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How To Make Electronic Music: A 7-Step Guide!

How To Make Electronic Music: A 7-Step Guide!
Dance music is taking over the global music scene, you know you have what it takes to be a producer, and you're eager to learn how to make electronic music...

But beginning your journey into the world of electronic music production feels like a daunting task, and you may have no idea what steps to take.

Many people who want to produce electronic music never attempt it because they are afraid to begin, when in reality, there are only a few steps that you need to take to get started.

That’s why we wrote this step-by-step guide!

Follow along with these simple steps and you’ll soon find that you are fully able to immerse yourself in the wonderful world of music production.


How To Make Electronic Music - Step 1:  Choosing The Right Software


Producers create music using software called DAW’s, which is short for digital audio workstation. They are the main tool a producer uses when creating music.

If you watch any videos on your favorite producers, you may have heard them mention some common DAW’s like “Ableton Live,” “FL Studio,” or “Logic Pro,”

Ableton Live, FL Studio, and Logic Pro are arguably the most popular DAW’s in electronic dance music production, but there are many other DAWs: Cubase, Reason, Pro Tools, and even Garageband are examples of a few more.

But why so are there so many?

Everyone’s mind works differently, and as a result, every DAW operates a little differently too.

For example: Martin Garrix is a well known FL Studio user. If you’re a fan of his, or want to make similar music, that doesn't mean FL Studio is automatically right for you. It’s possible that you might work best in Ableton, while other producers work best in FL studio.

Because each DAW is different, it is important that you do some research to find out which is the best for you.

Different DAW’s work best in different situations. Ableton is considered superior when it comes to live performances, while FL Studio comes with more diverse plugins.

Some DAW’s might seem to have a more intuitive layout, in that certain tools are easier to find and use than others. In FL Studio for example, the playlist (where you build your song) is one of the first things you’ll see.

It’s also important to note that some DAW’s require operating system compatibility. Logic Pro X only work on Mac OS. Others, like FL Studio, only work on Windows OS. So keep this in mind when you are deciding what to use.

Do note that Mac users can use something called “Bootcamp” which partitions your hard drive into a Mac side and Windows side, allowing Macs to run Windows software.

You can learn more about Bootcamp here.

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A really quick way to begin your research is to perform a Youtube search like “FL Studio walkthrough beginner”, or “Logic Pro walkthrough beginner.”

This will provide you with hours of content for every DAW out there.

Watch a few videos for each DAW and try to determine which one looks the most intuitive to you. Set some time aside and observe the layouts of the DAW’s you watch online.

Once you find a DAW that you would want to try, we recommend you download a trial version. This way you can get hands-on experience with the software before spending any money.

Here are some quick links to FL Studio and Ableton’s trial - there is no trial for Logic Pro X, but it is quite similar to Garageband, which comes with your Mac.

Garageband will give you a basic idea of what it’s like to use Logic Pro X. Some producers have referred to Logic as “Garageband’s older brother”, because they are fundamentally the same, with the difference of Logic Pro X offering many advanced features.

For Mac users interested in FL Studio, there is a Mac version in beta testing (but it might be very buggy because it’s not quite finished yet).

After downloading a trial, get your feet wet and start exploring. It is time to understand how it all works in more detail!


Step 2:  Understanding Your DAW


Producing music and exploring your sound will be an uphill battle without understanding how your DAW works. That’s why step two is all about helping you understand your audio workstation.

In this internet age, there is always a wealth of information at your fingertips.

As a result, you already have access to the the information you need to produce in your software! It is simply a matter of finding that knowledge and putting it into practice.

Try searching “How to use [my DAW]” in Youtube to find a wealth of different topics that aspiring music producers never had access to before the invention of the internet.

Some channels will even have playlists built for you to watch video after video, all filled with important information.

Here are some fantastic Youtube channels with tutorials for FL Studio users, Ableton Live users, and Logic Pro X users.

Another great learning method is watching track walkthroughs or Q&A’s from popular DJ’s/producers!Just search your favorite artist + “in the studio”, or sometimes even “Q&A”, to find even more resources.

The perspective in these videos is from someone who has made it in the industry, so you know that what they have to say will be of value.

In this recent fan-recorded video of Martin Garrix’s masterclass at the 2017 ADE, Martin shows the audience exactly how he goes about creating his tracks in FL Studio. After creating a nice melody, he tells the audience he plans to finish his track!

