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HOW TO MAKE ELECTRONIC MUSIC – EXTENDED BEGINNER’S GUIDE

Despite the popular belief, it’s not that hard to make electronic music these days. But, you need to know the basics. First of all, you’ll need proper equipment. Secondly, a DAW – Digital Audio Workstations and some plug-ins will be required. Thirdly, musicians need to hear themselves through studio monitors and headphones.

The Equipment

The Computer and the OS

It’s obvious that you won’t be able to make music without a computer. Basically, unless your PC is 10 years old, you’re good. Both Mac and Win are great for making music. The CPU and the RAM should be your biggest concerns. The more computing power and memory you have, the more tracks and plugins you will be able to run – its’ as simple as that. As for the Hard Drive, 1-2TB should suffice. Intel Core I 5/7 or the AMD FX-Series will do. As for RAM, 8GB is the minimum; 12GB is better. Most musicians start with a notebook, but PCs are usually more reliable and have a bigger capacity for upgrades.

The Sound Card/Audio Interface

This piece of equipment – the soundcard – usually comes as a part of a new PC. To reduce latency, make sure the latest ASIO4ALL driver is installed. Of course, you’ll outgrow the built-in soundcard in a matter of months, if not weeks. It’s a bit tricky to pick the best one, as there are numerous options on the market.

– An audio interface comes with more ports (you can use them to connect several devices/instruments) and is a better pick most of the time. On the other hand, audio interfaces don’t always work great with every system – there may be some glitches.

– Soundcards, in turn, are cheaper, simpler, but more reliable.

Note: you’ll have to choose between the two – can’t have both.

Studio Monitors and Headphones

For producing and mixing, high-quality monitors/headphones are imperative. Monitors are a lot more expensive and difficult to operate. Headphones are cheaper, but you’ll actually need both for professional work.

– For the beginners, KRK and M-Audio make some decent monitors under 300/400 dollars.

– Yamaha, along with Mackie, is the choice of the pros. For +/- 1000 dollars, you will get studio quality (that’s the price of ONE monitor).

That doesn’t mean beginners can’t make music on their cheap systems. Start there and switch to something more expensive when you get the chance.

MIDI Keyboards

This is the most essential instrument for a musician.

M-Audio Oxygen 61, Yamaha MO6 61, and Waldorf Blofeld 49 are solid picks. It is actually possible to producer tracks without a MIDI keyboard, but life will be so much better with one!

Digital Audio Workstations

The software – the DAW – is up next.

– FL Studio is the most popular entry-level DAW. It’s user-friendly and easy to use. DJ and Hip-Hop producers really love it. FL Studio has been around for almost 20 decades and is also good for dubstep, chillout, house, and even pop music.

– Ableton Live is also well-respected among DJs. It comes with sample banks and a bright interface. Yet, for professional recording, it’s not the best option.

– Cubase is the golden middle. It’s equally great for recording, producing, and mixing. Plus, the company offers various versions for different purposes.

– Pro Tools is installed in most pro studios. This is the king of DAWs, period.

VST Synthesizers and Plugins

Synths are used to make sounds and create music. Plugins, in turn, are mostly used for processing the tracks and getting a clear, bigger, brighter sound. There are hundreds of synths out there, capable of imitating pretty much every single instrument in the world. Built-in synths/plugins can only work with a specific DAW; 3rd-party programs, however, are compatible with most DAWs. If you’re just getting started, use free synths/plugins.

Samples

There are one-shots – short audio signals of drums/other instruments – and loops – longer, more musical parts. In EDM, drum loops are used all the time. One-shots need some getting used to. Again, begin with the free packs and only then move on to commercial packs.

Getting To It – Creating Music

First of all, pick a genre you like. Start by listening to as much music as you can. Don’t be afraid to copy the “trademark” moves of the best producers – that’s the best way to master the art of music. Electronic music is very simple and consists of similar blocks that continue throughout the track. Buildups and breakdowns are very important (make the song build up, slow down, and then explode).

The drums are simple: place a kick on every beat and a snare on the 2nd and 4th beats. Loops will help you create a musical landscape. Use the synths to create some unique melodic parts.

Mixing

This is the final part. At this stage, the musicians do everything in their power to polish their tracks and make them work together. As far as the drums are “banging”, you’re fine. Remember to let yourself rest and don’t change everything just because you don’t like it – give it some time. And that’s pretty much it for EDM 101!

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