial to get someone else in to mix your own music. 

“At the end of the day, the music is all that matters. If you have a good song, the majority of people are not going to care whether it’s been mixed by you every step of the way or not, they’ll only care that it’s a good song. 

“Having someone else mix your music could really free you up to focus on writing the best music you can.”

Tim Green plays The Winter Social on Saturday, 11 March. For more info and tickets, please visit The Winter Social website.

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