What Is Music Production: The Guide to Becoming a Producer

8 years ago after buying a trance compilation CD, I decided I wanted to produce music and asked myself: what is music production?

There was something magical about the way music was created, so I went to Google to find out how to get started. Unfortunately, I ended up downloading some random app that I had no idea how to use, and confusion set in.

To help you avoid that confusion, I wrote this post for those wanting to become a music producer. You’ll learn:

  • what a music producer actually does (not what everyone thinks)
  • things you should know about being a music producer & how to get started
  • potential career paths you could take to make money

Let’s take a look. 👇

Get the headstart you need in music production with our EDM Starter Kit

Get our collection of high-quality presets, samples and PDF guides – suitable for all genres of electronic music.

FD - EDM Starter Kit

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.

This 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 simply what I’m going to refer to in this post.

So, what does the bedroom producer do? Everything.

  • Songwriting
  • Sound design
  • Arrangement
  • Mixing
  • Mastering

At least, most of the time. When recording and producing a song for an artist of high caliber (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, since they don’t have a large budget. They come up with musical ideas, arrange those ideas, and finalize them.

A few things that a bedroom producer does:

The creative process of an electronic music producer

Although everyone has their own unique way of making music, there are a few underlying processes that everyone uses in one form or another.

For example, our content manager Aden has a one-hour build series on our YouTube channel where he showcases his workflow:

As for me, here’s a typical set of steps that I might go through when producing a track:

  1. Come up with a memorable hook or melody.
  2. Create a drum section with individual samples and loops.
  3. Design sounds for musical ideas such as basslines, melodies, and chord progressions.
  4. Arrange the track, working on breakdowns, build-ups, verses, and choruses.
  5. Mix the track, using EQ and compression among other effects to make the track sound clean and ready for mastering.
  6. Master the track, bringing up the volume to a competitive level and preparing the track for release.

Of course, this is a simplification and each producer will have their own style and workflow. But hopefully, this gives you a basic idea of what a producer does.

Three things you should know about being a producer

  1. It’s difficult
  2. It’s diverse
  3. 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 singer 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.

Related: What to Focus on as a New Producer

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.

Most people, likely including yourself, want the traditional artist career.

Why? Because it’s the exciting thing that every producer/DJ/musician dreams of – being on stage in front of thousands playing your music.

But it’s certainly not for everyone, so make sure to consider some of the options based on what you actually enjoy doing.

For example, if you like sound design, maybe you’d like to make sounds for other artists, or video games, or maybe you’d like to become a foley artist for films and TV shows.

Consider the options, try out the different skills and make an informed decision.

How to get started with producing

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?

Let’s discuss the answer to these questions and more:

What do I need to get started?

Besides a computer, all you really need is a DAW and a decent pair of headphones.

Read our round-up of popular DAWs, and check out our mega-guide How to Make Electronic Music to learn about the “minimum viable studio”.

And as for headphones, there are plenty of great options. But we normally recommend the Audio Technica ATH-M50x – they’re affordable for most, not cheaply made, and sound great for electronic music.

ATH-M50s

Want more options? Check out our roundup of the best headphones for music production here.

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.

In fact, music theory is just one part of music production, and even those who have played an instrument before are only at a slight advantage.

Music Production 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 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: Starting Electronic Music Production on a Budget.

Production Learning Resources

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.

Courses

Courses are an efficient way to learn music production, because they not only give you the right information but a system and structure for learning.

This is something YouTube tutorials will always never be able to do because it’s all based on your intentions and what you’re looking for. A course teaches you the things you need to know, even if you don’t know what they are.

Here are a few beginner courses:

  • EDM Foundations – Master the fundamentals of electronic music production by finishing 4 songs in 30 days.
  • Drums By Design – Take your drum programming game from amateur to professional through 7 comprehensive, multi-genre walkthroughs.
  • Songwriting For Producers – Master the theory and arrangement framework behind producing unique and memorable electronic music.
  • Breakthrough Sound Design – Turn ideas in your head into real sounds, develop your signature style, and skyrocket the quality of your music.

Books

I always recommend books for a reason – if it’s important, there will be a book on it.

Here are a few classics:

YouTube Channels

Sometimes you have a question and need an answer. YouTube is a wealth of information for that, so here are a few great channels to follow:

Must-read articles

Hey, we write articles, and we think they’re helpful. Here are some of our most popular articles according to our followers:

Looking for more resources? Check out my Resources page.

Keep going further

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 comprehensive 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.

It’s also available in our EDM Starter Kit, which you can grab below for free.

Get the headstart you need in music production with our EDM Starter Kit

Get our collection of high-quality presets, samples and PDF guides – suitable for all genres of electronic music.

FD - EDM Starter Kit

Get instant access to our free video training

Learn how to master the fundamentals of electronic music production with the best roadmap for new producers