Learning Music Producing

Email Received:

HEY MY NAME IS ANDY, I AM 22 YEARS OLD AND I WOULD LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MUSIC PRODUCING. I AM LEARNING HOW TO MAKE BEATS WITH FL7 PRODUCER EDITION.

I DONT HAVE A COMPLETE STUDIO BUT IAM WORKING ON IT. THE ONLY THING I HAVE IS THE PROGRAM AND THE COMPUTER THATS IT CUS I DONT MAKE ENOUGH TO AFFORD WAT I NEED,SO I JUST WOULD LIKE UR HELP TO TEACH ME THE ROOTS AND HOW THINGS WORK…THANX FOR UR TIME HOPE TO HERE FROM YOU SOON..

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Hi Andy,

You’re off to a good start. Don’t let the concept of high end gear slow your work. You can learn and do a lot with just a little gear these days. If you’re studying production all you need is software to do loops, some recorded tracks and maybe MIDI. Doing great mixdowns is another thing, but for production that’s all you need.

I like your email because it’s direct and no hype. That’s good. Let’s drop all the hype and get straight to the geekiness that will put you ahead of the pack.

There are three basic elements of music:

  1. Melody
  2. Harmony
  3. Rhythm

Melody – the single note you sing, or the synth line lead (or the pitch and flow of a rapper.)

Harmony – the chords that accompany the singer, or the chord background to the track. Even if it’s atonal (synth and samples in different keys), it’s still harmony.

Rhythm – the drum beat, the flow of the rapper, the punctuation of the singer.

When you produce music, all you are doing is altering one of those elements. Think of your favorite remix of a hit song. They probably mixed the beat up, and then added some alternate chords. I can remember like 20 years ago when “Lean on Me” came out as a hip hop mix. All they did was change the beat up – and for the time it was ultra cool.

So here is the magic key to producing music: How many ways can you mix up those three elements?

The more ways you can mix up the three elements – the wider palette you have to choose from as a producer. Or maybe you want to develop a stylized sound that’s your signature.

Think of someone like Quincy Jones. He can take anything and mix it up – a master of harmony and rhythm. Have you heard his renditions of Handel’s Messiah? Amazing stuff. Now THAT’S a real music producer – not a hack that just drags and drops loops in ACID.

The hardest thing to learn is harmony – so I would always suggest hitting the theory books, learning jazz substitutions – getting really heavy into your understanding of chord structures. I think this is where most aspiring producers miss the boat – it’s a long road and not very fun to study – but will be what puts you ahead of the competition.

Want to step it up a notch? Study styles you don’t like. If you hate Country music – then study it. If you hate Reggae – then study it. That will really open you up a lot.

As far as gear goes – I spent 20 years buying gear because I always needed one more piece. I used it – but with what’s out now you can do everything you need with Pro Tools, a good keyboard, top end microphone and tube preamp, and a good treated vocal booth. The only thing between you and a Grammy is your imagination and knowledge.

Let me know if that helps you out.

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