So, you've finally decided you want to get into EDM production. You probably have a ton of questions. That's why to start your journey, we'll start by answering the most common questions about how to make electronic dance music. Welcome to the beginner's guide to EDM production!
Q: How hard is it to produce EDM?
EDM might seem like it's hard to learn, but not if you have the right tools (that work for you) and the right guidance. One good EDM production course or time with an experienced mentor can make everything so much easier. you can definitely learn on your own, it will just take more time to do. Making electronic music is really not that hard if you understand the basics. After that, it's up to you and your creativity.
Q: How do I start learning EDM production
Start by making a list of your top 5 favorite producers, and your favorite 3-5 songs by those producers. This will help you understand the type of music you want to make and what you think sounds good. The next step is to pick a DAW (digital audio workstation) and learn its basics. Then, get some basic equipment like headphones or speakers, and a midi keyboard. Even if all you have is a laptop, it's enough to get started.
Q: Should I take an EDM production course?
Courses can be super helpful to make your learning time shorter and give you all the information you need in one place, especially start to finish style EDM courses. if you enjoy learning on your own, then the best way to learn is to just mess around with the software and your keyboard. If you want a more structured way to learn, then a course can be a great way to learn fast.
Q: do i need expensive equipment to make electronic music?
Not at all. You can make music with a decent laptop and a pair of earbuds. Don't listen to anyone that says you need to have certain gear to make EDM. It's just not true.
Q: Do I need music theory to make EDM?
Music theory is not necessary for EDM production, but it would be nice to have. Knowing music theory would make it easier to come up with ideas, chord progressions and melodies. That being said, you can still make amazing music without music theory. In fact, many big name producers don't know music theory, so don't worry too much about it unless it's something you enjoy and want to learn more about.
If you have anymore questions, please leave them in the comments.
Now that the questions are out of the way, let's go through the steps involved in making electronic dance music.
step 0: your story
I remember when I first wanted to get into EDM production. My brother had introduced me to electronic music and one day, he played a song by Deadmau5 called "I Remember." It was love at first listen. I was hooked and I kept listening to that song over and over again. then, I looked up Deadmau5 and listened to every song he ever made.
At that point in my life, I had already been into music. I was a singer in high school and later really got into rap and hip-hop. I even won an award for best hip hop/rap song of the year on a really old website that had music charts and voting. I had made the beat for that song myself using loops and a program called Sony Acid, now called Acid Pro. So, I had some experience with making beats, but nothing to write home about.
After hearing Deadmau5, I wanted to listen to more of that type of music. I started finding similar artists and more electronic music. Then, I started reading about the genre. What is electronic music? What is EDM? How is it made? I knew about loops and samples but I had no idea you could sit in front of a computer and compose entire arrangements from scratch and make them sound amazing.
After that, I immersed myself in EDM production. I went on forums and started asking questions, lots of questions. I also spent 4-6 hours a day messing with music production software (DAWs), learning how to play the keyboard, and just messing around.
...and that's it. That's my story. That's how I got into EDM production.
Your homework is to find your story. Think of it like a superhero origin story. Your story will help you understand why you want to make EDM and will help keep you motivated and focused throughout your learning journey. You can also use this story like an artist bio when you release songs and build a following.
You can also include a list of your top 3-5 artists that inspired you along with your favorite 3-5 songs for each artist. This will help you identify your genre and style.
action step: tell your story
Take a few minutes to think about your story. Write it down somewhere so you can go back to it whenever you need to. Don't overthink it. Write it like you would a post on Facebook or Instagram. Scribble it on a piece of paper or even just record a video of yourself and make that your story.
Here's a template to make things even easier:
- What are your musical origins? Were you a singer? Guitarist? Part of a choir?
- What was the event that made you want to learn EDM production?
- Make a list of your top 3-5 producers
- For each producer, make a list of your top 3-5 songs
step 1: The DAw (digital audio workstation)
Now that you've got your story down, the first official step to learning EDM production is getting to know what a DAW is. What is a DAW?
DAW stands for digital audio workstation and is the software you'll use to make music with. Back in the day, you needed tape machines, cables, compressors and EQ units, and other expensive hardware to make music. Today, all of that has been replaced by software. Mainly, it's been replaced by one piece of software, the DAW.
A DAW is where you brainstorm your musical ideas, create arrangements, compose melodies, and everything in between. It's your musical command center and probably the most important part of EDM production.
There are lots of DAWs to choose from and each will have a unique set of features and workflow. It can be a little confusing when choosing the DAW that's right for you. What you need to know while doing your research is that all DAWs basically do the same things. They just do it in their own unique way.
The one you choose will depend mainly on your budget and how much time you're willing to dedicate to learning. Some DAWs are easier to use than others while others have more features (more features don't necessarily mean better).
SO which DAWs is the best for producing EDM? That will depend mainly on your budget. At the end of the day, they all do the same thing. Here are my top 3 recommendations including pros and cons for each DAW.
