How to Start Making Music
If you want to start making music, there is no better time then right now.
You don’t have to buy a bunch of gear, already play an instrument, or master music theory.
All you need is three simple things.
Before You Begin
Making music can be overwhelming. With countless genres, instruments, products, and techniques, it can be hard to know where to start. To achieve your musical goals, my advice to you is simple: take it one step at a time.
You don’t have to master everything all at once. All you have to do is start learning, start creating, and slowly but surely, you will make progress. Before you know it, you’ll be making your own songs and albums! This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Requirement #1: A Computer
If you want to make music as easily as possible, the first thing you will need is a computer.
When it comes to computers, there aren’t a lot of requirements when it comes to music production.
Most computers today are adequate. If you have a computer that is less than 3-4 years old, chances are it’s going to meet your needs perfectly well.
If you don’t have a computer, look to get one with at least 8GB of RAM and at least 128GB of memory to ensure that your software (more on that shortly) works properly. Besides those requirements, it doesn’t matter if you get a laptop, a desktop, a PC, a Mac, etc.
I recommend browsing websites like CNET for reviews and recommendations on computers that will meet your needs and your budget.
Requirement #2: A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
A DAW is a software program that lets you record, edit, and arrange music. In addition to those features, modern DAWs come with large libraries of Virtual Instruments (VSTs) and music samples that allow you to create the sound of pianos, guitars, drums, synthesizers, and countless other instruments within the DAW.
You don’t have to own these instruments, and you don’t have to know how to play them. If you want to start recording vocals right out of the gate, you can setup your computer’s microphone to record them straight into your DAW.
There are dozens of DAWs on the market today, some free and some not. Most DAWs have nearly identical feature sets, and their differences don’t start to matter until you compare the finest details of each.
When you’re just starting out, I recommend using a free DAW. There is no financial commitment, and many of them are designed with beginners in mind. Despite being free, these DAWs are still packed with features that will make you very productive.
Garageband (Mac), and Cakewalk (Windows) are two free DAWs that I recommend. If you already have a DAW or know of a different one that you want to use, then that’s fine too.
If you have a Mac, Garageband is automatically installed. If you have a Windows computer, Cakewalk is a great option.
If you plan on buying a DAW, verify that the DAW’s system requirements are met by your computer. If they are not, you will want to consider your options before spending money.
Once you select and install your DAW, it’s time to learn the basics of the tool. There are many free resources available for learning the ins and outs of each DAW.
If you are going to use Garageband or Cakewalk, below are videos to get you familiar with each. If you are going with a different DAW, just Google your DAW name and “tutorial for beginners” to find plenty of great videos and articles.
Like I mentioned before, DAWs have a ton of features. You can spend a lot of time learning everything they can do, but it doesn’t take a lot of learning to start making music.
Once you have a grasp on the basic workflow, focus on making music and letting your music dictate your education.
Requirement #3: A Basic Understanding of Music
Once you understand the basics of how your DAW works, it’s almost time to start creating.
If you have some understanding of how music works, you might already be off to the races. If not, that’s okay too! It’s easy to learn the basics of music.
I recommend visiting Ableton’s Music Learning Site and working through this series of music lessons.
Ableton (who makes a great DAW too) does a great job breaking down the basics of music so you have an understanding of how to make basic rhythms and melodies. This understanding will have you making simple patterns and loops in no time.
If you want to go a little further, music theory is a powerful topic that teaches you why music sounds good and how it works. Learning music theory is not strictly required, but it is very useful to learn sooner rather than later.
Learn the basics of music theory.
Your Journey Awaits
You now have everything you need to make music. Play around, explore, and don’t be afraid of failing. The more you experiment, the more you will learn. You won’t break anything!
Whenever you are struggling with something and need help, there are countless resources available online. Google is your friend. Your DAW’s manual is also a great resource.
Make sure you are focused on learning about one well-defined topic at a time. It can be overwhelming if you try to learn several things at once, so go piece by piece, problem by problem, and you will be able to get the help you need.
There is no correct way to learn and make music. Most people do it purely through trial and error. Focus on learning about what you want to be better at. Everyone’s musical journey is different.
If your music isn’t sounding like your favorite artists yet, don’t get discouraged! It takes time to become proficient at making music, and it’s important to enjoy the process instead of focusing on the results.
It takes years for everyone, including Grammy-winning musicians, to find their sound and to make great music.
Success comes in many forms, so don’t worry about comparing yourself to others. Focus on what you want to make and how you progress towards achieving your musical goals.
Music is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the journey. This is just the start!
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