Whether you're just starting out in music production or are an experienced producer, YouTube is an amazing resource for learning and perfecting your craft.
One of the best beginner-friendly channels on YouTube is EDM Tips, founded by DJ and producer Will Darling. Will has been producing dance music for over 25 years, with a back catalogue that includes tracks that have been Grammy shortlisted, as well as regularly hitting the top of the download charts. It's fair to say then that he knows a bit about music production...
On his channel Will shares his knowledge through regular electronic dance music production tips and tutorial videos, including creating tracks from scratch in a number of different genres using mainly stock plugins. He also provides music production courses, where many of his ex-students have gone on to be hugely successful.
In this article I catch up with Will to talk about how he got started in music production, his workflow and favourite gear, as well as discussing some great music production beginner tips.
Will, tell us about how you first got started in music production. Was it something you've always been interested in, or did you come to it later in life?
[Will] I learned piano from the age of 9, but at the age of 11 I heard “Out of Space” by The Prodigy drifting down from my older brother’s bedroom. I ran upstairs to see what it was, and I was hooked. I started producing (very bad music) on my Amiga 500 that year. I started DJing at about fifteen or sixteen and was in a couple of bands in my teens.
I love music production because for me it's the perfect blend of the nerdy side of my nature with my more creative side. What is it about production which especially appeals to you?
[Will] What you said, for sure. Also, getting in that flow state where hours just pass, and the excitement of the music itself!
What are your musical influences? What are the artists that really inspire you?
[Will] Oh, I have so many and I’m always adding to the list. Probably the main ones in my life have been: The Prodigy (Liam Howlett), John Digweed, Axwell, Calvin Harris, but there are a hundred more.
I first discovered your EDM Tips YouTube channel back in 2016 just after I'd downloaded Ableton. It's a great resource for learning about production. Tell us a bit about the genesis of the channel and how it's evolved over the years.
[Will] Firstly, thanks for the kind words and support! I started EDM Tips in 2016, and I actually didn’t want to do a YouTube channel at all, just an online course business. But a friend suggested I would be good at it, so I tried it and, as with most creative endeavours (including music production), if you keep on being consistent, keep learning, keep promoting and listening to yourself and your customers, things start to pick up and happen.
One of the things I really like about the channel is the broad range of genres that you cover. Do you think learning how to produce in different styles makes you better equipped as a producer?
[Will] Yes…absolutely no question, BUT, one should get very good at one style first. If you try and learn too many genres simultaneously it reduces the speed at which you can get good at any one genre.
Tell us about your production masterclass course. What inspired you to create it, and what feedback have you had from your students?
[Will] I already had a few separate courses that were being received very well and getting great results for students (like "Music Theory for EDM Producers" and "The Ultimate EDM Mixing Course”), but one of the biggest requests I get it is for feedback, so I wanted to build something really in-depth and powerful that integrates regular feedback.
We’ve had students get signed to some of the world’s biggest labels, so that is feedback enough for me! :)
How do you usually start your tracks?
[Will] As a pianist, I usually start with the chords and melody. Not always, but usually.
Do you have any advice for new producers struggling to break out of the 8-bar loop and finish their tracks?
[Will] Sure thing! If you use a reference track in the same genre in which you want to produce, you can map out the structure in your DAW (where the drops happen, where the builds are, etc.) and listen very carefully as to which elements they use - and where.
This is your template, and I cannot stress the importance of developing your ability to listen and analyse existing music carefully. It’s one of the most important skills to develop.
How long does the complete production process take you, and how do you know when your track is done?
[Will] It usually takes me between 10 and 20 hours. A track is never really “done”, so deadlines are essential for me, otherwise I’ll keep tweaking forever. If you have the opportunity to play your tracks out and gauge audience reaction, you can always go back into the studio and tweak, though.
Do you have any beginner tips on how to set about learning sound design?
[Will] Yes…the best two things to do are to firstly read your synth's manual (Serum is a great synth to learn sound design), and every time you come across a term you don’t understand (i.e. oscillator), google it until you understand it. Then secondly, pick apart a few presets and reverse engineer them.
How important do you think learning music theory is to becoming a successful producer?
[Will] It depends on the genre, but you don’t need to know that much to make a huge difference. It’s not essential – any more than it’s essential to have driving lessons to learn how to drive a car well – but it definitely helps.
Are you a complete in-the-box producer, or do you own any hardware gear or instruments?
[Will] In the box nowadays.
What are your favourite go-to VST plugins?
[Will] Serum’s a killer synth, Kontakt from Native Instruments, the whole Soundtoys bundle, the Sonnox Oxford Inflator, FabFilter Pro L2, and Izotope Ozone.
What's on your gear/VST wish-list?
[Will] Another pair of PMC monitors. I had a pair years ago and those lads REALLY know how to make a pair of speakers.
How do you see music production technology evolving in the future?
[Will] More online real-time collaboration.
Tell us about some of the music you've got coming out, and what else you've got planned for 2022.
[Will] I’ve got a remix of Pacific State I’m working on at the moment this month, but nowadays my focus in predominantly on EDM Tips.
We’ve got a new program launching in 2022 called the Accelerator - and it’s going to be our most effective system for getting students to a professional level and supporting them as they move into the industry. My co-coaches and I are VERY excited about it!
Want to Know More?
If you haven't already, be sure to check out Will's EDM Tips YouTube channel.
You can find out more about the production courses he offers on the EDM Tips website.
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Have a great day!