5 Chapters of Becoming an Electronic Music Producer: A Journey to the Spotlight
Electronic music has become one of the biggest genres in the music industry at this point in time, with electronic music producers like Calvin Harris, Kaskade, Tiesto, Skrillex and many more becoming well-known names across the globe. With an endless list of sub-genres within the electronic music realm, the community of individuals that produce their own sound – from house and techno to trap, dubstep and beyond – continues to grow daily.
But don’t worry – the artists that have made this genre famous didn’t all just manifest their talents out of nowhere; they learned their craft and refined their skills to become the producers that they are today. So that leaves us all to question: how do you become an electronic music producer?
Let’s be honest: becoming a producer takes time, effort, and exploration. What genre (or subgenre) of music do you want to create? What artists inspire you? How will you describe your sound – and what do you want that sound to be? This process is truly an evolution, but there are roughly five chapters that any producer moves through on their journey of learning and mastering the art:
- Initial Introduction
- Diving In
- Mastering the Art
Each of these stages is unique in their own way, and also vital to becoming a successful electronic music producer. Let’s begin.
Chapter 1: Initial Introduction
You have to start somewhere, right? The beginning stage is about introducing yourself to the industry, its inner workings, the programs and the elements needed to learn to produce. You are entering a brand new environment and need to understand that environment before you can master it.
This stage typically takes a few months, during which you should not be afraid to explore, ask questions and get creative. We know you’re itching to create your first track, but be sure to cover these basic areas first.
Know your genre
Become familiar with the space that you’re entering. Get to know some of the big artists in your genre – for example, Skrillex in Dubstep or Seven Lions in Psytrance – and spend some time looking into basic elements that create various types of electronic music.
As you are working to become an electronic music producer, you should absolutely become familiar with the DJs and producers who’ve pioneered the electronic music industry. Dig through Soundcloud, spend some time on electronic music news websites, check out the history of electronic music on YouTube. Know what you’re getting yourself into.
Understand music theory
It’s a bit tricky to learn to make music without having a basic concept of music theory. Even though using a computer to make electronic music is not necessarily the same as picking up a guitar or sitting down at a piano, the general idea behind creating a song still remains the same.
You don’t need to know how to read music to become an electronic music producer, but we recommend spending a few hours looking into musical structure and the basics of how songs are made. We promise it will help!
Pick your DAW
We know what you’re thinking: what’s a DAW? It stands for Digital Audio Workstation. It’s one of the key elements to music production and, if you’re familiar with the space, you’ve likely heard some of the major names like Ableton, Cubase and Logic Pro. There are hundreds of these software products on the market.
The goal: test a few out and find one that you like. If you have friends who are producers, ask them what they prefer and why – or if they have any software they advise against. Keep in mind your budget and how much you’re willing to invest.
We recommend checking out some YouTube video tutorials on how each work, give the programs a try and decide which feels best after you’ve spent some time experimenting with them. Your experiments don’t need to sound good, though – remember, you’re not quite a master producer yet!
Gather the rest of your gear
You’ll likely need a few more simple pieces of gear to begin producing, including a decent pair of headphones or studio monitors, as well as a laptop or desktop. Consider also looking into a MIDI keyboard.
Learn your DAW and experiment
After you settle on the DAW you want to use and purchase the program, don’t run full steam ahead quite yet. Pick up the user manual and get to know how it works so you can become familiar with the software quickly. You can also search for beginner’s tutorials online.
Once you’ve got that down pat, spend some time playing around with the program. Take a few weeks to play around and perhaps even make your first song. However, when creating your first song, remember one very important thing: finish music as quickly as you can. Create a track from start to finish and don’t leave it incomplete. Otherwise, this could be a bad habit to develop for the future.
Chapter 2: Learning
So, you’ve done your research. You know your stuff. You’re familiar with what you’re getting yourself into and you’ve dabbled in the space. The next step is to spend time working on your skills. This is the bulk of where you’ll spend your time – prepare to dedicate a few years – as you develop your skills and build your base of knowledge.
Take the skills that you read about or touched on in Stage 1 and begin to learn more about them. Research the subjects of arrangement and mixing. Dedicate time to reading about how producers create their own tracks – it helps to gain the perspective of other producers as you figure it out on your own.
Consider this your own form of “schooling” in the art of becoming an electronic music producer. There are a number of fundamentals you should learn in terms of the art of production:
Learning to intermix various layers of sound is crucial in music production. Though this will take immense practice to master over time, discovering the basics of mixing is a step in the right direction.
