Note: this post was updated in March 2018.
8 years ago after buying a trance & dance compilation CD I decided I wanted to produce music. There was something magical about the way music was created, and being a musician already I thought it’d be an easy path to take.
Like any normal person I went to Google to find out how to get started and what I needed. Unfortunately it didn’t go to well, I ended up downloading a weird program without any idea of what it was or how to use it. Confusion set in.
I’ve decided to write this post for those wanting to become a music producer. You’ll learn about what a music producer does, things you should know about being a music producer, potential career paths, and most importantly – how to get started.
What does a music producer do?
By the traditional definition, a music producer is someone who oversees, manages, and guides the process of producing and recording a song. But over the past 10-20 years, music production has become a lot more accessible. Quality music can be made on your standard laptop, and expensive hardware isn’t required.
Which leads us to the Bedroom Producer. I’m a bedroom producer (I don’t literally produce in my bedroom), I don’t have expensive hardware, and I don’t own a massive studio. The Bedroom Producer is what I’m going to refer to in this post.
So, what does the bedroom producer do?
At least, most of the time. When recording and producing a song for an artist of high calibre (think top 40, commercial music) you’ll normally have a number of people working on the record. One person may be working with the artist(s) and training them, another may be looking for ideas, and another may focus on the sonic quality of the track, mixing it down and getting it sounding right.
The bedroom producer typically does all of this. They come up with musical ideas, arrange those ideas, and finalize them.
A few things that a bedroom producer does:
- Creating or recording musical ideas (melodies, harmonies, vocals)
- Arranging ideas
- Mixing and mastering
- Sound design
Here’s a typical set of steps that I might go through when producing a track:
- Come up with a hook or melody. Something memorable.
- Create drum section with individual samples and loops.
- Design sounds for musical ideas such as basslines, melodies, and chord progressions.
- Arrange the track, working on breakdowns, build-ups, verses and choruses.
- Mixdown the track, using EQ and compression among other effects to make the track sound clean and ready for mastering.
- Master the track, bringing up the volume to a competitive level and preparing the track for release.
Three things you should know about being a producer
- It’s difficult
- It’s diverse
- It’s rewarding
If you’re looking for an easy hobby, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for something that will positively impact your life, cause you to think critically and artistically, and give you the joy of creating something – then it’s the hobby for you.
Being a music producer is difficult for a number of reasons. The first one is that it takes a long time to get to a level where your music is actually worth releasing. There are intricacies involved in music production that not only take a while to understand in theory, but require deliberate practice. Even if you’ve got great musical ideas, your mixing skills might not be great, or your sound design may not be up to standard.
Music production is also a very diverse field. A producer might produce music for a signer or rapper, write music for movies, design sounds for video games, record and engineer live bands, or simply produce music for themselves. There are plenty of career opportunities as a producer, and it’s helpful to consider all the above.
Most importantly though, and despite the difficulty, being a music producer is rewarding! There’s nothing more satisfying than finishing your own music and having people appreciate it. The rewards outweigh the frustration by far.
Are there job opportunities?
There are many different career paths that are closely related to music production:
- Artist career: touring, album sales, and more.
- Audio engineering: mixing and mastering music, live sound at events, etc.
- Commercial production: producing music for advertisements, games, films.
- Teaching: teaching others how to make music.
- Sound design: designing sounds for games, films, etc.
How to get started
It’s all good and well knowing what a music producer does, how difficult it is, and if there are potential careers – but how do I even get started?!
What software should you use, what gear do you need, how do I write my first song, and where can I learn all this?
Let’s discuss the answer to these questions and more.
What do I need to get started?
All you really need is a DAW and a decent pair of headphones. Read our article 5 Stages of an Electronic Music Producer for popular DAWs, and check out our mega-guide How to Make Electronic Music to learn about the “Minimum Viable Studio”.
I have no experience in music. Can I still learn production?
Yes! Many of your favorite producers started producing with no previous musical experience. Sure, it helps, but you can pick up skills like songwriting and melody writing along the way.
Gear, what do I need?
My advice to new producers would be to not stress too much on gear. A new piece of production gear, whether it be a MIDI keyboard, software plugin, or headphones is not going to make you a better producer. These things may certainly aid your creative process and help with the technical side of things, but they won’t automatically make you a better producer.
With that said, there are a few essentials. I’ve written a post that you should check out:
After downloading a DAW and playing around for a bit, you want some guidance, right?
Having a selection of learning resources is essential. Here are a few paid and free resources I recommend.
- EDM Foundations – Master the fundamentals of electronic music production by completing 4 projects in 4 weeks.
- Ableton Live Ultimate Course by Sadowick (free)
- FL Studio 12 Basics by Seamlessr (free)
- How to Make Electronic Music: The In-Depth Guide to Being an EDM Producer
- 5 Stages of an Electronic Music Producer
- Why Quantity Should be Your Priority
Looking for more resources? Check out my Resources page.
Now that you know what a music producer (or bedroom producer) does, how to get started, and a few things you should be aware of – it’s time to take action!
Download a demo of any DAW and start playing around. I recommend FL Studio or Ableton Live due to the amount of educational content out there for the two.
Completely new to production? Check out our latest guide, “How to Make Electronic Music”. You’ll learn a comprehensive plan for learning EDM Production basics, building a creative mindset, and developing skills as a producer.