With platforms like Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp, we live in a new golden age of music distribution. The middleman between artist and listener has been all but eliminated, and anyone with the right song at the right time can make it big. If you’re an avid music fan who’s ever considered making your own, now is the best time to do it.
It can be daunting jumping into music production. With this guide, we’ll answer all of the most common questions and try to keep things as simple as possible.
Want to produce music? Here’s how to get started
Get a good pair of headphones
A small but important step to making sure your music has the highest quality possible is to get a good pair of headphones. This will make sure you can hear all of the nuances in your mix. Besides a computer, this will be the only piece of equipment that you truly need.
Choose a DAW that suits you best
Choosing your DAW is the most important first step of music production. DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and they are programs that let you create, manipulate, and rearrange sounds into beautiful music.
Different DAWs have different strengths and weaknesses, price ranges, and ease of use. For Mac users, GarageBand is a basic DAW that’ll get the job done, with its main advantage being that it’s free and easy to use. If you want a more powerful DAW, here are the most popular options:
FL Studio is one of the most commonly used DAWs in the world. The program has a ton of depth and thousands of user-made plugins and sample packs that allow you to create any sound you can imagine. FL Studio also contains a piano roll that makes it incredibly simple to arrange the pitch and length of different notes.
It is definitely one of the easier to use DAWs due to its emphasis on visual communication. Notes and patterns are clearly represented by blocks that make it easy to visually sort your music. Out of all of the major DAWs, composing and arranging music in FL Studio is the easiest by far. Depending on which edition you buy, the price of FL Studio ranges from $99 to $899. Popular artists who use FL Studio include Metro Boomin, Soulja Boy, and Martin Garrix.
Ableton sports a more visually clean interface than FL Studio, showing you as much information as possible in one screen as opposed to many windows. Mixing and automating tracks is easy in Ableton as the program automatically sorts them for you.
If live performances are your thing, Ableton has many features that make it the superior live DAW. This includes live resampling and editing duplicated samples on the fly. Pricing for Ableton depends on the edition and ranges from $99 to $799. Big artists who use Ableton include Flume, Skrillex, and Deadmau5.
Personally, we would recommend any total beginner to go with FL Studio. The learning curve for Ableton is much steeper, and FL Studio is designed to be easy to use for complete beginners. As you become more advanced, check out Ableton and its features and decide if a switch is right for you.
(Optional but HIGHLY recommended) Get a MIDI controller
If you want to learn how to write a melody, it is essential that you learn a little bit of music theory. This theory can be as basic as learning a few chord progressions and staying within a scale. Also, there are plenty of free online resources that can help you learn these things if you have no musical background.
A MIDI controller is basically a piano with a few extra bells and whistles. They don’t produce sound on their own but can be used to produce sound through a DAW. When trying to compose a melody, it is infinitely more intuitive to play around on a piano instead of just staring at a screen.
You can come up with a melody by clicking around and trying different things. However, it’s significantly easier to come up with one while fiddling with something that resembles an actual instrument. You don’t need to already know how to play the piano (though you might learn along the way!) but a MIDI controller will help your workflow when it comes to melodies significantly.
Experiment and learn
Learning music production is just like learning any other instrument: you need to practice, practice, practice. You’re not going to make a new masterpiece every time you sit down at your DAW. However, every time you’re fiddling around with it and making new sounds, you’re actually getting better.
If your first few songs don’t turn out exactly how you want them to, don’t be discouraged! You will learn new things with each song, and you will get better. There are thousands of tutorials on YouTube and beyond, so absorb as much information as you can.
The hardest part of getting into music production is actually getting started and keeping with it, but you’ll be so glad you did.