How to Make Electronic Music: A Beginners Guide
The world of electronic music production can be a little overwhelming, so it is always helpful to have a guide to help you make the right choices, especially when it comes to buying music production software, headphones, microphones, and other creative production gear.
If you are a beginner, this is probably the most fun part. Exploring a new environment, gear, and being impatient to produce your first song. There’s a lot of temptation to spend money on the latest tech, but the truth is you can create awesome music using just a few necessary tools. In this article, we’ll let you know what you need to get started making music.
Believe it or not, trying to learn how to make electronic music songs, using real instruments like a bass guitar, would require vast amounts of musical knowledge. Whereas, if you are using music production software (DAW) on your computer, you can make your own music and HAVE FUN while learning.!
1. Music Theory for Electronic Dance Music
If you want to learn how to produce EDM music, you will have to learn music theory. At least, the basics!
Electronic music production differs from traditional music composition, but it still requires a good knowledge of music theory. There are many websites and online courses that will teach you the basics of audio production.
Some of the best EDM tutorials are presented by PML.com.
In case you prefer visual rather than reading, skip the next couple of paragraphs and watch the video that will teach you electronic music theory in 50 minutes!
Learning the fundamentals and basics of electronic music:
Composing EDM music might not be as hard as other genres but still require some music knowledge.
The main sound of almost every EDM song out there is the Beat. Whether it be house music with a straight beat, or a breakbeat with different combinations of drums and cymbals, sequenced together to create a rhythm. A great beat can turn a mediocre song into a great song, but an average rhythm could turn your song into something not so “catchy”. I spend just about most of my producing time making sure that I’m happy with the basic bеаt and rhythm.
Instruments used in EDM music:
Depending on what style of electronic music, your making, generally the three main drums to consider. The Kick / Snare drum and Hi-Hats. These drum sounds are the fundamentals behind every beat. After, they filled and complete with different percussion sounds such as bongos, claps, bells, shakers, and more.
Many electronic music producers consider the bass line as the most crucial element of electronic music other than the drums. You can easily have an awesome song with just drums and bass, but it’s kind of hard to make an awesome song without any bass or drums.
Last, there is the main Melody. Leads, Synths, Strings, and any other sound you have the inspiration to use in your own music productions. Melody is usually composed last on top of the drums and bass line. There are many VST plugins with several preset sounds to start.
Last but not least, the Sound Effects such as risers, uplifters, down lifters, background “noise” and white noise sweeps.
Every EDM song consists of all or some of the above instruments and/or elements. The composition, musical ideas, structure, and sound design are how you make music.
A good practice is to keep open a cheat sheet for music production and learn while producing.
Here are some free resources for you to start learning:
The 4-count rule of electronic dance music:
Electronic music usually runs in counts of 4, with the kick drum falling on the 1 and 3 and the snare falling on the 2 and 4. Most EDM genres like techno, trance, tech-house, and numerous others, which use a straight four-beat, have the kick drum fall on all four counts.
Making EDM beats:
However, other styles like hip-hop have different combinations of kicks, snares, and other sounds falling on different varieties of counts but always counting in 4’s. Most drum beats in electronic music created on drum machines or drum sequencers in music software programs. Now you can use your DAW and VST plugins to recreate drum sounds from legendary hardware devices.
Every producer takes the process of making music differently. Some start with the drums, others with the melody, and a few with the vocals. If you learn the basics you will be able to adjust your style to any other kind of music.
BPM of EDM Songs
If you want to make a track on a specific genre, you should pay attention to the BPM (BeatsPerMinute) that is usually composed.
- Deep House: 118-126 BPM
- Techno: 124-132 BPM
- Dubstep: ~140 BPM
- Drum n Bass: 150-180 BPM
- Progressive House: 126-132 BPM
- Trance: 130-140 BPM
Structure of an EDM song:
In Pop and Rock music, you will see the terms [verse], [chorus], and [bridge] to describe the parts and logical structure of a song.
