Music may seem like a pretty complex idea at first.
This is very true for most beginners, but as with any new skill you want to acquire, it takes a great amount of time and interest to get to see the results that you want to see.
The more you work on improving that skill, the better you get with time.
Most beginners in music production are often times faced with the question:
“Can you teach yourself how to produce music?”
With the right resources and discipline; Music production can be self-taught because it is a skill that is less about talent and more about perseverance. Therefore anyone can teach themselves how to produce music.
Music production generally involves 5 elements which you need to master:
These are the particular skills that you have to learn for you to become a producer that can put out music that is worth listening to.
How can I teach myself music production?
Now that we live in the information era, you can basically get started learning music production any day.
YouTube is a great resource, there’s a lot free content on it that you can utilize to learn how to produce, you can tackle the 5 elements (Composing, arranging, production, mixing and mastering) one by one until you master them all.
To break them down, here is what these elements involve:
The composition part of music production is all about coming up with music ideas; it will involve the creation of melodies, harmonics and the overall rhythm
The first step in composing music is learning how to listen.
A newbie in music production has to nurture their musical skills, and it all starts by learning how to listen to music. Think of music as a new language, we learn it by hearing it and later we learn how to write it.
You have to listen to a variety of music just to listen to how other composers thought about their musical compositions.
The second thing you have to learn is reading and analyzing musical notes.
Reading music will help you understand it better, and this activity shouldn’t really be underestimated but should rather be embraced.
The third thing under composition is probably music theory.
Music theory is simply the study of the practice and possibilities of music.
Music theory is basically everything from the notations to note organization, harmony, orchestration and form.
Learning music theory is all about understanding how music works and why it works that way, it will help you in composing but you don’t have to become a master at it to benefit from it.
The fourth thing you’d consider is learning how to play an instrument like the piano, because you can apply music theory there.
Playing around with an instrument is great way of coming up with melodies for your compositions and learning how to play an instrument gives you deeper understanding of music and you’ll also develop a relationship with the instrument and you’ll appreciate music much more.
The fifth thing is training your ears in order for you to become a more active listener than a passive listener.
You can also learn how to sing the notes before producing them, to better understand theory.
Another part of music production that you have to learn is arranging.
This is the stage where you learn how to structure songs by developing the intros, verses, choruses, bridges and outros in order to make it a final piece of music.
You have to learn how to ensure that the mix you come up with has sections that are clearly defined.
There are three types of arrangements:
The first one is the structural arrangement that I talk about above, which is concerned with the movement of the energy in the song, and how various sections connect with each other.
The second type of arrangement is the instrumental arrangement, which is basically how the chords, notes and melodies are interacting and how they are laid out across each other. During this process changes can be made to the instruments and arranged properly.
For example a synth could be playing under a vocal thereby causing distortion or high end clashes, therefore it is the job of the arranger to move the synth or move the vocal in order to avoid the clash.
The third type of arrangement is called spatial arrangement, which basically involves adding sounds to your mix according their properties (their volume, panning, and overall presence)
Arrangement is very important because it covers pretty much everything from how you develop the musical idea to the final song that you piece together.
This is one of the most complex stages in music production because it involves you having the vision of the song from start to finish.
This process will begin mostly with sound design.
During this process you’ll create your original sounds using various instruments and you’ll use a combination of effects to manipulate them, edit them, choose samples and add effects to edit them.
Most of the time sound designing comes after the arranging is done to avoid replacing sounds in the mix.
If you start with sound designing then arranging, some of the sounds that you have in the mix may not fit really well that’s why you’ll want to generally start with arranging first.
Production will usually involve:
Filling in spaces by adding transition effects when moving from one section to another.
Handling any audio sample needs like; time stretching, chopping sample, pitching and adding creative sounds.
Creating stems for mastering.
Fixing any issues within the mix.
With mixing, you’re basically fitting or combining all of the individual tracks in order to make a song and to make sure the final combination of these tracks sounds sonically good whilst ensuring that the individual tracks also sound good on their own.
Mixing will involve balancing levels, fixing any issues within the mix, compression, equalization, adding effects and editing the overall song to make sure it is ready for mastering.
Mastering is the final process in the music production process.
mastering is taking the final mixed song you get after the mixing process is done, called the final mix, polishing it up and improving it sonically in order to make sure that the final mastered song sounds good on a variety of different sound systems and is ready for release.
The easiest way to learn music production is learning how to use a particular Digital audio Workstation (DAW). I have a list of DAWs here that you can pick from.
Learn how to fully use it and you have a head start.
Is it hard to learn music production?
It’s certainly not an easy path but it’s doable.
Music production is involving and highly technical; it involves learning a lot of things and applying what you learn.
People go to schools just to study music, that goes to show you how much of an involving field it is, but you can still learn it and become a professional if you put your mind to it.
How long does it take to learn music production?
The obvious answer that we are all familiar with is 10,000 hours.
For some it may take 2 years to get good at music production, for some people it could take 5 years, for some even more than 10 years.
The simple answer is, it depends on your work ethic; the more you generally practice the closer you get to becoming the producer you want to be.