This is a question we get asked all the time here at Heavyweight Bass.
So here some tips from the Heavyweight Bass Producer Group users on Facebook to get you started:
The best way to learn “production” is teach yourself – Just start playing around with everything. It might take a year of messing around before you start figuring stuff out, but you will get there. If you’re looking for instant gratification just stop now.
It does not need to be expensive – You really only need a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to get you started, other stuff can come later if you decide that you want to continue. You don’t even need to buy a DAW to start with, there’s plenty of free options out there to get you going and see if music production is for you. Try the following:
- Presonus Studio One Free (MAC and PC) – This stripped down version of Studio One comes with it’s limitations, but includes unlimited audio and instrument tracks, time-stretching and all the other essentials.
- Zynewave Podium Free (PC) – Designed by Frits Nielson in 2005, Podium is a fully functional 64-bit DAW for $50. Podium Free has some limitations, but it’s basically the full program with no time out or nag screens. Podium has some notable features that will give the premium DAW’s a run for their more expensive money.
- Ardour (MAC and Linux) – Ardour is an open-source DAW originally designed for Linux and available for MAC as well. It uses JACK to make it compatible with outside applications and features video import, scoring, non-destructive editing, support for AU, LV2, LinuxVST and LADSPA formats and elegant signal routing system.
- Cockos REAPER (PC and MAC) – A personal favourite here at Heavyweight Bass, we’ve been using REAPER on and off for a couple of years. Designed by Justin Frankel, who was involved with Winamp, it’s a fully fledged DAW that rivals the high-end programs with it’s features. It’s shareware and costs $60, but Cockos encourages users to use the product for free before buying a license. There’s no time out or locked features, just download and start making music. If you like it, please buy!
Pick a DAW and stick with it (Colin Cameron Allrich) – The “hype” over which DAW is better, or the “you should use X” is trivial. The most important thing you can do is, LEARN the one you’ve chosen. Spend time in it, all the major ones can do everything you’d want if you know how to use it, even Fruity Loops these days! Don’t get caught up in the notion that you aren’t a “real” musician/producer unless you use X. It’s all marketing ploys and bullshit.
If you spend too much time jumping between DAWs, you’ll never have a good work flow in any of them. I’m not saying that down the road you shouldn’t investigate a DAW for your own curiosity or possibility of switching…I’m speaking specifically to those who start out and feel like they need to have, Reason, Live, Fruity Loops, Cubase all on their computer and trying to learn them all at once.
Listen to as much electronic music as possible – That’s the best way to learn structure, and I mean a lot! Go to clubs (with a proper sound system) and just listen to the music. Get your head around the different layers in a club track. Also, you’ll be able to see how people react and get down to certain elements.
Write and mix separately to begin with (Chabin Queif) – Good writing is what sets artists apart. Leave technical adjustments until after the arrangement is done.
Turn off the Internet and write music (Matt Dopamine Goddard) – Distractions will not help you improve.
You don’t need to post everything you’ve ever made (Timmy Teaze) – There’s a reason you can make tracks private.
Learn to take constructive criticism (Chris Wheate) – Although you’ll love everything about your tracks, others may not.
Rules are there to be broken (Lee James Pinner) – You’ll develop your own ways of doing things. It doesn’t matter what you use to achieve what you’re after. The only thing that matters is that the final product sounds good.
What sped up my understanding of audio production more than anything was reading books. As boring as that may sound to some of you, all the information you need is in these books listed below.
Rick Snoman – Dance music manual
Marc Adamo – The secrets of house music production
Bobby Owsinski – Mix engineers handbook
Mike Senior – Mixing Secrets for the small studio
Michael Stavrou – Mixing with your mind
Bob Katz – Mastering, the art and the science
Michael Hewitt – Music Theory for Computer Musicians
The e book – Mixed by Marc Mozart
Be a creator of music not a collector of music products (Ian V Jones) – This may sound obvious but, I’ve been the latter for years and I have nowhere near the amount of finished music I should have.
Practice, Practice, Practice – Did I mention practice? Jokes aside, the only way to get better at something is to practice, and music production is not different. Try to spend at least an hour everyday in the studio.