Create Your First Song
The final step in the initiation stage is to make a song, from start to finish. Dont worry about how you think a song should be made, whether there are any rules or not, simply make something thats 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 its time to create a Soundcloud account or post your track on YouTube. Though theres no intrinsic harm in doing this, I dont recommend it. Its a distraction, especially in the initiation stage.
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What Is A Midi File
A MIDI file is simply a database of information about a sequence of notes, always in the .MID file format. These files can be created in various ways, exported and shared, and imported and used by a wide array of devices, but especially computers.
One way you might create one of these files is to play some music on a digital piano or keyboard, which then saves the file so you can play it back and hear your performance or export it to send it to a friend. You can also stream the data straight to the computer through a MIDI cable and record the information there.
Alternatively, all DAW’s support piano rolls, which is a way to display and create a MIDI track. Many rap beat producers use their computer’s mouse to click in notes on the piano roll and then edit them to taste once finished.
Some also play it all out on MIDI controllers, pads, sequencers, and keyboards. There’s tons of methods to get it done, but the end result is the same.
These files are limited by the ability of the MIDI cable. They can carry up to 16 channels of information. So you could create one extremely complex track for one instrument or route that to 16 different instruments.
And if you’re in the computer you can have as many files going as needed, so there’s really no limitation that matters. The file size is extremely low, since it’s basically text and numbers.
Music Production In The Digital Age
The 90s also saw the increasing evolution of digital recording and engineering carry over from the preceding decade. Major albums like Paul Simons Graceland from 1986 were recorded to analog tape but transferred and mixed on new equipment called a digital audio workstation . DAWs became standard in 90s recording studios, and by the 00s the vast majority of music production became entirely digital.
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Find Opportunities To Perform Live
Unless you want to be someone who solely produces music behind the scenes for other artists or for licensing, you need to find opportunities to perform.
Live performances are more important than ever as an income source while record sales continue to decline. For upcoming artists, its an opportunity to convert people who may have not heard of you into paying fans in the future.
The idea is to get practice performing for others live, be comfortable in these live environments and improve. Just like with any other skill, you need practice and experience to get better.
Feedback is important too, so you know what to improve on. If possible, record your live performances to watch later. Also, watch live performances of your favorite artists and study them.
If youre not at the level where people pay you to do shows yet, start developing your performance skills at family gatherings or open mics in your community, schools, churches and local businesses.
Eventually, youll want to hire a booking agent, but its safe to say that youll need to be able to get shows on your own first to show promoters and talent buyers that you have people who want to see you.
Key Discipline : 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 workthat 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 , youre progressing at such rapid speed that youll 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.
When I was in stage 2, Id finish tracks in one day. They didnt 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 youll learn much faster than you would otherwise.
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Magnetic Tape Makes Music Production Easier
Magnetic tape made its debut in World War II when Allied audio engineers monitored German radio broadcasts and discovered they were somehow being pre-recorded instead of dictated live. After the war, American audio engineers discovered the new medium and brought it back for use in commercial recordings.
No longer would an entire recording need to be scrapped due to one flub. Not only that, but band members could record their individual parts separately as opposed to all together in the studio. Musicians could record multiple takes and edit them together to get the preferred version.
Key Discipline : Advanced Learning And Remaking
But its time to go even deeper. At this point, youre 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 youre 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 youve learned most of whats 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 youre hearing and how its made.
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Connect Your Audio Interface
More than likely, there are only two cables you’ll need to connect to get your audio interface up and running. One is an AC , and the other is a USB cable. That much should be pretty easy to figure out.
Whether or not your computer immediately recognizes your device depends on your machine as well as the interface. You may have to install drivers, which typically come loaded on a CD with your hardware.
If not, they can usually be found on manufacturer websites. Also keep in mind that you may have to restart your machine after installing new software.
Know Yourself Well To Establish Your Artist/brand Identity
You need to establish who you are as a brand to make it easier for people to identify and distinguish you from other artists.
This may be hard for some, but a good way to understand who you are is to establish who you are not. You need to know this to market your music to the right audience. Often times, youll want to reach people who are like you, thats why I say you need to know yourself or have self-awareness. Establishing your brand and identity helps potential fans decide if your music resonates with them. Remember that your music is not for everyone.
Is your brand a static entity? No. I believe your brand or artist identity can evolve and change, just as we normally do as individuals. But its important, especially early in your career, to start with something that is authentically you to build around and commit to it.
Think about your story, angle, hook or nugget that helps you stand out and makes you different. It should be an authentic part of yourself that makes it easy for people to associate and connect with you.
The tricky part is to try and sum up what youre all about in a short line or sentence. Identifying yourself as a female rapper or guitarist from New York is too vague. What can people expect to hear from you? What kind of scenes, subculture, hobbies, lifestyles or interests are you into aside from music?
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Midi Connectors & Cables
The ports and cables use a five-pin DIN connector that include a ground wire, a balanced pair of wires at a consistent +5 volt signal, and two unused wires that some companies use to pass phantom-power and direct current power to run footswitch pedals and accessories.
Because these cables contain no error detection, you won’t find them at lengths any longer than 50 feet or you get electrical interference that can corrupt the data. You’ll always find ports that include “In” and “Out” and sometimes you’ll see a “Thru” option, too. I explain the Thru option below.
