So you’ve decided to pursue a career as a producer? Awesome!
One of the most satisfying, artistically gratifying, and ever-evolving pleasures is music creation. Whether you want to be a professional or simply want a fun pastime, music production can provide you with so much that you’ll wonder what you did before!
However, getting started might be intimidating. Any producer will have a lot of questions before they even attempt to make a track, from picking a DAW to knowing what gear you need (and don’t).
So, here are my Top Ten Recommendations for Getting Started as a Music Producer.
1. Have a goal in mind
You don’t have to invent a completely new genre (though that may be fun!)
You must be aware of your musical vision. Perhaps you want to create music that sounds identical to a certain artist or genre. While some creativity is appreciated, even in this scenario, you still have a vision that you must comprehend.
Hopefully, you’ve been inspired to make something new, whether it’s a whole new sound or a unique twist on an old style.
The trick is to know what you want to accomplish.
How can you track your success if you don’t know what you’re striving for?
Do you want to be a creative producer that creates their own music from beginning to end? Or how about being a beatmaker who creates music for vocalists to finish? Maybe you like live music and wish to record yourself or other performers? Each of these visions requires an own set of strategies.
Every new company should have a mission statement — a purpose for being. While it’s too early to think of your music career as a business, picturing what you want to produce and where you want to go may be very helpful.
But keep in mind that this is a vision, not a jail. You have the freedom to alter your mind, discard ideas, and develop as an artist. Many producers began their careers in one genre before moving on to a completely other one. Make your objectives as specific as possible, and revisit them on a regular basis.
2. Pick a DAW and stay with it
Learning how to use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is similar to learning how to play an instrument. Spending 5 weeks studying the guitar, 3 weeks studying the saxophone, and 4 weeks studying the drums will not make you a better musician. You’ll only be able to stutter on three distinct instruments.
Choosing a DAW that is right for you is both vital and difficult. There are several alternatives available at various price ranges, as well as a variety of festivities and attractions. Spending time studying before you begin might save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
3. Take it one step at a time and learn one tool at a time
One of the most frequent regrets of seasoned producers is the time and money they squandered when they first started out. They acquired as many pricey plugins as they could afford in the hopes of making better music faster. In truth, the exact reverse happens! Having more stuff you don’t know how to utilize doesn’t make your song sound better, much as having more musical instruments.
Stick to the built-in plugins and effects in your DAW and study them one at a time. Also, if you don’t know how to do anything, don’t do it until you do. Even if you’ve read a lesson that explains the “proper” compression settings for snare drums, using them to your project without first comprehending the parameters will almost always result in a subpar sound.
Start with EQ, then Reverb, and finally Compression. Then you’ll want to learn about Buses/Groups and Channel Strips. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of these tools, you’ll have a skill set that enables you to create high-quality, well-mixed music.
If you lack these abilities, adding extra plugins will merely expose flaws in your song.
Of course, there are a plethora of plugins available – your DAW certainly has enough to keep you busy for years – but learn to utilize them one at a time!
Music producers, musicians, and artists often echo the mantra, “Originate, don’t imitate.”
However, there’s a solid argument to be made for studying specialists’ work, finding out what they achieved, and then trying to replicate it.
That’s not to imply you should replicate whole songs, but as a beginner producer, the value of effectively duplicating a certain kick or bass sound from one of your favorite tracks cannot be overstated.
The same may be said about track structure, especially in dance music. There’s a reason why certain music can get people dancing, and a big part of it has to do with the arrangement.
5. More songs to listen to
Listen to as much music as you can, in as many genres as you can, regardless of how certain you are that French-Skiffle-Electro-Techno is the only type of music you will ever want to compose. You’ll become a better producer as a result of it.
Furthermore, listening is one of the most crucial components of producing. It’s tough to master your tools if your ears aren’t tuned in to the subtleties of various settings.
They must learn to listen.
Listen to music you like and consider what it is about it that speaks to you.