660$ for full version
Of course, these are not the only DAWs out there. There are more affordable options like Reaper and Mixcraft, and other very good ones like Studio One and Cubase. The ones listed above are the most popular DAWs used by EDM producers.
action step: Choose Your dAW
Take your time choosing a DAW. Many offer free trials so make sure you try them all out before making a decision. Once you commit to one DAW, it becomes harder to switch so don't rush. if you have any questions about a specific DAW you can contact their support team and/or leave a comment below.
Here's are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a DAW
- What is your budget?
- Is EDM production just a hobby or are you really serious about it?
- Do you enjoy collecting gear or are you OK with whatever is included in the software?
step 3: learn the basics
While learning how to make EDM, you'll come across a lot of terms and things you might not understand or be familiar with. Don't worry, that's completely normal and nothing to be worried about.
I put together a list of the most common terms and definitions in EDM production. I've tried to make them simple and easy to understand to avoid any confusion. Let me know if I missed something in the comments.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW):
- Definition: A computer program that helps you make music. It lets you record, edit, and put together different sounds to create songs.
- Popular examples: Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro, Cubase, Reason.
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface):
- Definition: It's like a language that lets electronic musical instruments and computers talk to each other. It helps you control virtual instruments and make them play the notes you want.
- MIDI controllers: Special keyboards, drum pads, and other devices that send the right signals to make sounds.
- Definition: They are like digital versions of real musical instruments or synthesizers. You can use them on your computer to make melodies, chords, and different sounds.
- Examples: Native Instruments Massive, Serum, Sylenth1, FM8. Each DAW also comes with its own virtual instruments so you don't need to buy more (unless you really want to).
- Definition: It's a tool that lets you record and play back sounds. You can use it to put pre-recorded sounds, like drums or voices, into your music.
- Often used for creating unique drum patterns and adding interesting sounds to your tracks.
- Definition: It's a machine or computer program that helps you make drum sounds and put them together in a rhythm. You can make all sorts of electronic drum sounds with it.
- Often used to create the beat and rhythm of EDM tracks.
- Definition: It's an instrument that can make many different sounds by changing its settings. You can use it to create simple or complex sounds, like the ones you hear in EDM music.
- Types: Analog synthesizers (hardware), virtual synthesizers (software).
- Definition: It's a tool that helps you organize and arrange your musical ideas. You can use it to put the right notes and sounds in the right places to create your EDM tracks.
- Helps you create the structure and flow of your music.
- Definition: They are tools that change how your sounds and music sound. You can use them to make your sounds bigger, add echo or reverb, or make them sound different in many ways.
- Examples: Reverb, delay, EQ, compression, distortion, chorus.
Mixing and Mastering:
- Definition: Mixing is like putting all the different sounds and instruments in your song together and making them sound good together. Mastering is the last step where you make your whole song sound polished and good on any sound system.
These simplified definitions should make it easier for beginners to understand the basic concepts of EDM production.
action step: Learn the basics inside your DAW
In the previous step, you should have done some research about DAWs and picked one that best suits you. Now it's time to learn the basics of how that DAW works and get an understanding of how to use it to make and EDM track.
Each DAW comes with a manual that explains all its parts and how they work. YouTube is also super helpful here. Search something like "[your DAWs name] basics," or "intro to [your DAW]" on YouTube and get to know your DAW.
step 4: start (and finish) a new edm track
Ready to start having some fun? There's nothing to be afraid of here, you're just going to start making an actual EDM track that's all :p
So how do you actually start an EDM track from scratch? Do you use loops? Start with a vocal? Do you need to compose the whole thing from scratch? the answer to all those questions can be either yes or no. Confusing right? Not at all!
That's actually a good thing because it means there are no rules and you can do whatever you want. But, if you're like most people that might mean sitting in front of a blank screen for hours, and that's the last thing we want. I want you to get excited and start making music right now.
That's why I'm going to show you the quickest and easiest way to start (and finish) a new EDM track. it's such a simple process and will make your life so much easier. Here's my simple 3 step formula to making your first (or next) EDM track:
- 1Find and download or purchase a song that you really like from one of your favorite producers. Remember that list I had you do earlier? Now is the time to use it.
- 2Put that song inside your DAW on its own channel
- 3Follow along and recreate the arrangement of the song just using your own sounds, melodies, chord progressions, and samples.
Thats it! It's such a simple process.
You don't need to recreate the wheel. Every genre has a structure to it, specific sounds and vibe. That's what makes each genre unique. You're not inventing a new genre, you're using a song from that genre kind of like training wheels until you're confident enough to do things on your own.
The song you use for training wheels is known as a reference track.
I actually have a completely free workshop showing you exactly how to use a reference track to start and finish your own in 2 hours or less. Check it out it's really cool! It's a video course and I've included the Ableton Live project (I use Ableton Live), sounds and samples completely free.
By using a reference track and following the steps shown in the free workshop, you'll make producing EDM tracks much easier and faster.
step 5: mixing your edm track
The next stage in EDM production is mixing. Mixing is the process of making all the different sounds in your EDM track work together and sound good. This is done using effects like EQ, compression, distortion, reverb, delay and other effects.
