Edit: For new readers, there's a wall of text war going on some posts down. Feel free to skip the war, it doesn't finish because I realized it completely detracts from the the thread and decided to stop responding. Thanks!
I decided to start a tips thread because I keep learning or figuring out new tricks at a fast pace and I think some of you might enjoy them.
This thread will have a completely random set of tips. I will be updating it frequently over the years. If I become famous for this I will continue
Questions welcome, both related and unrelated to what I've already discussed. Disagreements and other takes welcome as well.
Before I begin allow me to qualify myself: I have no qualifications. I have no releases. My one submission to a label resulted in a temporary flop . I have like 3000 listens across 3 soundclouds over 3 years. I've been "producing" for "5 years" but only really taking it semi-seriously for about 30 months (2.5 years). I work on music an average of 30 hours a week. Out of my 10,000 hours to reach mastery, I can claim about 4,000 hours. However, that concept also requires that those are real practice hours, and guided by instruction above your level. In that case, consider me closer to about 1000 over the 5 years. Currently I am working on a game soundtrack for an indie game studio.
That said, my production skills have reached a point in which I can make professional enough sounding dance music. I've played my own tracks at clubs and have seen people keep up the dancing. I won 7th place in a remix competition judged by a major label's subsidiary for a track that wasn't close to my talent level. The general opinion was that I had the "cleanest" sounding mix. A friend of mine, a music degree graduate from a top music theory/composition program in the nation likes that I really understand music.
Ok here we go, tip of the day: Just figured this out last Friday while playing around.
1) When you have a draft far enough along that you have most of the sounds melded together--drums, bass, bass compliment, lead, pads, sufficient effects, hook, needed resonance, etc, put a low pass filter on the master track. I recommend -12db, .71 size (that's about a 2 octave span) cut at about 380 Hz. What this does is simulate really foamy and shitty headphones, but it also allows you to really understand the interplay of bass frequencies.
This will inform you two things: does it sound good for the earplug people, but more important, it lets you know what your groove really *feels* like. Transients, the quality and energy of the mids and highs, etc, hi hats, they all can mask or cover the real gut level groove of a song, so muting everything except bass instruments isn't even enough. You really want the low frequencies of all instruments without their high transients to feel this out.
This can help identify a lot of problems, from muddiness and a lack of clarity, to a lack of it-factor, to just a poorly designed beat. It can also show you how strong or awesome your piece is, and that you have a strong foundation for everything else.