How to start making electronic dance music
How to Make Electronic Dance Music (EDM) – Berklee Online Take Note
Electronic dance music (EDM) is currently one of the hottest genres in popular music. From underground dance music to the global success of chart-topping electronic music producers like Calvin Harris, Skrillex, and Tiesto, the scene is growing.
Because of this explosion in popularity, there is an endless list of sub-genres in the field. Not to mention, a variety of tools and technology you can use to create the beats, sounds, and arrangements electronically. However, to become an electronic music producer, you have to be dedicated to your craft.
Whether you’ve already created a few tracks or are simply considering getting into the genre, here’s what you need to know about becoming a successful electronic dance music producer.How to Start Producing EDM
- Research different EDM artists. It’s always a good idea to explore what’s out there before forging ahead. Find what speaks to you.
- Consider what genre of electronic music you want to produce. You could pursue house, trap, ambient, dubstep, or create your own thing.
- Choose and learn a DAW. A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is the software application you’ll use to produce, edit, and record your music. Berklee Online offers a robust music production curriculum, with DAW-specific courses available. Some of the most popular include Logic Pro, Cubase, Pro Tools, and Ableton Live.
- Start experimenting! Take the tools you’ve acquired and make things happen. You’ll likely feel frustrated along the way, but embrace it and keep trying new sounds and arrangements until you get comfortable with the software and process.
This first stage is all about start soaking up knowledge, mastering skills, and seeing the progress. Once you’ve found your favorite DAW and are getting the hang of how things work, the EDM world is your oyster.Music Concepts You Need to Know to Make EDM
With electronic music, there are three key fundamental areas you should focus on.
- Music Theory. You may think that music theory doesn’t apply in electronic music production. But the genre is still a compilation of sounds and rhythms and relies on the same basic musical concepts.
- Arrangement. Once you’ve covered the basics there, you can move onto structure and arrangement. That way, you can take a short musical run and expand it into a full-length song. There are courses specifically designed for structure and arrangement in electronic music composition, including the Berklee Online courses Composing and Producing Electronic Music 1 and 2 and Keyboard for the Electronic Musician.
- Mixing. The final key area you need to understand is mixing. There are courses to help you master this concept as well, including the Berklee Online courses Mixing and Mastering for the Electronic Musician and Sound Design for the Electronic Musician. By learning the basics of digital audio and mixing best practices, you’ll figure out how to put your ideas together and come out on the other side with something you’re excited to present.
Becoming an electronic dance music producer takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Following this career path means you’ll be constantly learning about new techniques, so don’t be too hard on yourself as you evolve as both a producer and musician.Improve, Connect, Repeat
You’ve learned the software, you’ve learned how to mix properly, and you have a few tracks ready to be released into the world. What are you waiting for?
Whether you’re releasing your music on SoundCloud or YouTube, it’s important to get feedback. It’s a daunting and vulnerable part of the process, but it’s essential if you want to grow. Send your tracks to friends as well as other electronic music producers in the industry to identify your weak points.
While you’re doing that, make connections with others in the industry and build relationships. You never know what opportunities will arise down the road. When you network with other electronic music producers, you meet potential collaborators and learn from other artists above your skill level.
At the end of the day, you have to stay passionate about the genre and excited to absorb new information every step of the way. With a solid foundation, you’ll become a master electronic music producer and continue to innovate as you create a career in EDM.
Become a better electronic music producer with Berklee! Explore our offerings:
- Bachelor of Professional Studies in Electronic Music Production and Sound Design
- Bachelor of Professional Studies in Music Production
- Master of Music in Music Production
- Electronic Music Production and Sound Design Advanced Professional Certificate
- Composing and Producing Electronic Music Professional Certificate
- Sampling and Sound Design for Electronic Music Professional Certificate
The 5 Stages of an Electronic Music Producer (and How to Progress Effectively Through Them)
When I first got into electronic music production, I had no idea what to do.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to learn or what I should focus my time on.
What I wish I had during this time was a basic blueprint – a roadmap of what it takes to go from complete beginner to competent artist.
This article is that roadmap. If you follow the outline and recommendations in this post, I truly believe you can shave months if not years off the time it takes to go from beginner to expert.
As you journey through your life as a producer, you’ll progress through 5 stages:
- Exponential Learning
- The Dip
Some of you might be at stage 1—you’re new to production and have no idea what you should be doing. You might be at stage 3 struggling with creative problems.
Whatever stage you’re at, there are key things you should be focusing on and thinking about.
If you are in the beginner stages, I’ve put together a free video training on how to crush it as a new producer. It will help you avoid the common mistakes that new producers make, and give you a roadmap for getting started. 👇
Stage 1: Initiation
Time: 2-4 months
For most people, this first stage is one of excitement. You’ve (hopefully) learned that it doesn’t take half-a-million dollars worth of gear to make electronic music, and you’re eager to get started and put a track together.
Amidst this excitement, there’s a desperate urge for answers to what should be basic questions. What software should I use? Do I need to buy any special gear? What should I learn first?
The way I look at it, for the first few months, there are three things you should focus on…
Recommended: What Actually Is EDM?
1.Choose & learn your DAW
In order to produce electronic music on a computer, you’ll need a Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. A DAW is a software application used for producing, editing, and recording music.
If you’re at this stage, you probably already know the names of certain software, particularly the popular ones like Ableton Live, FL Studio, Cubase, Pro Tools, and Logic Pro.We typically recommend Logic Pro, Ableton Live or FL Studio, since they have the best resources available for learning.
