Is learning music production hard?
That’s the first question for any newbie interested in entering the industry.
It involves learning music theory and having a taste for good music. It consists in finding the best equipment to support yourself.
Furthermore, it’s about personal drive and energy.
It all seems intimidating, but you can do it as long as you know what to expect in music production!
Is Music Production Hard?
To put it bluntly, YES.
More precisely, it can be challenging but doable with dedication. It all starts with simply repeating the fundamental concepts as you perfect them.
Here are some concepts you need to be familiar with in music production:
- Sound Design
- Virtual instruments
- Song arrangements
- Music theory
- Audio engineering
However, despite all these concepts, anything worthwhile can be intimidating but is quite simple at the start.
The complexity adds to how rewarding the final product can be when you produce music.
You will make mistakes, and mistakes are inevitable, especially in learning. But don’t worry; they are the first actual steps to mastery!
Misconceptions Regarding Music Production
Before explaining the basics of learning music production, we need to nip any reservations about music as a skill.
There are many misconceptions that any novice in music must shed. These misconceptions only hinder any passion for music from being fostered.
One of the UPSIDES of composing music is that you don’t need an education in music production or a college.
They help refine your skills and for networking, but a degree isn’t a strict requirement; just a helpful one for any up-and-coming music producer.
You can only learn music production from practical experience and being active in the music industry.
Learning music production can be done quickly today as there are a wealth of FREE educational tutorials from online websites, youtube tutorials, online music forums, etc.
Are You Too Old to Learn Music Production?
Like any good career, it’s best to start young. However, that advice is only for optimization and is ultimately just theoretical.
You are NEVER too old or young to learn a new skill, even to produce music.
You are more than ready as long as you have the time and energy to learn music production!
Yes, there will be younger competition, which is reality. However, youth is only one advantage, and there are plenty more to supplement you!
The fear of failure is the only thing blocking you from genuinely committing, just like any other creative pursuit.
It’s not just in being a music producer but also in other fields, from photography, art, video game design, etc.
How Do Musicians Make Music?
What helps make a musician besides passion is fervent dedication. Just being CONSISTENT with your practice is already more than enough.
Building a practice routine won’t be accessible, and it will feel very inconvenient and taxing on you.
Most would-be producers quit on this level.
However, by consistently learning how to produce music, you will be right on your way to becoming a master in no time!
It takes REAL DISCIPLINE to hone a skill.
Talent may accelerate the learning process, but having this stubbornness can help you improve in the more advanced levels.
The process also helps develop your style and taste in music production to separate yourself from other musicians and producers.
Find your unique tips and tricks!
Start With the Basics
When starting a new skill, always learn and develop your basis.
Even professional music producers need to keep honing their basics, from knowing their volume levels to the basics of mixing their tracks.
Learn the terminology and find what kind of sound you want to produce. They are all building blocks in forming your music production process.
Learn the basics of music theory to avoid making rookie mistakes when you create music. Know what genre of music you want to pursue and how they are structured.
Building and finding your unique style from your favorite genre is the best way to help distinguish your brand from other producers.
Learn the basics to know what sounds good from what doesn’t match when you make music.
Although a general flow can be surmised as you find your preferred genre of music, try to research and understand that genre’s usual instruments, song structures, and sound.
How Long Does It Take to Get Good at Music Production?
It depends from person to person.
Some people just have that natural affinity to music. Others just need the right mindset and instruction.
It all depends on factors such as:
- Current skill level
- Amount of consistent, dedicated practice
- Quality of music production tools
- Are you self-taught or taught?
If you are fresh in the producing game, expect to take a rough few months to learn the basics of being a music producer.
Remember, it is like this for EVERYONE starting, especially in creating music! It eventually gets more manageable.
While if you are already experienced at producing music, Try experimenting with your sound design and overall style.
Playing around with your genres of music production and expanding your horizons provide a lot of inspiration and growth.
As a rule of thumb, it generally takes 10000 HOURS to master any skill.
True mastery is almost a LIFESTYLE, and you must be prepared to COMMIT to your craft.
Producing music isn’t an overnight creative pursuit but an exercise in patience and endurance of your skillset.
The General Steps to Music Production
Although music production has no strict rules, some trends and conventions have been proven consistent and reliable.
After all, you want your music to please all who hear it.
So here is the typical workflow that helps create what the industry considers “good music.”