Here is a walkthrough of Nicky Romero guiding us through his track ‘Ready 2 Rumble’ in Logic Pro X.

Immersing yourself in these videos and watching people use your DAW will help you understand how to use the software - especially if you are a visual learner.

You’ll also pick up on some secret production tips from the pros that you can save for when you are ready to start producing at full force!

Another great tip is to create a gmail account only for Youtube subscriptions. With this account, subscribe to Youtube producers who post tutorials so that every day you can wake up to new content in your sub box.

Some great channels to check out include Ramzoid, You Suck at Producing, and the Cymatics YouTube channel!

We also have our own platform with a vast source of learning materials including samples, presets, project files, and online music production courses called Academy.fm! You can start a free trial here.

Remember - even the most talented producers are still learning new tips and tricks. So be sure to visit your sub box often to consistently learn new information.

Alternatively, reading the owner’s manual for your DAW will also provide you with even more information on your audio workstation.

While video tutorials are great resources, sometimes reading the manual is simply the best way to go.

You don’t have to sit through a long video to learn one specific piece of information you were looking for.

Instead, you can quickly look up a term in the index, locate it, and read everything about it from the team who created your DAW.

Now that you understand where certain controls are located in your audio workstation and you have a general awareness of their functions, it’s time for the fun part: picking your starting point!

Do you want to get a jump start in Ableton Live?

Download our free Ableton Starter Pack and get level up your production today!
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Step 3:  Picking Your Starting Point (Genres)


At this point, you finally have the right DAW to express yourself through music production!

Now it’s time to settle on the style of music you want to produce.

You probably knew what style of music you wanted to produce before you even clicked on this article, but don’t be afraid to try out a few genres!

Every artist works in different genres or different styles for some time before they find ‘their sound’.

For example, a little-known fact is, Skrillex started making house music before he found his dubstep sound, which eventually grew into the iconic “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.”

And before RL Grime struck popularity in the trap/future bass scene, he was known as “Clockwork” in the house music scene.

The point is, try to keep an open mind. Don’t limit yourself to only one genre if you really want to try others. Once you’ve decided on a genre you’d like to produce, it’s time to learn the elements that are essential to it.

For example, if you want to be a dubstep producer, then understand the drum beats dubstep songs use. You should not use a progressive house drum beat in a dubstep track. That would be the equivalent of using a drum beat from a disco song in heavy metal.

While experimentation is important, it is crucial to understand and analyze successful songs of the genre that you are working in to best learn how to produce the genre successfully.

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For example, many house songs flows like this: intro > verse 1 > build 1 > drop 1 > verse 2 > build 2 > drop 2 > outro.

If your house track started with a buildup 1 and went into the outro, followed by the verse, it could throw off your audience.

Learning the arrangement of the songs in your genre is a great way to deconstruct and analyze how they work.

But it takes more than understanding the arrangement of a genre to learn it.

Ask yourself questions like “will my music need vocals?”

If you want to produce progressive house, the answer could easily be a yes!

If you want to produce ambient music, then you probably won’t want a vocal on every track.

Listen to a playlist of the music you want to produce and make a list of what common denominators you hear in each song.

For instance, should you want to produce house music, your list might look something like this:

    •  Kick drum on every beat

    •  Claps/snares on beats two and four

    •  Hi hats on the off-beats

    •  During the drops, the synths are pumping (this is called sidechain)

    •  Lots of SFX like sweeps and uplifters

    •  Etc.


Spend some time trying to make your list as detailed as you can. This is going to help you understand what your audience will expect to hear in your song.

If you need some help getting started, check out this helpful article by dancemusicnw.com

After becoming more comfortable in your genre and DAW, it’s time to collect new sounds and equipment to revamp your capabilities!

Step 4:  Upgrading Your Tools


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Now that you understand how your DAW works and what style of music you want to produce, upgrading your equipment and plugins is the next step.

One big part of this step is the addition of industry-standard monitors to your home studio.

This is because studio monitors allow you to hear all of the frequencies in your mix!

Producing on laptop speakers or other poor speakers will make it nearly impossible for you to achieve clean mixdowns because they have no low-end frequency response.

In other words, you won’t be able to hear how important elements of your track, such as your bass, will sound on a decent set of speakers.

KRK Rokits and Yamaha speakers are popular choices for EDM producers. These speakers are great because they have fantastic frequency response, making them ideal to produce music on.

For more in-depth information, check out this article we wrote on the best studio monitors!

