These are the skills you need to be a music producer
Music production is a very challenging field. As a music producer, one needs to be skilled in many areas other than music: creativity, business, management, socials, & marketing, and many more things.
If you’re just starting on your music production journey, you might be a bit overwhelmed with the magnitude of it all. But don’t worry! Take it step by step and day by day, focus on always improving yourself and remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.
There’s five basic categories you’ll need to develop: musical skills, technical skills, people skills, business skills, and develop valuable personality traits.
I’m going to start with the most controversial statement, and get the elephant out of the room right away.
Is music theory an absolute MUST? Definetly no. I know it can be intimidating because of how vast it is. But even a basic knowledge lets you get your ideas down faster and even make better songs. When you know which chord to use and when, it makes the whole writing process a lot easier.
More advaced music theory can also give you more tools to add complex chords and melodic ideas.
The easiest way to start learning is to analyse whatever you just wrote to figure out why it sounds good, with the theory to back it up. Your ear may have just figured out something that sounds right, but being able to associate the sound with the theory gives you more freedom to explore and change things up later, almost like learning a language.
Check out these exersices to get started in learning basic music theory.
Feeling first. Technical stuff second.
Don’t get so caugt up in the technical stuff that you forget music is supposed to make you - and everyone who listens to it- feel something. It will be the dealbreaker when you share what you do and how many people you can impact.
Musicality is all about what music delivers on a deeper level. It’s a soft skill that can be cultivated with time and paying attention both to what you make, what you listen to, and your feelings.
Some of the greatest music ever recorded is played by musicians who lack the technical aspects, but all the techical skill developed with no soul won’t get you very far.
Music producers need to train their ears to be able to recognize what works and what doesn’t in a song.
Actually this skill should've gone at the begining, as this is one of the most important and difficult things to learn as a music producer.
What’s important when training your ears is that you don’t strain yourself or try to cram everything in one day. Accept that this is something that will take time, and commit to a solid 5- 10 minutes a day; short training sessions are the key to see progress and not get frustrated or saturated.
Everyone has rythm - walking, breathing, your heartbeat. Cultivate paying attention to these things and drum along other pieces of music you know and love until you improve.
"You have it or you don't" is a toxic, unproductive mindset - both for rythm and everything in life to ne honest.
Understanding how studio equipment works is a must for music producers. You can always hire or work with audio engineers but a basic understanding of everything is critical for your success.
The absolute most fundamental thing is going to be simple knowledge of how to use a DAW. This is your home where all your music will be created, so the more you study and dominate it the more tools you’ll have at your hand to make your ideas happen.
Arranging a track involves creating tension and release, breaks, fills and transitions between different sections of the track. It’s what makes a song interesting from begining to end.
Learning how to make great arrangements can be one of the more challenging skills to master as a new producer, and this is exactly why you should tackle it sooner rather than later. Learning the basics can be as simple as dragging a reference track into your DAW and copying out their arrangement to study how it was made and why it works (or doesn't work).
Understanding the Mixing puzzle
Mixing is an art. When mixing, it is important to understand balance and giving each part of the mix its moment to shine. Don’t just push the faders up. There are 6 basic elements that need to coexist in balance: Balance, Frequency Range, Panorama, Dimension, Dynamics and Interest.
At the end of the day, music is a people business. In your carreer, you’ll need to work with other artists, managers and teams. It is critical that you ditch the idea that you have to do everything yourself and open up to the oportunities other people will bring into your life.
Communication & team work
Understanding other people’s ideas and communicating your own is critical to succeed in any industry. It is impossible to get anywhere alone.
You’ll often lead projects and will be required to lead others to work as a team. Make sure you respect others and stay honest. Trust and respect are the foundations for any team.
When you finish a track and close your DAW, the work has just begun. You need to get yourself out there. It is normal for music producers - and all artists for that matter - to ignore the business side of music.
To be successfull, business skills are just as important as the other aspects.
Understanding how the industry works, how money flows and how to manage it better are your survival kit if you want to make money as a music producer.
Marketing and branding
You’ll have to learn to market and brand your music so that people identify with and remember your style, your own particular vision, so that they can choose to work with you commercially or buy your beats later.
Don’t be scared! Thankfully the internet is full of learning resources to learn everything you need to get out there and make some money.
Costs and viability
Remember that the hours you put into a project are also a cost! It is so easy to forget this, and it is a crucial thing to keep in mind since music production cannot be commoditized and the work you put in is what makes your music unique and valuable.
At the same time, you’ll need to understand what the maket wants, and stay ahead on trends so that you don’t spend a lot of time on a project that is not commercially viable.
You’ll need to negotiate with clients, managers, third parties on a regular basis. Practice!
Self-growth is a must. Mainly, nothing else that I just mentioned will advance if you’re not in the right headspace and tackle it with the correct approach. Stay proactive, competitive and mind your health.
Discipline and organization
If you’ve read this far I’m guessing you’re interested in developing your skills as a music producer. If you had to choose a single skill to develop from this whole page I hope it is discipline. Discipline is what will set you apart from other producers, what will keep those 10-minute-a-day ear training sessions consistent, what will make you post every day on social media and get noticed, and the overall absolute KEY to true progress in any area.
Cultivating your creativity is very important so that beat block never catches you off guard and stiffles your growth. Know yourself, understand what works best for you and what doesn’t, and keep your mental and physical health as well as you can so that you are in the right place to let your creativity flourish.
Here are some great tips to defeat producer's block and you can always find inspiration in all our sample packs.