Starting Out As A Music Producer
In the 8 years or so since I began doing music production on a serious level, I’ve met a plethora of young creatives in one field or another that have wanted to try making music electronically, on an instrumental platform. I get a lot of questions relating to where or how to start, as well as what programs are the “best” for making beats or instrumental music. The simple answer is that there really is no answer, how everybody starts is dependent on that individual and how he or she chose to create their work. If you have a computer, or any means to create musically then you are on the exact same playing field as some of your favorite artists, but taking that first jump into the world of audio production can be a daunting one. Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) aren’t cheap, and producing music can be a very, very time consuming process. So for those of you who really want to try your chops in the world of creating music, here’s some tips to get you started, before you even open up your first audio program for the first time.
Learning Music Theory isn’t a bad idea
I know, I know…music theory. When people hear this they usually think of a pompous piano teacher or some college students riffing on about compound time signatures and terms for chords you’ve never heard before. Music Theory can sometimes feel like a really big inside joke you’re not a part of if you don’t take the time to get a basic grasp of knowledge for it. The basics of music theory will make you understand the elements of songs you can’t really put your finger on but want to describe every day. It will make piano rolls in any digital audio workstation make a little bit more sense, and overall it will give you more freedom as you go along in your journey as a music producer. Even a simple skim through a book like Music Theory For Dummies could assist you in getting a basic grasp on Theory; making studio sessions with other artists that much easier when they know Theory as well.
YouTube is your friend
For every aspiring producer in the world that exists, there is a youtube tutorial that can somehow cater to exactly what they are looking to learn in one way or another. Since the beginning of 2010 and even before, a simple search on youtube for “how to make beats in Ableton” or “how to do ______ in reason” can give you thousands to millions of results which can benefit you as a producer. For example, at the SXSW festival in Austin I had the pleasure of meeting some representatives from DubSpot which is essentially a one-stop-shop for any producer looking to dig into some new techniques or even get started. I’d highly recommend their plethora of free videos on youtube which can help you get a grasp of some of your favorite artists recording and and producing techniques in ways you’ve never heard of.
If you’re lucky enough, find some completed project files for your workstation
This may require some resourceful thinking and web-savvy searching but there are communities for almost every digital audio workstation that encourage sharing project files, so others can understand a specific artist’s workflow or discover new music and techniques at the same time. In one instance a few years ago, Ableton publicly uploaded multiple project files from some of their most revered artists in the community for learning and research purposes. Along with releases like the able10 project packs, communities like FLPside can also be seen as outlets for FL Studio users to share FL Studio projects and files as well as help one another. The production community is a very welcoming and close knit circle for those who choose to step in for the first time, and if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon some good project files, dig through them and learn as much as you can about the product you’re using through these projects. Remember though, stealing elements of another producer’s song without permission is for suckers.
You don’t have to work to completion on every song
A lot of producers just starting out can get caught up in spending too much time finishing and polishing songs when they should still be creating. What I mean is that it’s okay to have unfinished project files, sketches of beats that you never go back to or even hold on until to know you’re good enough to complete it.
The privilege and advantage you have starting out as a music producer is if you’ve never put a song out, nobody is expecting anything from you. So keep creating until you feel like you not only can make something sound complete, but can build it into a full song. It may not happen with your first .flp you ever open in FLS and it may even take you jumping form DAW to the next to figure out where your comfort zone is, but as long as you’re patient and consistent from the start, all the other elements will work itself out through time and experience.
As I said before, the short answer for starting out as a music producer is that it will be different for everybody, so there really is no answer. How you start is how you start, and that’s an element on the journey to being a creative on any level.