Updated: Jan 23, 2022
Have you ever been practicing your instrument and wished that you could record your ideas and produce your own music? Have you been spending your time honing your skills on your instrument at Greater Toronto Music School and want to develop your ideas? How about trying music production?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, here are the top five tips for new music producers from Greater Toronto Music School.
Have Clear Goals
When beginning to produce music, having a clear goal will make the journey and the learning process much more fluid. Having goals (both short-term and long-term) relating to the completion or development of the project will help keep everything on track. Short-term goals could be: finishing a vocal track by the end of the session or finishing all drum tracks or bed tracks in one day. Long-term goal examples could be finishing recording an EP in 2 weeks, mixing and mastering your project within the month following recording and planning the release and tour for the following year. Studying and talking to other musicians can inspire creativity and provide an initial spark. Having influences can be very helpful when beginning to produce music. For example, someone who likes the music of The Weeknd or The Red Hot Chili Peppers may want to look up the music producer Max Martin or Rick Rubin. Referencing or imitating those different sounds and aesthetics can be good practice for eventually developing and creating unique ones.
Choose The Right Tools
When getting started in music production, choosing the right tools and sticking to them is essential. In today's industry, almost all of music production is done on a computer, so the first step would be choosing the right computer to suit the needs/wants of the student (PC or Mac). The next step will be choosing a DAW (digital audio workstation) to record, edit and mix audio. Some examples of DAWs are GarageBand (free and for Mac users only) and Reaper (free for 60 days after which you will pay $60 for a discounted license and or $225 for a commercial license). If working with a larger budget, a more sophisticated DAW may be considered (Pro tools, Logic Pro X or Ableton Live). Sticking to a single DAW will make improving skills and techniques quicker and easier. At Greater Toronto Music School, we have instructors who can teach students the proper habits and techniques that are essential for success in music production.
Secondly, a recording interface or external sound card will be needed to capture the audio. Microphones may be plugged into the interface to capture the sound. The number of microphone inputs needed may vary depending on the goals of the user (recording a drum kit for example would usually require 4-8 inputs for microphones. Recording a vocalist may only need one input and doing a live band may take 16 or more inputs/tracks). Other tools needed are a microphone (or microphones) and cable to capture sound, a MIDI controller (keyboard) to input sounds and rhythms using MIDI (usually connected via USB) and headphones to listen back to the audio. Studio monitors can also be used for audio playback but will be exponentially affected by the room acoustics vs. using closed back headphones. Doing research on the different options available for each of these items will help determine what will be best suited for the workstation being used. A large selection of all these items can be found at most music stores with a pro audio section, such as Long and McQuade.
Work In A Comfortable & Inspiring Space
Having a comfortable workspace is very important when producing music. First, a space that is good for listening is the most important factor. Working in a quiet environment with proper acoustics is essential for music production. Without it, the deep concentration that is essential for the proper execution of this work will be compromised. Background noise and outside distractions will make it difficult to work comfortably and to properly hear the audio playback. Secondly, a workstation with ample room for equipment (and that is inspiring to work in) can be a game changer for the music producer’s creativity and productivity. Make sure all equipment safely fits on the desk and or racks and that the workspace is conducive to creation, a calming and non-cluttered environment will contribute to a better workflow for music production. For example, sometimes changing the colour of the walls or putting up pictures can be inspiring for the producer. A carefully curated and designed studio space can have significant positive effects on the music producer.
Listen To All Kinds Of Music
Listening to as many types of music as possible will generate inspiration for new ideas. Being exposed to new sounds may spark creativity and/or give a new perspective. Aspiring producers are always encouraged to seek out new and interesting music. By doing this, they are always finding new ways to be inspired. Don't be afraid to explore and study music from around the world that may not be in regular rotation for inspiration. Some examples to explore include Jazz from the USA, Bossa Nova from Brazil or Reggae from the Carribean. At Greater Toronto Music School, we have teachers who expose our students to a wide range of musical styles. With the guidance of our teachers, our students build confidence and skills that they need to become music producers.
Keep Learning & Practicing
Producing music requires technical knowledge as well as creativity. It's important to remember that it is a new skill and will take time, effort and practice to learn and improve (just like practicing an instrument). Through repetition and commitment over time, building skills will help achieve the student's goals in music production. Taking it one step at a time with consistent effort will produce great results. Relating back to the first point, practicing re-creation or imitating favourite sounds can lead to developing something original. Since every person is different, this strategy usually leads to an original interpretation or rendition. Since most (if not all) musicians and producers learn through the osmosis of listening to music and the repetition of mimicry it is one of the most important factors of development. These influences act as a reference point or constant well of inspiration for their own creations.
In conclusion, getting started in music production is essentially about being inspired to create original music by imitating and combining influences from other source material in a unique way. With this goal and inspiration, learning the proper skills/techniques and working smart and comfortably, a new producer can focus on what is most important, Having fun!