Establish Your Online Presence
Theres a difference between making music as a hobby and making music as a profession. Just like in business, presentation is important. Part of treating your music career like a business involves presenting yourself as an artist to take seriously. If you come off as amateurish, people can subconsciously associate you with lower quality and someone not worthy of attention. This is why having good quality visual components is key to a strong online presence.
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Mixing Your Electronic Music
As with any recorded music, mixing is best tackled after the production stage.
The closer you can get to the sound you want in the composition and sound design stage, the easier the mixing stage will be.
The techniques for mixing electronic music are identical to that of acoustic music. But bear in mind a couple of caveats:
How To Master Music
So now that you know what audio mastering is , lets learn how to do it!
The most important thing to realize is this:
The secret to a successful master is preparation.
I use the Sharpen the Axe approach to mastering
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln
The first 8 of these 14 steps are ALL preparation! Without it, youll be mastering blind.
So without further ado, heres the 14 Steps to Master Your Mix:
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Music Mastering: The Definitive Version Of Your Song
Mastering is the final step in your music production process.
Its the phase where your mix gets the final polish and presentation for how your listeners will actually experience it.
The purpose of mastering is to balance the sonic elements in a stereo mix and optimize playback across all systems and media formats.
Music has never been available in more formats and devices than today.
It doesnt matter if youre mixing in a million dollar studio or tracking in less than ideal conditions, you still need the final quality check of mastering.
This step ensures that your sound will be heard the way you intended it to be.
It also provides the glue that gives an album consistent sound across all tracks. Without mastering, individual songs can sound disjointed in relation to each other.
Mastering is a crucial part of the music production process, but it doesnt have to be scary.
Check out our suite of resources to learn everything you need to know about mastering.
Best Daw: Choosing The Digital Audio Workstation That Fits You
Flat out, the best DAW is the one that works for you and your workflow. Some can do it all while others are more focused on specific music genres and production methods. Some have unique tools that simplify complex tasks, while others are designed to work with certain gear. Let’s figure out what you need so you can get to making music…
You can ask 100 professionals which is the best DAW and get at least 10 different answers. That’s not because there’s a ton of equally good choices out there, but because each is created with certain industries and genres of music in mind.
In the past some of these costed an arm and a leg and required a dongle proving you paid for their giant hardware mixing console, for instance. Now anyone can have access for a much more reasonable price. And that’s because a bunch of competitors swooped in and changed the game.
Let’s quickly break down exactly what a DAW is because many newcomers seem to get confused. They’ll find any kind of audio editor and consider it a digital audio workstation, but it’s likely a small sub-set of what these can really do and what they really need.
Then let’s look at a few factors you’ll want to consider about yourself and your work flow before choosing. Then I’ll show you the top digital audio workstation software available with notes about who they’re right for. You should be able to easily choose from there.
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How To Produce Music Beats
Many artists now make a living purely from creating beats. These can be purchased as single entities and so are much simpler to produce as a beginner, than trying to record an entire track with many components. The full beat track is created on your DAW software.
If you want to make beats, youll need to understand the structure for your genre. Many have a standard BPM that helps align a song to a musical style. Youll also need to work out how long you want the track to be, the tempo, the kinds of digital instruments and the levels of layering required. Once your beats are complete, you can sell them on dedicated websites.
What Do I Need To Record Music At Home
All that history brings us to the present day, where DAWs have coupled with advances in computing power to make DIY music production accessible to just about anyone determined to make their own professional-sounding record at home.
But its not just software youll need. If youre looking to record music at home, heres a checklist of the things youll need to get started:
1.) Computer: If you own any computer made in the last few years, chances are it will work for music production. The key component youre looking for is RAM. Most DAWs require at least 8 gigabytes of RAM, which really isnt much for new-ish computers . Thats enough memory to process up to 25 audio tracks with multiple instruments and effects, which is more than enough for all but the most ambitious Brian Wilson disciples.
Youll also want a hard drive with at least 256 to 500 gigabytes of storage, which is also pretty standard for modern computers. The large space is to store your audio files, which will be uncompressed, so theyll take up a lot of room. Solid state hard drives are better than actual discs for writing and reading speed. SSD is much more affordable now than it was even a few years ago, so if youre in a market for a new computer for home recording you wont need to spend a ton for the added luxury.
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How To Improve Your Recordings By Setting Limitations
In a creative space, endless options can drive us crazy.
This is especially true with digital music recording because theres almost no limit on your storage space. All the while, if youre like a lot of DIY artists, you dont have endless hours to spend recording, so time restraints amp up the pressure. In this environment, a limitation can be the very thing that keeps you sane.
In other words, it pays to make decisions as you go.
Have you ever seenThe Five Obstructions? Its a great film, and a great illustration of how arbitrary obstacles can help us focus and push beyond our habitual moves.
If youre about to open up a new session in your DAW, consider some of these creative limitations:
1.) Set a maximum track-count before the session begins: Its not uncommon these days for recording sessions to have 100 tracks. Sure, if youre recording the next #1 single for Doja Cat and really need to layer 15 kick drums, go for it. But if youre squeezing in recording time on the weekends, do you really want to have to sift through all those tracks every time you open your session?
Instead, set a rule for yourself: no song on this album will have more than X tracks. It could be 4, 8, 16, 24, whatever.
So put your minimal hat on. Itll force you to boil things down to their essentials, and save you lots of time and worry when you get to the mixing stage.