A lot of people want to know how to get into music production. With the success of some music production superstars like Diplo, Flume, Skrillex, Deadmau5, and others, many young people, and even some not so young people, with a talent for music have become interested in learning how to start producing music.
There are various ways you can get started, however. It all starts from where you are now in your music career or interests, and how that can be steered down the music production avenue of your choice.
So in this post we’ll talk about a places where you can find opportunities for yourself to get into music production… you’d be surprised that it may be right under your own nose 🙂
Some other helpful articles:
- Music Production Courses Online
- Songwriting Ideas for Beginners
- How to Make Beats
- How to Record Music
- Career Choices in Music Production
How to get into music production
Many of those who might be reading this, including yourself, who want to learn how to get into music production would most likely fall into one out of two camps:
1 – The first camp wants to be a beatmaker or electronic musician. And hence, are asking this question with the aim of making beats or electronic music.
2 – The second camp consists of people who are interested in getting into music production as a business.
You can read this post on the various types of producers there are to get a clearer understanding of where we’re going (and then get back here).
With that being established, both of these types of producers, in a general sense, are legitimate queries from those seeking advice on getting into producing music.
But firstly, one has to understand what a music producer is.
What Is Music Production?
Music production is not beatmaking, writing tracks, or recording music. The first two are called music composition. The latter is called audio engineering.
So what is music production? And what does a music producer actually do?
Actually, we can look upon the Wikipedia definition of music production, just to see what this great oracle of internet knowledge has to say about our pressing concern.
Well, the first line pretty much sums up the whole role of a music producer in a nutshell. No matter the genre, no matter if you are Quincy Jones or Flume. A music producer …
” … oversees and manages the sound recording and production of a band or performer’s music, which may range from recording one song to recording a lengthy concept album.”
Now, a music producer can be a beatmaker, a composer, a musician, or vice versa. But these are not exclusive to music production itself.
I placed that Wikipedia quote above to put you, the reader, in a certain frame of mind when thinking about how to get into music production.
You see, when people think of music production, what often comes to mind is a beatmaker making beats or electronic musician writing house anthems in his bedroom or small room turned home studio. However, the beat making and music writing is simply one aspect of music production. An aspect which, by the way, is an avenue that leads music production.
We’ve seen the Wikipedia definition of music production. However, let’s investigate what music production is before we move forward.
To know what music production is we must know what a music producer does.
A lot of music producers got into music production because they have worked or even just participated in the music industry or field in some capacity for some time. This capacity could be a student/trainee amateur or professional musician, singer, recording engineer, a DJ, promoter, media personality, even a celebrity.
OK, maybe you’re not a celebrity (and if you are, give this post a shout out! and let us know you did 🙂 ). You could be a singer or a musician or are into audio engineering gear and software in some capacity.
What people who got into music production did was learn, or became interested, in the process that involved the making of music behind the scenes. They weren’t simply interested in playing or singing over a mic to their heart’s content, but actually wanted to direct the making of music from start to finish.
Also, they got interested in the business side of things. Music production is definitely more “businessy” than being a musician or artist. This is because the producer is responsible for finding and assembling a team of musicians, singers and engineers to execute the writing, arranging, performing, and recording process of a piece of music. All of these tasks are directed by the producer. This means that a producer needs to be equipped with a wide facet of knowledge to be of value.
In the modern age of music production, a person can do all of what was just mentioned above from their bedroom or home studio.
Finding musicians to record for a track can be as simple as purchasing instrumental loops and samples, or a VSTi plugin that performs musical parts that you control or play from a MIDI controller.
Engineering can be done by you within your digital audio workstation with some know-how.
And of course, the directing of the musical writing process is 100% you since you’re doing it all yourself.
If you work with a singer, you can find singers to add to your music, thus directing the recording process from your computer’s software.
What this means for you is that, to get into music production, you should have to cultivate an appreciation of the various aspects of what it takes to “produce” something that is either a personal artform for self enjoyment (such as a hobby), or is commercially viable (as a business).
