Here is my music production guide explaining how I started out with music production, and my personal thoughts on important points to focus on.
I was always interested in music, but I didn’t try to produce anything before I got introduced to tracker software from a friend of mine at the age of 14, this was in the late 90-ies, early 2000. I managed to make some basic tunes, if you could even call it that. From there I evolved and kept producing even though my music sounded very amateurish. Still to this day, I am not at the level I would like to be, but I am able to produce something that sounds decent.
This is not a complete guide on how to produce music, but instead some points I think are crucial to think about if you want to know more about producing or just starting out yourself.
Patience my friend, patience… you need a lot of it. Nothing is going to sound good right away, its just how things work. Some of you may learn quickly and others (like me) are slow learners. Whats true though is that persistence pays off in the end. You just need to keep doing what you do and expect to suck at some point. No music production guide will give you an instant career overnight. If you can realize and understand this you are on the right track.
2. Focus on craft, not gear
Yes I know, you would like to get some new gear to help you produce music and this is certainly okay. However dont get so caught up in the actual gear itself. Our life is short, time is limited and using a lot of your time to focus just on gear is counterproductive. When you are starting out you should get your gear shopping out of the way quickly and focus all your energy on your craft. Gear is fun and all that but try to get the essentials first and stick with it for a while. Force yourself to use and learn what you have. Here is the gear I currently use: music production equipment. You may be surprised that it isn’t so much. All music around this site is made using just that, or less.
3. Have fun
Remember to have fun, try different things and dont take stuff too serious, not all the time at least. Some of the best ideas may pop up when you fool around and try different things. This is also a way of learning, it may not be apparent but when you try new things you are also learning.
When I am empty of ideas I may fire up a synth and only focus on trying to create a cool sound from scratch. The goal is not to produce music, but only a sound that sounds great. This may in the end lead to a new song. It has for me sometimes.
4. Learn from other producers
When I started out Internet was in its infancy so learning from others wasn’t as easy as it is today. With the explosion of online services like Youtube, blogs, e-books and other websites it haven’t been easier to learn this craft for free or at a low cost. A lot of people share their secrets and tips on youtube so you should definitely check that out. I even have my own youtube channel where you can follow along when I show you how some of my tracks are made. I try to give some tips along the way as well. If you are into trance music production or just want a music production guide that show you a complete track with arrangement, layout, instruments used etc.., check it out.
I am not the only one doing this: a guy who have helped me immensely is Graham from The Recording Revolution. I highly recommend checking out his site and videos where he explains the ins and outs of music production, mixing and getting better at the craft using the tools you already have. I always go to his site, or watch some of his videos when I loose focus or need to re-adjust my thinking (after window shopping too much online!) and to push me in the right direction again.
When all that is said, you still need to develop your own sound. You can copy, and get inspiration from other artists in a way of learning your craft. In the end though you need to find your own uniqueness. Try to get out of the comfort zone, make some crazy or strange sounds but still make them work somehow. Its not easy, but its very difficult to get somewhere just copying someone else. You want to be known about your sound, and your style. Not someone else.
5. Finish your tracks
Finishing tracks are important. Even if you dont like the direction your production is going try to finish it anyway. You will get a sense of accomplishment and that feeling is important to have to move forward. Having a folder with a ton of unfinished tracks is common but try to complete as many as you possibly can. You can always go back to your track another time. Do you think professional producers really have to wait for inspiration to kick in to make a new track? Think again, by constantly working and forcing yourself to make music it will also help by moving you forward.
If you spend several days tweaking a kick drum you are wasting your time. Use that time to finish the track instead. Art is never finished.
Set a goal: Finish one track every month or every two months. Depending on your free time.
If you really can’t finish something off but it has a part you really like, maybe a chord progression or a melody? Export it as a MIDI file or sample and just delete the original project. This way you build up your very own sample / music library and maybe you want to use that sound down the road some time. That way, even though your track never became anything you at least got something out of it and the feeling of wasted time suddenly becomes productive time. 🙂
Reading the friendly manual about your instrument, DAW or other gear will help you immensely. Do you want to use hours to find out how you make a new midi clip in ableton live? I guess not, then read the manual, it will certainly save you time.
Other music production guide tips
Picking up a few books doesn’t hurt and I am going to list a few here that are highly recommended by a lot of people and great books to start out with.
- Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques. I have read this one myself and it has helped me a lot. It starts off with music theory so be prepared for that.
- Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio. Haven’t read it myself yet, but it will adjust your thoughts about gear and that yes: you can really make professional recordings at home. This is on my reading list.
To sum it up, if you want a quick music production guide in bullet points? Look below!
- Better your craft, not gear
- Have fun!
- Find a mentor and your style.
- Finish your music
- Manual, study it!