Learn how to become a chill-out music producer
You love chill-out music and want to produce a track yourself, but you really don’t know what to do and where to begin. As a beginner you’re most likely troubled by questions like: which equipment do I have to get? What’s the best software? What is a MIDI, and so on. But don’t worry – to become a chill-out music producer is accessible to virtually anyone.
In the text below you will discover what it takes to get you started on creating your own chill-out music production. Read more about the core skills to produce music:
- Your DAW and other gear
- DAWs manual and online tutorials
- Prior knowledge of music theory
- Structure and arrangement
1. to become a chill-out music producer you’ll need a DAW
and some other gear
In order to produce chill-out music on a computer, you’ll need a DAW. DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. Within DAW software it is possible to record and edit audio, apply effects and processing onto audio, employ software representations of classic synthesizers as well as mix and master the resulting music. The DAW has become such a powerful application that some artists create their entire tracks on little more than a laptop. Popular DAWs are Logic Pro, Ableton Live, FL Studio, Cubase and Pro Tools.
Chill-Out Music Experience
a unique 10-day Chill-Out Music Production workshop in Logic Pro in the ultimate chill-out environment of Andalusia – Spain, featuring Martin “Youth” Glover
There is no objectively best DAW. Each program has its own unique layout and features. With their constant upgrade patterns that consistently introduce new features, it would be misleading to recommend one specific DAW. Your technical skills, budget and needs will determine which fits your situation best. Having said that, Logic Pro is a good DAW for chill-out music production, offering plenty of features.
There is plenty of so called non-essential gear, like studio monitors, microphone, plugins, and so on. Although they seriously can help you to produce, they aren’t essential, although mixing on studio monitors is preferred over mixing on headphones, providing you have reasonably acoustics in your production environment. A lot depends on your personal plan and budget.
Of course you don’t want to waste money on gear you may never use. My advice: you need at least a high-quality pair of headphones and a MIDI keyboard. MIDI is short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI is a standardized language that allows communication between electronic instruments and computers, among others. Every time you hit a key on your keyboard, it is recorded on your computer. That recording contains information about how hard you pressed the key and pitch (the note that you play). This information can trigger software instruments which turn the MIDI notes into sound.
2. Creating a chill-out music production using DAWs manual and tutorials
After having installed your DAW, you have to learn how to use it. The best way to do that is to read your DAW’s manual or look at tutorial videos of the manufacturer for starters. Often, DAWs include demo-projects which you can play and analyze to get to know the structure of the program. Moreover you can search YouTube for online video courses and tutorials, which can include examples that you can try to replicate while you watch them.
One thing you must remember while watching tutorials is to see them not as a specific guide on how to make music, but as a tool that will help you understand how to interact with your DAW. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube; you might even be surprised to find some interesting and inspiring guides which may be helpful and useful for your style of production.
Maybe you’ve learned some techniques and ideas from online tutorials, but you still don’t understand how all techniques fit together. Maybe sometimes you feel overwhelmed, confused or even discouraged. Let me tell you this: to make progress in producing your own tracks, you have to learn and develop the right skills and put concepts into practice, over and over. A good music production amounts to much more than spending a few days with a video tutorial. To move to the next level, you need to be fluent in some fundamental concepts. This all takes time to learn and time to practice.
By lack of these fundamentals for learning to produce music with your DAW, you probably might develop bad habits and split your attention between too many different areas of production. To become successful as a music producer, first of all it helps to be fluent in the most fundamental concepts. To gain basic understanding of producing music, it’s advisable to acquire more knowledge about:
- Music theory
- Structure & arrangement
3. To become a chill-out music producer you have to gain prior knowledge of music theory
In the world of music production, people do not entirely agree with the benefit of music theory. Some will insist that music theory is a fundamental tenet of a balanced music production. On the other hand, some believe that learning music theory does not make one a better producer and inhibits creativity.
I think some prior knowledge of music theory can be helpful for any producer looking to create and produce music, although there are also producers who can’t read musical notes at all and still make amazing and successful productions. Still, some basic music theory knowledge can bring you faster to the next level of composing truly professional tracks.
Beneath all the enormously different styles of electronic music, even within the chill-out music genre, lie certain fundamentals of the musical language that are exactly the same, no matter what kind of music you write. It is important to acquire an understanding of these fundamentals. Knowing the prior principles of the music language will find yourself making progress toward understanding and using these fundamentals.
The result will be an improvement in your ability to write and produce your own original tracks. When you do know music theory you have tools and strategies to write catchier melodies, extand your chord progression and make it more complex. Understanding music theory opens up new pathways and allows for confidence, control and creative freedom. Knowing music theory will speed up everything.
Important principles in grasping the ideas of music theory concern octaves, musical keys, scales (major and minor scales), rhythmical patterns, basic chord structures and harmony (the progression from one chord to the next).
4. Creating and arranging your track
After getting familiar with your DAW, I advice you to start making your first track. Get creative and experiment. This way you really get to know your DAW. Producing music starts with an idea, whether outlined or not. Unless you already know what you want to create, it might be a good idea to analyze some of your favourite artist’s productions to see what elements are involved and how it’s been produced.
Finally, in this phase it’s about creating your core ideas, like the atmosphere you want to create and what your track will be about. This can be expressed through melodies, soundscapes, drum sounds, vocal phrases, chord progressions, samples and so on. But people don’t want to listen to a cluster of random musical ideas. That’s why you have to give structure to your ideas and arrange them into something consumable.
Arranging can be defined as the process of transforming a collection of musical ideas into a complete track. It can involve everything from writing harmonies, adding different instruments, re-arranging parts, removing parts, and so on. The “arrangement” is the final product of all the parts coming together.
arranging in Logic Pro
5. Mixing your track
After arranging your track you have to mix it. Audio mixing is the process of turning a multitrack production into a final mono, stereo or surround sound product. The tracks are blended together by using various processes such as equalization, compression and adding reverb, delay and other effects. The aim is to sculpt your arrangement to make sense of all your tracks in relation to each other.
mixing in Logic Pro
Audio mixing techniques largely depend on music genres and the quality of sound recordings involved. With the introduction of audio workstations and software mixers with limitless routing and bus options, the once humble mixer has developed into a sound design tool in its own right. The mixer is fundamentally employed to mix together any number of tracks created in the workstation. The option to employ and organize any number of effects in series of chains has opened up a complete new area of sound mangling options that often play a central role in the creations of some genres.
6. Mastering your first track
Finally you have to master your track. The mastering stage enhances the mixdown and prepares it for distribution. This final step applies many of the same tools and techniques as mixing. You’re not looking for big creative flourishes here, or trying to alter the inherent sonics of the track.
The aim of mastering is to balance sonic elements of a stereo mix and optimize playback across all systems and media formats. Traditionally, mastering is done using tools like equalization, multiband compression, limiting and stereo enhancement.
The ultimate purpose of mastering is to make the sound as good as possible by correcting possible mix-problems and enhancing the overall sound of the mix. Essentially, a mastered track should sound like it always did, only better.
mastering in Logic Pro
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A unique 10-day Chill-Out Music Production workshop in Logic Pro in the ultimate chill-out environment of Andalusia – Spain, featuring Martin “Youth” Glover.
Author: Mark de Jong
Creative Director and Head Lecturer of Sound University Europe