Listen to songs that you despise. Why are you so irritated?
Comprehending your personal preferences can help you make music you like, and understanding the distinctions between various musical aspects will help you make better mixes.
In the field of music production, the term “reference” is very essential. It’s not about obtaining a great letter from your previous job. Listening to your creations on a reference system is referred to as referencing. It also refers to the practice of comparing your mixes to a reference track.
But, first and foremost, what is a reference system?
Simply said, a reference system is any set of speakers or headphones capable of reproducing your track with enough clarity and neutrality to give you a good notion of how it will sound when it is heard by the general audience.
As a consequence, Studio Monitors and Headphones are often referred to as Reference Monitors.
It’s termed a reference system because, although high-quality monitors are critical, it’s also a good idea to test your mix on inexpensive headphones, laptop speakers, phone speakers, and home stereo speakers, since this is likely how the general public will hear it.
Using a reference track also allows you to do an A/B comparison between your mix and a professionally mastered track. You’ll be happy if you can get anything close to the same level of quality before mastery.
7. Your ears are to be respected
You only get one pair of ears, and you’ll need them if you want to be a successful producer. Avoid working at ear-splitting levels; not only will the music be distorted, but your ears will color the sound as it enters. You’ll hear less rather than more. Furthermore, you run the danger of long-term harm.
Tinnitus is quite frequent among DJs and producers, and it’s not enjoyable at all.
8. Invest on a good set of headphones
To be a music producer, you only need to spend money on one item, contrary to popular belief:
A good set of headphones.
You’ll want to increase your investment over time, but they are necessary.
You won’t be able to get decent outcomes if you can’t hear what you’re doing clearly enough.
Cheap and non-professional headphones (such as noise canceling headphones for home listening) actively color the sound to make it seem warmer and more pleasant. You don’t want this as a producer. You’re looking for raw honesty!
High-end headphones might cost several hundred dollars, but if you do your homework, you may discover B-Stock, ex-display, or older versions at considerably lower pricing for beginners.
What about speakers, though?
Nobody is denying that speakers are crucial to music producers. Most professional producers would never create only on headphones, and having both high-grade speakers and headphones is essential.
However, as a novice producer utilizing speakers instead of headphones, you may find yourself compensating your mixes against reproductions that are specific to your space unless you can be completely certain of the acoustic quality of your studio/bedroom.
9. In this case, little is more
One of the most typical newbie errors is overcrowding a track with too many features. It’s reasonable — you’re ecstatic, a little raw, and brimming with energy. Furthermore, determining whether a track is ‘completed’ is difficult.
However, having the abilities to successfully handle a busy track, especially as a newbie, is unusual.
Each instrument or sound takes up a certain amount of space in the overall mix, and each instrument is carefully placed in a decent mix.
Learning how to prevent frequency conflicts, phase cancellation, and muddy-sounding mixes requires practice. It’s far preferable to start with a smaller number of instruments, each of which occupies a separate frequency band.
If you learn to manage a lesser number of sounds, you’ll be able to add more later if you choose.
10. Expect to wait a while for positive results
Some DAWs are simpler to use than others; for example, GarageBand is meant to be simple to use and provide beginners with immediate results.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re in it for the long haul.
Be patient, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get any hits right immediately. It takes time for the majority of individuals. And practice, practice, practice.
‘It takes a community to raise a kid,’ as the adage goes. A music producer may be in the same boat.
While it’s tempting to spend hours shut up in the studio, only emerging for coffee and cookies, it’s critical to share your work with people on a regular basis. Talk to your friends about your ideas, join music production Facebook or Reddit communities, and, if possible, talk to pros. Inquire about others’ ideas, and don’t be afraid to seek assistance. Most seasoned producers know what it’s like to start out and are eager to assist in any way they can.
Finally, keep in mind that errors teach you more than successes.
Experiment, try new things, and most importantly, have fun!