So, 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.
- Music Hardware vs Software
- Using a Music Workstation Keyboard
- Using Electronic Music Production Software
- How to Compose Electronic Music
- How to Mix Electronic Music
- How to Share Your Music
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:
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.
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
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,