It could be easy to assume that “real” producers are able to construct their music without any external influence, from scratch. However, that’s not the case. As a matter of fact, most successful artists, musicians, or producers do the exact opposite. When it comes down to it, using other artists’ work as a reference you can develop and discover new ways to create your own art and sound. Originality is important, of course, but only by learning from others to shape your own vision can you attain it. That said, we will share five tips on how to “steal”, in a proper way, from other artists.
Sample a loop from a reference track
Many dancefloor tracks have a specific and formulaic arrangement structure. More often than not, this means that the tracks start and end with somewhat dry and isolated percussion, or an isolated kick drum, for instance. If you find yourself not knowing how to start a track, take your reference, cut a bit of the intro or outro’s isolated beat elements, and load that into your project. Next, try to mimic the sound with percussion samples from your own library and strive to achieve a similar or related groove. Make it your own.
Copy the arrangement structure
Getting stuck in an eight or sixteen bar loop really sucks, and it leads you to work on an endless pattern for endless hours. If you have doubts on how to follow up after this happens, try loading a track you like into your project as a reference. Place it at the top of your arrangement window. You can then have a clear view of how the track is arranged. For example, you can check the exact duration of the main drop, or where the bass, snare drum, and other elements kick in. Copy that.
Use a mixdown as a reference
Much like the approach above, you can use a track as a reference for your mixdown. It’s pretty stunning how much you can learn from a good mix. Going back and forth between your mix and the reference, you will clearly hear the differences in tone, levels, and depth. Then, you can match whichever things you like or feel work better on your reference mix. Furthermore, by carefully checking your loudness meter and spectrum analyzer you can match your LUFS/RMS value to the values of the reference track, to ensure you’re achieving standard loudness levels.
Take ideas from the chord progression
It’s common to find yourself astounded by a super-sounding chord progression you hear in another track and then wished you would’ve done a similar thing in one of our own. You can definitely try to take the rhythm of one of those chord progressions for a start. Once you do it, swap and change, the chords, the key, replace the melody and use your own sounds for it. It’s yours now.
Try to make a second version of your favourite track
If you really admire a track’s arrangement, sounds, mixdown, etc., pretend that this track should have a sequel, and try to make it yourself! Referencing, imitating, developing, and allowing inspiration to come from such a source is a great learning opportunity, plus a chance of coming up with something completely original!