Making Your Own Electronic Music

Making Your Own Electronic MusicSo, you want to start making your own electronic music?

You’re definitely in the right place. Here I am going to be going through some of the main things you need to consider when you are starting out making your own music.

Contents

Music Hardware vs Software

Which is the best way to make electronic music, hardware or software? By hardware, I mean synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, mixers, etc. Of course, software has been used for many years for sequencing in conjunction with hardware. That’s how a lot of music in the 80s and 90s was made.

But these days you can do everything with software. But should you? It really depends on what you prefer. Some people prefer having physical synthesizers and other equipment because they like the physical control and performance aspect that they offer. They like having buttons to press and knobs to turn.

A good example of this approach is the British duo Orbital. They would tend to have everything set as pre-programmed sequences, with all their different bits of kit all fed into a mixer. They can stop and start the different sequences live and tweak the sounds. Here they are live at Glastonbury Festival in 1994, with what could be considered an early example of trance music:

Or you get people like this guy, who has surrounded himself with lots of synthesizers and is playing live keyboards on top of sequences:

That’s great, but it can be a very expensive route to go down if you end up buying lots of different equipment.

Using a Music Workstation Keyboard

Another option is to get a workstation keyboard, which will enable you to create whole pieces of music using just one piece of kit. Although these workstation keyboards can be expensive in themselves, it is still a far cheaper option than buying many different keyboards and synthesizers.

A great example of this is the Korg Kronos:


Using Electronic Music Production Software

My personal preference is to use software. I have used various different music programs over the years. Some were better than others, but my absolute favorite, which I use now, is Propellerhead Reason:

You can literally do everything in Reason. It is a full electronic music studio in software form. You’ve got software synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and effects, all fed through a fully featured mixer. In all honesty, if music software like this didn’t exist, it would be so much harder to make music. It was this actual software that got me back into making music again after having a break for several years.

Click here to read my review of Reason 8 >>

How to Compose Electronic Music

I must confess, I’m never entirely sure what the best process is for composing music, and maybe that’s a good thing. It means I haven’t settled on a strict formula or routine.

Should you start by composing a tune first and then find cool sounds, or should you find the great sounds first and then see what you can do with them? I’m never quite sure. Sometimes I have composed pieces of music using basic sounds first, then gone back and tried to expand it using awesome sounds. Other times I have built up a bunch of great sounds that work well together and then felt what music would sound best made with those sounds.

These days I tend to just go with the flow. I look for a first sound that inspires me, then I see how things naturally evolve from there. One thing that I nearly always do, though, is I like to play using a MIDI keyboard, rather than draw notes on the screen. It just feels more fluid and natural to me. Of course, I nearly always quantize what I’ve played so that it sounds tight.

I wish I could give you clear step-by-step instructions on how to compose electronic music, but in reality the best way is probably just to start playing around and see what happens. If you have some natural musical ability and a genuine desire to make music, you will find your own way.

How to Mix Electronic Music

Again, with mixing, you can just dive in and start experimenting for yourself. The best way to learn is to do. If you try things and you make mistakes, you will soon learn.

One great thing you can do with software like Reason is you can save the layout of your mixer. This means you can set the various knobs and sliders to what sounds right, save it, then come back later, listen to it again and fine tune your mix. If you do that over and over again, each time you will hear things that you’re not quite happy with and you can keep adjusting until you are happy.

One little tip you might find useful is this, though: bring down all your sliders to silence. Then pick one of your main sounds and slide that up to a moderate level. You can then use this as a reference point as you slide the other channels up one by one and make them fit against the first sound.

Of course, you will want to pan the various channels to different points on the stereo spectrum. Again, play around and get a feel for what sounds good to you. However, you will almost always want to have bass, kick and snare sounds in the middle. All other sounds can be anywhere in the spectrum, but your goal will be to try to create a sense of balance.

How to Share Your Music

One of the best places to share your music is SoundCloud. You can create a free account which gives you up to 3 hours worth of space. If you do join SoundCloud, feel free to follow me.

So there you go, that’s my introduction to making your own electronic music. I hope you found it helpful, but if you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below and I will reply as soon as I can.

All the best,
Marcus.

22 Comments

  1. Mark

    Great page Marcus, loads of info and even a little nostalgia.
    Good luck with your new website, looking forward to new content from you here.
    Mark

    Reply
    1. admin (Post author)

      Thank you, Mark. There will certainly be a lot more content to come.

