Music production is the process of developing, creating, and refining recorded music for public presentation. Music production can refer to the entire life cycle of a piece of music from songwriting and composition to recording and sound design to mixing and mastering.
Despite the broad definition, every workflow in modern music production has one thing in common, digital tools.
Thanks to today’s technology, music production is more accessible than ever before. For the lowest price in history any musician can set up a home studio and get started producing music.
Here’s all the basic information you need to start producing music:
What does a music producer do?
A music producer can have several different roles depending on the genre of music and the type of workflow.
In the traditional recording process, a music producer acts in a similar way to the director of a film. They create a vision for the material and advise the musicians artistically on how to realize it.
During a recording session the producer acts as a coordinator and provides organizational help. They also offer creative input and notes on the musicians’ delivery and the technical choices made by the engineer.
But the term ‘producer’ has come to mean a wider range of duties in other genres. In R&B and hip-hop, the term ‘producer’ most often refers to the person who created the beat the artists are singing or rapping over. In EDM the words producer and artist are often used interchangeably, with most artists producing their own material.
Today more and more artists are opting to self-produce, even within traditional genres like rock, indie, or singer-songwriter. No matter which combination of these roles describes you best if you are using a DAW to create or record you’re a music producer.
With the basics out of the way, let’s get into the pillars of music production you need to know to get started.
1.Music production software and equipment
To produce music you’ll need a few main pieces of equipment.
Don’t worry music production setups can vary a lot. You don’t need tons of expensive gear to get started as a producer.
But you will need a handful of key pieces. I’m talking about equipment
A computer, DAW and something to play back your creations
Many producers create entire tracks using only their DAW but just as many others prefer the tactile experience and hands-on control of hardware.
2.Producing music in a DAW
Your DAW is the digital home for your music production.
In a traditional recording studio, the DAW would be the tape machine but it’s so much more that. Your DAW is the perfect environment for every step of your music production workflow.
Many producers prefer to write in their DAW by creating loops and clips of their ideas on the fly. Structuring isolated fragments into full arrangements is one of the biggest strengths of a DAW-based songwriting workflow. And mixing has never been easier than with a DAW and plugins.
However you use it, the DAW is where your inspiration and workflow collide, and the production process takes place.
3. Songwriting and composition: create a song
Some songwriters produce. Some producers write songs. The boundary between artist and producer isn’t always a bright line. That means knowing the basics of songwriting and composition is important for modern producers.
The producer often has to make tough decisions when something isn’t working. Is it the mix? Or the arrangement?
Is it the parts, or the tones? Or the effects? Is this song boring, or does it just have the wrong song structure?
These are the types of questions an experienced producer should be able to answer. To help you develop these skills, we put together an exhaustive list of resources for producers looking to learn songwriting, arrangement and music theory in general.
4.Sound design: Build the sound you hear in your head
Headphones are important for any home studio, but mixing on them exclusively can be tiring during long sessions.
Most engineers do the majority of their work using near-field monitors. Studio Monitors are specially engineered speakers designed to sound clean, clear, flat, and neutral. Unlike consumer audio speakers, these listening tools are not designed to flatter the music or make it sound more pleasant.
In fact it’s almost the opposite.
Studio monitors reveal every flaw in a sound so you can address it in the mix. That extra detail is the insight you need to make your tracks sound great. Still, all studio monitors sound different and choosing the right ones is a highly personal decision.
5. Sound recording: Capture the world around you
Most DAWs come with a capable set of built-in plugins that are more than enough to create a professional sounding track. But third-party plugins are how you expand your sonic palette and make your sound your own.
6. Mixing music: Blend your sounds together
You’ll need to capture your sounds with a microphone to bring them into your DAW.
There’s an enormous number of microphones out there and not all of them are well-suited to every task.
7.Music mastering: the definitive version of your song
It’s the phase where your mix gets the final polish and presentation for how your listeners will actually experience it. The purpose of mastering is to balance the sonic elements in a stereo mix and optimize playback across all systems and media formats.
Music has never been available in more formats and devices than today. It doesn’t matter if you’re mixing in a million-dollar studio or tracking in less than ideal conditions, you still need the final quality check of mastering.
This step ensures that your sound will be heard the way you intended it to be. Without mastering, individual songs can sound disjointed in relation to each other. Mastering is a crucial part of the music production process, but it doesn’t have to be scary.
Music production is much more than these general steps, however this is a great place to start.