These tips will help accelerate your journey to becoming a skilled EDM producer in 2021 and beyond — we cover the tech you need, how to practice your craft, and the process from first starting out to releasing your music and beginning to make an income from it.
The Minimal Tech You Need to Get Started
Use the most up to date computer available to you — it doesn’t have to be top of the line, but shoot for 16 GB of RAM and quad core processor or above (these aren’t strict rules, but you need to have enough memory and processing power so that your session doesn’t get too laggy).
Of course, you’ll also need a DAW — Studio One, Ableton Live, FL Studio, and Logic Pro are all great options and provide you with the tools you need to record, write and produce any song you want. They also include their proprietary stock plugins such as EQs, reverbs, distortion and compressors. As you gain more experience, there are more 3rd party plugins than anyone can count to expand upon the effects and instruments available to you in your DAW.
Also make sure you have a pair of studio monitors (preferred, especially if you’re able to add a subwoofer) or headphones (cheaper but have limitations) — you want a setup that allows you to hear the full frequency range clearly, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. As long as your setup meets the basic requirements, you can upgrade as you become more skilled.
An audio interface allows you to hook up your speakers, improve the processing capabilities of your DAW, and connect any microphones you like. There are countless options, but if you’re starting out, you probably don’t need any more than 2 inputs and simple volume and output controls.
If you want the ability to record vocals, you’ll need a microphone — nice ones are very expensive, so get an inexpensive one to start. Not only will you save money, but it will also force you to make the most out of a minimal setup and rely more on your own production skills than your equipment — this will make you a better and more versatile producer in the long run.
How to Practice Music Production
The simple rule for practice is: the more you do it, the better you get. But there are actually ways to practice more in the same amount of time:
When in doubt, start with the beat first. It will act as an anchor for everything else you create, and will help focus your decisions and get you into a writing groove. Many producers start out with loops, but the core essence of the beat should always be original — there’s a great tool that blends loops with the flexibility of writing your own, and it’s called Beatmaker EDEN 2. It allows you to drag full MIDI drum loops into your session and modify them as you like. You can start off with a loop and modify it in 30 seconds to the point where it’s completely your own — and it’s the fastest possible way to accomplish this.
Prioritize writing quickly over writing well. The more songs you write, the better you get — and you gain experience more rapidly by writing more songs quickly than you do filling in a lot of detail on just one song. That’s because every song presents different challenges; the wider the variety of challenges you have to overcome, the more mental reference points you gain and the more context and experience you bring to every song.
Practice the art of finishing songs. Completing 5 songs gives you more useful experience than if you spent the same amount of time partly finishing 50 — the act of taking a song to completion gives you confidence, and it creates a habit of making and committing to decisions. And that immediately puts you ahead of the vast majority of producers.
Listen to as many different genres as possible. Believe it or not, listening to classical, hip hop, R&B, folk rock and heavy metal will make you a better EDM producer. When your collection of musical influences expands, inspiration flows more readily, increasing your production speed and allowing you to finish more songs in less time, which in turn gives you practice. Even listen to genres you don’t like — they will actually give you more potential ideas, and you’ll learn what you don’t want to add to your songs, which will save you time when making production decisions.
One of the biggest differences between EDM and other genres is the drop — if you want to dive into how to build drops in detail, our friends at UJAM wrote an excellent article called How to Construct Hard-Hitting EDM Drops that’s definitely worth a read!
Mixing and Mastering
While production involves creating the music and sounds in your DAW session and making edits to them, mixing and mastering are how you tie them together cohesively. They involve using effects like EQ, compression, and reverb to give your songs depth and life and make them sound more professional.
Mixing involves adding effects to and changing the volume / pan of individual audio and instrument tracks as you solo, mute, and listen to them in the context of everything else going on in the song. Each instrument should be clear at an appropriate level — always make this a priority over getting the instrument to sound good on its own. It needs to sound good in the context of the entire mix and add something positive to the whole.
Mastering is the final step before you export the song audio. It too involves adding effects and manipulating volume, but on your entire mix as opposed to individual instruments. This is your opportunity to make it sound as polished as possible by tying everything together and making it louder via limiting (just be sure not to over-compress the audio!).
If you’re releasing multiple songs together in an EP or album, the mastering process is a little more involved — you’ll want to bring all the song premasters into a single DAW session and master them simultaneously (and likely flip back and forth between them). By the end, they should sound like they ‘belong’ together as one unit. This skill takes time to develop, but it allows you to package even dissimilar songs together and makes everything you write sound more professional.
How to Release Your Music
When your music is done, it’s time to export and release it as a single, EP or album. Services like DistroKid, TuneCore and CD Baby distribute your music to multiple online platforms to give you multiple opportunities to make sales and streaming revenue. Each has its own specific benefits, and you don’t have to stick to just one for your releases (you can release each album under a different distributor, just not the same album on multiple).
The more often you go through this process, the faster you’ll gain experience as an EDM producer. Keep developing your skills and trying out different ideas, and over time you can develop a unique sound that sets you apart and opens up new opportunities!