The question is, which one should you pick?
There are a few things you have to realize if you’re in this position:
- There is no “objectively” best DAW. It comes down to preference. All mainstream DAWs have the capacity to output great music.
- The time you spend stressing over which DAW to pick could be better spent learning production.
- You can always switch DAWs later on if you feel the need to.
While I don’t recommend stressing over the decision, it is a good idea to take some things into account when choosing a DAW, namely:
- What do your friends use? If you have friends who make music, it’s a good idea to choose the same DAW as them so that you can learn from them as best as possible.
- What’s your budget? All mainstream DAWs cost money. You’re going to have to invest in one. However, they’re not priced equally. If you’re on a tight budget (under $200), you might consider Reaper, or the cheaper versions of FL Studio, Ableton Live, and Presonus Studio One. If you can afford to drop a couple hundred dollars, FL Studio Signature Bundle, Logic Pro X, and Ableton Live Standard are all good choices.
- Educational Discounts: Most DAWs offer educational discounts for students. This includes Ableton Live, FL Studio, Bitwig, Reaper, and more.
- Our recommendation: We recommend choosing either Ableton Live Standard or FL Studio Signature. Both are extremely powerful and capable programs and can be picked up relatively quickly. Since they are the most popular DAWs, most of the courses, tutorials, and books teaching music production use these programs. If money is tight, you can start with the limited versions of these software packages, and upgrade in the future. Both of them also include 30 day free trials to test out the software.
For more explanation as to why we recommend Ableton, check out this article on the best DAW for beginners.
The best advice I can give you is to just pick one and start working with it. It shouldn’t take you longer than a day to choose a DAW.
Just download one and get started (you’ll thank yourself later).Do I need any other gear?
The question a lot of people ask during the initiation stage is whether they need to buy anything more than a DAW.
There are two answers to this: the true answer, and the common answer.
The true answer is that all you really need is a DAW and a pair of headphones. Other pieces of gear can help but are by no means necessary. I like to call this the “Minimum Viable Studio” (which is all you really need to get started).
The common answer is that you need at least a decent pair of headphones and maybe a MIDI keyboard. A decent pair of headphones should invariably be the next item on your list if you find that making electronic music is something you want to keep doing.
If you do want to buy some gear and you’re not sure what to pick, I recommend reading this article I wrote called Starting Electronic Music Production on a Budget.
- The Definitive Guide to Music Production Software
- The Best DAW for Beginners
- The Beginner’s Guide to FL Studio
- Ableton vs. FL Studio: How to Pick the Right DAW for You
- Home Recording Studio: What You Really Need as a Producer
Learning your DAW
Having downloaded a DAW (or trial version of one), you may feel tempted to get stuck in straight away and start making a song.
Doing this will result in confusion, frustration, and if you’re not careful, you may decide that making electronic music is simply too difficult so you’ll give up.
Your number one priority after downloading a DAW is to learn how to use it. The best way to do this is to read your DAW’s manual. If you’re not much of a reader, search YouTube for [DAW NAME] beginner’s tutorial or How to use [DAW NAME].
Using Ableton Live? Click the button below for free access to our 40-minute Ableton Beginner’s Masterclass
Get instant access to our free Ableton Live MasterclassHere’s what you get access to (completely free—no strings attached)
2. Experiment (Play)
After getting acquainted with your DAW, the next key thing you should be doing is experimenting, or “playing.”
The only objective here is to have fun. Sure, watch a few YouTube tutorials, learn a few things, but above all, experiment. Learn how to put down a basic drum beat. Try recreating the melody from whatever song is stuck in your head.
Do this for a couple of weeks.
Some helpful tips for inspiration:
- 100 Ableton Live Tips
- 100 FL Studio Tips
- 50 Tips from Twitter
3.Create your first songSeeing your first song exported feels really good!
The final step in the initiation stage is to make a song, from start to finish. Don’t worry about how you think a song should be made, whether there are any rules or not, simply make something that’s 2 or more minutes long, and call it done.
This is an essential step. You must get into the habit of finishing music as early on as you can.
Otherwise, you run the risk of not being able to finish music later on down the track.
You may feel the urge to show everybody your creation. You might feel it’s time to create a Soundcloud account or post your track on YouTube. Though there’s no intrinsic harm in doing this, I don’t recommend it. It’s a distraction, especially in the initiation stage.
If you want to speed up the learning process and follow a proven framework, check out EDM Foundations. We’ve had over 3800 beginner producers go through the course with great results.
Stage 2: Exponential Learning
Time: 6-24 months
Stage 2 is where the real fun begins. You start getting the hang of things, and every track you make sounds better than the last.
This stage takes a while, typically 1-2 years. For some people, it may be shorter, especially if they have the freedom to put many hours in. For others, it may take longer than two years.
Stage 2 is titled Exponential Learning because that’s exactly what happens. You acquire knowledge, develop skills, and improve as a producer at exponential speed.
Here’s an illustration (I know the line is not an exponential curve, but you get the idea):
It’s an exciting time in your journey as a producer. Your eyes are opened to the limitless freedom that electronic music production presents. You listen to tracks you made a few weeks earlier and notice how much you’ve improved since.
During this stage, at least in the early months, you’ll be improving week on week if you put in the time and effort.
But in order to excel during this stage, you’ll need to follow these 4 key disciplines:
Key discipline 1: Learning the fundamentals
In stage 1, you probably watched a few tutorials and read some articles. You might know a thing or two about music theory, and you might have an idea of what an EQ does.
