Making Rock Music With NO Instruments - Music Made Pro

· By Will Harken

Making Rock Music With NO Instruments

Today we're going to be covering basic tips about making rock music without any real instruments.

The guitar in my office is real and I do know how to play it. But today we are not going to be using it. 


2 Reasons Why

Purists reading this might be pulling their hair out and saying “Why would you do that! you can't do that!”

But there are actually two legitimate reasons why you would want to make rock music in the box.

  1. You're a producer who doesn't know how to play an instrument but you still want to incorporate a rock sound into your song.

  2. You might know how to play an instrument, but you might not be able to afford a fancy studio to record your drum tracks, your guitars, and everything that you want to record. 

So yeah, that’s why it can be good to create rock music artificially.

If you want a more in-depth lesson about making “fake” rock, check out my Skillshare. My course isn’t just for rock artists, either. Even Olivia Rodrigo, a huge pop star, is incorporating a lot of rock elements in her songs.


General Workflow Tips

Finish Chords For the Song First

If you don’t, you might find yourself changing notes for multiple layers later in production. And that sucks. So make sure you know what the chords are for the different sections.

I recommend loading up a MIDI track, putting a piano plugin on, and having the chords play along with the parts you write, so you know everything is matching.

While you do this, consider adding locators at the top so you know where the different song sections are.

Load Up A Reference Track

I will also usually load up at least one or two reference tracks. So let’s say My Chemical Romance’s song, “Welcome to the Black Parade.”

I will download the song off YouTube in MP3 format and load that into Ableton.

This will help you move toward the correct overall sound, arrangement, and basic mix.

Hire Someone Else To Mix + Master (If You Can)

I always recommend sending your STEMS to a mixing engineer if you have the resources to do so. 

The reason? It’s a good idea to have a second set of ears on a song. Even if you are “really good at mixing.”

Write Horizontally, Then Vertically 

You want to make sure you finish the track right? Writing “across” instead of “up and down” can help you avoid getting stuck on one section.

To help myself do this, I will color-code an instrument layer as red until it's done. After I feel kind of happy with where the instrument is, I will mark the layer as green. That is personal preference though!


Rock Music Production Tips

Use Sample Plugins (Like Kontakt)

You aren’t going to be able to use a synthesizer to replicate guitars, pianos, and drums properly. So you will want to use plugins that have sample libraries. Like Addictive Drums, Kontakt, etc.

Use Midi Randomization

Real people don’t always pluck or play with the same velocity. Using MIDI randomizer plugin, you can make the velocity of each “hit” vary. I recommend Ableton’s built-in MIDI velocity plugin, but I’m sure there are others out there.

Move notes left and right (A little)

Real people don’t always play notes exactly on time. So on all your “real” instruments (like bass, guitar, drums, and piano) don’t quantize 100%. 

And if the notes are already quantized, bump them off by a hair.

Saturation is key

This is true in almost every genre, but in rock it’s even more critical. Make those guitars warm. Actually, almost all the instruments for that matter. Make them warm and present with plugins that boost saturation.

Get A Masterclass In “Fake” Rock Production

I recently started making more content for Skillshare! And one of my classes expands on this article

So if you want more details and want to see me put a rock song together, check out the “Making Rock Music With NO Instruments!” If you join, you will get access to all the other instructors on there.

CRAZY SIDE NOTE: I had the rock song from the course reviewed by somebody who has mixed a Beyonce song before. He couldn't tell which instruments were real and fake. He also thought the mix was very good and he only had a few minor suggestions that I've already taken care of. Honestly made me very proud of myself. Anyway, hope you get a chance to check out my class!


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