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Another useful tool for your home studio is an audio interface.

An audio interface basically improves the quality of sound coming from your computer. The audio coming out of an interface is superior to the audio coming from your computer’s sound card. For a more thorough description of interfaces, check out this article!

For example, the Scarlett 2i2 is one of the most popular audio interfaces.

Not only is the Scarlett affordable and has great latency compensation, but the Scarlett 2i2 is also the perfect interface for a beginner thanks to its intuitive design.

A lot of producers also like its gain halos (green or red circles around the gain knobs) because they quickly indicate if the audio input is too loud with a red ‘halo’.

Many producers also like to produce with studio headphones. One of the most popular brands for headphones is Audio Technica.

Audio Technica headphones are designed to be used in the studio thanks to their balanced frequency response which give you a realistic sounding mix.

Take these options over headphones with a heavier bass response, like Beats, which are not balanced headphones.

As a producer, you should always look for the most accurate frequency response in your equipment, which Audio Technica excels in!

The last essential tool for a home studio is a MIDI keyboard, which makes it easy to record melodies, chords, basslines, and more, directly into your DAW!

Using a MIDI keyboard will create a smoother production experience because it means writing notes on a tangible keyboard instead of clicking your screen to generate notes. This is a great option even for those who do not have experience with playing the keyboard/piano.

Check out our top 10 picks for the best MIDI keyboards on the market to learn about some options.

None of these items are imperative, but they all will greatly improve your efficiency and abilities as a producer.

In addition to hardware for your studio, investing in drum samples and virtual instruments will be very helpful in improving how diverse you can make your sounds.



 

To make your music stand out from everyone else’s, you need to gather a collection of sounds that is not native to your DAW.

Using native sounds is not always a bad thing, but having more options to make music will give you more freedom to experiment and have fun with sound.

Fortunately, using high-quality, 3rd-party samples and presets does not mean spending tons of money! The internet is a limitless resource where free samples and presets are easy to find.

You might be surprised to learn that finding free sample packs is incredibly easy. Just search something like “Free future bass sample pack” in SoundCloud and get downloading!

In addition to using better samples and presets, we suggest that you also look into buying VST’s, or downloading free ones.

Some really great VST’s include Serum, Sylenth, Spire, and Massive - but there are many many more!

VST’s are similar to the stock plugins in your DAW, only much more powerful and versatile! A VST can by a synth, EQ, compressor, etc.

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Here is a video covering some free versions to help you with your production!

Once you’ve gathered some helpful tools, from samples to studio monitors, it’s time to apply your knowledge!

Step 5:  Applying Your Knowledge And Getting Started


You have a learned a lot in a short period of time, and now it's time to apply it.

Let’s begin with some techniques on how to make some original music, and then discuss methods to grab inspiration from other tracks.

One of the most effective methods to start a song is to write a chord progression.

A chord progression is typically a four-bar or eight-bar loop that consists of a set of chords (Usually four chords in a four-bar progression, and eight chords in an eight-bar progression).

Chord progressions serve as the musical foundation for a song, so it is a great way to begin!

If you get stuck creating some chord progressions, you could try searching something like “chord progressions for EDM.”

Copy the chord progressions from what your search query yields, and try modifying them a bit to your liking to keep them original.

From there, you can add more elements like a lead melody, bassline, and percussion.

Some genres however, like trap or dubstep, rely less on chords and more on drum and bass sequencing so this won’t work for every genre out there.

For more genres like these, a good way to start a song is by beginning with drum sequencing with a sturdy kick and bass mix.

From there, you will have the heartbeat of your song and it will only be a matter of adding lead sounds and effects!

Try creating your kick, snare, and bass mix. Then cycle through some VST presets for a lead preset that stands out to you.

Then add some more elements like percussion and SFX to make your mix fuller.

If you prefer a more structured technique for direct inspiration, try importing a song that you really enjoy into your DAW and try recreating it.

Recreating songs guarantees that you will have a professional structure and cohesive ideas.

Let’s say you really like Swedish House Mafia’s ‘Greyhound’, one of the most iconic Swedish progressive house tunes of all time.

Download the original mix version and import the audio into your DAW. From there, put your project to the same BPM as your song and start recreating what you hear!

Starting with the drums, build the entire arrangement! Whenever you hear a kick drum, place a kick in your project. The same goes for claps, hi hats, etc.

Then you would create the plucky arp in the intro that slowly fades in, first audible at about seven seconds.

