Reality: You won't learn how to make electronic music in a week, a month or even a year. Sure, you can get the basics down in a month or two. If you however want to master music production it'll take way longer. Think in terms of years at the very least. In reality, learning how to make electronic music well is an ongoing process that really never ends.
The above reality shouldn't however discourage you. It's all just about getting the right perspective. The long-term perspective. The big-picture perspective.
With the right perspective you can adjust your expectations of progress as a music producer. This way you won't get easily frustrated when you don't get the level of results you want as a producer in the shorter time-frame because you know that you're in it for the long run.
The aim of this guide below is therefore to give newer producers a 50,000 foot view of the process of learning how to make electronic music and how to master it in time.
So, if that's you, get ready to zoom out to the macro perspective, and read on to discover the 10 big-picture steps that lead to electronic music production mastery.
Most beginner producers have some inspiration that sparks the flame of the desire to start with electronic music production. In most cases this is some artist or style of music that gets you going. In some cases it may just be a love for music in general.
It's a good idea to know what type of music you want to make before you start to learn how to make electronic music. Why?
2 Main reasons:
So, pick one, two or three genres or favorite artists to get a ballpark vision of what you want to achieve.
Now, of course you can learn how to make electronic music without doing this step but I'm sure you can by now imagine why taking this small step will make your learning and progress more efficient, effective and quicker.
Another sub-step here is to not only decide what type of music you want to make, but also to listen critically to your favorite artists and analyze as much as possible what makes the music great. This in itself is a skill that may take some time to master because at first you may not have the vocabulary to coherently express what you hear. Be patient, this will all get much easier as you continue to learn how to make electronic music and the concepts, terminology and techniques involved with the process.
Mike Senior has posted about the critical-listening and music production analysis over on Sound-on-Sound. This is an excellent place to start to learn how to do it.
So, in short, if you want to learn how to make electronic music like a pro producer, you have to learn to listen and think like a pro producer. That's how you learn to spot nuances in productions and in time you'll know why things either work or don't work as you produce your own music.
You probably already know by now that you'll need some basic equipment to make electronic music. The good news is that you don't really need much to get started, a laptop and decent pair of studio quality headphones is an excellent starting point.
Sure you'll eventually want to upgrade your studio setup, at least if you're serious about making professional quality tracks. This may mean getting a quality audio interface, investing in some pro studio monitors and upgrading your room with acoustic treatment. When you're starting out it's however a better idea to keep your studio to the bare minimum and first work on your music production skills. Don't fall into the G.A.S. trap.
TL;DR: Start with minimum viable setup and expand with new gear as your budget and skills justify it.
You can read more about setting up your studio here if you want to learn more about this topic.
Once you have good desktop or laptop to work on, it's time to get a good Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
It's good to keep in mind at this point that most of the top DAWs can get the job done. So, don't fall into the common trap of thinking that some DAWs are better than others and end up reading through pointless, endless and useless music production forum or Reddit argument posts about what the "best" DAW is.
The important thing is to pick one of the top DAWs and just get started so you can get to actually learning how to make electronic music with your chosen DAW, faster.
If you're at this stage then I suggest you take a look at the Top 5 DAWs I recommend to new music producers and beatmakers. Demo these 5 and choose the one that feels most intuitive to use. You cannot really go wrong with any of them.
OK, so once you've decided on the DAW you want to use it's time to get familiar with it. In many ways, learning how to make electronic music is about learning how to use your DAW.
Now, DAWs can seem complicated at first, and in many ways they are. So, it may take a bit of time to learn what you can do with your DAW of choice. Learn, however, you must!
In this previous post I recommend 4 ways of learning how to use your DAW:
You'll want to eventually know your DAW like the back of your hand. Your first job, as you can imagine, is however just to get familiar with just the basic functions you'll need to get started and produce some music.
This is also where you'll want to get familiar with the different types of audio plugins you'll use most often inside your DAW. Your DAW will come with stock plugins that will be fine to start off with. There will come a time where you may want to invest in 3rd-party plugins, but when you're getting started you can get the job done with the stock plugins you already have.
