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Commonly Asked Questions About Music Production
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about music production. All you need to know, from how to get started
(Click each heading to expand)
Why get into music production?
Why get into music production?
Long story short. It's fun and incredibly rewarding, and if you're really good at it, you can make a career out of it. But that's a long way off, so let's talk about why millions of people decide to take up music production as a hobby... There is nothing quite like the feeling of discovering something completely new. It’s why we are driven to explore the oceans, travel to the moon and search out new and exciting experiences.
It’s also the same feeling you get sat behind your computer at 4am in the morning thinking “I really should go to bed, I have to be up in 3 hours for work”... But you don’t, you stay there, knowing you’re going to have a horrible day the next day but despite that unpleasant thought, you’ve got a big grin plastered across your face, because... You’re flying; you’re in the zone. That’s the feeling you get from producing music, when you're creating something that no one has ever heard before. When you’re in the zone it’s like you're part of the discovery itself, you’re totally at one with the creative process, and it feels amazing.
How do I start producing music?
How do I start producing music?
Once you have decided that you want to start creating music, all you really need is a computer of some description (even a tablet) and some headphones or speakers. We'll discuss what equipment you need in the next question, but there are various stages to the music production journey. Here they are...
Stage 1: Starting out & getting used to the gear/software
So, you can generally expect 'Stage One' on your music making journey to last between 1-4 months (depending on how much time you can devote to it). Mostly this stage consists of discovering and becoming familiar with the tools of your trade whilst you grasp the fundamentals of music production. The key is to get started quickly and with some guidance. DAW’s can be a bit daunting at first glance and you could be forgiven for not making any sense out of it the first couple of times you open it up and are unable to get any sounds out of it; Let alone produce a whole track.
This is where some experienced guidance comes in handy, and I can’t stress enough how important this is to giving you a smooth start to your music production journey. We have created beginners course for anyone who wants to get started quickly in Cubase, Ableton, Logic and FL Studio. In these tutorials we start making music straight away and you’ll learn relevant and highly practical uses of the software as you start to develop your own music production style and make a track for the first time. It’s great fun and you can start right now. They are cheap, especially for beginners, and the first few videos of each are free so you can check them out first. (NOTE: the tutorial may not be in a genre you want to produce, but the 'genre' is only a mechanism for you to get your production legs firmly under you so you can then make whatever genre of music you want).
Stage 2: Starting to understand the music production side of things and gaining a deeper understanding of the software
So, you will have found your feet in your DAW of choice, and perhaps you have mastered a few music production concepts, but now it's time to put that into practice. This stage still has a steep learning curve, but you are no longer getting frustrated by the software, and you can concentrate on actually making music. Again, having guidance at this stage can help you shave months and even years off your learning curve. We have genre specific music production tutorials for Cubase or 'any DAW' which will help you learn the fundamental music production skills and techniques, like recording, mixing, EQ, compression, music theory, song structure, vocal correction, comping, and many more essential skills. This stage can take anywhere between a year to 10 years, depending on how much time you can dedicate to it. You'll know you are approaching the end of this stage, when you are making tracks that start to sound like the tracks you hear on the radio.
Stage 3: Developing your own style
Although this stage can happen over the entire duration of your music production journey, you can really start to hone in on what it is you like. You'll find that with a deeper understanding of the music production software and the associated skills and techniques, that you can now get a specific production sound. This means you can now consistently make tracks that have your own unique sound. Whereas before this stage all your tracks could sound very different in style.
Stage 4: By this point you are basically a professional level music producer
This stage is a continuation of your journey and further deepening of your skills. You will never end this stage, as you can never know it all, or discover it all. This is also the beauty of music production. There is always something new to discover and new ways of doing things.
What equipment do I need?
What equipment do I need to start producing music?
1) A Computer
Any computer (laptop, desktop, PC or MAC) made in the last 8 years should be perfectly capable of getting you started. If it is fairly underpowered this might not affect you at the very beginning, but it may mean that you get to the boundaries of your computers processing power quicker, as you start to experiment with more and more plug ins and the complexity of your arrangements increase.
2) Headphones or Speakers
For people just starting out you can get away with using pretty much any headphones (in ear or otherwise) or speakers (referred to as 'Monitors' in the industry). Almost any of these will do the job to get you started. Using a laptop's built in speaker is a big no no; they just don't have the definition and frequency range needed to make music. After a while of using basic equipment you may well want to upgrade, but that's for another time. The most important thing is to make a start, and enjoy the process; never let yourself get bogged down by what gear you think you 'might' need, when your time could be much better spent actually making some AWESOME tunes!!