For example: [intro] ->[verse]->[chorus]->[verse]->[bridge]->[chorus]->[outro]
In Electronic music, you will see and use the same terms. Furthermore, the structure of an EDM song could look like this:
[intro]->[breakdown and build-up]->[drop]->[buildup]->[drop]->[outro] .
[Intro] is the beginning part of your song. You slowly start to build up your song towards the breakdown and build-up by adding new sounds and elements after eight or sixteen bars.
The [Build-up] is by adding melody, vocals, or extra percussion sounds to your beat to rich and fill your tracks and prepare for the main [Drop].
[Drop] is the main part of your song, where you will have most of your audio mixing together. Drums, Bass, and Melody.
[Breakdown] is also essential for every song. Commonly beginner producers forget how important is “silence”. Musical elements start to fade and then introduce to new sounds for the [Build-up] or/and [Drop].
[Outro] is the last section of your track where you slowly fade your music and start to remove sounds and elements.
Always follow your EDM music cheat sheets for chord progressions and drum beats.
Each music genre has different standards on a song structure. Use your creativity, and find your own style to create and compose music.
Take a look at this brilliant video that will teach you electronic music theory in less than an hour:
2. Equipment For Electronic Music Production
What equipment do you need to start making music?
Making music without a PC or a laptop will be a very unconventional way. Most music producers choose MAC OS to make music, but a WINDOWS PC is equally well for audio production. The only extra gear you will need to start electronic music production are:
- DAW – The music production software is the most important tool you will need in your studio.
- Audio interface – The built-in sound card of your computer is not sufficient for home recording and music production.
- Studio headphones and studio monitor speakers – Both studio headphones and speakers are essential to listen to your tracks when recording, mixing, and mastering, properly.
- MIDI keyboard controllers – They are very affordable and will make your room look more like a music production studio. You can still compose music without them, but for $100 you can get a decent quality 25-key keyboard controller.
A. DAW – Music Production Software
The first thing you will need to start music production at home is a digital audio workstation. Installed in your laptop, a DAW is one of the essential studio tools for creating, arranging, and mixing music.
If you want to make Techno music, Ableton Live is the best way to start. There are tons of DAWs out there, and for the most part, they all do just about the same thing. But each one has a set of unique features that benefit certain styles of music production more than others.
Here are the four most popular DAWs in the market:
- Ableton Live 10:
The majority of EDM music producers use Ableton Live to compose top-hit tracks. Artists such as Richie Hawtin, Carl Cox, Robert Babicz, Guy J, Above&Beyond, Timbaland use Ableton for their productions. It is suitable for any music genre, from Techno to EDM and from Pop, to Hip-Hop and Jazz. Ableton offers unlimited midi and audio tracks to record as many instruments as you want. Plus, some powerful recording and editing tools for mixing and mastering your songs.
- FL Studio:
FL Studio is one of the most widely used DAWs for bedroom music producers. It is a great tool to express your musical ideas quickly. It also comes with an expansive selection of synth presets and effects units and free lifetime updates to anyone that buys the program. Big collection of loops and sounds as well. FL Studio is very affordable, and it comes in 4 different versions to pick according to your needs and budget. No previous experience in a DAW is required. It is viral software among EDM and Big Room producers.
- Pro Tools: Avid Pro Tools is used by musicians such as Hans Zimmer, Linkin Park, Bjork, and many more. Suitable for commercial producers, as well as recording and mixing engineers. It offers over 70 effects and plug-ins and a good workflow when recording multiple takes of a live instrument or vocal. However, it has a high learning curve, and it’s not recommended for beginners.
- Propellerhead Reason 10:
Reason 10 by Propellerhead is everything you need to compose and finish your music ideas. The included Sound Bank consists of over 5,000 instrument patches, 1,000+ mixing/mastering effects, and over 3,000 loops to get you starting producing tracks. It has one of the best built-in VST libraries and stock drum selections. Plus, powerful processing capabilities.
B. Audio Interface (sound-card)
An audio interface is a bridge between your PC, external instruments, and monitors. It allows you to record high-quality audio into your computer and output it through your studio monitors. Audio interfaces connect via USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt to your laptop or PC and are easily portable.
Some require additional software installation and may only work on specific computer operating systems MAC or win, so always double-check audio interface specs before purchasing. The first thing to consider before choosing an audio interface, is how many and what sound sources you will record at a time?”. Some audio interfaces have a couple of inputs (for a microphone and guitar), and others can include up to forty ins and outs.
Go to The Best Cheap Audio Interface under $200, and you will see how affordable they are.
Take a look at these audio interfaces before making a decision:
- PreSonus AudioBox – It offers two input/output ports, and MIDI I/O to connect your keyboard or controller. It has a robust build, metal housing, and it weighs less than two pounds for easy transportation outside of your studio. Audiobox iTwo comes with Studio One Artist DAW software.
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is one of the most popular and the best seller audio interface in the market. The reason for its success is the attractive price tag, quality build, great sound, and design.
- Steinberg UR22 MK2 – This audio interface features two inputs/outputs, phantom power for microphone recording, and two USB ports. It is top-rated and highly recommended by many users.
C. Studio Monitor Speakers / Headphones
If you want to make club music, then you need to make your studio sound like one. A good pair of studio monitors allow you to hear your music in detail and produce high-quality mixes. Studio monitors are different from regular speakers (what you have in your car, what you hear in a club) because they provide a flat response. That means you hear your music exactly as it is.
That’s why choosing the right pair of studio monitors is one of the most critical aspects of your production setup. Room size, shape, and sound treatment are also essential to achieve an excellent quality level sounding in your studio.
These are some of the best beginner monitors:
- Yamaha HS5
- KRK Rokit G3 RP6
- JBL LSR
- PreSonus Eris E5
D. MIDI keyboards and controllers
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a tool for computers, musical instruments, and hardware equipment. A MIDI device sends information like pitch, note length, and velocity. MIDI can be used to integrate with your DAW or VST plugin instrument and play notes more organically. MIDI keyboards don’t transmit audio.
You should find a controller that you think it will speed up and improve the way you work. Here are some of the best MIDI keyboards for beginners with 25 keys:
- Arturia Minilab 25 MKII – offers 25 slim keys and eight velocity-sensitive RGB backlit performance pads. As well, two banks of full-size rotary encoders, and a pitch and modulation touch-strip for ultimate manipulation.
- Akai MPK MINI MKII – fits anywhere and weighs just 2 kilos. It has 25 “mini” synth-action keys and 8 MPC pads with note repeats.
- M-audio Oxygen 25 – It is impressive what you can buy for under $100. 25 full-sized, synth-action and velocity-sensitive keys, eight velocity trigger pads, a fader, and the Ableton Live Lite.
For more details and information about the above, check the best cheap MIDI keyboards. If you are an experienced key player and want at least 49 keys, check the best MIDI keyboard controllers in the market.
To sum up, all the above gear, check how to build your home recording studio setup for under $600!
3. Sound Libraries / VST Plugins
All DAW’s in the market offer built-in instruments and samples to get started with electronic music production. However, with the plurality of VST instruments and software gear, you have plenty of options to create your unique studio workplace. It is also important to learn how to properly use every music production tool and do not just start messing things up.
There are plenty of websites like Loopmasters.com with a massive amount of sound samples in all popular music genres. To help you get started, we offer FREE samples and sounds. As well, some free VST plugins to start electronic music production today.
If you can afford a synthesizer, it would be a great addition to your studio. Synthesizer is an electronic musical device that generates electric signals that are converted to sound, and you can record it on your computer. There is some decent option out there, and you will find here the best synthesizer keyboard for music production.
Drum machines are practically synthesizers whose purpose is to create drum beats and percussive sounds. The sequencer, in every drum machine, allows you to program a series of drum hits to form a musical pattern. Which you can then playback, record, and store in your PC and DAW. Take a look at the best Drum machines for home recording.
4. Learn How to Produce Music (Courses & Tutorials)
Even you have all the above you are still probably not ready to make music. As soon as you learn how to use your DAW properly, you are ready to produce electronic music. The best way to learn how to transfer your ideas into songs inside the DAW is to watch online video courses.
