Luna Shadows is an artist, producer, songwriter, & multi-instrumentalist creating alternative pop with a dark melancholy and a California twist. She is completely DIY and oversees and executes the audio and visual for her projects from beginning to end. Tom Tom had Luna pen a guest piece on 5 things she wish she had known before getting into producing.
Rules are guidelines
Made to break. Easier said than done for the perfectionist. Some of my most creative discoveries have occurred when I used something the “wrong way.” I’ve put plug-ins out of sequence, or I’ve played the “wrong” sample in the “wrong” spot, I’ve put instruments in mono instead of stereo, or I haven’t been able to troubleshoot a plug-in so I use another, etc. — this is often where the magic actually occurs for me.
I am a big advocate for furthering technical skill set wherever possible. I had the privilege of taking a ProTools class which really fast-tracked the basics for me, and I was also fortunate to have friends who let me use their studios free of charge while I was learning to produce. My peers always encourage me to continue on the path of technical expertise. I will always be grateful for these experiences and for this insight. But throughout this process, I also learned that technicality can be a deterrent for creativity at times. Intentionally or even accidentally breaking the rules can be very creatively valuable.
Invest in your environment
It took me a long time to recognize how drastically my physical environment affected my creative output. I spent a lot of time in dark, dusty, cluttered studios (my own, as well as others) before recognizing that none of the above are conducive to me as an individual with seasonal depression & dust allergies. My physical wellness has a huge impact on my creative state, so I re-evaluated how to best organize my space. Creating a studio space that worked for me took several years of trial & error. I discovered that my preference is to have a bright, minimalist space with some basic soundproofing, vital instruments, quality speakers/headphones, & an extensive digital software library. I keep some poetry books & journals around for lyrics, plants for fresh air, and some comfy floor pillows (because like a cat, I love curling up on the floor). I tend to be more cerebral and less tactile, whereas others are inspired in moody dark spaces surrounded by instruments to pick up and improvise with.
If you are just starting on your journey, bear in mind that making a home studio a reality can take years of financial investment and refining preferences (technical & creative), so go one step at a time! Do not break your bank – the idea that gear makes you “more professional” or a “better producer” is false. Limitations often inspire creativity in my experience. My recommendations on the technical side for new producers: a DAW (ProTools if you’re mostly tracking vocals, Logic/Ableton for production), a Splice membership for samples (you can trial first), an affordable interface (I like Scarlett) + mic (my first purchase was a Rode nt1-a) for recording audio, decent studio headphones, a basic MIDI keyboard and/or guitar (you don’t need to know how to play extensively to generate cool noises – you might even have a creative advantage if you don’t play any instruments).
On the creative side: are you a person that loves having lots of instruments around, or do you prefer a more digital terrain? Do you like bright or dark environments for long hours? What are some personal touches you can put in your space to feel inspired? Do you like candles or artificial light? When is the last time you dusted/vacuumed (lol)?
Learning on the job is the name of the game
I don’t know where I got the idea that I should just know everything about production. It’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to adopt, because you could study production your whole life and still learn a new skill everyday. I habitually undermine myself all the time when I’m uncertain about how to perform something. Yet I don’t think any less of my peers when I see them asking questions about how to proceed. When I am in the studio with other artists/producers, my instinct is to feel embarrassed or inadequate if I don’t know how to do something. Lately, I am finding that the best response for me personally in these situations is to (often comically) announce to the room that I need to pause, do some googling, and learn how to best achieve something. Humor can really relieve these moments for me.
Keep calm & restart, check phantom power, and follow the cables…
I recently walked into a session at an unfamiliar studio where I was producing for a prestigious artist, and my computer wouldn’t start. Fortunately, I had brought an old laptop as a backup. It’s always good to be prepared, but sometimes that isn’t even an option. Technology is fickle, things WILL go wrong. Google is your friend. You CAN call someone more experienced for help. You will not run out of lifelines. I always thought being a good engineer meant being skilled at recording, editing, and handling equipment. It took me many years to recognize that problem solving is equally part of the job description. I am always very hard on myself, and when things go wrong in the studio, I tend to blame myself. I’m getting better at taking technical difficulties as exciting opportunities to learn something new. Anyway, if you’re experiencing technical difficulties right now, re-start your DAW and/or your computer(fixes things 95% of the time), run your updates, check to see if 48V is on, and shake your cables to see that they are are plugged in & routed correctly!
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in self-criticism, self-doubt, and just general anxiety when it comes to making music. Applying pressure never makes it easier to create. Best to take a deep breath, go on a little walk, take a time out, eat a snack, phone a friend, or switch gears when stopped at creative dead ends. I often have to remind myself why I do this in the first place.
Cellophane – FKA Twigs
Lilo – The Japanese House
Deadbody – Miya Folick
When I’m With Him – Empress Of
Mean – Nicole Dollanganger
Clueless – The Marias
xanny – Billie Eilish
Motion Sickness (demo) – Phoebe Bridgers
Skinny Legs – Elohim
Midnight Swims – Kaela Sinclair
Possibility – Lykki Li
New York – Saint Vincent
Wow. – Bunny Lowe
Get Well – Donna Missal
My Lips – ROKKY
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