This process would help give you a general impression of how you want to think when you start out.
Songwriting is the process of stitching together multiple musical ideas into a coherent structure with rhythm and a harmonious melody.
“What makes a good piece of music?” is what anyone would think when starting writing.
In general and content-wise, the answer is unique per listener regardless of their familiarity with music theory.
However, the craft that goes into songwriting can be MORE OBJECTIVE regarding the quality of its elements, and all parts work together according to music theory.
As for lyrics, it’s a matter of prosody or how well the lyrics match the music.
Put all this into a developing story as the piece continues from how the singer’s melody matches the band’s harmony.
He does so in an almost hypnotizing repetition before an alternating chord progression and a guiding rhythm.
The process coincides with tracking as both buildups from a drum loop or sampler add more ideas.
A song’s chord progression and melody can get too repetitive for a listener, so it’s at this phase to help mix up the song for pacing issues.
The process is the placement of instruments per section of a piece.
It helps build up a singer’s lyrics and verses with accompanying drums and synths until the climax.
Always switch up the instrument per section to keep the momentum going depending on the mood you want to set in.
The tracking process is the phase in music production where we try to present and capture the performance as best as possible.
A piece can be great on its own merits but would look even BETTER with the proper recording as it’s sung!
This recording will be what people want to listen to on continuous repeat or at any time of their lives.
The process works as recording the performance of the individual instruments of the piece as a track, then layering each track like a deck of cards.
This phase is for fixing up any mistakes or errors of the piece recorded with digital editing, from adjusting pitches or polishing tracks with fading.
Although it helps make tracking so much easier to correct, it’s best to use this as a separate phase and fallback option.
Over-editing your single can leave the final product sounding too “chopped up” and lose the quality of the captured performance.
The rule of thumb is, “If it’s great, leave it be.”
This process is having all the involved instruments recorded into a 2 track mix (left-right or surround).
Adding depth and motion can help the tools stand out more clearly for your piece.
Examples of mixing extend from the humble control of volume per track to outright manipulation with music programs.
Imagine acting as a conductor for the orchestra to signal to play the instruments or how loud each piece should be, but more digital and on your computer.
After many hours of work and listening, the FINAL MIX must be how your audience wants to listen to your product.
The final blend includes setting the album’s tone or mood and clarifying the techniques used.
Although most see this as simply the last stage of mixing, mastering is the part of music production where you make all the singles sound like they belong to the SAME album.
Sometimes during the mixing process of an album or even just a single, other artists, technicians, and even whole studios are invited to help produce the piece.
They will leave behind their flairs or touches to the tune of each piece.
The process is finding all these minor deviances with their well-trained ear and either removing them or trying to have all the pieces be somewhat consistent.
This process is usually done with professionals or larger studios than with beginners.
More freelance artists tend their albums to be more of a collection of individual pieces than a consistent collection.
This section of their level of music production for freelancers is focused on making sure their pieces sound consistent in other playback systems.
The Process Requires Focus
You must do each section separately, as each part of music production has a different focus.
It would be best if you focused on being creative and spontaneous when you are songwriting, methodical for editing, single-minded when you play for tracking, etc.
Music production is a process, and each section needs the right mindset to give your piece the justice it deserves.
What to Expect When Making Music
For a fledgling music producer, you will need to learn many skills and tools to produce music.
Get All the Tools You Need
Music production involves being able to edit and mix all kinds of sounds to make it all pleasing to the ears, from virtual instruments to even the pitch of various voices.
So it’s best to get a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to edit and mix all under one setup. Some good ones include Ableton Live and Pro Tools.
You’ll need other programs and gear to supplement your workstation, like an audio interface, studio monitors, MIDI keyboards, etc.
Many producers rent or create their own office spaces to produce music. Your experience using these tools reflects your transition into a more experienced producer.
Looking for a program best suited for a beginning music producer can be challenging.
There are SEVERAL FACTORS you need to consider when choosing which software to use for producing music:
- Consider if the music program has many quality tools for mixing and editing, inversely if the program is cheaper or at least budget conscious.
- The music program is, most of all, compatible with your computer operating system.
The beauty of it is that there is a lot of room to be original with your final product.
Record and Document All Ideas When You Produce Music
This idea may seem tedious as you may feel pressured to over-extend your creativity.
However, all this is another path for development when training your ability to make music.