If you picked any track on Spotify, Soundcloud or your music streaming service of choice, it sounds great for one reason in particular: because of the track’s composition. More specifically, it’s about structure and arrangement. This is a skill you’ll want to master as you refine your production skills.
If you’re a hands-on learner, try putting tracks into your DAW and dissecting them to understand how each one has its own structure and arrangement. This tutorial from Point Blank London is also a great assistant in understanding the subject.
If you’re the type of person who tends to start things, put them down and never come back to them, be wary. If you’re a perfectionist, keep an eye on this as well. One of the most important skills you must develop as an electronic music producer is a dedication to finishing tracks.
What do we mean by this? You’re only in the second stage – you’re still learning – so you don’t need to create masterpieces. You don’t need to start numerous songs and never finish them. Start a production and follow it through to the end.
Exploring and experimenting
Even if you’ve made your mind up to create one type of music, don’t stop there or limit yourself to learning about that particular style. Branch out and experiment with other genres, beats, and sounds. Keep an eye out for artists that make other styles of music and still inspire you for their own particular reasons.
You should never stop learning – which means you should never stop exploring. Continuing to delve into other areas you haven’t figured out yet will allow you to create a more well-rounded outlook on electronic music production.
Chapter 3: Diving In
To put it simply, Stage 3 is a step further into the world of step two. Now that you have your fundamentals down, it’s time to start acting on them and executing. However, understand that as you dive into production, it will require immense time and commitment. Creating music becomes time-consuming and you’ll need to dedicate more attention than you may have initially thought.
Prepare for hurdles
Be prepared to face what any artist, in any medium, faces: creative blocks, frustration and the want to procrastinate. Continue to experiment and dedicate time to your craft.
Being an artist means that you will reach these inevitable road barriers at one point in your career, or at many. The creative block – like a writer with writer’s block – is something that you’ll need to learn to tackle eventually. Don’t let this demotivate you.
What motivates you?
As you move through this stage, ask yourself: what is your motivation? What are you trying to achieve? Is it to release an EP? Is it because you simply enjoy making music? Find what drives you and use that to keep you motivated. You may hit rough patches and want to give up – or you may have a string of amazing days that pushes you forward. Production is an art, and you are an artist. Master the craft, put your hours in, and good things will come!
Stick it out
Know that this stage may last awhile and that it may be the most challenging of the five. Find patience and know that with come, you’ll be able to reach the next stage. Keep your motives in mind and consider your end goal.
Also be sure to remain consistent. Chug along – even if it’s slowly – and don’t lose sight of the work you’re doing. Keep up the effort and you’ll be able to progress.
Ask for help
Reach out to other producers and see if they’d be interested in collaborating on a new track or teaching you a new skill. Ask for advice or for feedback on a track you’ve been working. This not only provides an outside perspective on your work and where to improve but also builds a larger industry network that will come in handy as you grow your production career.
Chapter 4: Proficiency
This stage, though harder to define in terms of timing and its shift from Stage 3, is the point in time at which you can recognize that the skills you have learned are sticking and reflect in your work. Your tracks should sound professional and stand on their own as high-quality work. You should know how your software – and your hardware – work in and out.
At this point in your production career, consider revisiting any old tracks you created in your early days and tweaking or remastering them. What were your weaknesses when you started? What genres did you want to stray away from? What scared you? Address those dilemmas and find a way to make your weaknesses vital in your growth.
Collaboration is also huge here. As your skills become respectable and notable, working with other artists to create an eclectic twist on your sound is a great way to build relationships and your brand, as well as learn from them. Communication becomes key here, which is an important skill to have in the production and collaboration world.
Chapter 5: Mastering the Art
Ah, the final stage. Reaching this stage is truly a success of epic proportions. Many of the massive artists on the market right now are masters at electronic music producing: The Chainsmokers, Keys n Krates, Bassnectar, Green Velvet and many more.
For an electronic music producer that reaches this stage, numerous things become significantly more important here than before, particularly brand and leadership. As you gain more attention in the limelight, your brand becomes huge in representing who you are what you do. Keep your motive from the earlier stages in mind here. As a master, you’ll also be seen as a leader – for your skills, for your work, for your passion. Embrace it.
Innovation is also important to consider at this stage. Because you have mastered the art in front of you, it’s time to analyze it and find ways to create new forms of art with it. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas and run with them. People will look to you for inspiration!
There you have it, folks! Though everyone may move through these chapters at different paces and in various ways, these five steps are truly the backbone to becoming an electronic music producer.