When you first dive into music production, it’s daunting to know where to start. There are many resources online, but you need to sift through advanced content to get a good grasp of even the most basic concepts. You might find yourself layers deep in Google searches, with no actual music production in sight. In this post, we’ll cover three easy ways to start producing music. These resources give you a jumping off point to continue practicing and learning. It’s our mission at First Year Music Producer to gather the recommendations and resources new producers need to gain the confidence, skills, and momentum to start making music and putting it out there. (Then, you can dive into all those juicy “how to” videos on YouTube and become a modular synthesis pro.)

1. Take an Online Music Theory Course

While you definitely don’t need to be a classically trained musician to be a successful music producer, it helps to have a foundational understanding of music theory. I recommend the Developing Your Musicianship course on Coursera. It’s developed by Berklee, a prestigious music college in Boston.

In the course, you learn piano basics, common scales, and catchy chord progressions. Even after a few lessons, I felt much more comfortable to jam chords and melodies. To build on the lessons you learn, you can buy the course as part of a four-part series that takes you through the basics of music production and songwriting. It’s a super reasonable price for a ton of knowledge from a reputable institution.

Keep going with this recommended series by Berklee: Music Production Specialization

For the investment-minded:

If you’re really ready to spend some time and money, I recommend a Point Blank or Dubspot. They’re major investments, but an intensive course and a bit of money spent might be just what you need to push yourself.

2. Choose One DAW and Commit to It

First of all, what is a DAW? A digital audio workstation. You’ll probably see this acronym often on music websites. Basically, this is Ableton, Fruity Loops, Logic Pro, Cubase, or any of the other many programs that allow you to digitally produce and arrange music. The most common DAWs I hear producers use these days are Ableton and Logic, but all are quite similar. You’ll find producers generally prefer one over the other or use certain programs for specific functions. While you’re learning, though, choose one program and commit.

This is something I wished I did earlier. Instead of learning the basic concepts of synthesis and music production on one program, I confused myself by jumping between platforms. It became a waste of time. A program like Ableton has everything a new producer needs. As you become fluent in the instruments, plug ins, and audio effects of the program, you’ll gain a faster learning curve. Think of this exercise like learning a language: would you rather learn one language fluently or only a few words in several languages? One results in being able to communicate, and the other leads to a whole lot of nothing.

3. Buy One Piece of Hardware

If you must purchase hardware, you don’t need to spend a ton of money. Many people want hardware and think the latest and greatest will help them become a better producer. I’m guilty of this too. However, when it comes to learning, you don’t need the newest shiny object to learn the basics of synthesis. If you can learn one piece of hardware in and out, the knowledge and fluidity you gain will easily translate to other instruments as you grow.

Affordable Starter Gear:

  • Korg Volka Series (I particularly love the Beats and Keys)
    • You can also get these at even better prices used
  • Akai anything (they’re not analog synths, but great, affordable MIDI controllers to get you used to working with physical gear)
    • I started with the Akai LPD 8 and Akai LPK 25. Both are easy to set up with your DAW and I loved how portable they were
  • Korg Minilogue
    • A bit pricier than the above recommendations, but a nice piece of equipment with great sound and would serve as good first synth

Alright, time to get started! Dive into a music theory class, choose a DAW, buy one (affordable) controller or piece of hardware and you’re off. The most important part is to just do it. You don’t even have to do all three of things to start producing music. It’s that straightforward. Choose what you’re most comfortable diving into and get going.