However, now it’s time to knuckle down and gain a basic understanding of a few fundamental concepts, namely:
- Music theory
- Structure & arrangement
I’ve put these in order of importance starting at the top. It’s important to note that these concepts run deep and wide, and you can spend a lifetime learning about mixing and audio alone.The shiny stuff, like complex dynamic EQ or multiple reverb sends or parallel compression are all distractions at the start.
Unless you have a good reason for going beyond what’s essential or basic, I highly recommend you keep things simple and relevant. Learning complex jazz music theory probably isn’t necessary right now if you’re just wanting to make a few techno tracks.
Music theory is absolutely fundamental despite the numerous successful producers who don’t know it at all.
Electronic music production differs from traditional music composition and production in many ways, but it’s still music that has chords and melodies and, therefore, relies on the same fundamental musical concepts. Not learning music theory earlier is one of my biggest mistakes.
Our course, Songwriting For Producers, is the most comprehensive resource for learning theory and songwriting as an electronic music producer.
We’ve also put together a free comprehensive guide to learning music theory (and guess what? It isn’t boring to read either).
Download our free music theory guide
Structure & arrangement
Once you’ve developed a basic understanding of music theory, you’ll need to learn structure and arrangement. Learning structure and arrangement will teach you how to take a short musical idea and expand it to create a full-length song.
Fortunately, electronic music follows a predictable and standard structure, so it’s not hard to pick up the basics.Although each of the subgenres differ slightly, each of them has a general structure you can adopt.
The best way to learn structure and arrangement is to drag songs into your DAW and study them. Pull them apart. Steal the basic structure from an existing track and use it for your own.
Additionally, we recommend investing in EDM Foundations to learn the basics of structure and start applying it quickly.
If you’re more advanced, Songwriting For Producers features 12 genre-specific breakdowns where you’ll learn about how popular songs are structured (and why they work).
No one wants to listen to a well-composed and well-arranged song that sounds like it’s coming out of a tin can, which is why grasping the fundamentals of mixing is important.
Here’s what I recommend to begin with:
- Mixing EDM: The Complete Beginner’s Guide
- Digital Audio 101: The Basics
- Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio by Mike Senior
If you go through all these resources, or even just a few of them, you’ll have a sufficient level of knowledge to practically apply to your work. Remember, no amount of theoretical learning can replace real practice, so be wary of the balance between them.
Key discipline 2: Finish fast and finish often
“As Ira Glass so famously put it, the best way to refine your craft is to create a huge volume of work. Not to create the most perfect piece you can, but to create many pieces of work.” – Herbert Lui, Why Quantity Should be Your Priority
One trap that a lot of producers fall into in stage 2 is the perfection or masterpiece trap. They think that they must create amazing work—that they must focus on creating masterpieces.
Having a perfectionist attitude in stage 2 is not only an inhibition to learning and progression, it also destroys your self-esteem. Why? Because even if you were to set the perfect standard for your work and achieve it (which isn’t likely), you’re progressing at such rapid speed that you’ll be disappointed in your “masterpiece” a few weeks later.
What you should focus on instead is finishing. Not just finishing, but finishing tracks as often as you can.In 2020, many of the artists in the EDMProd Artist Community committed to finishing a track a week, and it worked well for them.
When I was in stage 2, I’d finish tracks in one day. They didn’t sound that great, but I learned something new with each project.
You have to focus on quantity during this stage, because if you do, quality will inevitably go up and you’ll learn much faster than you would otherwise.
Key discipline 3: Diversity & further experimentation
During stage 2, it can be tempting to pigeonhole yourself into one genre or style of music. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do recommend you experiment with as many different genres as you can.
Because you’ll learn quicker.
I started out making dubstep and picked up some valuable skills such as drum programming and sound design while doing so.
I then ventured over to drum & bass and developed my drum programming skills even further.
For a while, I made techno and house, which taught me a lot about the groove. Nowadays, I mostly make trance and progressive house, but the skills I gained from experimenting with other genres still come in handy.
So, if you feel like making genre X, then do so. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t.
Key discipline 4: Gathering feedback and building relationships
At this stage, many producers start thinking about how they should brand and market themselves, how to gain more Soundcloud followers, and so forth.
This is nothing more than a distraction, and if you’re currently stuck in stage 2 then trying to make a name for yourself is a futile effort.
While you shouldn’t be spamming forums and the comments section on YouTube videos telling everyone you’re the next Martin Garrix, there are certain things worth doing outside of your DAW that will set you up for future success and also allow you to learn and progress faster.
The first thing you should be doing – having finished a few tracks – is gathering feedback from people. It’s important to get a second set of ears on your music so you can learn what your weak points are and if there are any ongoing problems with your music (your low-end might be consistently too loud, for instance).Asking for feedback is much easier once you’re already friends and have a relationship.
The second thing you should be doing is building relationships with other producers and people in the industry. You should do this irrespective of whether you want to build a career in music, mainly because the opportunities that come from simply knowing people are invaluable.
Stage 3: The Dip
Time: 6-18 months
Stage 3 is the most difficult part in an electronic music producer’s journey.
Production starts to become difficult and seems more time-consuming. You sit down to work on something and end up procrastinating—doing something else that’s easier.
If you’re lucky, as in, you’re a part of the 1%, then you may not go through stage 3.
But you probably will go through it. Most people do. In fact, it’s the very reason I wrote The Producer’s Guide to Workflow & Creativity.
The unfortunate reality is that most people give up when they reach stage 3.
Fortunately, stage 3 doesn’t last forever, and there are ways to progress through it faster.
