Stage 1: Novice
We all have to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually complete ignorance. It also means a lack of music production skills and no experience. This is also the stage where the Dunning–Kruger effect may be in effect as the beginner producer has no idea of how much they don't yet know.
At this stage it's vital to learn as much as possible and develop the core music production skills. Glossaries with definitions and product manuals are needed. Music production forums can be helpful. Step-by-step tutorials help too.
An effort must be made to get the big picture and this means working towards finishing that first complete track.
The goal of this stage is to become competent so the focus should be on knowledge, skills and above all practice.
Set up your studio, master your DAW, figure out what you need to learn and work towards finishing your first decent track.
Stage 2: Competent
It's at this stage that the producer starts to become aware of how much they still have to learn and do in order to get to the level of production mastery they want to achieve. The big picture starts to emerge.
They have the skills needed to finish a track but they may find that the quality from track to track still varies because their skills have not been honed and refined yet.
At this stage it's all about getting in the the hours. Get as many tracks done as possible. Most will suck. Some may not. It's all part of the process of becoming a music producer.
Keep on making more. The goal at this stage is to make more good quality tracks more often. Develop and refine your studio workflow and focus on your creative output.
Stage 3: Proficient
Now the music producer can produce decent tracks with a reliable consistency. They start to develop a more well-placed confidence in their production skills. It's also here where they will start to narrow in on their own unique sound.
There will still be gaps in their knowledge but they will be aware of these and work to rectify them to become more well-rounded as a music producer.
The learning continues, the practice continues. With time and work they become an expert producer.
Stage 4: Expert
Most producers will not make it to this stage. The expert producer knows just about everything there is to know about music production. They have almost forgotten just how much they know and they know a lot. They also have mastery of a variety of production skills and extensive experience in the studio.
The only stage they could possibly ascend to is Mastery...
Stage 5: Mastery
This is the ultimate goal as a producer. The master producer develops and introduces novel code to the music production craft. They develop techniques not used before. They change the music culture. Most of all, the master produces true musical masterpieces.
The cold hard truth is that very few producers make it to this stage. It takes obsession. It takes sacrifice. It takes grit.
Still, mastery is what we aim for and with some luck and massive effort we might just get there.
One thing is certain:
There's no stage where one can rest on one's laurels when becoming a music producer. Even past masters can lose touch with the current. The learning never stops.
Our competition is not with other producers. The main battle is with oneself. Are you a better producer today than you were yesterday? That's all that really counts.