10 Essential Steps To Start Producing Music
Andre E. (Drey Andersson)
C.E.O of TheMusicProducersBlog, Music Producer, Sound Designer, Mentor
Introduction to producing music
So you have been following TMPB for a while, saw all the beautiful pictures of music studios all around the world on our Instagram-Feed and thought to yourself:
“Maybe I should give it a shot”
But there is so much information out there that you’re confused where to start, what things going to be important and where your focus should be as a beginner.
Don’t worry! When I started back 12 years ago I also had no clue about all the technical aspects of music production plus we didn’t have so many resources available to us back in the day.
No worries I will break everything down into 10 things that are important for you as a beginner:
These days literally everyone has a computer whether it’s a dektop or laptop. Every computer is going to be fast enough to get you started.
At the beginning, I would just stick to the computer you have right now. You can always upgrade later!
I will write a separate article on audio computers and link it in this guide where I go more into the details what computer to get for audio work.
Usually, your computer or laptop already has a small chip built inside that generates sound and converts the audio from analog to digital and back to analog. You can find a line out, headphone out and microphone in jack on your computer or laptop. There are a few problems with built-in solutions:
- The first problem with the built-in solution is that the quality of the converters and preamps lacks in terms of quality. You won’t be able to achieve good results when recording your voice or other instruments like guitar.
- Another down point of the “onboard” audio chip is that it comes with drivers that generate latency. So if you want to record your electric guitar live through a virtual guitar amp the latency will be so big that you won’t be able to record a decent take.
- The onboard chip doesn’t offer D.I or Phantom Power which will be important when working with condenser microphones and instruments like bass or electric guitars
A dedicated audio interface will solve all these problems and offer you great quality
Since you’re on a budget as a beginner I can recommend three interfaces that I had a great experience with:
- Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2X2 (http://amzn.to/2xHuWhL)
- Focurite Scarlett 2i2 (http://amzn.to/2xbQdyw)
- Zoom UAC2 (http://amzn.to/2yfyfdf)
DAW Software / Sequencer
The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is your recording and sequencing software. There are no major differences between all the DAW’s. They all sound the same and provide you the same basic features to compose and record music. Of course, every DAW has its strong and weak points and you have to experiment with the demo versions to find out what DAW fits your workflow.
- Studio One 3 Professional – A very easy to learn DAW with a very intuitive workflow (http://amzn.to/2xbYtP8)
- Ableton Live 9 – A DAW that is very popular among DJ’s and electronic dance music (http://amzn.to/2fdEzgy)
- Reaper 5 – Very affordable DAW with great features (https://www.reaper.fm/)
All the three DAW’s mentioned above are multi-platform, which means you can use them on a PC or on a Mac
If you happen to have a Mac you can also look into Apple’s own DAW:
- Apple Logic X – A DAW for Apple users, affordable price (https://www.apple.com/logic-pro)
Now if you ask what DAW the author of the blog uses to produce his music: I personally use Studio One 3 by Presonus, I’m not affiliated with them, I just like the fast workflow and the easy to use interface.
In the future, I will write a more detailed guide to all the different DAW’s but since this is a beginners guide I don’t want it to be too complex.
With your DAW Software, you have many great virtual instruments within your fingertips.
But how you going to play these? You need a midi keyboard that connects via USB to your computer and sends MIDI note data so the computer knows what notes you’re playing.
I like the new Alesis V line of midi controllers. They don’t overwhelm you with 100 knobs and faders, they have all the essential controls, great key action and even offer you 8 drum pads to record your electronic drums within a very affordable price range:
- Alesis V49 (http://amzn.to/2wzGM8J)
Midi keys are often available in different sizes. It’s usually 25, 49, 61 and 88 keys. The 25-61 range often times has light weighted action. The more expensive 88 keys often times have weighted action. They feel a lot heavier, compared to a real piano.
For pianist, there is another range of midi keyboard and digital pianos available that I will cover in another article
Of course, you want to listen to the music you do on a decent pair of speakers. Your laptop or generic small computer speakers won’t cut it because they often time exaggerate the bass and high-frequency response. This means that when you start going to mix your track you put less bass and fewer highs into your mix.
This is why you need studio or nearfield monitors with a linear frequency response that provide a neutral, uncolored sound to judge your mix.
Studio Monitors ain’t cheap. They can range from $150 up to $10000 dollar per speaker. So if you can’t afford studio monitors right now jump to the next section that will show you some affordable headphones.
But if you still decide to get some decent studio monitors in the lower price range I can recommend the JBL LSR 305’s which are good for small studio rooms.
- JBL LSR 305’s (http://amzn.to/2y7bBmy)
Otherwise, I would strongly recommend going to a music store and test all the monitors that are in your price range. Don’t pick the monitors that sound “pretty”. Get some records with you and listen on how clear the monitor represents the sound, the stereo separation and if you can hear faults on certain record mixes.
If studio monitors are too pricey for you or your neighbors always complain about loud music you should get a decent pair of studio headphones. The same rules as with the studio monitors apply. Don’t get Hi-Fi headphones with an exaggerated low end and high end response.
Here are a couple options that won’t break your bank:
- Samson SR850 – You didn’t think you could get a decent pair of headphones for $38,97, didn’t you ? Well these are great for everyone who is starting out and on a budget (http://amzn.to/2xJVP4C)
- AKG 240 – I use them myself for nearly 10 years, they’re affordable and have a nice linear sound, the bass response lack a bit though (http://amzn.to/2xJE0CS)
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro – Great sound isolation, much better bass response than my AKG’s but very pricey (http://amzn.to/2wznSin)
There are a lot of great microphones out there. Whether you want to record a guitar cab, some vocals or any other instruments. With microphones, it’s always a matter of taste, because the options are basically endless. Nevertheless, there are a couple of microphones that established themselves in the home recording community:
- Rode NT1A – Great condenser microphone for vocals, but you can also use it for acoustic guitars or overhead for drums (http://amzn.to/2xKfaTm)
- Shure SM57 – Great in front of a guitar cabinet to record loud guitar or bass amps (http://amzn.to/2xdWDNV)
- Shure SM58 – Dynamic microphone for live and studio vocals, often used in conjunction with other mics (http://amzn.to/2wzMw2s)
Don’t forget to buy a pop filter if you want to record vocals, sometimes it is already included with the microphone like with the NT1A from Rode.
Studio Desks & Furniture
If you don’t have a desk you could build yourself a nice studio desk from IKEA parts. I will write a tutorial on this soon. Otherwise everything can go in the beginning. Of course, there are desks that are intended for studio use but these are very expensive.
Here’s one desk that looks good and doesn’t break your bank, I would recommend some separate monitor stands for this though:
- Z-Plane Claremont (http://amzn.to/2xe5QWq)
Monitor stands will give you the opportunity to place your monitors correctly and lower the audio reflections that could result when putting the studio monitors on your desk. Another plus is that you have more space available on your desk for audio hardware.
- Ultimate Support JS-MS70 (http://amzn.to/2yixjF0)
Other things that you will need to complete your studio setup
- Guitar, microphone and computer cables
- Microphone stands, guitar or instrument stands
- Acoustic treatment (I will cover this in another blog post)
I will update this article as often as I can and include this in a dedicated FAQ section in the future. I hope you enjoyed this overview
Feel free to comment or message me via email or on social media