1. Deal with overwhelm
The first thing you must do if you find yourself in “the dip” is learn to deal with the feeling of overwhelm.
Feeling overwhelmed is pretty much guaranteed if you’re stuck in stage 3. You might feel overwhelmed by the fact that you’re not producing as much as you used to, or simply by the sheer amount of work involved in putting together a decent track.
Whatever you feel overwhelmed by, you need to reverse that feeling and get on top of it. There’s an age-old productivity technique that will help you do this. It’s called breaking big projects into small tasks.
For example, if you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work involved in putting together a decent track, then break it down into small parts. First, focus on only the melody. Once that’s done, you can move on to the next thing. This is how you deal with overwhelm.
2. Figure out your objective & motivation
One of the main reasons people give up during this stage is that they can’t find the passion they once had for making music.
Passion keeps us going. There’s no denying that. But at times, it can be hard to feel it or notice it.
Because of this, it’s important that you figure out two things: your next objective, and your overall motivation or reason for making music.
Your objective might be that you want to release an EP. That’s the next “big thing” on your list, and that’s what you’re actively working toward. But an objective alone is not enough, you need an overarching reason or reasons for making music.
My reason for making music is twofold: first, I make music because I love it, and second, I make music because it helps me teach other people to make it. During times where I feel frustrated with music and don’t feel like I “love it,” I fall back to the second layer and remind myself that there’s more than one reason why I make music.
Once you have an overarching reason, working through dry periods where you lack inspiration and creativity becomes much easier.
Need help with this? Check out this post where I show you how to set goals as as producer.
3. Learn how to overcome creative problems
The third thing you must learn in this stage is how to overcome creative problems. You will encounter them—everyone does.
There’s too much material on the topic of creativity and creative block to include in this post, so here are some links to books and articles on it:
- 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers
- Mastery by Robert Greene
- 10 Music Production Experiments that will Make You More Creative
- How to Destroy Creative Block with the Song Palette Strategy
Also, if you want to shout me a few coffees, then my book might be helpful too.
4. Be consistent and patient
“The hard thing is to stick to things when you have outlived the first interest, and not yet got the second which comes with a sort of mastery.” – Janet Erskine Stuart
Despite all efforts to overcome creative block and the overwhelming feeling of not getting enough done or not doing your best work, stage 3 is inevitably going to last a while.
It’s a natural part of an artist’s journey, one that can’t really be avoided. You have to learn to live with it for a period of time before you come out the other side and enter stage 4.
There’s no magic trick or tip that will make stage 3 comfortable. It’s uncomfortable by its very nature—a constant struggle. This means that you have to be consistent and patient.
Consistency matters because, without it, you’ll never progress through stage 3. Consistency means building habits, and habits help you push forward when inspiration is nowhere to be seen.
During stage 3, it’s a good idea to get into a consistent rhythm, to set up a schedule.One of my older schedules for music production.
For example, you might decide to commit to producing for 30 minutes per day no matter what. Start small and then you can work up to longer sessions (like 90 minutes).
Patience is also important. You have to understand that while stage 3 doesn’t last forever, it’s not short. Even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you need to firmly believe that it’s there and wait. (However, don’t wait while not doing work. You won’t progress through stage 3 without putting in effort).
This is all part of developing an artist’s mindset, a mindset that keeps you driven and focus towards reaching your production goals.
Stage 4: Proficiency
Time: 2-5 years
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where stage 3 ends and stage 4 starts, mostly because there’s a fair amount of overlap.
But you’ll know when you’re out of the rough. Stage 4 is the final stage before mastery, which means that while you should still be actively learning and progressing, your work is starting to hold up in terms of quality.
Now, stage 4 typically takes years. It’s important to understand that I’m talking about the time it takes to go from being proficient to a master of the craft. Most people acknowledge that it takes approximately 10 years to become a master in any field, with the definition of a master being “world class.”
So, while I’ve noted that stage 4 takes 2-5 years to progress through, that does not mean it takes 2-5 years to become a good or even great producer. You can easily build a career at stage 4.
Key discipline 1: Advanced learning and remaking
By this stage, you should have a deep understanding of fundamental concepts and a “big picture” view of how different concepts and disciplines interact with each other.
But it’s time to go even deeper. At this point, you’re starting to further your strengths and bring up your weaknesses. Learning complex jazz music theory now is far more appropriate than in stage 2.
Advanced learning is all about going deep into topics. It helps to start with your strong points, because, at the end of the day, music production is too diverse a field to become a master in everything.
If you’re into sound design, you might delve into the physics side of it, learning why certain waveforms sound the way they do. If you love mixing, you might decide to intern at a studio or read some textbooks on audio. You get the idea.
There comes a point where you’ve learned most of what’s necessary from books and videos, and you need to go beyond the “general” advice and gather more nuanced ideas and tricks.
The best way to do this is to learn from other artists who are at or above your skill level. Given that everyone is unique and has unique thoughts, it follows that their music will be unique in one way or another.
How do you learn from other artists? You study their music. Better yet, you remake it. Remaking forces you to listen attentively. It forces you to try out new ideas and solve problems. It forces you to think about what you’re hearing and how it’s made.
Key discipline 2: Collaboration
Another thing that’s beneficial to focus on during this stage is collaboration. This could be working with another producer, vocalist or musician. There are many reasons why collaboration helps:
- You pick up tricks and tips from other artists and producers
- You learn to work well with other people and communicate ideas
- You learn how to make compromises
- You build relationships with like-minded people
- You build your brand by leveraging other’s audiences/fanbases
There’s really no excuse for not collaborating. If you live in an area where no one makes music, you can either collaborate with someone over the internet or move.
