A question I hear a lot: Is music production hard? While I cannot answer this for you, I can show you the best way to start producing music as a beginner or improve if you are more experienced. So let’s dive in!
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What is the best way to learn music production?
What is Music production? The field and definition of Music production is a very broad one. It is the process of creating music, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering music. Depending on what genre and what your goals are, the skills you need to become a music producer are music theory, composition, sound design, audio engineering, and possibly organization and marketing skills.
Before you start, ask yourself: What kind of producer do you want to be? Why is this important you ask? Well, because each genre and style of music, like Pop, Rock, Hip hop, EDM, Jazz, Classical etc. have their own characteristics, rules and difficulties. So by knowing what you want to do or become you can already start focusing on what matters and the relevant resources for your style.
It’s a bit lame to say, but in general, there is no one best way to learn music production. Because different people have different goals, preferences, and learning styles. But I can give you great information on how to start, general tips and strategies that can help you master this beautiful profession quickly.
Decide which type of music you want to make
How do you find out what kind of genre or style you want to pursue for music making? To answer that, I don’t think you have to be super strict with yourself. Just listen to your inner voice and go for the things that make you the most excited.
But what if you really don’t know? Here are some steps that could help you find out what kind of music you want to make:
- Listen to a lot of music. It might seem obvious but it helps to open your mind and ears to what’s out there. It’s true that the more music you listen to, the more you will learn about what you like and don’t like, and of course what inspires you. Nowadays it should not be difficult to discover something new due to services like Spotify, YouTube, or SoundCloud.
- Analyze your favourite songs. Find out why you like a certain song and what elements make it sound great. What rhythms, instruments and arrangement does it have? And what kind of melodies, chords and lyrics are there? Then compare this with similar songs that you find to be less good or don’t like as much.
- The best way to learn is to actually make music. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Not everything has to be a song you release or publish. Make small experiments or fragments of music. Use acoustic instruments, record your own voice, and play around with samples and beats. Play around with effects and tracks in your DAW and I guarantee you will find something you like.
- Communicate with other producers, songwriters and composers. Making music can sometimes be lonely, especially for somebody who writes music. That’s why it’s important to share feedback, collaborate and get inspired by other musicians. This will improve your music and expand your creative horizons. It will help you find your musical identity.
The necessary music production gear for beginners
You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to start producing music, but you do need some basic things. For starters, you will definitely need a computer. Or if you prefer a laptop but don’t want to break the bank then check out these budget laptops for music production. You will need to find a DAW that suits you and you will need a MIDI keyboard, Headphones or speakers and an audio interface. Optionally you will also need a microphone to record instruments, vocals and other sounds.
If you need help choosing then check out my guide on the best music production equipment for beginners.
When you want to invest in your home recording studio then don’t forget to improve your room acoustics with acoustic panels that absorb sound. This is really essential.
Learn Music Theory, Audio Engineering, Mixing and Mastering
This sounds like a lot of work right?! And where do you start? Luckily you don’t have to become a master in all aspects at once. And maybe even some of these topics you will never learn, because you don’t need them. For example, I don’t master music. So I don’t bother diving in too deep on this subject.
Learning about music theory
When we talk about music theory we mean everything that has to deal with harmony, melody, rhythm, scales, form etc. There are plenty of places where you can learn about basic and more advanced theory concepts. For example, I have enjoyed the website teoria.com a lot, although this is a bit more classical-oriented. But I would also recommend my own YouTube channel. Here I have multiple playlists dedicated to, music production, songwriting and music composing tips, chord progressions, melodies and lyric writing. I break difficult topics down into easy-to-understand bite-sizes pieces.
Apart from online tutorials, something that has helped me learn a lot is reading books. Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert, is one of the best books to get started with. If you want to dive deeper and find more books on these topics check out the lists I compiled of the best books on songwriting and the best books for music producers.
Learn audio engineering, mixing and mastering
Here YouTube is the place to go. There are some great channels out there that cover everything you need to know about production and audio engineering. Some channels that I would recommend are Produce Like a Pro and Home Studio Corner. They cover basically everything in regard to recording and mixing.
Again, reading books has helped me immensely when it comes to becoming better at producing music. If I had to recommend one or two books per topic they would be:
Creativity and inspiration
If you’re lacking inspiration or feeling down about your creativity, then I recommend you read the book by Rick Rubin. It will definitely get you inspired. And the tips, tricks and advice are not only applicable to us music lovers. Anybody in the art field can benefit. From this book I compiled 54 inspiring quotes for inspiration.
It was a heart-warming read and it left me with so many things to think about. It’s definitely a book that I will be reading a 2nd or 3rd time.
Audio Ear Training and Solfege
Ear training is an underrated skill if you ask me. It’s a shame because if you spend some time training your ears it will improve your music skills and how fast you can start and finish projects. There are some free options out there to train your ears. Again Teoria is one of the best free go-to training sites.
A program and app that I used a lot while preparing to be accepted to the music faculty was the Earmaster ear training app. It’s safe to say that it is the #1 music theory app with 2,500 exercises on ear training, sight-singing and rhythm.
As a music producer, you need to have good ears for listening to audio. Trained ears make better musical decisions. That’s a fact! The best free platform to train your ears on audio is SoundGym. There are many fun daily exercises to train your knowledge and ears.
The great thing is that you can interact with other users, ask them questions or have a casual conversation. And you can even collaborate on projects. And much more.
To unlock even more exercises, sounds and training modules you can subscribe and become a pro. Click here for a 20% discount on your subscription.
For free solfege exercises, you can also try out ToneGym. Just like SoundGym this is an interactive and fun way of training your ears, learning music theory and improving your music skills. You can train chord progressions, melodies,
Also here you can interact with other musicians, ask them for help, connect and collaborate.
To unlock the best exercises, sounds and benefits you can subscribe and become a pro. Click here for a 20% discount on your subscription.
Collaborate With Other Songwriters, Producers and Musicians
If you make music by yourself every day it is easy to get lonely and isolated. But that’s not the only reason why it is important to collaborate.
When you work with others you tap into different skills and you share ideas. This can give you new inspiration or fresh ideas. This will help you improve your music and learn new techniques. Also, you can increase your productivity by dividing the work when you are writing a song. For example, if you are better at writing chord progressions, then it’s best that you do this instead of the other person.
Another reason why is that people perform better when there is a healthy sense of competition or challenge. It helps you push your limits and creativity. And also the feedback that you will get from somebody else can be very useful.
Lastly, when you work with multiple people, you automatically create more exposure and opportunities. Because the person who collaborates has his or her own network of fans and music industry contacts. By sharing each other’s network, you can reach new audiences and increase your chances of being discovered as a talent.
Produce Music Consistently
As with many other professions and hobbies, the best way to learn it, is by doing it regularly and frequently. This means that you should set aside some time every day, or once a week to work on your music. This does not have to be 5 hours at a time, but make sure that you actually sit down and do the work.
Something that I like to do is take small steps. For example, write one melody a week. Or explore one chord per day. You can set your goal to learn one recording technique per project or one music production technique per week. Trust me it works.
So if you want to become better at music production, then you should practice it consistently. This will really help you improve your skills, learn new techniques, create original music and avoid perfectionism. Consistency is the key to a successful music career.