Being a music producer means wearing multiple hats. It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo producer writing hit house anthems or sick trap beats, or you’re directing a team of beatmakers and singer-songwriters. In either cases, you’ll be employing some skills and know-how to the task of music production.
Skills of being a music producer
This goes without saying. Having at least a basic knowledge and understanding of music is important. It could be theoretical, or it could be aesthetic. If you spent some time studying and learning music, that helps tremendously.
Knowing how to play an instrument helps as well. But when it comes down to it, you should know what sounds good and what works when you’re working on creating a new piece of music. Lee Scratch Perry and Quincy Jones, both legendary producers, never played a musical note, yet they produced music because they knew what sounded good and what worked.
It goes without saying that music producers need to know how to use a digital audio workstation. It is better to know how to use one than not knowing how to use one, especially if you want to have some creative control over the music.
At least the basics of it should be understood. It’s not just advised for writers and beatmakers, but anyone who calls themselves a music producer should have some basic knowledge of Pro Tools. There are other digital audio workstations you can choose from to use as your personal DAW in your home studio (as a matter of preference). But getting to know the industry standard is important. And if you need help, there are always online courses that you can learn from.
Knowing how to make a successful song
For music producers that write their own music, one of the best ways to learn is to follow along with tutorials. It helps to set the pattern, in terms of workflow and creativity, that you will also be developing for yourself. You learn how to structure a song, and how to choose the best instruments and effects for your music. You can take with you this knowledge into a recording studio when you start collaborating with other artists and producers. This will happen after you’ve gained some notoriety, and even fame, as a producer of your own music, or music you’ve directed.
A good music producer follows the current trends in music. This doesn’t mean you’re giving up your unique creativity, but rather, giving it relevance to what’s going on. It includes listening out for where the music you are making can serve a niche or wider audience. It means getting yourself and your music plugged in and paid attention to because you’ve listened for what excites people.
Listen to a lot of music from new and famous producers and see what I mean. If you paid attention to their story, they all would tell you that success came after they got immersed in the scene of music that they were interested in producing music for.
Knowing how to make a song successful
Learning about the business is extremely important. One little-known fact about music producers is that, unlike “artists” or musicians, about half of music production is business related. A producer negotiates with artists, musicians, engineers, record labels, distributors, marketers, etc. to make a song successful.
And what is the metric of success when it comes to music, or practically anything, really?
A music producer takes care of the creative direction of music, and also takes care of how the music will be distributed and earning income for further productions. A music producer is an industry boss man or woman with a sense of creativity. Artists and musicians look to music producers to create opportunities for them. A bedroom producer does the same by creating opportunities for themselves and for vocalists who wish to collaborate with them.
How to get into music production
You can get into music production by going to a school that teaches it. From training, immersion, and exposure in the field, you get streamlined naturally into the music industry world.
You can also get into music production in an organic sort of way. You can start by making music yourself, creating a music studio where you can make music (like a home studio). If you’re an instrumentalist you can learn to use a music production software and start making musical arrangements there. From there, you can start to collaborate with other musicians and artist, whether online or in your area, to produce music for them.
This is one way, though. There are actually several.
The various ways of getting into music production
Some may not know this, but there are many ways a person can get into music production, even “accidentally”.
The singer-songwriter route
Some people get into music production as a singer-songwriter. How they got started is by writing their own songs, maybe strumming to them on a guitar, composing and arranging the music for them. Because they want to get their music to reach an audience, they develop a strategy, one which you may implement as well if you fall into this category.
One strategy is to go solo. This singer-songwriter gets some gear and software to record their vocals and maybe an instrument. Learn a little about engineering, and create music around their songs. A lot of these singer-songwriters may turn to making and producing loop music to use as accompaniment for their on-stage performances and studio recordings. They may employ the help of another music producer more proficient in writing instrumentals in a DAW to help flesh out their songs into epic tracks. Then they find the various ways of selling and distributing their music to their fan-base which they have developed over time. They have produced their own music, taking care of the writing, creative, and marketing process on their own.