If you don’t know anyone on the internet who makes music, stop being lazy and join the EDMProd Artist Community, post a question asking if anyone wants to collaborate with you, and get busy.
Key discipline 3: Career paths
I’ve tagged this as optional because I know not everyone wants to build a career in music production. You might love your day job and just want to make music on the side.
But I’m willing to bet most of you reading this would like to build a career out of music if you could. Despite what people say, there are actually many different career paths available for the skilled music producer. You could:
- Build a career as an artist
- Do freelance work
- Audio editing
- Sound design
- Ghost production
- Get into film and commercial work
- Teach music production
- Create sample packs and other products
Obviously, there are many more jobs than just those, but that should give you an idea. Headlining at Ultra is not the only career path.
The other thing that must be noted is that most people who reach mastery do so because they work full time on their craft. If we use the 10,000-hour rule as a starting point (and I don’t care whether it’s scientific or not, it’s a good rule of thumb), then over 10 years, you’d need to put in 3 hours a day.
Putting in 3 hours per day while holding a 9-5 job is not easy. You can reach stage 5 producing music “on the side,” but it’s certainly not easy.
If you want to see some job offers in the music industry? Head to musiccareers.co.
Stage 5: Mastery
The final stage is one that very few people get to.
Mastery, as commonly defined, is when you’ve practised your craft for so long that it becomes almost a completely subconscious act. You produce music effortlessly.
In my mind, some “masters” of electronic music production would be people like BT, Above & Beyond, Mat Zo, Koan Sound, and so forth.
Please note that I’m not in this stage, so anything I recommend here is purely from a point of observation and what I think should be done during this stage.
1. Deep experimentation
When you’ve mastered your craft and everything you make is quality, it’s time to innovate.
Deep experimentation is about throwing preconceived notions and “the standard way of doing things” out the window. As a master, you start to question underlying assumptions you have about production processes.
“Is this really the best way to do things? What if I did it this way?”
The master can afford to experiment in such a manner and get away with it because he understands the rules so well and he knows what will likely happen if he breaks them.
The intersection of various facets that music production features is so clear to the master, which is why the experiments he comes up with are far more likely to succeed compared to the proficient producer or stage 2 producer.
Often, this will lead to breakthroughs. Maybe it’s a new mixing technique or method of composition. Maybe it’s a new form of song structure. Music is ever-evolving, and masters are the ones who push it forward the most.
2. Branching out
Having reached the point of mastery, you might start to look for new challenges in related fields to music production.A lot of people dive deep into synthesis and sound design once they become accomplished producers.
For example, you might decide to rigorously study acoustics or classical music, both of which will have bearing on your abilities as a producer.
You branch out into different fields not just because they help you as a producer, but because of pure interest.
3. Becoming a leader
Finally, as a master, you’ll probably become a leader unless you’re a recluse. Maybe you pioneer something, maybe you develop a new genre that becomes popular. Who knows?
I mean, this is essentially what Skrillex did, right? That’s how he’s able to give out confident advice like below:
What’s certain is that stage 5, the mastery stage, does not end. There is no stage 6, there is simply mastery and that’s it.
Even the master has to keep learning.
Chances are, you’re reading this as someone who’s completely new to music production or needs some guidance.
If so, I know exactly how you feel. Even after reading this article, you’re probably still feeling overwhelmed, confused, and lost.
Fortunately, that can change.
One option is to come up with a systematic plan for how you’re going to learn production. You can use this article as a guide, develop your own strategy, find the right resources (I’ve linked a bunch of good ones), and read some solid books.
That’s a good option. I wish I’d taken it when I started out (I wasted years floundering around, watching random YouTube tutorials, and not really learning anything).
The other option is to follow a framework that’s enabled thousands of other producers to move from confused, beginner producer to confident intermediate producer.
A framework that drives you to take action and gives you the tools you need to make your first song, then your second, then your third, and so on.
A framework that doesn’t just teach you a bunch of theory, but actually shows you how to make music on a practical, fun level.
To learn more about this framework, check out my free video training by clicking the button below.
How I learned to write dance music and started releasing on labels — Music on DTF
A big story about finding yourself in creativity. With pictures and music.
Hi, I'm Muchkin. I write music. I make money with soundtracks for indie games, and for my soul and career I also make tracks in the genre of melodic house and techno. About how I came to composing, I wrote in a recent text. Now let me tell you about my path in dance music.
Screenshot of my latest project so far
Somewhere in the ninth grade, I first heard Prodigy - Voodoo People (Pendulum Remix) as part of a mix from DJ Stroitel. I got crazy and started to get interested in drum and bass. I listened to Pendulum, Noisia, Spor, danced drum and bass dance, which we called drumstep.
Then I thought that I also want to write the same energetic cool music with rich drum parts. I had no idea how it was done, and the search led me first to some kind of MIDI editor, in which I made a couple of songs. And then I found FL Studio, a sequencer that I've been using for over a decade. nine0003
The first tracks were terrible.
I shared them under a shameful pseudonym on PromoDJ, in an active community of fellow beginners. We intelligently criticized each other's tracks, not knowing anything at all about how music is created. But it's always like that when you start.
nine0002 Toward the end of school, a dream began to form in me: I will learn how to make cool music for the university, and by the end of the fourth year I will become, if not a world star, then certainly a professional and respected music producer (a person who earns money by creating and performing electronic music ).
I once read the idea that you need to make the first 100 songs as quickly as possible, because after them normal music will follow. In my experience, yes, something like this is
In fact, for four years at university, I basically did only three things: studied (albeit well), played video games and suffered from fears and anxieties. Despite the fact that the dream still lived somewhere on the border of consciousness, and I considered myself a music producer, writing tracks faded into the background. nine0003
It wasn't because I was lazy or because I didn't want to make music. Just because I thought of a great success in advance, creativity turned into a hard and painful task. High anxiety, disorders, traumas, and just the peculiarities of the psyche (which I realized only ten years later thanks to psychotherapy) exacerbated the situation.
For example, I wrote this track for a whole year and spent more than hundred hours on it . That was the pace at which I produced finished works at that time. nine0003
Funny story. Born in Space found some cunning guy on PromoDJ and wrote me, they say, let's release it on my label. I went nuts from the word "label" and agreed. We even signed some kind of contract through the Proton system. After that, the man disappeared. Until now, the composition can be found on streaming services - he released it ten times, probably, and all under different "labels".
I didn't make a dime from it, of course. I suspect that he is alsonine0025
Among my other works during this time, one can single out this psychedelic “neurofunk”, in which everything that is possible is not in tonality. When I wrote it, I did not yet know what tonality was.
This was supposed to be an intro for my friend's YouTube show, but it never launched.
At the university, I wrote little music, but this does not mean that I did not develop creatively. I listened and analyzed bass genres a lot and sometimes through suffering I made tracks. Many did not finish. So there was progress, but very slow.
This composition also took about a year and 60-80 hours of work.
My music from this period seems to meet some minimal requirements of the genres (the structure is readable, the sounds are more or less intelligible, the kick and snare give some kind of energy, sometimes there is even a sub-bass), but they are crooked, poorly thought out and uninteresting .
I just used samples, notes and instruments that seemed appropriate and didn't think about the big picture, melody or atmosphere. And, I suspect, for the better. If I had been worried about this as well, then anxiety would have completely crushed me. nine0003
By the way, my suffering also had some advantages. From the very beginning of working in FL Studio, I decided that I needed to create all the presets for the synths myself, and so I did. By the time I received my diploma, I had a good knowledge of the standard synths of the program and even a small library of presets.
By the way, about the diploma: I wrote this experimental composition dedicated to a headache closer to the defense, which is symbolic.
After my bachelor's degree, I went to the master's program and at the same time started looking for a job. For a year and a half, I was doing all sorts of small jobs (once I even made the whole foley for a short film). I didn’t do much music, although I was able to complete a couple of projects. nine0003
For example, this future beats track inspired by Ivy Lab and Noisia Radio selections.
And an old school drum and bass remix for Dorn (there was a PromoDJ contest).
I was looking for ways to make money on music: I applied to local game and recording studios, I tried my luck in creating beats and stock tracks. In vain. As I studied the market and read the stories of more successful producers, an unbearable, terrible thought formed in my head.
To achieve something, you have to work very hard
That explained a lot.
At the beginning of 2017, I was accepted to DTF. Since childhood, I loved games, I read LKI, the Land of Games and Igromania, so I was very happy with this opportunity.
I was part of the editorial staff for almost two years. At this time it was difficult to find the strength and time for music. I watched tutorials, analyzed other people's tracks, replenished my database of samples and presets, but completed projects during this time can be counted on the fingers of one hand. nine0003
Weird downtempo project - time.
Dubstep with the voice of YouTuber Jacksepticeye - two.
Gloomy base house - three.
Drum and bass, started back in 2016, four.
I tried to send each of these tracks to labels, but they were not taken anywhere. I was surprised: how is it that they have everything. And powerful basses, and cool drums, even some interesting effects. Isn't that enough?
Oh, how little I understood.
In the spring of 2019, I started building a career as an indie game composer. A few months later, this occupation even began to bring in some money and soon became the main one for me. (You can read about this path here.)
I found a way to make money with music and immersed myself in creativity. A little bit not the direction that I dreamed of, but still it was progress. Working on the soundtracks, I learned to feel the music better, learned new techniques and added to my own libraries even more. nine0003
As for dance tracks, at the end of 2019, aggressive and fast base house was popular, and I tried to sit on this hype train.
But no labels took the track, so I released it myself through distributor DistroKid. It was my first "adult" release - the one that appeared on streaming services. So far, I have earned exactly $0.03 on it. That's 17 auditions.
Back in the beginning of 2020, I made time for the LEAVEMEALONE halftime track.nine0002 The flops over the past couple of years made me wonder: what is wrong with my music? Why doesn't anyone want to take it? Reflection and reflection led me to an important conclusion: in the first place, I do not make the music that I really want.
I became interested in making music thanks to drum and bass, then I started listening to dubstep and electro house, and for some reason I always felt that these genres were what I needed to work on. But as soon as I listened to myself a little (which I had never done before), it turned out that I had nothing to express through bass music. nine0003
Therefore, I spent the following months looking for genres that would most accurately reflect my inner state. They were melodic house and techno.
Since April 2020, I have decided to get into dance music properly. Since I used to be able to create compositions only through force, I came up with a challenge for myself: to finish one track every month.
The logic was like this. By forcing myself to work on dance compositions month after month, sooner or later I had to develop all the necessary skills needed to create cool music. nine0003
I was going to basically brute force my creative powers
The first track turned out to be clumsy. The mixing is murky, there is not much development, both drops are arranged as if it were a summer banger, although a soulful melodic techno was conceived. But for starters, it will.
