Music production is the process of writing, recording, and manipulating music for distribution. Every song you’ve ever heard has gone through this process of music production.
Music is produced nearly every second. On Spotify alone, 60,000 new tracks are uploaded every day. This implies that approximately 22 million tracks are uploaded to Spotify each year.
Of course, not all songs are popular or even known. Some songs have an extremely niche following, if any at all. To know how songs are made, what makes them popular, and how to produce the most impactful music, you should understand the mechanics of the music industry.
Music production encompasses the entire life cycle of a piece of music. It’s a multistage process that includes the conception of an idea, songwriting, composition, recording music, mixing, and mastering. While the process may seem long and daunting, knowing what happens at each stage can help start your music production journey.
This article is for anyone who is still a beginner in their music career. It’s a one-stop tutorial to help get you started in the music production process.
- Music production overview
- The work of a music producer
- The music production process
- Is music production hard?
- Common music production apps
Music production overview
Music production is both creative and technical. The creative aspects include coming up with an idea, writing lyrics, and composing. The technical side of the process includes leveraging the right apps and software like Logic Pro X and Pro Tools 12 for recording, editing, and distributing music.
It’s a long and multifaceted process that requires effective project management and leadership skills. The aim is to bring together multiple stakeholders and processes to create a final product.
The production process can roughly be divided into three parts: songwriting, production, and publishing. Songwriting is the most creative piece of the entire process. It involves conceptualizing the song, writing down the lyrics, and composing.
This is also the most critical stage for the singer, DJ, or band. A good piece of music that will become popular needs to have the right mix of a catchy melody and captivating lyrics.
The next stage of the process is production. This broadly defined term involves everything from recording and editing to mixing and mastering. At this stage, multiple stakeholders come into the picture, such as producers and other technical staff like engineers, who can help. In addition, an increasing number of tools like Avid can be found online to manage the technical aspects of the production under one roof. For example, Charlie Puth recorded and produced 12 out of 13 songs on his second album using software and a MIDI keyboard.
The last stage of the process is publishing the music. This can be particularly difficult if you’re new to the industry. Building your network by attending conferences and events and approaching publishers who work with your style and type of music can make the process easier.
Finding the right publisher takes considerable time and effort, but distributing your music well increases the chance of commercial success. Persevere through all the rejections, as you never know which publisher will give you a lucky break.
The work of a music producer
A producer brings together the various requirements of the music production process. They combine the necessary creative talent, resources, external stakeholders, and software to ensure that the music production process is streamlined and efficient.
Producers oversee the project in real time and manage the logistics and budgets. The role of the producer involves but isn’t limited to:
- Running recording sessions. The first role of a producer is to book, and provide other logistical help with, recording sessions. Depending on the schedule and production budget, a producer books the session and ensures that everyone follows the overall production workflow.
Apart from logistical help, a producer may provide creative advice to the artist and technical advice to the recording engineers. For example, a producer may ask the musician to change their delivery and give input on the technical choices made by the engineer.
Producers leverage their vision, expertise within a specific genre of music, and network to ensure that all stakeholders’ inputs align to create a final product.
Recording sessions lay the foundation for the rest of your music production process, so make sure you follow these recording tips for top-notch audio.
- Rearranging compositions. Arrangement determines the flow of the song from start to finish. It includes the intro, verse, buildup, chorus, breakdown, drops, and the outro. Getting the arrangement of the song right is perhaps one of the most essential skills to finesse as a producer. You should decide which tracks are the most important and build a framework around them.
Producers leverage their knowledge about various genres like hip-hop and indie pop and arrange compositions accordingly. Rearranging a composition occurs through multiple reiterations, and determines the structure of the song. Instead of deciding what to include, start with the process of elimination and work with what remains.
- Providing a clear vision for the project. Producers must have a coherent and holistic idea of the final product. Then, they communicate this idea to all the stakeholders involved and eventually execute the project. Producers must have excellent communication and leadership skills to ensure they bring out the best in everyone involved in the production process.
- Mixing and mastering the audio. Mixing and mastering are complementary processes that occur toward the end of production. It requires considerable technical knowledge, such as a firm grasp of audio engineering. Even minute changes or modifications can dramatically impact the final music piece’s tone, sound, and message.
As the name suggests, mixing involves taking the individual components of a music piece, such as the artist’s voice track and the instruments, and combining them into a condensed product. Again, the record producer must be proficient with the mixing process technicalities to ensure that the individual aspects complement each other.
Mastering is the last stage of the production process. It helps create the final song in a format that will be ready for distribution. Simply put, mastering is the process of fine-tuning and polishing the music. If the producer lacks technical prowess to help with mixing and mastering, they should have a strong sound design team and network of professionals who can help.
Looking for work as a music producer? Sign up for Upwork and connect with clients looking for your skills and expertise today.
The music production process
While we’ve discussed the general process of music production, it’s important to know each stage in greater detail. This is because the traditional boundaries between the artist or talent and the producer are increasingly blurred.
For example, producers can also help with ideating and writing songs. So, it’s good practice for everyone involved in music production to understand each stage in the music production process.
