Every time you listen to your favorite songs, you can’t help but notice how well the instruments in the background come together to make this beautiful piece of art. You admire how well the keys and strings team up to make this hypnotizing melody, and when the drums kick in it creates this overwhelming feeling causing you to unconsciously bob your head back and forth.
Next thing you know your eyes are closed and you are lost in every part of the instrumental. Sure the vocals are amazing as well but you were more interested and instantly drawn to the production side of music, that experience ultimately led you to choose a career path as a music producer. Congratulations you just took the first step in your career as a music producer (deciding to become one), But whats next? How do you get started?
Trying to become a music producer, like everything else, is not an easy feat it’s not just because there are thousands of online producers that are available at the click of a mouse or screen tap but also because you have to learn many things before becoming one. The internet has birthed plenty of producers and if you don’t believe me, go on YouTube and Type in “type beat.” see how many different producers are on just the first page alone. Crazy right!? Don’t be intimidated, anyone of us can do what they are doing as long as we are persistent and consistent.
You’ve decided to become a producer and take your craft seriously, now you have to figure out a few things:
What type of computer should I get?
It doesn’t matter what computer you get as long as it’s a good computer, with a lot of memory and is fast. A laptop is a must have, because producers must be portable, but If you want a desktop for home too that’s fine. You should definitely have a laptop though unless you plan on hauling a desktop whenever you are required to travel.
What software or DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) should I use?
What type of equipment do I need?
Keyboard: I’m no expert on Keyboards so I can’t recommend any specific ones. I own an Alesis V49 keyboard with a drum machine attached to it. I bought it for $150 (not including the warranty I bought with it) and I love it.
Speakers: Having good speakers is vital to your workspace and mixes. I have a pair of KRK Rokit 5s and I love them very much but I’ll be honest, these aren’t the first speakers that I would recommend. The first pair of speakers I would recommend would be a pair of Yamaha HS5’s because they have a perfect mixture of high, mid, and low-end frequencies, whereas the Rokit 5s have low end that stands out (which is why it is popular in the hip-hop community). I also would recommend the JBL Lsr305 although the high-end frequency of the speakers stand out like the Rokit 5 low end. The Yamaha’s typically cost $200 a speaker, compared to the Rokit and JBLs $150 a speaker.
Interface: With speakers, you also have to make sure you get an interface, which pretty much enhances the sound, but also connects the high powered speakers to the computer. This is a must-have if you’re going to be using high powered speakers. The soundcards built in computers aren’t built to support high res sound, that’s where the interface works its magic. You can pick up a good one, like the Audiobox Presonus One at Guitar Center for $100. You don’t need state of the art expensive equipment, you just need good equipment. Don’t forget to “DO YOUR RESEARCH!” on every piece of a equipment you are going to get. Find what’s going to suit you and your needs and make sure they have mostly good reviews.
Drum machines: You don’t necessarily need an MPC’s(I have one that came attached to my keyboard and I never used it) but if you want one, by all means, do as you please. I can’t make any recommendations about ones to get because, like keyboards, I have minimal knowledge of different types of MPC’s but a lot of producers love to use them.
Anything else that would be useful to a music producer
This is an underrated tip but, most new producers fail to realize how important an external hard drive is. If something happens to your computer and it can’t be restored. Those projects that were on that computer are lost. Invest in a hard drive and prevent the heartache of losing your work.
Understand that there are a lot of investments that a music producer has to make. I’ve spent over $1,000 on equipment alone but honestly, it was worth it and it will definitely be worth it in the long run so don’t worry about how much money you spend on equipment.
Start learning how to produce music
Now that you’ve decided that you want to be a music producer, its time to learn how to produce music. Now sure, usually when you decide on a career path, the standard solution to learning how to become whatever it is that you want to be, is to go to school for it. Plenty of successful producers have gone through schooling to hone their skills and learn the art of music production but this path is not necessary at all. Take it from someone who is self-taught in Music Production and has been doing it for 4 years with an education from The YouTube University. Seriously, when I tell you that YouTube may end up being your best friend and sensei on your journey to becoming a polished music producer, I’m not kidding.
Just the basics:
Start off simple on YouTube. If you’re reading this I’m assuming that you have either no prior experience with producing or very little. Go on YouTube and search, “how to make a (hip-hop, EDM, Pop, R&B ) Instrumental on FL Studio 20” or “how to make a (hip-hop, EDM, Pop, R&B ) beat on Ableton” whatever DAW and Genre you are deciding to work with. These videos will pretty much teach you the basics of creating instrumentals on your DAW of choice. It will teach you how to create patterns, where to find instruments, how to track them, etc.. It will also teach you the basic structure of a typical beat in your genre. For example, if you’re searching up how to make a hip-hop beat those videos will show you the basic structure of a hip-hop beat like what drums are typically used and how patterns typically sound. Click on a couple of videos that catch your eye and make sure you watch them to the fullest extent. More importantly, PAY ATTENTION! Though some of the people in these videos may sound like they are blabbering on and on sometimes, I can just about guarantee that every bit of info you gain from these videos are going to be vital for you to know once you get started, so please listen closely.
