Music Production Guide for Beginners

Learning to produce music is a process that requires patience and determination, but it can prove an extremely valuable tool for every beginner music producer.

It makes it easier to structure your song as you can apply new riffs over your sample loops, or create fresh loops from the beginning. It can enhance the overall sound of your track and make even sample based instrumentals sound like something completely new.

Music production guide for beginners

Learning to make music productions can be very time consuming and a producer needs to dedicate many hours of practice and experimentation, to acquire the appropriate skills and be able to easily create riffs for his songs.

Most common way to learn how to synthesize is by studying an instrument with a music teacher. Firstly, you need to learn the basics of the instrument you chose to play, and as you gain experience, the teacher can help you learn how to build a step-by-step music synthesis.

Another common way to learn music synthesis, is from online courses and youtube videos. There are many tutorial videos available online for free, for almost every instrument you wish to synthesize with and if not, there are also online courses in affordable prices that will make it easy for you to learn the secrets of music synthesis from the convenience of your home.

Add the bassline

Next step of a music production, after sampling and music synthesis, is to add the appropriate bassline to your song. Bassline is considered a fundamental element when it comes to song structure because it makes the track sound more unified and complete.

The bassline is usually created according to the main melody of the song. This happens so that both the harmonics of the main melody and the melody of the bassline are built so that they sound good together and they do not get in each other’s way causing a discord.

Producers very often combine the bassline with the drumloop, and specifically the kicks of the drumloop. This is a tested and successful way to create a very stable basis for the song or instrumental because both the kicks and the bass function around the same frequencies.

So when the bass and the kicks are properly mixed and work well together, we have a clean track the causes no kind of noise or distortion and makes the rest of our sounds, such as the sample, loops, vocal etc. sound very clean too.

With all those stated above, anyone could understand that the bassline is one of key factors that determine whether we can create a clean and functional environment to build the rest of our song.

Make the drumloop

In order to create a drumloop for your beat or instrumental you need either a package of oneshot drum sounds, a package of drum loops or ideally both. Online you can find available many high quality drum packages and use them to make your own drumloops.

There are also available some excellent VST instruments which you can use and create more realistic drum loops for your projects. Some of the best are:

  • XLN Audio Addictive Drums
  • Steven Slate Drums Signature Drum Kits
  • Toontrack Superior Drummer
  • Sonoma Wire Works DrumCore

Drums tend to be the loudest element of the song, especially when it comes to genres like hip hop and they have to be mixed properly in order to work well with the bass and the rest of the channels of the beat.

Drum loops are also responsible for the rhythm of the track so the music producers has to apply them according to the sample or the main loop.

Classic break beats are great resources for drum sounds. Many well-known and established producers of all electronic music genres have used them over the years, each one adding his own technique and perspective to the drum sounds.

Hip hop beatmakers are also known for their ability to take old funk, blues, jazz and rock drum loops, chopping their sounds and restructuring them to fit amazingly well in their beats. Today such drum loop packages are available in affordable prices ready for every beatmaker to use them in his projects.

Add sound effects

Sound effects tend to be the little details that make the big difference. They vary from ambient miscellaneous synth effects to real life sounds and noises and can be used to emphasize parts of a song, or to enhance the emptier parts of music production, such as pauses, fade ins or fade outs.

Vinyl crackles, sounds and noises are a very important part of hip hop productions. This way the producer can imitate the actual sound of the vinyl and make his beats and instrumentals sound warmer with an analog feeling.

Make sure you add sound effects along your music production when you want to make it sound fatter and more realistic or when you want to fill any gaps that sound empty.

In addition to the above, it has to be noted that sound effects should be used with caution so that you can avoid causing noise and distortion problems to your song, or make it tiring for the listeners by the excessive use of sound effects.

Structure your song

The structure of a song is what makes it sound more complete and interesting.

It is important that you add a very catchy and engaging beginning to your songs, as it is your best opportunity to catch your listener’s attention and engage them. Make it sound unique and something they have never heard before and build it up so that it welcomes the main part of the song the best way possible.

The main part of a song or a beat, has to be the most stable one. Most of the sounds and channels have to sound well together and their combination has to work harmonically. Try to arrange all sounds in a way that all of them are emphasized clearly and according to their role in the song.

The hook usually tends to be the part of the song that the main and louder melodies are enhanced and emphasized to the maximum. Make sure you make it sound substantially different from the main part so that the audience can easily understand when the hook begins and ends.

Pauses are an essential part of every song, especially when it comes to larger songs than usual. They help the listeners distinguish the different parts of a song or instrumental and make the whole track sound les monotonous, so use them when necessary.

Last part of every song is the closing. There are many ways to end a song. You can either end it abruptly or smoothly by fading the instruments out. For example, for a very soft ballad you would choose the second way because you want to maintain the relaxation feeling.

Audio mixing

When the creation process is over and you think you have created all the loops, basslines, melody and drum loops, your song should be considered ready.

The next very important step to improving the overall sound of your music production, is to mix it properly. Mixing will help your song channels sound clean, play in the correct and become wider stereo-wise.

The mixing process often begins with compressing. All sounds need to be compressed so that the track starts to sound fatter and smoother. Sounds that use the lower frequencies like the bass and the kicks need to be more aggressively compressed whereas melodies and loops need lighter compression so that they do net get altered.

Second step of the mixing is the equalization. With equalization, we can correct the frequencies of each sound and control them so that each sound stands out correctly in the mix. What is more we can clean up the mix by removing low-end, middle or high-end frequencies that make our song sound noisy.

In addition, we can make our track sound wider with panning. What panning does is that it places each sound in a certain position of our stereo mix so that the middle stays as clean as possible. Only the heavier tracks and sounds of our sound tend to sound well when they stay in the middle of our stereo mix, such as the kicks, snares and the bassline.

What is more, we always try to keep the overall volume of our mix slightly low, about -5 or -6 decibels. This way we prepare our mix for the mastering process.

Audio mastering

Audio mastering is the final process of a mixed song, instrumental or beat. After mixing is done, music producers export the song as a one-channel complete track and it is ready for mastering.

The purpose of the mastering is to correct any imperfections of the song such as blurry or noisy parts, make it sound fatter, louder and warmer, enhance the parts that were panned in the mixing process so that we get a wider stereo perspective of our track, and finally process the dynamics and limit the final result to get a unified high quality song.

To achieve those results, sound engineers use compressors, equalizers, dynamics processors, stereo wideners, loudness enhancers, clippers and limiters.

Audio mastering requires careful listening and a sensitive set of ears. Although the results are a combination of the quality of the studio monitors and the listening environment, it requires a specific level of experience and technical knowledge for maximum results.

The mastering process of a song is the last step before it reaches the distributors and the consumers. For that reason, it is very important that recording engineers and music producers test the final mastered song in as many different speakers and listening environments as possible.

Test and correct your music

Testing and correcting any mistakes or imperfections is always a big part of the music production. Music producers are responsible for the result that will reach their audiences, so they have to run multiple tests to make sure their music quality is perfect.

Many producers test their songs both during the mixing and during the mastering process, often in many different sound systems, environments and live stages and try to spot parts of the song that need optimization anew.

Always a good example of testing, is to let people of your environment listen to your songs and share their opinion on what sounds good and what they think that should change.

What is more, letting your audience listen to live snippets or demo versions of your songs in process is always a good idea, so that you can gather useful feedback on your projects.