Congratulations! You decided to get into techno music production, to get into producing the most exciting kind of music. A kind of music with almost no other common denominator than the complete absence of any rules.
This, by definition, allows endless possibilities and restricts your creativity in no way. If nothing else, this is at least overwhelming. Imagine yourself having to create a whole universe with unlimited possibilities at hand. What to do first? Where to start? And should the first thing to do be buying that expensive analog synthesizer you’ve read about in that interview with dj megalomaniac the other day?
Although there are (almost) no rules, there are some best practices that can help you start your journey off the right foot.
I won’t get technical in this article, so I won’t recommend any particular software or tool to you. It’s meant to give you a basic guidance on what to focus and not getting carried away.
Most of the pros producing techno music have a serious studio with lots and lots of gear. How can you create tracks as awesome as theirs if you don’t have that kind of budget and/or gear?
The first thing to remember, and probably the most important one at all: equipment doesn’t make music. All that gear you see in large studios, all the great pieces of engineering with lots of knobs and displays… those are tools. They won’t compensate for a lack of creativity.
You’re a musician, and as a musician you need an instrument – and that’s about it for the start. What counts are your ideas, your music. A huge pile of hardware won’t make any great music by itself. Think of other arts: a designer doesn’t need more than a simple pencil to express his or her ideas.
So, start simple. What you need is an instrument – and nothing beats a computer in terms of versatility, possibilities and value for money. I don’t want to get into the discussion whether you should buy a PC or a Mac, a laptop or a desktop computer – all things considered it’s a matter of preference. If you’re on a budget I suggest you get a PC. You will simply get more bang for the buck, plus there is more free software available for the pc.
Keep it simple
Speaking of free software – there is so much available, so many free tools of high quality right at your fingertips, it can overwhelm you. But you don’t need much to get great results. Remember: it’s the musical idea that counts, not how many tools you use in the process.
Don’t get carried away. Since there are no limits, set your own limits. Like: don’t use more than 3 effects. Or: don’t use more than 3 different synths.
Restricting your possibilities is a creativity booster. It’s so much better to only use one instrument/tool and know it very well than using lots and lots of different plugins and not digging any deeper than switching presets.
Stick to the basics
What you read next may sound obvious. But as obvious as it is, it’s a common mistake I see beginners make.
If you’re new to creating electronic music, concentrate on creating music! Don’t worry about stuff you hear very experienced producers talk about, like for example mastering. It’s called mastering for a reason – it’s the last step in the process, it’s the icing, the cherry on the cake. If done correctly, it’s done by incredibly experienced people with extremely sophisticated ears and gear.
There is no plugin you can hook into your software that will turn an uninspired and boring tune into a banging smash hit. So, stick to creating awesome tunes.
Finish what you start
If you’ve started producing, it’s very likely you have tons of unfinished stuff cluttering your disk. You open a new file, start to make a nice beat, add a groovy bass, a catchy chord or melody, create great sounding 4, 8 or 16 bars – and get stuck. Better luck next time, you think, and do it again and again. Over time, this will make you feel (maybe unconsciously) unsatisfied and unproductive.
This is because every time you get stuck and start over, you fail a little. This will affect your self-consciousness and your self-esteem.
You can turn this around by finishing what you start. But how? How can you finish what you start if I get stuck in the process?
The thing is, composing is not as much as an intuitive and flowing process as you might think it is. It is, in fact, a rather cognitive and technical process. If you’ve got 8 or 16 bars that rock, it’s very likely you can make a solid 5 minutes long song out of it.
The key is to listen to songs of other people very analytically. Are all the relevant elements there from the beginning? When does the bass start? When do the hihats set in? How does the song evolve over time? Listen very carefully to the structure of the song, feel free to take notes (that is in fact what I did the first few times – it doesn’t matter if you use „correct“ terminology, it’s meant for you only) and try to recreate the structure with your song. I don’t say you should finish every quick idea you sketch, especially if it doesn’t rock you, but if you think the loop you created is good and makes you wanna dance a little, you should follow through. It will give you a great feeling of accomplishment and will boost your self-confidence.
So, when you’re producing your next song, keep in mind to keep it simple and finish what you start. Let’s get cracking! 🙂