There are countless free YouTube videos and EDM music-making tutorials. However, I would suggest you go for an expert instructor and online courses from platforms like PML.com.
If you have the time, will, and money to participate in a premium online music production course, you will most likely produce and compose better music.
It is also a good idea to discover new music genres that you are previously unfamiliar with. If you want to produce techno music, take a course on dubstep music production. You will expand your knowledge and find new musical ideas to enhance your techno music productions.
These online courses will cover all the essential functions, instruments, effects, and possibilities of your DAW. You will find plenty of tutorials to guide you either you use Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, or any other production software.
To make good-sounding music is a whole new level. If you do not know what is mixing and mastering, you will need it. When you are ready to master your sound engineer skills and receive a certificate, check out the full course by audiomasterclass.org.
5. How To Become A Music Producer
After you complete your track -composing/mixing/mastering- and you have also created a full online presence on social media and sound platforms, you are ready to get your work available to people and promote it. It is important not to rush and start behaving recklessly by giving away a non-release production. Make it available to selective people to get the proper feedback. If a record label sees your track on an audio platform with download and shares, your track may be discarded.
Everyone wants to produce and compose electronic music for one main reason. For people to hear it. So check out how to get signed by a record label and get your music released and promoted.
Start by creating a proper press release, including a small description of your production with style, BPM, key, and duration of the song. Add photos, previous works, collaborations, courses, diplomas, experience, and contact information to find you. Search on Beatport, or any other online store, record labels that you follow, and make sure your productions are similar in style. Most record labels offer an email for promo submissions. It is essential to follow the rules of submission like audio quality, duration, and others.
If you want to become a music producer for a record label, then listen to the tracks released by that specific label. Anjunadeep will only release deep house tracks, Drumcode is dedicated to Techno, etc. Do your research before you start sending promo and demo tracks.
When a record label has accepted your track, you have only left to promote your work. The label will do the rest of the job by delivering your album or single to online stores ready for people to buy. Beatport.com, and iTunes music, are the most popular online music stores out there.
These were our quick and straightforward steps for beginners who want to learn how to make electronic music.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- How long does it take to produce a song? Could be a couple of days, weeks, months, or even years. If you are a beginner but work methodically and know your theory, it won’t take more than a week.
- What does it take to become a successful music producer? Nothing in life comes easy. Like all professions in the world, it requires dedication, hard work, patience, and no fear to make mistakes.
- Is it too late to start music production? It is never too late. There are world-famous music producers that had started in their late thirties, and others were unknown until the age of forty.
- What training is needed to become a music producer? There are a plethora of free online courses to get started, premium, and masterclasses as well. Courses about music production, audio engineering, mixing and mastering, and more.
- Is it hard to produce techno music? Compare to other music genres, EDM music including techno is considered relatively easy to compose.
Why become a DJ and producer?
Many DJs choose to make their own beats and tracks and there are plenty of reasons why.
- You expand your social network by meeting and collaborating with a plethora of artists.
- It will get your name up faster along with excellent references.
- You will improve your skills. Having experience as a DJ, you have a better idea and knowledge of what the crowd wants.
- It’s a great advantage to know the beats and sounds that intrigue the people when you start making music.
- Learning to compose a track, and the parts of which is structured (drums, bass, melody, etc.) will master counting beats and bars, and therefore your mixing and beat-matching skills. And this is how you make your mixes sound professional.
- DJs use the same equipment and software to produce music as every musician out there.
Everyone wants to produce music like Skrillex, Martin, or Above & Beyond. But, most of you will hurry and jump to step four, when you learn your DAW, and start making music right away. However, investing some time learning music theory and the fundamentals of EDM music production, along with the best possible home recording studio setup, will serve you well in the future.
Getting started with making digital music can seem overwhelming at first. Remember that you don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive gear if you are a beginner. More importantly, make sure you’re putting aside time to work on your recordings and music theory, and that is something you enjoy doing.
With this guide and a little research by yourself, you will be able to produce electronic music in any style and genre.
Check also 20 sound recording and home studio tips.
Feel free to share your comments or questions, and we will be happy to help you take your first steps to start making music.
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