Interested in music production for beginners but don’t know where to begin?
Here are the basic steps for getting started in music production:
- Acquire essential music production gear (computer, digital audio workstation, headphones).
- Learn how your digital audio workstation (DAW) works.
- Make music using loops and samples to get comfortable arranging songs.
- Understand the basics of music theory, such as scales and chords.
- Continuously learn and improve using tutorials, books, and music forums
Don’t worry if it seems overwhelming – I’ll break down each step for you in the following sections.
What music production equipment will you need as a beginner?
For a beginner in music production, you only need three pieces of equipment to get started: a computer, a digital audio workstation (DAW), and a good pair of music production headphones.
Let’s take a closer look at each piece of gear.
You’ll want a laptop or desktop to make your songs on. From my experience, having a music production laptop is better than a desktop for music production. The reason is that you have the ability to travel anywhere and still work on music. With a desktop, you’re stuck in your room and can’t meet up with other music producers to collaborate. I made the mistake of getting a desktop in the past and although it worked really well, it prevented me from being able to work on music if I wanted to travel.
In terms of laptops for beginners, I would recommend the Lenovo New. It has 20 GB RAM and 1TB of storage, which is great since you will fill up storage pretty quickly as you start making music and downloading samples.
If you have a computer already…even better! You don’t have to spend money and will only have to worry about getting a DAW and a pair of headphones. Just make sure your computer has at least 16GB of RAM and at least 500GB of SSD storage (although the higher the better). You technically can use a laptop with 8 GB of RAM, but in my experience, DAWs run too slowly.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
A DAW is a specific type of music production software. It’s like a digital playground where you can create, edit, and arrange all the musical elements of your song, from instruments to vocals, and then turn them into a beautiful piece of music.
For example, here’s what my DAW (Ableton) looks like:
It may look intimidating but I promise you it’s not too difficult to learn.
I’ve tried Ableton, FL Studio, and Logic Pro and out of all of them, Ableton was easiest for me to learn. Ableton also has really good documentation on their website that you can use if you want to figure out how to do something. That being said I recommend trying out different DAWs to figure out the best DAW for you and your workflow.
DAWs all essentially do the same things, just in different ways and with varying features. The other important note is that some DAWs (like Logic Pro X) are only compatible with specific OS systems so be mindful. Another reason I like Ableton is that it’s compatible with both Mac and Windows so if you ever decide to switch your OS you can without losing all of your hard work.
Here is a list of popular DAWs you should consider:
- FL Studio
- Logic Pro
- Studio One
There are free DAWs out there that you can consider as well if you are looking to save money. Ableton Live Lite is the free version of Ableton that you can try out. It does have limitations so you’ll want to upgrade it at some point to access all of the features.
In order for you to properly make music, you’ll need to hear audio effectively, and a pair of headphones allows you to do that. Similar to a laptop, headphones are great on the go, meaning you’ll be able to produce music no matter where you are.
Headphones are more cost-effective than studio monitors as well since you won’t have to acoustically treat your room. Another bonus to using headphones is that you won’t disturb others around you as you start working on your songs.
I have a pair of Audio-Technica M50x headphones that I’ve owned for over 8 years, and I would definitely recommend them, but you can check out my guide on the best headphones for music production to figure out which headphones work best for you.
As you gain experience, consider expanding your home studio with items like an audio interface, studio monitors, a MIDI controller, and a microphone.
But for beginners, start with minimal gear to test your interest in music production before investing further.
If you want to learn more, I wrote more in-depth about music production equipment.
How to learn basic music theory?
Knowing the basics of music theory will go a long way. I find that you’re able to make songs much faster if you understand things like how notes and chords work together and how to write melodies. In my case, if I hadn’t been in a band growing up and knew nothing about music, it would have definitely been more difficult for me to know how to make a good-sounding song.
Here’s a video by Guy Michelmore that does a fantastic job of explaining the basics of music theory in 16 minutes: