Success in electronic music resembles success in any other field. It demands a lot of dedication, persistence, and knowledge. However, the central question is: how to become a music producer? What are the qualities you need to develop in order to transition from amateurism to professionalism? After in-depth research on the topic, we came up with some straightforward skills which will make you a better music producer, conscious of the areas you need to work on to get to the next level.
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There is no secret. Your understanding of music is the starting point. This doesn’t mean you need to be a multi-instrumentalist or go to a music academy. Of course, the more you know will definitely make you improve as a musician. Nonetheless, electronic music is a lot about repetition. Therefore, knowing the basics is more than enough. Grounding knowledge includes the names of notes, scales, intervals, chords and the construction of melodies. When absorbing this information, you will feel much more at ease when creating.
Moving on to electronic music, you will need to gather a basic set-up and tools which involve a basic MIDI keyboard, a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of choice, headphones, speakers and a computer which can run your music production software flawlessly. Assuming you are a beginner, get the music-making tools and just start messing around with them.
“Creativity involves the unlikely association of sounds that would fit together, peculiar and unpredictable effects that appear at certain moments of your tracks and trigger the listener’s interest.”
Once you have your basic setup, understand the tools, technology, and gear you possess. Improve your techniques and learn thoroughly music production processes such as mixing, mastering, application of effects and other formal processes inside your Digital Audio Workstation. Knowledge about your DAW of choice is essential.
Creativity with a big C and imagination is what will ultimately set you apart from the rest. Unless you want to become an average and mainstream electronic music artist, being unique is something you should strive for. Creativity (more about this topic) involves the unlikely association of sounds that would fit together, peculiar and unpredictable effects that appear at certain moments of your tracks and trigger the listener’s interest.
The unlikely association of sounds that would fit well together can produce interesting results. For example, the famous Dutch electronic artist, Bakermat shared in an interview that the association of his famous saxophone samples with deep house came from the fact that he was playing house music and his phone ringtone which was set to a saxophone sound rang at the same time.
Knowledge is often underestimated in our generation. Nonetheless, it remains a central pillar to become a music producer. What we mean by this is that tutorials, books, interviews with famous music producers are essential to understanding what music production is all about. You should take full advantage of the extensive amount of resources that are available today.
As mentioned earlier, you have to be creative and willing to produce original songs. Knowledge paired with extended know-how about your craft, the right tools, persistence, and practice are the qualities that will ultimately make you a professional music producer.
Before giving you, what are in our opinion, some of the most important qualities you will need to develop to become a successful music producer, we want to make the distinction between personal qualities and skills related to the art in itself. If this distinction may sound incongruous, it is not.
Personal qualities signify how you develop as a person, your relationship to the music you create and music in general. As a whole, they correspond to your everyday behavior. If becoming a music producer involves skills that are undeniably related to the technical aspects of the art, your personality and the way you approach the art is an equally important factor for the development of your career.
Beneficial personal qualities for music production
Personal qualities are about perspective. To become an artist, it is important to understand who you are, where you are, where you come from and where you want to go. Obviously, it is through experiences in life that you develop these qualities. Personal qualities also involve honest self-assessment. What are your capabilities in the process of creating electronic music? In what areas do you excel? Conversely, which are the ones you could improve?
“Instead of focusing on music as a whole, which can be a complex and frightening process, you should consider music production as a domain which involves a series of micro-masteries which need to developed to achieve proficiency.”
Becoming a music producer requires patience. Often you will have to face ups and downs, failures. However, after years of practice and experimentation paired with dedication and persistence, you will achieve your goals. Surely, you must have heard the saying “overnight success doesn’t exist”. This saying applies here.
However, what will make a difference is the way you react to the numerous setbacks you will encounter. Mistakes will definitely happen along the path to proficiency. In order to become better, you have to accept setbacks. See them as a learning curve for your professional development as a producer.
As an example, composing melodies, finding the right vocal, choosing the appropriate drum samples and assembling all of these elements into a flawless and truly meaningful mix which is ear-pleasing will take a considerable amount of time.
Therefore, instead of focusing on music as a whole, which can be a complex and frightening process, you should consider music production as a domain which involves a series of micro-masteries which need to be developed to achieve proficiency. It is only in that way, that the “efforts-results” causality will be truly rewarding.
However, don’t beat yourself up if you are not happy or don’t produce the expected results. Remember to take breaks, not only because of the ear fatigue you can build up but also perceive your creations in hindsight with a more accurate critical opinion. Enjoy other activities that could inspire you such as reading a book, spending time with friends or going on a trip. At the same time, accept to move on. Don’t be stuck on an endless loop or track for weeks. Try something different. It is important that you don’t develop frustration.
Personal qualities also involve open-mindedness. Listen to other music. Have references, as every great artist has inspired another. Most professional music producers cite some artists as references. Understand why they do. What has inspired them? For example, Daft Punk is often cited as an inspiration by many electronic music artists. Why is this the case?
Notwithstanding, open-mindedness also involves your ability to change your perception of music. Don’t take a genre for granted, don’t be obsessed by one artist. Having references and at the same time considering novelty is what will inspire you and push you forward to create your own artistry.
Psychologically, accept the fact you don’t have to accept rules. If you want to push your sound forward as true pioneers do be willing to cross the boundaries of the conventional and make something truly unique. We don’t say that you should have a bad-mixed track which doesn’t apply some structure fundamentals of electronic music. However, subtle peculiarities like a highly saturated sound or wonky melody can both prove to be extremely intriguing for the listener.