This track (and several others) I released again via DistroKid. Even tried to buy ads for him through Facebook. There were still few auditions (39 to date), but I was resentful of the label system after so many rejections and was determined to make a name for myself. nine0003
The next composition in May, Pasturage, was much softer. Birds, forest, nice sound design and summer rain atmosphere.
For this track, I also purchased advertising. This time I set up the ad better and invested more money, so the output was more tangible. Now he has 138 plays.
The June track Arcane turned out to be mysterious and attractive, like a Celtic forest. Hence the name.
I did not commission advertising for him, because the determination to promote myself in the music industry began to fade. I didn’t pour so much money into advertising tracks, but there was no more extra money. nine0003
The conclusion was that you can break through on your own only in two cases: if you have a lot of money for advertising (I didn’t), or if you know how to do cool PR in social networks (I didn’t know how). So I started looking towardslabels again.
Arcane was not taken to the labels (I did not even hope), but they took Autarca - the July track. Here's a snippet of it, and you can listen to it in full here.
It was released as a compilation on the sub-label of a small St. Petersburg publishing house Polyptych. I knew perfectly well that this would not bring me any money or popularity, but I signed the contract anyway. You have to start somewhere. nine0003
The next track was a bit hooligan Help a Robot. I didn't send it anywhere, because big labels wouldn't take it, and it was long and tedious to look for small labels with such music. How do you even google them? "Labels with frivolous electro-house"?
In autumn I decided to make a three-track mini-album. For some reason it seemed to me that labels were more willing to take EPs than singles.
Even by this moment I had heard a lot of music in the selected genres and realized that in melodic house and techno, few people make tracks shorter than six minutes. So from now on, all my new compositions slowly fade in and out. nine0003
In general, the music has become less hasty and more conducive to immersion and thoughtful listening
As you might expect, my plan to boost my chances with labels with the EP didn't work out very well. The release was eventually taken to the same Polyptych Limited (it will be released on July 5), but I was hoping for something bigger.
In December I finished the new track Rewired and decided to take a break. Working non-stop for nine months (and I also did soundtracks) without tangible results led to the fact that I just burned out. nine0003
Rest helped me rethink my priorities and figure out which way to go. I stopped caring too much about labels and started focusing more on creativity and self-expression. Plus, psychotherapy helped (and still helps) to listen to yourself better.
Rewired was included in the compilation for the Moscow label ONESUN (will be released sort of like in the summer).
I wrote the next composition at a more relaxed pace: burnout forced me to abandon the "one track per month" mode. Simultaneously with the work on the track, I was doing research. He carefully studied music in the chosen genres, pestered successful producers with questions, whom he could reach. nine0003
The result was the biggest takeaway of all time: major labels need unique music first and foremost. One that has not yet been
Within the genre, of course, although the boundaries between melodic house and techno are blurred.
How to achieve uniqueness? For me, the answer is simple: it comes from the uniqueness of the psyche. If you learn to listen well and express yourself adequately, then creativity will be unique. Therefore, when creating Bird Law in January 2020, I tried to listen as often as possible to what melodies, sounds, effects and just decisions resonate with me. nine0003
This track doesn't just meet some technical requirements, it's undeniably my . For example, the title is taken from a comic book that I really like.
It's the law
And the theme of birds in it is not only because of the name, but also because these animals (but not all) touch me and my wife very much. And also partly a track about the love that I feel for my wife, and this has something in common with the comic book. In general, a warm work about good things. The ones in me. nine0003
I don't know how noticeable this is to the outside listener, but I see a massive improvement over the previous compositions. He was even taken to a more serious label - the Italian Natura Viva. They promised to release it as part of a compilation. I don't know when exactly: for some reason, labels rarely notify me about such things, and I myself don't really care. I'm more focused on future works.
The last track so far is called You're Not What Your Mind Tells You. It's about my many battles with my own brain. It is a little sad, but with a light undertone, because no matter how scary the battles are, there is always a possibility to win. At least I can. nine0003
The other day I signed him to the Belgian label Sound Avenue. It will first be released exclusively on Spotify to try and push it into the platform's playlists, and will be released as part of a sub-label compilation in August.
After You're Not What Your Mind Tells You, I again rethought my creative process. Now I try to treat music less as a series of separate projects and more just as a field for experiments, from which cool completed projects will grow. Let's see where this takes me. nine0003
Such things. Thank you for reading. By the way, I will soon launch a course on creating electronic music from scratch. If interested, you can read the details here.
If you like my music, you can subscribe to Soundcloud, YouTube or Spotify. All my future tracks will appear there as well. Also here are my social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch.
training in the online course of creating electronic music - Skillbox
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Enroll in the course
First payment in 6 months!
You will master music theory, learn how to work in Ableton Live, create tracks in different genres and process them professionally. Learn how to sign contracts with musicians and labels and build a business model for a project. You can write music for yourself or start a creative career.
- 4 full immersion courses
- Mini-album in portfolio
- Duration 12 months
- Permanent access to the course
Electronic music producer is an artist who uses innovative approaches to create compositions. He works with samples, generates sounds, uses synthesizers and drum machines to make tracks interesting and catchy.
Who this course is for
Learn how to get started in the music industry. Get structured knowledge and get to know producers.
Level up and get useful life hacks from top artists. Close gaps in knowledge and make new acquaintances.
- For DJs
Start growing as an artist, gain new knowledge, communicate with professionals and analyze common mistakes using real examples. nine0003
What you will learn
Understand music theory
Master your musical literacy and learn how to pick tunes by ear.
