Interview: Music Production 101 with Blank Page

Progressive, Deep, and Melodic London-based DJ and producer Greg Newman who is otherwise known as Blank Page have been rising his way through the ranks after his debut release ‘Autumn’ reached the top 3 in the Trackitdown charts. Greg has achieved a great deal in his relatively short career as his follow-up EP went on to gain support from BBC Introducing and since then he has been signed to labels such as Plasmapool, Xtrxx, and Club Restricted Records.

One EDM: What software would you recommend to a beginner?

Blank Page: It’s hard to answer this in a non-bias way… Everyone always recommends whatever he or she started with. So for me, FL Studio! I looked at Ableton but found it too complicated, to begin with, and found FL Studio was easy to get a beat down as an amateur because of the step sequencer.

What plugins should someone start off with?

When you start it is NOT about plugins, but if you’ve really got that urge, then some sort of moog emulation as a synth (I use the Mini Moog) and a decent EQ – I recommend Fab Filter as a beginner as it has a spectrum display so while your ears are still learning you can use the display to start to recognise where certain frequencies are. You shouldn’t get into this as a habit, but it can be useful in the beginning.

Have you got any suggestions for tutorials people can search online?

Future Music tutorials are a melting pot of knowledge and useful tips. And something that people ALWAYS overlook is the tutorials put on by your own DAW! So if you’re using FL Studio, looks up Image Line’s YouTube channel. They will teach you more about your daw than most people can!

What are the 3 main things any budding producer needs without breaking the bank?

Easy, and no one should answer this any differently… Monitors, audio interface and acoustic treatment for your room!

Do you think it’s important to learn music theory or an instrument beforehand?

No, it’s more important to learn your daw, mixing, and songwriting. You can hear by ear if notes are in key or not, and at the start, you won’t be releasing music. Write by ear while you’re learning and you can pick up basic music theory to improve your writing when you’re ready to publish. I mean it helps… But you wouldn’t postpone producing because you don’t know how to play the piano right?

Where do you usually start when writing a new tune?

For me, I always start a new track because I’ve had an idea. So that’s always a bassline, a melody or a chord progression. I will build some basic drums around it to get an idea if it can work in a track, but yeah, it’s always some sort of melodic content, rather than a drum groove for example.

Where is best for producers to send their demos off?

There’s no, one answer to this. At the beginning, unless you’re convinced you’re making amazingly well produced music, aim for smaller labels. Cruise beatport for the smaller labels and listen to their tracks to find the right sounding label for your tracks.

What is your advice on sampling?

JFDI… Just fucking do it! Who cares? If you can make a good track out of something then great! I mean, there’s a limit, you wouldn’t want to rip off someone’s music. If you stick to the actual art of sampling, then crack on. If a label gets weird about it, then chuck it out as a free download and use it as publicity. It’s all music at the end of the day.

What are the main things to avoid doing?

Making music with really poor speakers (unless you know what you’re doing), listening to your music on one set of speakers/headphones and thinking it’s done. Also, being a dick. Don’t do that – unless you’re deadmau5.

Do you think its necessary to learn how to mix and master?

Mixing is an absolute must know in my opinion. People will disagree with that but here’s why… At it’s most basic level mixing is matching volume of the different parts of the track. Say you have a track with a piano and a bassline. You want the bassline to be the main part of the track, but you sent your shit off for mixing and the mixing engineer has made the piano the main stay… That’s your vision gone out the window. Now obviously that is easy to fix, but it’s an exaggerated example. You should have complete control over all the elements of your track.

Mastering however is only fine-tuning. So the engineer is not going to make major changes, but take this opportunity to get a professional to listen to your track in a proper studio and allow them to make the tiny tweaks where necessary.

 As a DJ, is there anything producers should avoid doing in their tracks that could be annoying for DJ sets?

It’s always wise to provide some drums so it’s easy for a DJ to mix. That’s not to say this is essential, but if you’re starting with just off beat hats for example, it’s going to make it difficult.

Try and provide something on the downbeat just as a reference, even if it’s just a cymbal every 8 bars or something.
Other than that it’s fair game! Your music, do what you want… Make music for yourself and not others!

What do you wish you were told when you first started producing?

I was once told this. And it’s… “When you finish your first track that you think is ready for release, don’t try and get it signed. Hide it away, forget about it, and make music for another year or two – because you’re not ready yet.”

This is so important! When you finally finish that first track you’ll feel like the fucking ‘don’. But it’s rubbish… Trust me. I didn’t follow this because I was too excited. Luckily (or unluckily), my track got picked up by a small label and it got released and now this, not very good piece of work is out there with my name on it.

Now I haven’t changed name or anything so all my old work is out there (I think you should show where you came from as an artist), but if you ignore this, I promise you’ll listen back to your first releases a year later and realise how bad they are!

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