This guide was written by Glen Parry. If you think you have what it takes to be a contributor to The Music Entrepreneur HQ, you can check out our guest post guidelines here.
If you’re thinking about getting into electronic music, you will love what Glen has to share with us.
Note: This post contains affiliate links for some products. If you purchase through these links, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Electronic music production has exploded over the last decade. The exponential growth of computational power has lowered the barrier of entry to the point where almost anyone with a laptop can be a professional producer.
With the falling barrier to entry, the number of people making electronic music has increased. This has resulted in the rise of different genres and styles. Due to the sheer volume of quality tracks, electronic music has gained the momentum required to propel it into the mainstream.
This guide will show you exactly what you need to get your first taste of producing your own electronic song.
In summary, here’s what you’ll need:
- MIDI controller (optional)
I’ll be sharing about each of these components.
1. Your Computer
You’ll be creating your electronic music in a piece of software called a DAW (digital audio workstation). Naturally, you’re going to need hardware to run it.
I expect most of you already own a computer, and chances are, it will be completely adequate for getting you up and running.
If you’re curious, the specs I’d look for in a good production computer are as follows:
- 16 GB of Ram
- 2.5 GHz clock speed
- 1 TB storage
- At least 2 USB ports
Recommended option: Dell Inspiron 5000
When you are just learning, the computer of choice isn’t as crucial as professionals who demand more from their machines. However, if you will be purchasing a computer specifically for music production, I recommend purchasing something with a little runway in terms of specs (see the list above).
If possible, the bigger the screen, the better! I personally produce on an iMac and really benefit from the additional screen space.
Unfortunately, this will usually be the biggest expense for most of those looking to get started. Don’t sweat it if you aren’t in a position to get a new computer. Use what you have – chances are, it will be more than you need!
2. Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
The DAW is the most important piece of equipment (or software) you’ll need. It’s where all the magic is going to happen.
A DAW is a piece of software that lets you record, arrange, mix and master all your tracks.
Here’s an example of what it looks like:
There are a number of options available when it comes to choosing your DAW. The main players in the electronic world are:
Frankly, any of the above will do just fine. If you had the ability to choose any of the above, I’d highly recommend Ableton. It’s quickly becoming the industry standard (primarily due to workflow) when it comes to producing electronic music.
If you don’t want to make the initial investment, the following options will give you a flavor of the real thing:
For your interest, you will primarily be using two different types of audio information in your DAW: audio files and MIDI information.
The MIDI information will be used to control virtual studio technology plugins (or VSTs for short). In the beginning, the VSTs will do most of the heavy lifting in terms of creating your sounds.
The audio information, for your kick drum for example, will come from bundles called sample packs. Finding quality samples is a skill in itself and isn’t something you will need to worry about in the beginning.
All of the DAWs listed above come with a complete set of stock VSTs, sample libraries, and mixing plugins.
At first, you will have everything you need to make a complete track. As you improve as a producer, you will need to begin to upgrade from the stock plugins.
Headphones are another crucial tool of the trade. When you are just beginning, you can go ahead and use whatever headphones you have (as long as they cost more than $20).
I don’t advise using the stock speakers of your laptop computer. It’s very important to accurately hear your instruments and audio files. It will become more crucial as you advance, but even beginners should pay attention to the balance of each element in their track.
As soon as you’re able, you’re going to want to upgrade to an entry-level set of mixing headphones. The volume level of each track in your song will be difficult to balance without a set of half-decent headphones.
My recommendation: Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
You will inevitably see more advanced producers using monitor speakers to listen to their tracks. If you have the means, there is nothing wrong with picking up a pair. Just be aware that you will also have to purchase an audio interface, as well as some acoustic treatment for your room. Not crucial for beginners.
4. MIDI Controller
As I mentioned above, a lot of the instruments you will be using will be controlled using MIDI information. The easiest way to control these VSTs will be through the use of a MIDI keyboard.
They are essentially the same as a regular keyboard, but they only output MIDI data instead of sound.
They are fairly budget-friendly and will make a big difference in your ability to control your instruments. If you have any musical background, I highly recommend it.
My recommendation: AKM320 midiplus MIDI Keyboard Controller
Here’s another great guide for helping you select your MIDI controller:
There are ways to get around buying a MIDI controller. You can control all your instruments in your DAW by either using your keyboard or drawing in the individual MIDI notes.
I know many producers who don’t use a MIDI controller, so you don’t necessarily need one. It will just take a little more effort on your part to learn the ropes.
That includes all you need to know to start producing electronic music! It’s very possible to get started for under $200 (assuming you already have a laptop). It’s even possible to start making your own music with free programs and plugins!
I recommend just getting started no matter your budget. You can always save up and upgrade your equipment down the road.
Producing electronic music is always a creatively fulfilling, and sometimes addictive, process. I’ll highly recommend it to anyone who will listen. I hope this article has provided you the basic information you need to get the ball rolling. I’ll be happy to answer any specific questions in the comment section below.
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