If you have clicked the title of this article, you are clearly exploring the idea of producing your own music, whether you like to admit it to yourself or not.
Maybe you are one of those people who have been playing around with music for most of your life, but still do not feel confident enough to try your hand at producing something. Maybe you are looking to build a career in the music industry. Or maybe you are just curious about the whole concept of music production. Whatever the case, this article will hopefully help you understand that making music is not necessarily complicated or expensive, and it just might act as that little extra nudge you need to actually start doing it.
Here is the best part: you do not need a lot of stuff to get going. In the beginning, a computer and some software are more than enough to build tunes.
Almost any type of laptop or computer can be used to produce music. However, if you are planning on buying a new one, make sure that you go with what specialists like MusicRadar recommend – for laptops, an Apple MacBook Pro, Dell XPS 13 OLED or Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition, and for desktops, an Apple iMac, Dell XPS 8940 or Skytech Legacy 2070. Still, since most of these machines are quite expensive, the sensible thing to do is to begin working with what you have and start investing once you feel more confident about producing music.
As per the software – you absolutely need a digital audio workstation, or DAW for short. These are the best platforms for digital music production. There are tens (if not hundreds) of DAW software products readily available for download, and some of them offer extended trial versions or better yet, are free to use. We chose to focus on the DAWs best suited for beginners:
- If you went with Apple for your hardware, then their GarageBand software is the obvious choice here. It can record and play back multiple audio tracks, has built-in audio filters and tuning system, includes a large selection of sampled instruments and synthesizers, and even pre-recorded music lessons. It runs on both macOS and iOS, so you can take your music producing experience to mobile as well. Oh, forgot to mention – the basic version of GarageBand is free to use.
- Another popular DAW for beginners is FL Studio. Previously known as Fruity Loops, this software dates back as far as 1998, so one can safely say that it has passed the test of time. It has a great pattern-based music sequencer, and a great collection of samples to boot. Even though its Fruity Edition is perfectly tailored for beginners, do not underestimate FL Studio – it has been notoriously used by famous musicians like Soulja Boy, Avicii and Deadmau5. It has a free demo version, which can then be upgraded by a one-time purchase, with lifetime free updates
- Last but not least, Ableton Live is a DAW that is actually based on homemade software by members of the Monolake electronic music project, initially developed to aid them in their live performances. The coolest part about Ableton, is that you can use it for live sessions as well as for composing and arranging. It has a lot of functionality for DJ’ing, like crossfading and beatmatching. Plus, there are many MIDI controllers that work exceptionally well with Ableton, especially the ones made by Akai. The Ableton Live Intro is the version you are looking for as a beginner – it has limited functionality, but even so it is more than enough to get started.
Now that you have your hardware and software all set up, it is time to… get educated. The easiest way to understand all the clockwork behind the pretty graphical interfaces and how to use it correctly, is to invest at least a couple of days into tutorials and demos. Fortunately, there are dozens of these available online for free, regardless of which DAW you picked. The sooner you start researching and taking in all the tips and tricks, the closer you will get to actually producing something.
Once you start feeling like you have a basic grip on the software, you should immediately start creating songs. Do not worry if your first ten (or hundred) tracks are not even worth playing to friends, let alone uploading online. All great musicians started by trial and error, so be patient and prepare yourself for a lot of practice and many failures, until it all eventually starts coming together. Your best bet is to begin by putting together songs from loops, which are repeating short sections of tracks. There are hundreds of websites where you can download royalty-free loops for your musical experiments.
In parallel with creating your first songs, you also need to gain, or to brush up, your knowledge of the basics of musical theory and sound design. While this seems a bit boring, it will help you have a better understanding of what you are doing, and it will protect you from many beginner’s mistakes. If you do not like reading, you will be happy to know that there are thousands of YouTube tutorials that can teach you these basics in a couple of hours. Once you know more about genres, song structure, audio synthesis, mixing and mastering, your approach to music production will improve greatly.
As a conclusion, if you are passionate about music and attracted by music production, do not let anything stop you from trying. It doesn’t cost much, except for your time and maybe a small cash investment, but it is certainly an exciting experience and a chance to discover your talents and get to know yourself better. Good luck!