You'll find tons of videos, courses and tutorials online about mixing EDM tracks, and many of them are great. Some of them are great but many of them try to make mixing more confusing than it actually is.
When mixing, it's important to stay focused and always have a reason for doing something. It's all about using tools and effects to make things sound the way you have them in your head. Don't worry about buying expensive plugins or gear. Everything you need is already inside your DAW.
You'll probably also come across discussions about digital vs analog, hardware vs software. Ignore all of it.
I'm telling you this because I've seen so many producers waste their time worrying about the plugins they use instead of learning the actual skills needed to mix EDM tracks. I don't want you to make the same mistake.
Here is a simple approach to mixing to get you started.
1. Start by organizing your tracks in your DAW to see everything clearly
Keeping your projects clean and organized is super important when making EDM tracks. It will also make you feel more confident and professional. Here are some things you can do to stay organized:
- Group your instruments. Put all your drums into a drums group, synths into a synths group, vocals in a vocal group etc... Each DAW will have a different way of doing this but the idea is to group your instruments in a way that makes sense for you.
- Give each group a different color. This will keep things clean and make it easy to find the sounds you're looking for.
- Name each sound and instrument. This might sound obvious but many producers skip this step and end up wasting time looking for sounds in their projects.
2. Adjust the volume levels of each track so that you can hear all the sounds without any overpowering others
It's so easy to get lost in all the effects and plugins when you're just starting out. That's why it's always better to keep things simple. All you have to do to start the mixing process is make sure you can hear all the sounds and instruments.
Make sure nothing competes with anything else and that you can hear all the different parts of the song. That's it. No effects or plugins just yet.
3. Focus on the most important elements first, like the kick drum and bass
4. Pay attention to the other instruments and sounds in your track
5. Use effects like reverb and delay to add space and dimension
6. Use reference tracks from professional producers (just like we did for the arrangement) as a guide
Once you're satisfied with the way your mix sounds, you can move on to the mastering stage. Remember, take your time with the mix. Use the effects and plugins that already come with your DAW and don't get distracted with shiny gear or expensive plugins that people say you need to have.
step 6: mastering your edm track
Mastering is the final stage of making sure you track is ready to be released to the world. May people think mastering and EDM just means putting some EQ and compression. That's not true though.
Mastering involves anything you need to do to make sure your song is ready to be released on streaming services, radio, clubs, CDs and anywhere else you plan to make it available. That can include:
If you did a good job with your mixing, then mastering should be pretty easy to do. Again, don't worry getting expensive gear or plugins, you don't need them. You can make your tracks sound amazing no matter what plugins or gear you have.
So how do you decide which plugins and effects to use and the order to use them when mastering an EDM track? Here's a basic approach to mastering an EDM that works really well.
- 1Listen and take notes. This should always be the first step of the mastering process. Have a pen and paper ready, listen to your track from start to finish and write down what you think could be fixed or improved.
- 2After listening, ask yourself - is there an overall EQ balance issue? Is the track too bright? Is it too dark? Does it sound thin or bloated? This should be the first thing you address. Use broad EQ moves to rebelance the track. A shelf EQ is a great way to rebalance the frequencies during mastering.
- 3Use subtle compression to glue everything together. Remember, this is not mixing. You need to be gentle with compression during mastering. The goal of the compressor is to smooth out any dramatic volume changes in the track and make sure that everything sounds cohesive. Here are some good basic settings to use: Attack: 30ms, Release: Auto or 100ms, Ratio: 4:1, Knee: experiment, Threshold: this will depend on the track, adjust the threshold until you're getting between 2-5dB of gain reduction.
- 4Check the stereo/mono balance. If your track sounds too narrow, you could use some subtle stereo widening to make the track sound wider. Be careful though, overdoing this can cause phasing and make your track sound weird on club systems. Always make sure the low frequencies (anything below about 150Hz) stays completely mono.
- 5Use saturation to control peaks and/or add some subtle distortion and harmonics to your track. Again, you need to be very careful when doing this during mastering. It's very easy to ruin your entire track if you overdo saturation. If you added enough distortion and saturation during mixing then you can even skip this step.
- 6Adjust the loudness of your track using a limiter. How loud your EDM track should be will depend on a number of things. Some record labels have a specific loudness requirement. Some DJs will want tracks at a certain loudness for the club.
As you can see, there's a lot involved when producing EDM. It can feel overwhelming, and sometimes it is. Just remember that you're doing it because you love and enjoy doing it.
How long it will take you to learn EDM production will depend on how much time you're willing to dedicate and also who's teaching you. Your job is to find someone who explains things in a way that's simple and easy to follow.
Also, stay clear from people who tell you to buy expensive gear or plugins. You don't need those to make amazing music. All you need is your creativity and knowledge of basic production techniques. With time and practice, you'll get to the level you want to be.
Let me if this article was useful in the comments section.