The majority of Music nowadays is produced digitally. Genres that range from pop, jazz, rock to hip-hop, and primarily electronic music. The idea of having an entire fully functional studio in the palm of your hands will sound absurd 15 years ago but has become a reality. Anyone today can begin to experience what it’s like to compose and formulate music that has the potential to become the next greatest hit.
The fundamentals of music production are relatively simple to understand, but there are just so many options to consider. Even choosing the appropriate software can be troublesome, as it all depends on personal preferences, feature availability, supported operating systems, supported external tools, and ease of use.
Choosing a DAW
A DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is the backbone of digital music production. DAWs are fully featured software that allows a user to have their own studio in the palm of the hands, whether it’s on a laptop or even a phone for that matter, and with only a few gigabytes to spare for a person to transfer their thoughts into brilliant music creatively. Choosing a DAW can be complicated, but there are a few important factors to consider;
Many different DAWs will support the common operating system of Windows and macOS, with some also supporting Linux. Even Apple bundles one for free called Garage Band on both the iPhone and on Macs as well. Apple also provides a professional option called Logic Pro, which has immense capabilities in realms of music production. Windows users also have plenty of options to choose from, but the most common being Fl Studio and Ableton Live. Linux users also have options like Reaper and Bitwig Studio.
Each DAW has its own strengths and weaknesses, different features, different goals, and different use case. Some daws have more features than others, some with more built-in functionality, some with less. Some with more specific features in cases like live performances. Generally, the most important include built-in features like samplers, plugins, sounds, and instruments. Elements can also sometimes vary based on pricing; with more built-in features, the higher the price tier.
Depending on the user’s choice of external instrument recording or internal instrument recording, it is extremely important to check if the DAWs are compatible with plugins. Plugins are extensions to DAWs that serve many purposes like Instrumentation, Vocals, Mixing, Mastering, extensions that aren’t bundled with the original software. Different DAWs utilize a different type of plugin formats. Common ones are AAX, VST, AU, RTAS. The two common DAWs, Fl Studio, and Ableton Live utilize VST plugins, but FL Studio also allows the AU option as well.
The visual appeal of DAWs depends entirely on the user, with each daw having different UIs, it all depends on the users to choose which they prefer, provided that the options have the features they are looking for.
Samples could be in the forms of recorded audio files (WAV, mp3, Ogg), which are recorded sounds of different origins. On the other hand, there are also MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) Samples, which embraces the MIDI standard which are the “building blocks/instructions” given to the software of components like pitch, notations, velocity, vibrato, which can be analyzed by digital instruments and played back. Sample packs are packs of the sample that can be downloaded; some are free, some are paid. Music can sometimes be entirely composed and arranged using external instruments and recording, but nowadays, samples simplify that process with pre-recorded instruments, melodies, chords that can be arranged and manipulated to form music as well. Generally, a mixture of internal samples and externally recorded instruments is the best way to bring humanization to music for genres towards the acoustic side.
Arrangement, Mixing & Mastering
With everything set up and considered, arranging samples into musical form is key in music production. Recording external instruments and applying it to the music is also another bet. DAWs allow the freedom of arranging music to a great extent, with provided plugins or external plugins that can manipulate sounds in the way the users want. DAWs also offer control over tempo, volume, stereo panning, and warping that ensure all the sounds match the music’s tempo. Arranging is one part, but mixing is also another important part. Mixing is a very important part o make sure all of the recorded sounds blend in with each other, considering the dynamics of a track, stereo wideness, and every other factor to make sure all of the tracks, recordings, and sounds are in sync, sounds good and ready for mastering. Parts of mixing will include EQing, Compressing, Limiting, and Gluing. Last but not least, mastering, making sure the track is ready for export or uploading. Mastering can be a complicated process but generally involves finalizing the sound stage, structure, applying compression and saturation, and limiting the track as well as pumping the volume up. Nowadays, many tracks have very little dynamics because of high compression and limiting to push the volume to the max.
On a final note, music production consists of many steps, some simple and some complicated. However, it has never been easier to start producing music. With so many options and things to consider in this realm, the creativity that comes with producing music is endless. Even if a lot of the premium ends of digital audio workstations have a price dedicated to it, it is still an intriguing subject consider, as some provide free-trials or Lite versions. It is a fact that the music world always awaits new passions.