When faced with the question, “What goes into producing electronic music?” the first word that comes to mind is time. From brainstorming and writing melodies, bass lines to mixing and mastering a completed project, a lot of work goes into producing any genre of music. No one can just whip up dirty dubstep drops or hot club bangers in the blink of an eye, despite what some say. Another word this question brings up is money. Now if you are looking to dabble in electronic music then don’t worry, it is very possible to build a small studio and have it up and running with only a hundred dollars in your pocket. However, once started and comfortable with the basics, more and more software upgrades and options present themselves to you (and your wallet). But don’t let that deter you; producing electronic music is a great hobby and can turn into a well-paying career with enough passion, focus, and hard work.
Getting started: the first and most important thing you’ll need (assuming you already have a laptop or desktop computer) is a Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. This software is what allows you to record, edit, and produce the audio files (songs). There are many DAW’s out there: FL Studio, Cubase, Reason, Logic, Pro Tools and Ableton Live to name a few. Play around with a few demos and see which DAW feels most comfortable. Your Digital Audio Workstation is essentially all you need if you are only looking for the basics. No matter which DAW you choose to purchase or download, it will come preloaded with a few simple effects, Plug-Ins and samples. What are effects, Plug-Ins and samples? These are the tools used within a DAW to create and manipulate audio files. Things can start to get a little overwhelming at this point, because there are thousands and thousands of different plug-ins (synthesizers, sound generators, EQ effects, etc.) and sample packs (audio loops, percussion samples, instrument sounds, etc.) available to download straight into your DAW’s library from the internet. Some are paid while others are free to use, and there are some great free samples and plug-ins out there. Since we are talking electronic music, Native Instruments should be a known name. They make great software like the Massive and FM8 synthesizers, very popular in the production of this genre.
So what’s next? After all of your software and samples are downloaded, some hardware may be added to the collection. My first suggestion would be a good set of studio headphones; it can be difficult to mix a good quality song using laptop speakers. Great quality headphones are available for very little money, for example the PreSonus HD7’s can be bought for less than 30 dollars. I do not recommend using ear buds! Over-ear headphones are always the better option when working with audio. If headphones aren’t your thing, and cranking up your music loud sounds like the better option, studio monitors would be the direction to look. Basically loudspeakers, but specially designed for audio production. (I currently own a pair of Yamaha HS50M’s and the HS8S 8-inch subwoofer, my neighbors can hear them). Other useful hardware to look for is a headphone amp/DAC (digital-to-analog converter; used to bypass your computer's soundcard and improve what you hear through your music system or headphones), an audio interface (used to record audio such as vocals or guitar into your DAW) and even a small mixer would help. They are used to manually combine, rout or change the levels of different audio signals.
We are only scratching the surface of the electronic music and producing worlds here, and some will already find themselves confused, overwhelmed or just plain lost. But that is how everyone feels when first jumping into the production game; there is a lot to take in, and a lot of work to be done. I hope this serves as a helpful guide to getting started, and give a little insight as to what goes into producing electronic music. No, it is not easy, but if you love what you are doing, is it really work?
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