Technical and practical skills related to music production
While personal qualities, self-assessment and the realization that you need to change yourself as a person to succeed are essential components, you don’t have to let aside the truly meaningful processes that constitute the art of music production. The basics here will be to understand the sonic properties of the sounds you are using and to train your ears to automatically recognize what sounds good together and what doesn’t.
Training your ears takes time from a mixing perspective but also from a musical taste approach. Even if you have killer taste, you will have to delve deep to find the elements that you think would fit well together to develop your own sound signature. Once you have developed this skill, mixing a song will be so much easier, applying the effects which you envision will be natural, and the mastering of your tracks will be straightforward.
As an electronic music artist, it is difficult to find your own genre, let alone your sound signature. However, if you find the right niche, by combining elements of different genres, you will be able to come up with interesting fusions and ultimately create a truly unique sound.
“Writing down specific sonic characteristics you appreciate from your favorite tracks and artists, and incorporating them in your own tracks by allying them with your own sound specificities can prove to be a rewarding combination.”
If you are a beginner or still struggling to find a genre you recognize with, listen to artists of different sub-genres and the inspiration will come. Electronic music is a vast genre with many sub-genres and with new ones being created every day. Who knows, maybe you could even create your own genre?
Furthermore, there is a common proverb saying that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Often, you will find similarities between younger and older artists. That is because contemporary artists have inspired themselves from their predecessors. We don’t say that you should copy someone’s sounds. Nonetheless, writing down specific sonic characteristics you appreciate from your favorite tracks and artists, and incorporating them in your own tracks by allying them with your own sound specificities can prove to be a rewarding combination.
Another useful practice is to remix. Some tracks sound good, but with a unique perspective you can make it better or give it an entirely different, new and fresh identity.
Paired with this is the necessity to ask yourself a fundamental question at the moment of the creation. What emotions do you want to deliver through your music? Sometimes, inspiration will hit you unexpectedly and you won’t really need motives for creation, however, before starting a track it could be helpful to proceed from a purpose-driven approach.
Other technical and practical skills related to music production simply include repeating mixing, mastering, the composition of chords and arrangement. It is only by practicing and creating music that you can evolve. Additionally, accept the fact that the only rules are the ones you set yourself and go forward by experimenting. Last but not least, make a track from start to finish. Even if the end result is terrible, this is the only way to make meaningful progress.
Once you have mastered the first steps of your music production career (these could take some time), it is time to step up the game and get your music out there. A lot of artists suffer from the judgment they will receive regarding their musical creations. However, this is not a reason to avoid networking.
“Networking should not be only be related to the fact of publishing music. It involves qualities that are necessary for everyday life.”
Networking should not only be related to the act of releasing music. It involves qualities that are necessary for everyday life. These include contact and discussion with influential people in the business, receiving feedback on your work, and getting professional experience by applying for a label or internship at a company which is somehow involved in the music industry.
Moreover, the process of networking should be viewed as a process that starts from the bottom. Start by first involving your family and friends in your artistic endeavors.
Additionally, going back to the first part of this article, educating yourself and attending music production colleges or related courses can help you be in touch with professionals. Their advice and recommendation is the most useful information you can absorb at this point.
Today, it is easier to network your music with the internet. However, don’t let this fool you into believing that getting your music out there is the only thing to do in order to get noticed. This is not the case. First, your music must be good. Second, the networking you make around it must be appealing and efficient.
Thinking about your branding involves looking for opportunities where you could perform. The necessity to create a personal brand with which you and your fans identify is essential as this will creates a link between the both of you. People need to recognize you as a unique artist. If an original sound is the first step, the second step is the way you get your music out there and what corresponds to your branding.
“Picking a good sounding artist name is essential. The latter should be at the same time simple and meaningful.”
In that context, picking a good sounding artist name is essential. The latter should be at the same time simple and meaningful. But remember, don’t try too hard, there are a lot of possibilities. Keep it simple and make it something that is easy to be pronounced, nice to hear and easy to remember. Ta-ku, Shlomo, Flume, Kavinsky or Justice are good examples.
Related to the artist name, the logo is something you should also think about. Once again, be prepared to struggle with branding as setting yourself apart from the extensive amount of already successful artists is complicated. Furthermore, in the first stages of your career, it is very unlikely that you will have a team working for you. So you will need to do most of the work on your own or with the help of friends and family members.
It is only after you have a name and logo, that you should think of setting up an artist page on Mixcloud, Soundcloud, Facebook, YouTube, Bandcamp, or any other musical outlet. We recommend using only a few of those at first, as promotion should be easy and straightforward if your music is good and to avoid being overwhelmed.
Finally, collaborations are another way to progress into the music industry if the people you collaborate have a more important knowledge and experience or a more significant presence in the music world than you.
Hard work, consistency and persistence are without a doubt the most important qualities you need to develop to become a professional and successful music producer. Don’t stop being creative, extending your knowledge and practicing with your music-making tools. Develop yourself as a person but also work on your music related skills. Don’t underestimate the networking that surrounds electronic music as any other genre of the music industry.
Be prepared to make sacrifices in order to succeed, and don’t forget that a fair share of chance is also part of the equation. Nonetheless, give yourself the means to get noticed. Don’t stop making music until you are satisfied. To conclude, inspire yourself from what Andy Warhol once said: “don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”