One thing which hold people from starting their music production journey is they are not sure where to start and more than that – they not sure if they can learn how to produce music by themselves or should they enroll to a music production school.
It is possible to learn music production by yourself. There are many well-known music producers who are self-taught. There are many blogs, YouTube channels, video courses, and online communities that will teach you every aspect of music production- from writing melodies to mastering your tracks.
The biggest “problem” with teaching yourself music production is deciding where to start and where to go since the internet is full of information and it might get confusing. This article will serve as your map.
Becoming a Self-Taught Music Producer: What Skills Do I Need to Learn?
Learning music production cannot happen overnight. In fact, it is a continuous learning process (You can read our article about how long it takes to learn music production). Even the best music producers are still learning new tricks in the studio from other professional music producers like themselves.
Music production isn’t just one skill but rather a collection of different skills. Here are some of the things you should learn first:
First off, you should learn the language that producers often use in the studio. Some of the common terms in a music studio include mixing, beat-making, mastering, audio engineering, sound design, VSTs, DAWs, plugins, audio unit, samples, off-beat, accent, effects, MIDI, EQ, reverb, and a lot more.
These terms might sound like gibberish now, but if you find the right online resources, you will find out the importance of learning how to speak producer.
A DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is your primary tool for recording and producing music on your computer. If you are familiar with traditional studio setups, a DAW is the smaller version of the big consoles you can only find in professional music studios.
Beginners can settle for free DAWs, such as Audacity or GarageBand. Although these beginner DAWs are capable of producing music, they are still basic software if you compare them to professional DAWs, such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, or FL Studio.
As a beginner, it is essential to master your DAW as if it is an extension of your soul. Learn how to navigate your way around your DAW at an early stage, so it will be easier to learn the other aspects of music production in the long run.
Plugins and VSTs
VSTs or Virtual Studio Technology can either be virtual instruments such as synthesizers, classical instruments, or electric pianos. VSTs also come in the form of effect plugins that can enhance your tracks. Learning how to use VSTs and plugins properly will allow you to maximize the different sounds you can use for your beat or song.
Recording Audio Instruments and Vocals
If you know how to play musical instruments, you should also learn how to record them. It might seem as easy as plugging in your guitar and start recording, but it is way more complex than that—especially if you want to record audio tracks in the best quality possible.
The same goes for recording vocals. You should have the right equipment and learn how to tweak the levels the right way to capture the best-sounding vocals on your tracks.
Recording MIDI and Using Samples
Even if you don’t know how to play a musical instrument, you can still learn how to produce music using MIDI tracks and samples. Some DAWs come with a collection of MIDI instruments and loops that you can use to build an entire song. Learning how to program MIDI to create chords and melodies is a critical skill in the studio, so make sure you find the best online resources to do so.
Song arrangement is important for making your song more coherent. Pop songs have a formula that usually goes like; intro, verse, pre-chorus, hook, verse, pre-chorus, second hook, bridge, last chorus, resolve, then an outro. However, you can be a little more adventurous and experiment with different arrangements and dynamics.
Basic EQ and Post Production
Mixing is one of the most challenging things to learn in music production—especially if you want all the instruments to sit well in the mix. The goal of mixing is to get every track to cut through the mix perfectly. Beginner music producers often create sound designs with different instruments clashing with one another instead of complementing each other and serving the song.
Lastly, you should learn how to master your song. Mastering is the final step in completing a piece, and not all producers can really master this skill. Usually, music producers will hire a professional to do this step, but it is still good to learn at least the basics of mastering mixes.
Find the Best Resources to Learn Music Production
Now that you have a better idea of what skills you need to learn in order to be a music producer, it’s time to look for the best resources to help you learn them. Here is a list of the best websites and platforms that can help you learn how to teach yourself music production:
YouTube is on the top of the list for many reasons. Some people can learn quicker through watching videos instead of reading a book or an article. YouTube is home to millions of lessons and how-to videos, and it is one of the primary resources for learning just about anything.
YouTube might have tons of video tutorials to learn music production, but there is some information that you can only find in websites and blog articles—just like the one you are reading now.
Reddit or Quora
Reddit and Quora are beneficial resources for learning music production, especially for particular topics about gear, DAWs, and more. Many professional music producers lurk on these platforms, ready to answer questions.
If you want to talk to experienced music producers, as well as beginners like yourself, you can join one of the thousands of Facebook groups and communities.
Paid Online Courses
Although you can learn almost anything you need for free, some paid online courses have exclusive information you can’t find anywhere else. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of building your own curriculum, you can pay for online courses with exclusive content and learn from real pros.
Music Production Process: Creating Your First Track
Aside from online resources, you can also try experimenting on your own. They say that sometimes, experience is still the best teacher. You can try firing up your computer and exploring your DAW to see what you can create on your own. Most producers back in the day were self-taught without the online resources that you can access right now. If your a mac user, you can use our detailed guide on how to create an EDM track in Garageband.
How long will it take to learn music production?
It takes a few months to get down the basics of music production and a few years to get to a mastery level. The exact time depends on how much time and effort you put into the learning process. Previous musical knowledge and musical genre of choice will also affect the time it takes to become an experienced music producer.
Do I need to learn music theory to produce music?
You don’t need to learn music theory to produce music. Although it can help, it is not necessary for beginner music producers to learn music theory and how to play musical instruments right away.