Ok, you’ve read the first part of the guide on how to start producing music.

You know your way around your DAW of choice and you’ve prepared all the tools you’ll need in your music production journey.

You are now ready to make your first track, but you are wondering where to start… Don’t fret, I got you!

First some introductions!

 

How a song is born

 

1. The inception

Every song or track ever made first started out as a simple idea in someone’s mind. We artists can find ideas in many different ways.

Sometimes we dream of a melody while sleeping, or stumble upon a guitar lick while jamming with our friends. Other times we might sample an existing track or loop, and some other times we might start with a drum pattern or groove we’ve heard while walking down the street.

Whatever the source that generated the initial spark, that’s the moment when the song is born!

 

2. Building blocks

Right now the song is nothing more than a melody, a chord progression, or a basic loop with just a few instruments.

The next step is to keep adding instruments (which play various combinations of notes) until the song begins to take shape.

The remaining step is then to extend your short “loop” into a full cohesive song by giving it a structure.

These steps are what happens during the arrangement, and luckily for you, I’m about to outline an extremely easy way for you to learn this!

 

3. Mixing & mastering

For now, you absolutely have no need to worry about this. Just know that their purpose is to make your track sound as polished and as professional as possible.

 

But why am I talking about this?

Because if you want to cut down on the time it takes you to learn music production, it’s essential that you understand the bigger picture. This way you can start prioritizing the right topics and skills to learn right from day one, thus avoiding wasting time on things you should be paying no attention to for now!

For example, you could spend months learning to design kick drums or a synth patch from scratch, or you could lose your mind learning everything there’s to know on compression… and still be stuck at square one with no real idea of how to take a song from demo to finished record!

Now, don’t get me wrong, having fun and experimenting with new ideas is an essential part of your journey, and it’s exactly what will enable you to create your own sound, but I strongly advise you first spend the next 2-3 months doing something else entirely…

…as there’s a far better and more time-efficient way of learning music production!

 

The most effective way to learn how to make music

 

You’ve likely already heard me talking about the importance of reference tracks, haven’t you? But what are they?

Put simply, a reference track is a track in the style/genre you are trying to make.

By learning to use reference tracks you can seriously speed up your learning in all areas related to music-making: composition, arrangement, mixing, mastering, sound design, etc.

Why?

Because by remaking your favorite tracks, you see what chords and patterns were used, you develop an ear for good melodies, you understand what instruments work best in a particular genre, and how to arrange them.

You learn how to create sounds from scratch, how to find the ones that best support the vibe of a song, and you begin to recognize how all the instruments should sound once mixed.

But more importantly, you practice putting together a complete track over and over again!

After you’ve done this for a dozen tracks, you’ll be able to apply this knowledge and make your tracks sound 1000 times better!

So, how can you use other people’s tracks to learn how to make music?

 

I’ll break it down for you…

 

Start by taking one of your favorite artist’s tracks, possibly one that seems easier to make and has fewer instruments in it.

Import it in your DAW and set the project tempo to the BPM of the reference track (you can use a metronome to find out the BPM).

Then, while listening to it, try to isolate with your ears every instrument in the track.

It will be difficult at first, but you’ll soon discover it becomes progressively easier, as your ears get better at identifying all the sounds and figuring out what the various instruments are doing.

Your ears are just like a muscle: the more you use them, the better and stronger they get!

 

Ok, you’ve listened to it 20 times, now what?

 

Let’s start with the kick, one of the most crucial elements in modern electronic music, and also one of the easiest ones to recreate.

Load up a sample of a kick and then note by note, recreate the groove (aka. the pattern) the kick in the original track is playing. Do this for the entire length of the reference track.

 

Done?

 

Perfect, now you need to repeat this exact process for EVERY OTHER INSTRUMENT in the reference track! ????

Sounds impossible? Yeah, it kinda is at first!

Don’t worry if you can only recreate only 5-6 instruments right now, you’ll be able to do much more in a few weeks!

Now… while it’s relatively easy to recreate some percussions, a different matter is copying a melody or worst still a chord progression, but luckily for you, you have access to a free tool that will help you speed up the learning process considerably.

 

 

Google is your friend

 

We live in an amazing time where for every question we have, someone has already posted the answer to it somewhere.

You just need to become good at searching for what you need!

So, what does this mean when it comes to recreating tracks? Well, it means that others have already done it! Or to better put it, others have already recreated the basic structure of the song for you.

What you need to do is search for the name and artist of your reference track, followed by the word “midi”.

For example: “artist-name  track-name midi”

Dozens of results will pop up. Now you just need to browse through the mess of ads and fake websites until you find an actual midi file you can download. 

Once you’ve done this, simply import the midi file into your DAW.

You’ll see many different instruments and midi regions popping up. The latter is what you need: the actual notes that you could not figure out on your own!

What you need to do now is continue recreating one instrument at a time, the best way you can, until you get to a somewhat good representation of the original track!

Again, you’ll only manage to recreate a few parts of the original track at first, but I promise you: if you keep doing it for 3-6 months, you’ll be amazed at how fast you’ve piled up an incredible amount of skills in such a short time.

This is the same cheat-code that I’ve seen dozens of producers use to kickstart their music production skills!

 

The 2 steps to a steady and fast growth

 

Every goal requires some form of discipline to accomplish, and in the case of becoming a music producer, there are 2 main steps you need to understand in order to grow.

And the game plan is actually really, really simple…

 

1) Identify the problem

You need to understand where you are at in your journey. Do you lack knowledge of sound design? Do you need to develop your composition skills? Do you still have to find your sound?

Think deeply about this, and then write down all the things you are struggling with.

2) Prioritize targeted practice

After you’ve finished your list, pick the one area that’s holding you back the most right now. Then study it, analyze what you are doing wrong and find ways to get better at it.

Most of the time this means watching tutorials or reading books, but if you are dealing with a more intricate issue, or you don’t really know how to get out of a problem, you should try looking for help from someone who’s already gone through your problem. If you are on Instagram, DM me and I’ll try to help you (@karkille), or alternatively, try posting your question on one of the many producers’ communities on the web.

Once you’ve achieved a decent level of mastery over it (no need to become a pro just yet!) you can move on to the next area!

Then rinse and repeat!

 

Conclusion

 

Remember this is a game of perseverance, and only the most passionate and driven people make it so, roll up your sleeves, and start hustling!

In the meantime follow me on Instagram for some insider’s tips and sneak peeks behind the scenes. (I’m @karkille)

Speak to you soon, ciao!

 

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