Building the habit of writing and producing helps build experience in both qualities of products and to remove early mistakes.
Think of those recorded ideas as personal storage for inspiration as a way to train your brain always to be active in making music.
All the better is to achieve a solid habitual focus or a “Flow State.”
A flow state enables you to write and produce at your most optimal without strain over long hours.
It’s easy to enter; you need challenging work to keep your brain active, but it is easy enough to avoid frustration and mental block, such as mixing music after a lot of practice.
So record your ideas and work on them daily to keep your mind working.
Learn from Others. Watch Tutorials. Experiment!
As said before, there is a massive wealth of free and accessible outlets for learning the skills needed, from music blogs to online books, courses, and humble tutorials.
You can even hire people to teach you online how to be a music producer on the right website.
We live in a world where almost everything is available online. Make the most of it!
Get All the Skills Needed in Creating Music
It’s not only creating music that makes great music producers but familiarity and an appreciation with the other aspects of their craft.
Singing and songwriting can provide more perspective on how you work and how it can be complemented and enhanced.
Producing music, especially in the electronic genre, can benefit from the following skills:
- Rhythm and melody: Having a natural sense of rhythm and melodies. Timing is just as essential to music as dancing.
- Focus: The ability to focus or enter a zone/trance when you work against deadlines
- Basic music theory: Having this will help you make more layered and complex songs.
- Basic PC or Mac savviness
- Mixing experience: Know which combination of sounds of different voices and instruments are layered together well for your tracks.
- Mood setting: Don’t just focus on what sounds good together when you mix. You also develop what mood and emotion to evoke in the listener.
- Patience: It can’t be understated how vital being patient is when mixing. Especially during the overly lonely and isolating early stages of producing music.
- Organization: It helps any workflow be more efficient with purposeful organization.
- Instruments: Helps provide a solid baseline for playing and, eventually, music production. You can easily transition from classical playing to electronic instruments.
- Listening: A sensitive ear for detail can help understand when sounds are not mixing well or which keys are clashing. Also, good listening can be you being able to endure listening to the same loop for hours.
- Passion: This is what helps and pushes you to improve and makes any extraneous work feel rewarding. It is what keeps things fun!
Study Music Production and Music Theory
Music theory isn’t a strict requirement in producing music, and any level of knowledge helps. There’s no single baseline for understanding music theory, and all are valid.
However, knowing the basics may not be enough, at least for those who want to go beyond from a beginning artist.
By learning music theory, you become familiar with not only a genre’s structure but how each concept can complement the other.
Music theory is great for learning to MASTER your craft. However, remember that creating a wonderful sound is not the be-all and end-all.
Actual practical experience in music production is the most authentic way to learn!
A music producer should know the fundamentals of melodies in songwriting and how scales and chords work, and rhythm and melody construction.
You can’t make a decent melody or harmony without practical experience from chord work to scales and song structure.
Once you have the tune, the lyrics write themselves for songwriting as you try to match them.
Every music producer has their music production process.
Lastly, remember that music theory can be boiled down to “What can I do to make everything fit together.”
They may be basic concepts, but they are easy to forget, so keep this in mind as you put your act together.
Learning an Instrument
Another great gateway to music production is learning an instrument.
It provides a more engaging and practical way to internalize music theory and helps any producer distinguish their sound when they create more original melodies or chords.
It helps gives you an appreciation and skill development in general, especially for the genre you want to pursue.
All of which can be easily translated into electronic music production and acts as inspiration/guide.
By being familiar with the guitar, you know how to create or mix your track in such a way as to give the mood or vibe you want to set.
Put Your Work Out There as Soon as Possible
Like with practice, experience in the game helps you grow as a music producer.
Whether for songwriting, singing, or playing as a Disc Jockey (DJ), experience helps build the skills needed in the industry and the brand you want to develop.
It’s an excellent opportunity to meet more music producers and other professionals in the field.
You never really stop growing as an artist or a producer, so more experimentation is welcome!
Also, you have others behind the booth and from an audience point of view to “road-test” your work with feedback.
Without a record company to support you, publicly releasing your mixes is the best way to make a name for yourself and get valuable experience.
It’s a skill precious for independent artists or “indie.”
The Pros and Cons of Music Production
Trying to learn music production is hard enough already as a skill or self-improvement.
However, those are not the only factors you need to consider before going into music production.
