You’ll get the ba­sics from this ar­ti­cle, but to take your home record­ing skills to the next level, at some point you’ll turn to video tu­to­ri­als on YouTube. And it’s great that such a wealth of in­for­ma­tion from so many dif­fer­ent voices is at your fin­ger­tips. But it’s also a dou­ble-edged sword.

If the tu­to­rial you’re watch­ing rec­om­mends a par­tic­u­lar VST or plugin, make sure you’re not watch­ing a piece of spon­sored con­tent. This hap­pens a lot. It’s a sim­i­lar story if the con­tent cre­ator is sell­ing a bunch of in­stru­ment pre­sets—find an­other tu­to­rial. There are plenty of knowl­edge­able stu­dio en­gi­neers and pro­duc­ers on YouTube, so you don’t need to try to glean in­for­ma­tion from covert ad­ver­tise­ments.

Find a pro­ducer or en­gi­neer who makes the kind of mu­sic you en­deavor to make, or achieves a par­tic­u­lar sound you’re striv­ing for. Most im­por­tantly, make sure they’re us­ing the same DAW. There’s no point learn­ing how to set up a sidechain com­pres­sor in Pro Tools if you’re us­ing Logic Pro. Don’t worry if they’re us­ing slightly dif­fer­ent VSTs or mi­cro­phones, though: You won’t achieve the ex­act same sound as them, but you’ll learn a lot from copy­ing the way they do things, and hear­ing the ef­fect it has on your projects. If they of­fer a step-by-step project for you to fol­low, all the bet­ter. Keep mind­ful, though, that there’s rarely just one “cor­rect” way to do things in mu­sic pro­duc­tion. The tu­to­rial you’re watch­ing shows you one way to do things, and of­fers the com­fort blan­ket of an as­suredly good sound. Great pro­duc­ers build on this know-how, and de­velop their own tech­niques, cre­at­ing a sound that others will want to repli­cate. Who knows—maybe one day you’ll be the one up­load­ing tu­to­ri­als.

If some­one’s shilling soft­ware or gear, don’t fol­low their tu­to­ri­als.

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