Do this for each element in the song, and if you mix it well enough, voila!

From here, you can make variations in the melodies, drum fills, chords, SFX, etc.

The end result?

And original song by YOU with direct inspiration from one of the most successful house tracks ever made!

This is effective because you are guaranteed a professional song’s arrangement, paired with ideas that you know have been successful in the EDM community!

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You can apply this procedure to any song and genre.

While implementing these techniques, it is important to stay productive and to maximize your effort. So let’s move on to the last section to cover some workflow tips that will make the best use of your time.

Step 6:  Workflow and Finishing Songs


Workflow is very important for efficiency and organization. Without understanding how to establish a healthy workflow, your productivity will suffer and finishing your tracks will become difficult.

One of the biggest inhibitors of a positive workflow are distractions, like phones and social media. During your sessions, leave your phone in a different room or turn it on do not disturb.

When you are producing, the buzz of the internet doesn’t matter. Ignore your impulse to check Facebook or to look at your friend’s new Instagram photo.

Your future-self will thank you for your hard work and focus!

If you are infamous for being a procrastinator, it may even be helpful to turn off your Wi-Fi during your production sessions.

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The less distractions, the better your workflow!

In addition to keeping yourself focused, organization is key to having healthy production habits.

That means naming your tracks and samples. Don’t name a kick drum “really cool kick,” but instead name it “Kick 01.”

That way, you’ll have a better idea of where certain samples are and how to find them!

Keeping folders organized with your bounced samples, project files, or anything you downloaded for production is essential to a clean workflow.

Many producers will have a single folder with hundreds of samples in no particular order. Don’t be that producer!

Organize your sounds so you can spend more time producing rather than searching for that one sample you need to make your track come alive.

Another great method to revamp your workflow is to learn and memorize hotkeys. Hotkeys will revolutionize the speed at which you produce music!

By understanding shortcuts to perform simple tasks, you will save a ton of time. So try googling “[My DAW] hotkeys” to see what kind of hotkeys your DAW has.

If you find an image displaying these hotkeys, you could even make it your desktop wallpaper for quick access!

However, even with implementing the techniques from our article, you might find that you can’t seem to finish your new track, or you just aren’t happy with your project even though yesterday you may have loved it.

Just like becoming a producer takes practice and patience, so does finishing music.

It might seem a little weird, but finishing music is actually a skill, and improving your workflow will help you in this area.

Practice finishing songs and eventually, just like producing, you will become skilled at keeping a healthy workflow and completing tracks!

After all, your music is the content that gets you booked for shows, gets you noticed by other famous DJs, and gives your brand the fuel it needs for success.

For even more workflow tips, check out our article on getting the most out of your studio time.

Download thousands of free synth presets, samples, and more - Click Here


Step 7: Experimentation


The experimentation phase should be fun and exciting! This is where you get to play around with a variety of styles and ideas without being confined to a specific genre or techniques.

In fact, many producers have accidentally stumbled across amazing results while experimenting. Sometimes the best ideas just happen and you don't necessarily have to think about them.

KSHMR, the producer behind the hit single “Like A G6,” has stated that the iconic bass line was actually meant for a bell sound.

His mistake ended up making the single a worldwide hit!

Put yourself in a position where happy accidents may happen, so don’t hesitate to try stuff out that goes against the flow.

And finally, remember that music production involves a great deal of trial and error, so experimentation goes hand in hand.

Don’t be afraid to make something that isn’t good, because you can always delete it and replace it with something better.

Don’t sell yourself short - keep your eye on the prize and finish your music while trying out new techniques every time!


Conclusion


You learned a lot in this article!

Let’s do a quick review before we let you get started on your production journey!

    • Research DAWs to find which one best suits you

    • Learn about your DAW of choice by searching for tutorial videos

    • Subscribe to Youtube channels that make production tutorials

    • Learn how your DAW works and then experiment!

    • Analyze genre elements by writing a list

    • Upgrade your tools with hardware and samples

    • Apply your knowledge by starting with a chord progression or a drum and bass mix

    • Recreate tracks for direct inspiration

    • Maintain healthy workflow habits to maximize your productivity


Now that you’ve read these steps, you’re ready to make some music! With hard work and motivation, you’ll one day be as talented as the producers you look up to.

Now we want to hear from you!

Do you have any tips for new producers?  What DAW do you prefer and why?

Let us know in the comment section below!