1. Define ideas for the song
The first stage of the process is conceptualizing the ideas for your music production. Needless to say, discovering musical ideas is the most creative part of the production process. This is perhaps the least prescriptive component, as it depends entirely on your expertise and genre. Apart from the creative component, the most crucial aspect of this stage is to ensure that stakeholders are on the same page about the song and idea.
You can also take help from lyricists, composers, and top-line writers to flesh out the details of your song. Ensure that the stakeholders you decide to work with have the right expertise or network for the genre of music you’re producing.
You can hire highly-rated freelance songwriters from Upwork. Our platform’s songwriters cover a range of styles and genres and can make your workflow more convenient.
2. Start recording
Recording audio tracks is one of the most significant production components. It translates the written lyrics into an actual song.
At this stage, the dynamic between the producer and artist is critical, as both need to work together to ensure the recording process is successful. You’ll most likely record using a digital audio workstation (DAW), which helps with editing, mixing, and mastering.
3. Cut and edit
How you decide to cut, arrange, and edit a song is subjective and depends on what you think the audience will like. It also depends on the song’s genre, as the lyrics or vocals must complement the song’s rhythm, melody, and harmony. Moreover, you might need external help from sound engineers to assist with this process.
Over 3,000 clients have used Upwork to hire independent sound engineers, with an average rating of 4.9. Explore the best sound engineers for your production process.
The primary aim at this stage is to get the recording to sound as nice as possible. However, keep in mind that excessive editing can take away from the song’s core. While the right amount of editing depends on your vision for the song, don’t overdo it.
4. Mix the recorded material
The individual tracks and vocals are combined with instruments to create a final multitrack recording. Again, while the mixing is subjective and depends on the music genre, a good mix will allow the audience to listen to each instrument clearly and in detail. The instrumental backdrop should complement the lyrics and vocals to create a coherent final product.
5. Do the final mastering
Audio mastering is the last stage in the production process. It involves fine-tuning, polishing, and correcting any minor issues with the song. Any mistakes that were missed in the mixing stage are corrected here. So, the mastering engineer should have extreme attention to detail and possess the right tools and skills to polish the song, making it ready for publication.
Mastering is vital if you’ve used multiple recording studios, producers, or engineers to make a song or an album. The involvement of various stakeholders might cause differences in the sound of each song in the album, making mastering essential.
Is music production hard?
Music production is both a challenging and complex process. It involves multiple stages, each of which requires expertise.
While people can produce their own music, it’s rare. You might be a great vocalist or lyricist, but you could compromise your entire music piece if you don’t possess the right skills for mixing and mastering.
Additionally, the entire production process requires superior communication and collaboration between multiple stakeholders. So, scheduling all the stages of music production and ensuring synergy between multiple stakeholders can be challenging, especially if you’re doing it alone.
Upwork has a large network of independent music producers. Reach out to a producer of your choice today to streamline the music production process.
Common music production apps
Thanks to improvements in technology and emerging apps, music production has never been easier. There are a variety of apps you can use to produce music. Just make sure to consider factors like your operating system, the technical sophistication required, and your budget.
GarageBand is a great digital audio workstation because of its accessibility. It’s free and available on all iOS devices, allowing anyone with an Apple device to experiment with music production. It’s also versatile, as it allows recording and editing while providing sophisticated features other DAWs offer. Lastly, the user-friendly user interface makes it ideal for beginners.
BandLab allows you to create, edit, and share music. It focuses on the “social aspects” of making music, such as giving feedback to each other and collaborating with people. Similar to GarageBand, BandLab is free, making it accessible and an excellent choice for beginners. There’s a built-in drum machine, and you can plug in a MIDI controller to start making instrumental tracks.
Logic Pro X is one of the gold standards of digital audio workstations and is used by many producers in the music industry. Logic Pro was created by Apple and is exclusively available on macOS. It includes a MIDI sequencer, Dolby Atmos, and Spatial Audio for enhanced sound. Logic Pro X provides excellent value as an all-in-one DAW with plenty of effects and instruments.
Pro Tools is a digital audio workstation available on both Windows and macOS. Pro Tools was developed and released by Avid Technology and has become a mainstay in the world of music production. Pro Tools allows you to create and edit audio for music, games, films, and broadcast production. However, Pro Tools isn’t available as a one-time purchase; you’ll have to pay for a monthly subscription.
If you want more options, you can find some of the best software for music production in this in-depth guide.
Mix it up
Every song, album, or music piece you’ve heard has gone through the arduous music production process. It’s a multistage and multifaceted process that requires expertise and collaboration between various stakeholders.
A music producer is responsible for bringing together the resources and talent required to create music successfully. An experienced producer starts with a vision and ensures everyone in the record label works toward a common goal.
As an artist, you might have the creative talent required to record a fantastic song; however, your music might never make it to the public without technical guidance and genre-specific expertise.
Upwork is home to a wide variety of independent music producers. You can browse through multiple listings to find the best music producer for your requirements or genre.
Get This Article as a PDF
For easy printing, reading, and sharing.