Have you ever wanted to learn a skill, but you didn’t want to take classes for it? I know I did. I have never taken any sort of music production class, yet my songs are live on Spotify as we speak. But hang on, how did I go from a listener to a producer without even taking time to learn the basics of music theory? Well, an easy way to answer that question is by saying, “practice makes perfect,” but that’s not helpful. So what do you do? You start from scratch.
Get a DAW
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is a necessity if you want to be a producer. They can be expensive, but if you have a Mac or an iPhone, you can get one for free. I started my journey on the free DAW that comes with Mac and iPhone, GarageBand. Their premade sound loop library is extensive and great for learning music composition. But do your research and choose the one that you think is right for you.
Get to know your DAW
Your DAW is your playroom, and you have a lot of toys to choose from. I started by dragging and dropping premade loops into tracks to make loop songs. You don’t have to do that, though. You can begin by playing notes on your keyboard or maybe even drawing them in MIDI. Just have fun with it and try not to get too overwhelmed. One step at a time, right? Eventually, once you’ve figured out the basics, you can experiment with automation.
Yes, “practice makes perfect,” but what should you be doing to practice? It goes back to getting to know your DAW. Try something new, get good at it, then try something else new. Eventually, you’ll have some of your first songs. Hold on to them. One of my favorite songs that I made came from one of those old projects I started with.
Now that you’ve learned the basics and are ready to start developing your style, it’s time to make your work easier. Google Drive is a great place to store your works in progress, and you can listen to them on the go. Whether you’re grooving to your piece or finding ways to correct it, Google Drive’s got your back. Keep some notes in there as well; lyrics, corrections, all that fun stuff. Close all applications while running your DAW (if you can) because your DAW will consume your CPU. It also helps to have everything organized, but let’s be real here. I, too, have labeled many projects by dragging my face across the keyboard and have saved it in the eternal chaos known as ”desktop.”
Join a community
So you’ve figured out how to use your DAW. Now it’s time to learn some lingo. There’s still some stuff you don’t know. Joining the Music Production Amino was very useful. I made some new music buddies, I collaborated with other producers, and I learned what words like compression and mixing meant. You learn from others, and what better way to find those others than a community.
You’ve come far now. It’s been a few years since you’ve started with your DAW, that built-in microphone? You’re over it. That old guitar you got from your grandmother? You’re over that too. It’s time to level-up. Start saving up your money and get ready to reward yourself for all that hard work. Get a new set up, upgrade your DAW, should autotune be in your next song? Grab that keyboard and guitar you had your eye on, and, most importantly, make your purchases worth it. Don’t settle; you don’t deserve that.
You’re ready for launch
Spotify is waiting for you, so give it your best song. Find a distributor to get your music live. I favor Amuse because they are pretty much free. Start your brand too. Get social media, Instagram, Twitter, all of it. Get some friends to follow and promote your stuff.
The harsh truth
You aren’t going to be famous right away. It will take years and maybe a bit of luck to get to where you want to be. Your Spotify is going to be devoid of listeners to start. You have to make yourself known. It’s not easy, but determination and persistence will serve you well.
Taking a class isn’t required to do what you love. It may take a bit longer to get where you want to be, but it’s almost more rewarding when you get to say, “Hey, I did this on my own.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try schooling at all. I’ve taught myself many things, but I’m still planning on getting a degree in music production. There are definitely pros to education, but getting some extra preparation beforehand couldn’t hurt, right?