3) Music Making Software
The common title for music making software is a ‘DAW’ (Digital Audio Workstation) which is used to record, write, edit and mix your music and there are quite a few to choose from these days. The most important thing is not to get too hung up on this stage, sure, do a bit of research but don’t go too overboard. Any well known DAW on the market will enable you to make good quality music so the only real question is.. Which one you like the look of most and which one has features that you think will be helpful to the direction you’re thinking of going.
There are four or five main DAW’s that are at the top of their game, though of course there are many others. but probably the top four are Cubase, Logic, Ableton & Pro-Tools. Followed closely by Reaper, Studio One and FL Studio. (We'll be writing a guide to the top 10 DAW's for you very soon)
Is that it? Well yes... For the most part.
If your goal is literally to just produce music on your computer, which is what 85% of people do, then you're good to go. My advice to people just starting out is: Spend a bit of time learning and getting used to the DAW and the music making process before you start thinking about getting extra equipment.
4) Microphone For Recording Artists
Of course, some of you may be getting into music production purely to record your voice or your instrument of choice, which is totally fine, but if you want to record your voice or an instrument then you will need some way of getting it into your computer.
Some instruments like guitars may have a DI ('Direct Input') that you can plug directly into your computer and record straight into your DAW. If the instrument does not have an output (like some acoustic guitars), then you may need a microphone to get the signal into your computer. This is a bit more involved as you'll need to pick a microphone and quite possibly a Sound Card that enables you to plug a microphone into your computer. A quick cheat would be to start off with a USB microphone as they do not require a sound card and are super easy to set up. USB microphones won't match the quality that you will get out of a professional level microphone, but they will get you close and you can still get professional sounding results out of them if you do it right. Depending on the quality of the microphone of course :)
Which is the best DAW?
Which is the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)?
First off, this is a very subjective topic, and everyone has their own opinion. After having used almost all the top DAW's, we have come to the conclusion that pretty much all of the top well known DAW's are capable of producing professional level music, so really it's whichever one you fancy. Some have a broader use case, i.e. some can be used for film, and music production, whereas some are really only for music production, and some are more geared towards electronic music. Here is a list of the top DAW's on the market, and what each is capable of (in no particular order).
An incredibly powerful and versatile DAW, for anything from Trap to film scoring and everything in between. We have used all the top DAW's professionally, but have always come back to Cubase. Why? For us it is the most versatile DAW on the market, and it has the feel of a blank slate. It does not force you to go down a certain path, you can completely customize your workflow to suit the project you're working on or the style of music you want to produce, and most functions are only a click or 2 away. This may make it seem harder to learn, but once you have learned and understood the workflow, it is the most streamlined and capable of all the DAW's (in our opinion). Learn Cubase Here
Ableton is a fantastic DAW, and also very capable. It is geared more towards electronic music styles and live sessions, and it does a great job of both. The live performance part of Ableton is second to none, and there is no other DAW that can match it in that regard. However, when it comes to versatility, Ableton does not hold up so well against other DAW's like Cubase, Logic, Reaper etc. For recording multiple performers, film scoring, game music you can do it on a basic level, but it lacks advanced features that the other DAW's have. Learn Ableton Here
This was the standard in almost all recording studios 10 years ago, though that has started to change. It is still considered the defacto DAW for recording, but the other DAW's have caught up in that regard and it no longer holds the top spot. It is still a great DAW, but more geared to recording, and does lack a bit when it comes to using MIDI and virtual instruments.
Logic Pro X:
Similar in many ways to Cubase, Logic is a very versatile DAW, capable of producing any genre of music and even film scoring. It is Mac only, and does not quite have the constant development cycle that many of the other top DAW's have.
A great entry level DAW that is still capable of producing professional level music. This can seem like the easiest DAW to learn, but it can be somewhat limited in scope as you progress further on your music production journey. Some of the features, are incredibly intuitive and some are the opposite, so it is not the best DAW, but it is still a very good DAW. For those of you who want to make EDM with minimal recording, and this will only ever be a hobby, this is a good choice. Learn FL Studio Here
What's the easiest way to learn music production?
What's the easiest way to learn music production?
The absolute easiest way to learn music production is to follow along, step by step, with a professional as they make a track in your DAW of choice. As you copy the steps and build the track yourself, all of the relevant features will be explained to you; how to navigate the user interface, how it fits into the music production workflow, what settings you need to concentrate on, and which ones you can ignore etc. This is not only the best way to learn, but it is also the most rewarding and satisfying, as each lesson you will have built more and more of the track, until it is fully complete. Check out our DAW specific beginner courses for more info.
Is music production hard?
Is it hard to learn music production?
Learning music production certainly is not without its frustrations, just like learning any pro level skill. It is not just the software you need to learn, but there are many other aspects of music production that need to be understood, such as...