Write music with Ableton Live
You will sample, apply sound effects, mix and master.
Work with equipment and equip the studio
Organize a home studio, learn how to select headphones, monitors, microphones, audio recorders and controllers. nine0003
Create tracks in different genres
Learn the specifics of different genres. Learn how to record vocals, apply effects, and remix.
Work on musical projects
You will understand how to come up with the concept of your image and find an audience for it.
Compile project economics
Learn how to calculate the effectiveness of a musical project and make money on your tracks. nine0003
Learn now, pay later!
The costs for the first 6 months of training on the Skillbox platform are covered. At this time, you watch videos, practice on real tasks, improve your skills and start earning.
Loan program from reliable banks
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How is the training on the platform
Get to know the platform
The Skillbox platform is a proprietary development of the company, which we are constantly improving. Videos, practical tasks and communication with curators are waiting for you. Access to the materials will open immediately after the purchase of the course.
Courses consist of thematic videos of different lengths. Watch them anytime, anywhere. The access is perpetual, so you can always come back and repeat the theory.
We believe that skills are developed only through practice. Therefore, after the theory, practical work or a test awaits you. All tasks are close to real - they can be proudly put in the portfolio. nine0003
Working with a curator
Curators check assignments. These are experts on the topic of the course. They will help with difficult tasks and suggest how to improve your projects. You can communicate with checking curators directly on the platform.
Introductory courses that will help you learn the basics of musical literacy, which is important for creating your own tracks. You can choose between studying classical music theory and visual theory based on the relationship of sounds and colors. nine0003
Elementary music theory
- Sound. Music staff
- Build. Alteration
- Meter. Sizes
- Intervals. Part 1. Preliminary concepts
- Intervals. Part 2
- Chords. Triad
- Seventh chord
- Mode and its elements
- Frets and keys
- Rhythm. Pace. duration. Dimensions
Essential courses for your profession. These are the basics that are important to learn in order to successfully launch a musical career.
9024 9 90,000999 9024 9024 nine0003
Ableton Live from zero to PRO
- Working in Arrangement and Session View
- Dive into workflow
- Drum Rack
- Sound synthesis. Part 1
- Sound synthesis. Part 2
- Working with MIDI. Melody and rhythm
- Work with groups. Linking parameters within a project
- FX. Part 1
- FX. Part 2
- Performance optimization
- Production with LAUD Group: Digital Sampling
- Production with BMB Spacekid: Interview
- Production with BMB Spacekid: Arrangement (Advanced)
- Production with BMB Spacekid: Sampling from Records and Digital MediaInterview
- Production with Shumno: Arrangement (Advanced)
- Production with Shumno: Teamwork: Musicians and Artists
- Production: Production with Funky G: Arrangement (Advanced)
- Production: Production with Funky G: Sampling and editing (advanced)
- Production: Production with Funky G: Teamwork
- Production with Yuri Usachev: Interview
- Production with Yuri Usachev: Arrangement (advanced)Production with Yuri Usachyov: Teamwork
- Songwriting: the basics
- Finding inspiration and working with lyrics
- Production with Dj Cat: Arranging (advanced)
- Production with Dj Cat: How to make a track in just 4 sessions
- How to complete tracks to the end?
- On producer progress
- Team work on the release with Sergei Puosinov
- Legal and financial aspects of work on the music project
- Creating of music projects
In practice, you will go through all the stages of creating a mini-album.
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Sulimova Vocal and piano teacher, arranger, composer
Lay-Far Music producer, DJ. Founder of the label In-Beat-Ween Music
LAUD Music trio from Ufa. They write in the style of dance house, lounge, hip-hop and chill out
Spacekid Music producer and beatmaker. Wrote music for Dr. Dre, Raekwon (Wu-Tang), T-Fest, FEDUK, LOUD, Cream Soda, Noize Mc, Smokey Mo
Shumno Musician and member of the MLBC label. Collaborated with Luna, Malbec, Suzanne, Boulevard Depo
Bestseller Songwriter, music producer. Worked with Ivan Dorn, Artik & Asti, ST and other famous artists. Wrote soundtracks for the films Salyut 7, Draft, Myths. Releases his own music
CVPELLV Sound producer. He wrote music for Timati, Morgenstern, LSP and Snoop Dogg. nine0003
Starov Designer, musician, author of the Chromatone visual-music system
These electronic tracks were created by speakers and course authors. The year of English!
Complete 3 modules from the first course and get access to the lessons and materials of the CESPA online platform for a year. nine0003
Offer valid for Skillbox users who have purchased any skill since August 1, 2021.
Waiting for you:
- method of accelerated memorization of words and grammar;
- a personalized learning program to help you speak English from scratch;
- 4 individual sessions of 25 minutes with teachers to improve pronunciation.
No. 1 in the quality of training organization among EdTech companies in the CPE segment. Rating from Smart Ranking. nine0003
for the quality of education. All theory is recorded with top market experts, and practice is as close as possible to real work tasks. Hear what those who have already achieved their goals with Skillbox have to say.
Frequently Asked Questions
- I have never written music. Will I succeed?
Of course! The course is designed for beginners who do not know music theory and have never written music. With regular practice, you can achieve results even without special basic knowledge. The rest will be helped by practicing experts who will accompany you throughout the course. nine0003
- What is the training schedule on the platform? Can you combine it with work?
You can study the course materials in a mode convenient for you, combine learning on the platform with work and personal life.