Just Blaze is a legend and a pioneer in the culture of Hip-Hop. He’s one of our all-time favorite music producers. He’s responsible for some BIG hits throughout the years and helped develop a certain sound in the genre (in our opinion).
Recently Universal Audio, the makers of the critically-acclaimed APOLLO audio interfaces, interviewed Just Blaze after he did a recording session with Phony Ppl for the song “Why III Love The Moon” (which is an incredible song, by the way).
He dropped a lot of gems for music producers and beat makers. It’s definitely worth reading the entire interview’s 10 questions, but below we pulled out what we thought were the really valuable pieces of advice. You can also watch the recording session with Phony Ppl below.
The first gem was about what the difference between a producer and beat maker is. This is something important a lot of people need to understand. It’s cool if all you want to do is make beats. But if your goal is to become an all out music producer that can claim the title of “producer,” you need to be doing more than giving people beats and being done.
Here’s what Just said:
A producer brings in hook ideas and song structures. A beat maker says, “Here, rap to this.” Anybody can grab some kick and snare sounds along with a sample loop or a piano sound and be done in five minutes — but that doesn’t mean it’s going to move anybody. A good producer can take chords, sounds, textures, and use them to deliver emotions and dynamics within a track.
A quick tip he gave to music producers had to deal with the subtleties of your craft. Most producers don’t think like this, but once you have this perspective it will likely change the way you approach using music.
Just Blaze says being aware of the TEMPO of a song and how it relates to the elements and sounds you use in the song is super important. After all, the best music targets emotion, and you need to clearly convey that emotion through the sounds and styles you pick.
If the BPM is 140 or 150 and there’s a huge reverb tail on the snare, the sound of the reverb could take up the whole track and drag the energy down.
Something that you’ll often find debated on music production forums is the idea that different software and hardware production platforms have different swing, groove and quantize settings. That can lead to a completely different FEELING in your groove or overall beat/song. You’ll see a lot of “experts” say no it doesn’t make a difference, but I think I’ll listen to multi-award winning super producer’s advice instead.
…even, though it’s all ones and zeros and they’re all computers, every processor and sequencer is a bit different. The reason why people loved the E-mu SP-1200 decades ago is because it had a certain swing that no other sequencer had. Some people also love the Akai MPC3000 because there was a very unique swing to the sequencing…If I do a sixteenth-note triplet on the SP-1200, it’s not going to feel exactly the same timing coming from an MPC3000 or an MPC2000.
One thing we’re big believers in here is PRACTICE. And so is Just Blaze. There’s nothing worse than (ok, maybe a few things) recording a vocalist who doesn’t really know their song. They don’t have the lyrics memorized, they don’t remember the song structure, etc.
Before you go into the studio, make sure you’re prepared.
Preparation is key. I always tell the band, “Perform it like you know it.” most often, that means taking the track home and just live with it. In fact, we all go home and live with it. Work with it over and over. Then we attack it the next day, knowing the tune inside and out. This is especially important for vocalists.
When asked about the biggest mistake up-and-coming producers make, Just’s answer was pretty common. It had to do with the use of compression.
His #1 sin in the studio:
Over compression. I was guilty of it when I was younger. You don’t really know what compression does, you just know everyone is using it. It can be a wonderful tool for shaping the sound, but it can also sneak up on you and suck the life, soul, and dynamics right out.
My favorite gem that Just Blaze dropped in the interview was on the last question. When asked about his biggest tip for music producers he said it’s all about determination. We’re big believers in never giving up and working hard to achieve what you want. And it seems, so is this legend.
Don’t give up and don’t put a time limit on it. When I decided to go professional, I decided I’d give myself a year, and then I decided to give myself another year on top of that. At the end of that two-year period where I was interning and assisting engineering, it wasn’t working out and nothing was really happening. The day after I started to do my research on going back to regular life and finishing my college degree was the day I placed my first record, which ended up going gold and selling 500,000 copies. Had I decided to leave a month earlier, me and you wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. Persistence overrides resistance.