The software (DAW - Digital Audio Workstation):
This is where all the music production magic happens. It is where you arrange your track, where you add processing to the various elements, where you record, where you mix, where you do basically everything. Each DAW has it's own learning curve, but by far the best way to get your head around it (and the most fun way) is to learn by following along step by step with a professional tutor as they show you how to make a track from start to finish. We have start to finish courses in Cubase, Ableton, Logic and FL Studio. In these tutorials we start making music straight away and you’ll learn relevant and highly practical uses of the software as you start to develop your own music production style and make a track for the first time. It’s great fun and you can start right now.
Music theory is what allows you to make chord progressions and melodies. Some styles of music require very little understanding of music theory, whereas other styles depend heavily on it. There are also some really great tools to help you come up with chord progressions and melodies even if you have no understanding of music theory what so ever. However, a basic understanding is vital if you want to be able to successfully change or modify the chords and melody of your track. We made a Music Theory course especially for people who have never played an instrument, which takes you from the basics all the way through to being able to create your own killer chord progressions and melodies from scratch (check that out here).
This can be made easy by using pre made drum loops, or even using drum machines to add beats to your projects, so in a way this step can be simplified until you are ready to dive deeper into it. Even so, it is important to understand what rhythms the different genres have so you can at least pick the right loops. Also there are more functions to a beat than just what genre it fits into, like swing, signature and tempo. Also, this goes much further when it comes to selecting the right drums for your specific track. Again, you can make this easy at the beginning by only using pre made loops or drum machine patches, but eventually you will want to explore all aspects of drums in more detail. We made a course just for that which you can see here (Drums Masterclass).
Recording is an art form, not to be taken lightly. Of course if you are recording a guitar through a DI (direct input) then that's pretty simple, you just have to nail the performance. However, if you are recording with a microphone, and perhaps multiple microphones, then some technical knowledge and skill is required in order to get a great recording. Basic recording is covered in all our DAW specific beginner level tutorials, but we have more advanced level course for Cubase (Recording & Mixing Vocals In Cubase), & (Recording & Mixing Instruments In Cubase).
Genre specific skills:
Leaning genre specific techniques and skills can really help fast track your learning, as you get tried and tested methods given to you. This helps because what works in one genre may not suit another so you have to unjust your technique. We have made many genre specific tutorial, all of which you can follow along in 'Any DAW' and learn all the music production techniques and skills that will help you make music in those genres. You can check out our Any DAW genre specific tutorials HERE.
This is a skill that a lot of producers tend to ignore, but it can make all the difference between a hit song and a mediocre track. Learning to create tension, and then release from that tension, having ups and downs, creating contrast between the sections of your track are all necessary skills to learn to be able to make professional level music. It is a vast topic and we made a highly focused tutorial that is over 4 hours on this subject alone, showing you all the tips and tricks to make tracks that people don't want to stop listening to. Check out our Song Structure Masterclass.
Mixing is the art of first picking the right elements, and then balancing them together so that your mix sounds grounded, punchy, clear and energetic. It is one of the hardest things to master as there is so much to it. However, this process can be made easier by understanding the fundamental rules and concepts of mixing. We cover mixing in all our genre specific tutorial, but we go into much more detail in our (Mixing Masterclass for Any DAW), and our (Cubase Mixing Tutorial)
Mastering is the final stage, and although you don't have to do it yourself, it's still a very good idea to familiarise yourself with it and what is accomplished at this final stage. Mastering is one of the last skills you can learn, and almost always it is something done only after you have mastered the other music production disciplines. Slade Templeton of Influx Studios has done a great job of explaining it all in his course Mastering Masterclass.
Can I teach myself music production?
Can I teach myself music production?
Yes, you can! We did. But I can tell you from long experience that it is so much easier to learn from professionals. It took us much longer to learn music production going down the self taught route, as at the time (over 20 years ago) there was not much in the way of tutorials to help us learn the skills we needed. So, I can't stress enough just how important it is to use professional level tutorials to help speed up your learning curve. Of course you still have to practice and learn from experience, but there is no question that these tutorials shave huge chunks of time off your learning curve.
How long does it take to become a music producer?
How long does it take to become a music producer?
Technically you are a music producer as soon as you start making music, the question should be 'how long does it take to get good at music production'? The answer to that varies greatly. It depends on many factors, but the short answer is, anywhere between 1 year to 20 years. Why such a big range? If you make simple dance tracks, using manly loops then you can make tracks worth selling within a year, if you spend a lot of time doing it, and you have a natural aptitude for it. However, if you want to make your own melodies, drums and actually be original, perhaps you want to record as well. These are all skillsets that take time to practice and get good at, and if you try many different genres, many different angles, styles and perhaps you don't have much time to dedicate to your passion, then it can take you 20 years. One thing that will help you save massive chunks of time is using our tutorials. They are all crafted out of a passion to help others not have to have the very steep learning curve we did.
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