      Reply
  2. Paul C

    I love that I found this post! I was a music major and play some classical guitar. A little different from the electronic stuff, but I love that just the same.
    Also a great suggestion to use Propellerheads. I used to use Fruity Loops, but this seems a little more in depth. Thanks for a great article and good luck! I’ll be checking back for more!

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thanks, Paul. Well, having a background in classical music certainly won’t do you any harm if you want to progress to making electronic music.

      Reply
  3. Paul C

    I forgot to mention also that I really love how you pointed out how to share your music on this web post. I am addicted to soundcloud and all of the music that is on there. I really enjoyed your Chasing the Rainbow 2 Track and will listen to a couple others.

    Keep up this site, we need more electronic music out there! Best Wishes!

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thanks again, Paul. I’m glad you liked Chasing the Rainbow 2.

      Reply
  4. Cj

    Hi Marcus,

    What I truly like about this post is the contents section in the beginning which shows me exactly what you will be covering and I can skip forward to the part I am interested. Not a lot of sites have that.

    Again, the videos is a big seller for me, especially the fact that it is a music site. People want to hear the music!

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Yes, I think the contents page is a great time saver for people, and the videos allow people to immediately hear what I am talking about.

      Reply
  5. Erik

    Hi Marcus.
    Wow, I can see from your article that you know a lot about making electronic music… I’ ve always wanted to know how they make this kind of music because I’m a big fan. I like dub step and drum & bass the most. I didn’t really know that you need all that equipment. Thanks for sharing.
    Erik

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Thanks, Eric. Glad you found it informative.

      Reply
  6. Boniface

    Hi,
    This is another of your great posts. Making electronic/hardware music as contrasted to software is something all of us who play instruments have to always have to choose.
    my thoughts would be that each has it’s place. For instance, if in a live band a bass guitarist was not available, it’d do more good than harm to play the bass from a computer software/pre-recorded source as long harmony is not compromised. What do you think?

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Yes, using programmed sounds can fill in for live musicians if needed. Basslines are a good example of something that could easily be done this way. So are drums.

      Reply
  7. Tyler Redlev

    Good article on making electronic music.

    I really am in love with music. I always wondered how to make my own music for a while. Playing my own music is not a problem. The problem is recording it and putting into form of sound that we all listen trough our computer.

    This was a good introductory and i must thank you for that! But first of all i think i must get the right equipments first. Some syntheseissers and a music software might be a good start.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      I’m glad you found it helpful. Let me know if you have any more questions or need any extra help.

      Reply
  8. Daniel Lara

    Hey, Marcus! Love your introduction to electronic music and the different alternatives with either going with hardware or software. I am mostly an “acoustic” guy myself, recording and playing mainly stringed instruments. I have dabbled with Fruity Loops and Reason, and I find their interfaces really easy and conductive to making good and interesting music. Nowadays I mainly use Reaper, but either one of these, I believe, is perfectly suitable for starting to create nice stuff.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      It sounds like you have tried many different ways of making music, Daniel. Sometimes that’s the best way to discover what suits you best.

      Reply
  9. Farshid

    Wow, great post and explanation of choices available to make music. I’m not an expert however I agree that making music with software it’s a lot easier than buying a bunch of different equipment for different piece of music. There is no right way or wrong ways making music. Music is about self-expression for people to enjoy. Music is universal language, we play music in joyful times and during sadness. There is studies that have shown if you lesson to music during hard tasks you will perform better. Such as studying, or working on a project. What is your advice for iPad app for music?

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      There are a bunch of free synthesizer apps for the iPad .

      Reply
  10. Mark

    Hi Marcus. I just browsed your site, very nice and informative, and watched some of the videos about drum machines, how to connect a synth to a pc & checked out Propellerhead Reason etc. Reason seems like a cool piece of software. I am an old-school type of musician (guitar) and never got into electronic type of music, however I would like to learn more about recording one day. I enjoyed your sample recordings, they were well done. I have Audacity but never really got into any music software for the sake of recording. I just have one question for you. I have a Roland EP-7II digital piano (It’s older) and was wondering if I used a Midi to USB cable, along with audacity or reason, would that be all I needed to start “experimenting”? You seem to be well versed in this stuff, so I though I’d ask.
    Mark.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      Yes, that would work with Reason, then you could use Audacity for editing the recordings afterwards.

      Reply
  11. King

    Hey Marcus, I really enjoyed this article. I am a music producer as well, and I found the information you provided very accurate and helpful. I especially agree with you on the process of music composition. There’s never just one way of doing things when it comes to music. I feel like producers need to remember this, because more often than not, we tend to get caught up in minutiae.

    Reply
    1. Marcus (Post author)

      That’s very true. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply

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