Your music production skills should be your main focus at this stage...
Now we get to the heart of how to make electronic music. Yes, it's not the gear, neither is the DAW or the plugins. It's your music production skills.
So, it's time to stack the basic knowledge and skills you need to produce a track. I've already posted extensively about your producer skill-stack here, so I'll only summarize the different areas you need to pay attention to here for the sake of brevity.
In short, you'll need to, in time, learn about and apply the following if you're going to know how to make electronic music like pro:
Important note: The ultimate way to learn how to make electronic music is by making electronic music.
That said, at first you'll have to figure out how to do the most basic things. This is where music production courses and tutorials can be helpful because they give you a concise and structured step-by-step way of absorbing the knowledge and skills you need. You'll discover some good music production courses in this previous post.
You may even consider attending a good music production school. If that's something you're thinking about I highly recommend you read this post about music production schools first so you'll be aware of the pros and cons and what to expect.
Be sure to also check this post on how to best learn music production so you can streamline and accelerate your progress, and this post on how to easily learn basic music theory in a practical, fun and effective way.
Music production mastery, as you know by now, comes in different stages. At first you just need to get familiar with the whole music production process itself, so it becomes second-nature for you. At the same time you'll start to work on learning different basic music production techniques that most producers need to know.
Once you know the basics of how to make electronic music you can buckle down and begin to work on your craft in all seriousness. This is where you'll start to work on your music and finish full tracks.
At this stage you'll want to keep the following in mind to avoid discouragement:
There's simply no avoiding this stage. Every producer goes through it and so will you. The best attitude you can take is to just do it and get it done.
Finish tracks and finish more tracks. It's all about incremental improvement. At some point you'll start to notice that your tracks start to get better and you'll finish tracks faster. That's when you have to keep practicing, producing and finish even more tracks!
At some point, it could be at say 50 or even 100 tracks, you may find that, while you've improved a lot, you seem to have fallen into a certain way of doing things. You may even, at this point start to find the whole music production process, dare I say it, a tad bit boring.
This is not the time to quit or even become complacent. It's time to break on through to the next level:
The main idea at this stage is to avoid stagnation and keep getting better at music production.
Once you reach this stage you already know how to produce electronic music like a pro, you've become quite competent and you're ready to move on to higher and higher levels of the journey of becoming an expert music producer and even music production mastery.
Remember, music production mastery is a long game. You'll never stop learning because there's always something you haven't tried. Music production technology keeps changing. Music itself keeps changing too.
So, settle in for the long haul and keep your focus on practice and learning more. Learn to love the process itself.
Keep producing and learning as much as possible and you’ll move on to higher levels, closer and closer to mastery.
Every now and then, even as a master music producer, you'll want to take a step back and review your own creative and production process and workflow. This helps you throw out parts of the process that no longer contribute to your state of flow.
So, step back and analyze your workflow to find ways to produce faster and more consistently.
Be sure to check out Studio Flow, my workflow course if you want to upgrade your own workflow. ;-)
The truth is, even after years of producing music, you'll still want to improve your craft and keep moving ahead.
Here are a few things you can do to keep the process fresh and maintain a beginner's mind after years and years of experience with music production:
Yes, your learning will be incremental by this stage. Keep on learning though because to quote the master songwriter, Bob Dylan...
"... he not busy being born is busy dying."
Never forget that and always keep on keeping on!
You wanted to know how to make electronic music like a pro and now you know.
You also know that it won't happen overnight and that you'll have to commit for the long run and persevere.
A final word of warning:
It's all too easy to compare your own music to the music of other producers or acts you admire and think yours just doesn't stack up. This process leads to discouragement in the short term and may cause you to completely throw in the towel and stop producing altogether.
So, don't compare your music to other producers unless you're doing it to technically reference during the production process.
Make it simple and easier for yourself. Only compare your current skills and results to your past skills and results and do what you can to make sure you're on an upward trajectory. Little by little every incremental improvement starts to compound and you'll even find yourself amazed at moments by just how far you've come!
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