Music Production is Budget Conscious
Making a hit before requires a big recording studio, professionals as the main headliner or the background, and even high-quality instruments.
Note these are all significant enhancers to any project but are they necessary for modern music production?
NO! Modern music production requires only yourself and a DAW with accompanying programs.
Is Music Production Hard as a Career
A promising vocation is any job that leaves you to feel fulfilled regardless of the work.
Hopefully, this path in creating music as a producer is something you do for the passion and love of the art.
From a more practical perspective, the music production industry can be VERY competitive and cutthroat.
Producers receive no reprieve from all the politicking and competition to be the best.
Music production requires patience and endurance, not just when you create music but also dealing with the hardships of staying in relevancy and avoiding burnout.
Professionals can write around 500 singles a year while only releasing a few that fit their standards.
However, despite these difficulties, producing music and songs as the focus of one’s life can be immensely fulfilling, regardless of success.
Serious Hindrances for Pursuing Music
Like any other creative pursuit, music production always fears losing its drive for a promising good career.
The skills needed to excel and distinguish themselves have deteriorated or produced no improvement.
Whether from burnout or just frustration with their situation, sometimes the sacrifice we exert for our craft can outweigh the satisfaction we get.
Also, there’s the factor of time, as the time needed even to produce music can vary from producer and artist.
Some albums take years to build or even songs.
For example, Leonard Cohen took 10 years to write “Hallelujah,” but after making his 7th album in his album history.
You also have to factor in other responsibilities from either family or just your health. A music producer is still a person with a life outside music production.
So if you plan to dedicate your life to being a music producer, just remember to focus on the joy in the music production process and remain passionate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although you know the steps to becoming a music producer, here are various tips and common questions for starting out.
How Do I Find My Production Style?
Time, persistence, and constant growth from learning to study and practice are the key ways to develop your style.
Music production involves continuous practice, experimentation with your preferred genre, and observing current trends.
Where Can I Get Feedback?
Any practicing beginner needs to get objective and constructive advice regarding their craft.
If they wish to hone their skills, they would need guidance from another artist or someone familiar with music theory.
Politely ask other artists. You may get ignored by the big ones, but there are probably many more beginners too.
Everyone needs feedback, and being able to reciprocate helps build a network of support for yourself and other newbies looking to make a promising career.
Just remember to offer feedback and value first before asking for help. You’ll get more help that way!
A layperson or a fan’s feedback can be just as good as that from another artist.
Fan feedback is getting the mind of your intended audience and helps boost your confidence. They will give general input and can be, but it’s better than nothing.
Remember to be polite, specific, and open-minded!
How Else Can I Improve My Skills?
Whenever you have a song idea or mix sample, record it and work on it daily. You can work and finish it quickly and over a long time.
Every product is different.
However, you are left with many raw materials to work with. So practice the following:
- You must keep a personal record of potential mix samples and song titles. You must journal those wild fleeing ideas and even the wilder and ludicrous ones.
- Break down what you like from either your personal favorites or the latest hits. Such as what kind of structure or beat they used.
- Have a daily schedule to practice and mix.
- Keep reading or watching tutorials. There are so many resources to use online!
Keep your momentum going with every mix made. Time spent on your craft is well spent for you as a producer.
Remember, there are no rules, only conventions and trends.
How Do I Deal With the Frustration From Lack of Progress?
When stuck by writer’s block for a mixer, the best advice is to take time AWAY from the offending product.
You can use that time to disengage and refresh your mind, as dwelling on it will only exacerbate your negative mindset.
According to this study, disengagement is considered a very effective tactic against writer’s block.
Instead, you can work on smaller, more manageable projects to help reinvigorate your creative process. Any time spent on improving a piece is time well spent for an artist.
It’s okay to leave a song unfinished as you still have an opportunity to return and fix them eventually.
Just not right now; remember, the final product would be more than worth it.
The final product is usually better structured technical-wise and more satisfying for you as an artist. Don’t push or rush the song, or its quality may wane.
All you need is a fresher mind and some new inspiration!
Pursuing music production or even just music, in general, can be complex, especially without a background education or training.
However, with the right mindset and the willingness to learn, you’ll be able to play or produce music in no time.
After all, music is just like any skill, be patient, persistent, and passionate about your work.
Any journey becomes bearable with seeing the joy in all the steps!