As an aspiring producer keeps in mind that chords are an important part of producing great music. You must know what keys sound good together on whatever instruments you use. This is the foundation for creating an enchanting melody. Watching videos for learning chords is definitely helpful in getting you started, but chords, like most things, are something you really get the hang of with practice. That’s why it is really helpful if producers know an instrument, though it is not necessary. I had no prior knowledge of playing an instrument, and now I can pretty much put together a melody with no problem. Practice and work on your craft every day, you will see the results over time.
Mixing is not just for engineers. it is very important for producers to have a certain level of mixing knowledge so you know how to blend your instruments together and cut out frequencies that interfere with one another, causing unpleasantness in your ear. These videos will pretty much teach you how to make instruments cooperate with one another, and come out with a pleasant sounding mix. The most important part of this is learning how to use an Equalizer (EQ), which is pretty much a tool that allows you to boost and reduce frequencies in instruments or vocals, changing the sound of them. EQ is a tool that you will have to use in just about every project making it one of, if not, the most important tool you will use in music. Once you fully learn how to EQ you will be on another level.
Make sure you don’t limit yourself to watching just one video. Watch many different videos’s on the same subject so that you have different perspectives on producing music. Having all of these different perspectives will allow you to combine the different techniques you’ve learned from different producers and create your own little workflow and style. It’s also important to watch multiple videos because you may learn something from one video that you didn’t from the previous video, thus advancing your progression faster than if you watched just one video (it’s important to keep an open mind as a producer).
Experience is the best Teacher
Okay, you just stacked up on all of the “how to” videos you possibly can and now you feel like you have the knowledge and skills to be a super producer off the rip. You open up your DAW and expect to cook up something that will blow everyone’s mind. Only it doesn’t happen that way. The main difference between the skill levels of someone who is just starting and the skill level of someone like Metro Boomin or Calvin Harris is a little thing called experience. Sounds cliche in a way but its the truth. The more you produce and practice, the better you will become natural.
Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe you should always open up your DAW with the confidence that you are about to create the greatest instrumental of all time. Since I started, I’ve been opening up FL Studio with so much confidence it can almost be classified as cockiness. At the same time you have to remain humble and stay with the mindset that you are only going to keep getting better, so be aware of your current skills. It will give you a good idea of what you need to work on. Most importantly always be a student of the game and never stop learning.
Here’s a tip that is completely underrated but one of the best ways to learn, collaborating with other producers. When you Collaborate with other Producers, especially those with more experience than you, you will take away a lot from just watching them work. The past few weeks I have been working with a producer who flew out here to work with me and my team. He and I spent countless hours during the day and night just creating and learning from one another. Our chemistry was amazing off the rip, and it only got better as we went on. When working with another producer make sure you watch their process carefully, as well as some of the little things they do to tweak an instrumental because these things that you pick up from them, could be the difference between you staying stagnant and you ascend to the next level.
Choose Your Producer Path
It’s a new age where internet producers are taking the game by storm, specifically on YouTube. Producers like CashMoneyAP, Taz Taylor, and MjNichols, have pretty much helped paved the way for producers such as myself to learn how to make more than a comfortable living off of selling instrumental through YouTube and beat stores. You’re going to need to choose a beats store to supply your instrumentals whether it be Airbit, Beatstars, or Traktrain. I recently switched from Airbit to Traktrain, but don’t let that sway you away from Airbit because I love Airbit, I just switched out of recommendation from a friend. You can’t go wrong on whatever beat store you choose. They are all good choices, though Beatstars.com seems to be the most popular choice among producers. Do your research on each website and figure out which website is best suited for you. When you figure out which choice you are going with, you should also start thinking about investing in your own website. It’s seen as professional even though I’ve met people who found success without a website although having one is an advantage. You have more flexibility and ways to make money with your own website. You can not only embed your beat-store into your website, but you can also sell merchandise and other services you provide through your website such as mixing and mastering. You can also provide updates to your customers when they go to your website, as well as allow them to get in touch with you through a contact form.
Building with your team:
Though internet producing may seem like the easiest way to go, you can’t forget about the “traditional” producer path of building with a team, (an artist(s), engineer, graphic designer, videographer, etc.). This is something I do as well as my own beat-store Because my love for music runs deeper than just making money online, I genuinely enjoy the art of making songs and combining thoughts with other artistic individuals. This is a good path to take as well because here you can build chemistry with a group of guys and of girls, feed off of and help each other out in the long run. This is a great way to go as well especially to maximize longevity. This paths payoff is especially satisfying if you’re doing it with a group of good friends.
I hoped this helped any aspiring music producers out. Now go out there and bless the world by creating the next unique sound!
Also published on Medium.