Have you ever been listening to music, intrigued not only by the composition, but also by how the sounds were made and how it was mixed? Have you ever imagined yourself in the pilot’s seat at a recording studio, surrounded by recording gear and creative energy? Have you ever wanted to perform in front of massive crowds of people at concerts and festivals? Have you ever dreamed of your masterpiece hitting the Billboard charts?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you’ve probably thought of becoming a music producer. But what does is actually take to become a music producer? Of course it’s easier said than done, and it takes a lot of commitment, patience and perseverance to perfect your craft. But everyone has to start somewhere, and so here are X steps you can take to jump start your career in music production.
I'll start by saying that in this day and age, this step is not required. However, learning and eventually mastering an instrument can make your compositions much more advanced and can make the production process much more enjoyable. You don't by any means have to be a virtuoso, but knowledge of music theory and a trained ear will be super useful. If learning instruments isn't on your radar, you can check out our article on making music from samples. Essentially, these are pre-recorded samples created by sound designers that you can use as a base layer to start your production.
If you're intrigued to learn an instrument you may be asking yourself, “How do I pick which instrument to learn?” Feel free to start with any instrument that you desire, such as the guitar, the violin, the bass, the drums, etc. The more the better, and any instruments that you learn will be an asset to your compositions. In my opinion, the most versatile instrument to learn in terms of music production is the keyboard. But even if you don't have the time to learn the keyboard, you can mimic some of the same instrumentation as the keyboard. Don't take it from us, listen to what Kendrick Lamar had to say about sampling and using the MPC.
If you’re going to start producing music, you’re going to need to get a DAW, which stands for Digital Audio Workstation. This will be where you create, record, manipulate and mix your audio. There are many options when it comes to DAWs too, each of them providing their own unique features and workflows. At the end of the day, this is up to your personal preference. Some great DAWs to look into would be FL Studio, Ableton Live and Logic Pro X. If you want more insight into which DAW to pick, check out our post on the best DAW for beginners.
I would also recommend buying a MIDI Keyboard, which you can easily map to your DAWs functions to make producing music much more interactive. It will basically act as a physical input for you to play samples, chords and melodies.
Mixing is an essential part of music production. Even if you don’t end up mixing your own tracks down the line, it is crucial to know what gain staging and leveling is, as well as how to balance your sounds across the frequency spectrum and the stereo field. You need to learn the difference between stereo and mono, and what sounds fit where. For example, your bass will typically sit in the center of your mix as a mono instrument, but your melodies might bounce around from left to right as a stereo instrument.
You should also familiarize yourself with the various tools that are essential to a good mix and an interesting composition. These include but are not limited to EQing, compression, imaging, distortion, limiting, saturation, modulation, delay, reverb and more.
This step is simple and fun. Forget about all the technical aspects of music production and just fool around. Press some buttons, turn some knobs, experiment, and just see how what you’re doing is affecting the sound that you’re working with. Eventually, you’ll be able to make the sounds that you hear in your head, which is a very rewarding feeling.
Collaborating is optional, but is an important part of being a musician. Once you’re comfortable enough with your skills, don’t be afraid to message an artist that you like asking if they want to work together. Don’t get discouraged if they decline your offer! Reaching out to people is an essential part of networking and becoming known within your music scene. If you're looking for a specific tool to share files or sounds; check out tools like Blend.io or Google Drive to share bounced files back and forth.
Remember that at the end of the day, you’re making music because you enjoy it, not just because you want to put money in the bank. Have fun!