An Introduction To Music Production
So you want to produce music? Awesome!
Whether you want to record your band or create your own tracks, this guide will show you everything you need to get started. In this three part series we’ll introduce you to the tools used by producers and detail how much you can expect to spend (and don’t worry, getting started is very cheap these days).
When you finish this introduction to music production you will know exactly what needs to go into your home studio and will be prepared to make some smart purchasing decisions.
The first thing you need to know is how modern music is made.
How Modern Music is Made
Whenever you see photos of producers, you probably see them in studios with loads of complicated equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the old days you needed all of this equipment to make music.
Here’s what that looked like:
Today you do not need a lot of expensive equipment. The bulk of production is now done using software, and with only a very few exceptions you do not need hardware at all.
Software does nearly everything…
- Want to make beats? Software does that.
- Want to create an EDM or pop song? Software does that too.
- Want to record a band? You record using software.
- Want to change the volume of different instruments in your band’s recording? That’s a software thing.
Virtually everything is done…err…virtually.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for hardware in the modern studio. There are times when hardware is the best way to get the job done. Using hardware can also be a matter of preference; some older producers still prefer using hardware because that’s how they learned. Others, like Deadmau5, seem to enjoy using it to create completely unique sounds.
Even as a new producer you’ll find that some hardware is necessary…but you won’t need as much as you might think.
What You Need to Produce Music
You only need a few things. They are:
- A decent computer.
- Studio monitors (speakers) and/or production quality headphones.
- A digital audio workstation (DAW), which is your core software to be used when producing.
- Virtual instruments and other plugins that expand the capabilities of your DAW.
An optional but highly recommended item for your studio is a MIDI keyboard (a digital piano).
If you want to record a band or vocals, you will also need:
- A microphone or two.
- An audio interface which connects your instruments and microphones to the computer.
That’s all you need to make world-class music! Your setup will look similar to this:
How Much You Should Spend
When you’re just getting started with production you can expect to spend between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the quality of gear you purchase and your budget. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to spend:
DAW: A fully featured DAW starts around $200.
Monitors/Headphones: Decent studio monitors or headphones will be $100 to $300.
Mics: A good microphone will run you at least $100.
Audio Interface: Your audio interface will cost about $100.
Virtual Instruments: These are completely variable – you could spend nothing or you could spend thousands. It’s up to you what instruments and effects you want in your music. Budget a few hundred in your first year, but realize you might not spend any of this.
You can spend less than the prices we have listed above, though we wouldn’t recommend doing so as you won’t be purchasing quality equipment (you could buy “production quality” headphones for $25 and other gear for similarly cheap prices, but there is no way it will be any good).
That said, when you’re first getting started you can take some shortcuts to save money.
For example, if you have a decent set of over-the-ear headphones or speakers you won’t have to rush out and buy production quality ones right away. You’ll want them eventually, but when you’re just beginning doing things cheaply is the name of the game.
The first and most important thing you’ll purchase is your DAW, so head to the next part of our guide to learn about the software you need to produce music.