The other strategy is collaborative. This singer-songwriter would probably form a band that will perform and record their music in a studio and on stage. They direct the creative process of the recording, selecting of musicians, even attending to the mixing and arrangement of the recorded tracks. They also handle the business of who gets what, who gets credited for what, and so on. Essentially, they’re an executive producer who directs the creation of their own musical concepts from scratch, employing the help of others where they lacked in skill or ability (or even desire) to do other aspects of music making.
The Engineer route
Some get into music production because they are an engineer. They probably started out from their love of gear and software. They naturally move into either being employed at a recording studio, or building a home studio themselves.
What happens over time is that some engineers, because of a genuine love for music and creativity, will develop an ear of their own. This naturally comes because they would know what sounds good musically, and what works, even if all an engineer knows is about frequency response and signal flow.
So, with an ear that knows what sounds good, and what they’d like to reproduce, this audio engineer producer begins to naturally look for other musicians and singers they can work with to record in their studio.
The Musician or Composer route
As mentioned above, some get into music production because they’re a musician with a desire to write and compose instrumentals and beats, either for themselves or for others.
Does this mean that you need to be a great keyboard player to be a producer? Not necessarily. Deadmau5, for instance, composes his tracks by writing the notes in. And some other producers are more comfortable using impact pads to beat out rhythms and grooves, even chords and samples, to construct their music. In essence, this sort of music producer actually turns their digital audio workstation into a computer instrument, using a variety of MIDI commands from MIDI controllers and instruments to get the sounds that they want.
The DJ route
Related to that last point just made, some music producers get into music production by way of being a DJ. It’s a very natural progression from making mixtapes of your favourite music, to sampling pieces of tracks and loops, turning them into entirely different music over a beat or groove using a DJ controller. Famous DJs will often turn in this direction (and vice versa).
These music producers tend to work a lot within the sampling aspect of music production rather than the note writing or playing aspect.
The Business Person route
Finally, people get into music production simply because they love music, or their career, usually related to media, pulls them in that direction. Usually, because they see it as a business opportunity to take advantage of.
This sort of producer is naturally more concerned with the business side of things, and most likely would have another producer, which they’d direct, that knows a little more about music to assist with the creative direction. But this is another way of getting into music production.
Why music production is such an important field
There’s a reason why this is a growing field. The music producer is at the centre connecting several worlds. The music producer creates opportunities for singers, songwriters, musicians, to create music that can be commercially viable in the media industry, not just music.
This industry includes advertising, filmmaking, entertainment, radio broadcast, to name a few. The music producer produces content for filmmakers, YouTube content makers, game makers, television and radio advertisers to use. No one wants to watch a video or film that is completely silent. Even in the era of silent film, way, way back, they had a pianist playing somewhere backstage to keep the viewers from getting bored at the novelty of moving images before (imagine that!)
The responsibilities of a music producer are indispensable. Since they are at the centre of the creation of a very important “product” that a lot of people want to make, and that a lot more people want to use or consume.
The responsibility of a music producer, therefore, consists of these things:
Engineering – you’re either doing mixes, or you’re hiring someone to do that for you. This means that you should at least learn some knowledge of gear, software, as well as the tools needed to achieve certain desired effects. You should know how to give a vocalist more presence in a mix, etc.
Creativity – you’re either making the beats, or you’ve hired someone to make the beats, instrumentals, composition. But at the very least, you should know what sounds good. You should have a vision for the music. Where it is going, and how it will sound, who will want to listen to it, and, of course, do you like it, or does it sound good to you.
Business – while you can hand off the responsibility of creating a beat or mixing a track to someone else (as long as you’re directing it, of course), you cannot give up business responsibilities. You need to know how you’re going to market your music, and how it can be used to make some ka-ching ching.
Learning how to get into music production simply means developing these skills, whether on yourself, or by finding the right people or resources to get the “product”, the music being “produced”, well… produced.