Advance Your Own Music Production Knowledge & Skills

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Own your music-business-life!

Take full responsibility for every aspect of your music production education and career, right now.  You're in business for yourself from the get-go and this won't change as long as you're in music.

You need to find out what you need to learn and do and then learn and do it. Repeat this over and over again. It's an ongoing process throughout your career, one you can always improve on.

Opportunities will come and so will breaks.  You have to however be ready and prepared to pursue these opportunities or they will pass you by.  So, focus on your craft, hone your studio chops and get the work done. You have no time to waste if your aim is to become a great music producer.

What you need to know...

Music production is your craft and should of course be your top priority as a music producer. The areas of knowledge you need to cover and the practice needed to develop your skills reach far and wide.

You of course don't need to know everything there is to know, which is an impossible feat, as you can imagine.  How deep you go in each area will depend on your preferences, strengths and weaknesses.

Music production, as with most things, follows the Pareto Principle which predicts that 20% of your knowledge and activities will create 80% of the wanted results.  The trick is to find the 20% and focus on that.

Here are the areas you'll need to consider should you want to be an electronic music producer...

The Music Producer's Talent Stack

1. The tools:

  • Music studio software: Digital audio workstations and plug-ins.
  • Music studio equipment: Monitors, outboard gear, microphones, pre-amps and DI boxes, audio-interfaces and MIDI controllers.
  • Musical instruments: Guitar, keyboard or drums. *Optional but recommended*

2. The theory:

  • Basic music theory: Time signatures, beats & bars, notes, scales, intervals, chords, chord progressions.
  • Basic arrangement theory: Song structures, sections, lyrics and melody.
  • Basic production theory: Audio, MIDI, synth programming, equalization, reverb, compression, gating, delay, phasing, distortion, editing, programming, mixing.

3. The practice:

  • The production process: Conception/Writing/Composing/Recording/Tracking/Arranging/Editing/Mixing and Mastering.
  • Music production skills: Listening to music, ear training, song and mix analysis.

How to learn music production...

My suggestion here is to get a little studio setup should you not have one already.  This can be done for very little money and doesn't need to be stuffed with high-end gear and tons of studio toys to start off with.  You can always improve your setup as you move along and your productions improve.

So, get your basic studio together and take some time to study the manuals of your gear and software.  Open your DAW and play around to learn how to do the various things you need to do.  Work with audio, work with MIDI, learn to program your synths for various instruments and how to use samplers, play around with effects and other plugins, make some drum loops.

You also want to learn about writing music, recording music, mixing music and the production process with the help of tutorial sites, articles and tips you'll find on the Web.

You can visit online producer forums to ask questions about specific topics you want help with.

Next, study some basic music theory and production theory when you're not at play in your DAW.  You want to build your skill level to the point where you can create a basic 8 to 16 bar loop and make it sound decent.  Then, study popular song arrangements and develop your first fully-arranged track.  Copy the arrangement of other tracks you like to get a feel for what works and what doesn't. Keep doing this until you have a well-arranged track.

Then, work on your mix-down knowledge and skills to finalize the track for mastering.  Study the mixing theory and tools and apply what you learn to your sessions.  The goal is to get to your first finished track.

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Once you are able to finish a few decent tracks you've gone from clueless to competent.  Continue to finish tracks and improve with each track you make.

Do this long enough and in the right way and you will become masterful at music production.You have many great resources available to help you learn all about production without the need to go into debt.

So, to recap, these are stages you'll pass through...

A. Clueless - "What's this button do?" - The DAW scares you, the only bars you know about are the ones that serve up liquor, music theory = hieroglyphics and frustration is your middle name.

B. Competent - "Like my track bro?" - You're able to finish decent tracks on a consistent basis, you've got the basic music and production theory and practice down, you're starting to have some fun.

C. Masterful

- "I'd like to thank my parents, my fans my team and Vishnu for this award..." You're get mad respect for your productions and smoke cigars with other tux-wearing celebrities. Well, at least the first part!

The music production craft is your own Mount Everest to climb.  Life is full of obligations, demands for your time and surprises. The road you need to travel to get great at music production is long.

How you respond to this challenge is what will make the difference between success and failure.

You must do everything in your power to move from a clueless to a competent to a masterful music producer or accept that it's just a hobby reserved for your spare time.

At first your taste will be great and your competence will lack.  This will frustrate you over and over, UNTIL...

... one day you find yourself on the other side of the hump, closer to satisfying your own taste in music.  Ira Glass said it best...

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

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