How to start a career in making music and succeed

General guidelines to career in music production

Music is everywhere. Even where there is no sound because music is not just the played notes or generated sounds but also the pockets of silence between what is being played. Hence, it a combination of calculated sounds + silence(OR only silence if you consider it music which i positively do 😊). Everyone have their calling in their life. Some turn out to be amazing architects, some incredible swimmers, some very good spiritualist healers and a set of people decide to make music. Those who wish to make music certainly stumbles upon and think at one point in life or another about how to start a career in music and succeed.

The “What” of this question lies within you, your music but “How” surely bugs so many of us. And today with a fast moving life, we just eventually find ourselves in need of a sure-short way and a roadmap to do whatever we want to do. While it is not very simple to layout the exact steps because things do not always go as you planned but there is still a good overview and a checkpoint list which you can follow to enter the music industry and eventually succeed in it.

In my quest to make a living with music, i found the following points to be the sequence, which i could confirm with myself and make sense when i look at the starting point and where i am at right now. Some points will look obvious but they are true and important nonetheless. Take a look and see where you stand. If this help you in any way, then the goal of writing this is fulfilled. 😊

Hence the checkpoints in this journey are as follows :-

1. Love for making, listening and performing music. Even if it is only for yourself.

  • This goes without saying but still is a pre-requisite.

  • If you are interested in playing, doing shows and performing in public then learn the instrument and start small. Find a good teacher. If not then learn by looking and observing. Find someone who can show you how to navigate your way on the instrument and get some beginner lessons from them. Just a few famous songs. That will do for some time.

  • If you are interested in equipment, listen to the music on whatever hardware you have right now. Headphone, earphone, speaker, phone speaker, tv.. anything you can use. Then do the same when you go to your friends place(with their permission of course). Increase the study circle, go to local audio store. Look at what they have and listen to the music they are playing on what hardware. Listen and come back. Go again, listen and back to home. Repeat this for sometime and start to have conversations with shopkeeper or sales person or engineer at the store. Get on their good side and eventually tell them you are interested in audio equipment and persuade them to talk to owner of the shop for a job there. No matter how small or unrelated, grab it and do it to narrow down the distance between you and the gear. Work your way up from there, convince the owner to shift you to work under the engineer and you will see where to go from there. It could be selling, repairing the old rare stuff or working with new technology or going to work on a live performance or anything else. Its up to you.

  • If you are interested in recording, working with musicians and releasing music.. this whole article is written for you. Everyone start somewhere. From humming to your recording app or a physical recorder, singing with friends, picking up an instrument, introducing your instrument in your gatherings and posting your performance on social media accounts. You record because it gives you the chills and sheer happiness of doing it. In one way or the other, it can be easily concluded that you have started your journey towards it.

So if you want to chase that and work to make it full time, read further to get an idea of what to expect and get ready to work on it seriously because even though it looks fun when you do it now and see others delivering wonders, it is not very fun at the beginning if you are not aware of the things you can expect in the future.

2. Find out what music production is, what is a DAW, an audio interface, MIDI.

  • Next step is to read blogs and articles, watch videos to get to know an overview of the process of music production. Expect to get some clarity on the whole process, technologies and science used to get the results, software and hardware chain from start to finish. Pictures of studio technologies like mixer consoles, big speakers, amplifiers, all kinds of instruments etc could look a little daunting at first but just know that not everything is used at the same time. Only a few of those are used at a time because making music is a resource intensive process. Only time more of them are used when you need to record a group in either a live performance or a studio session which can be done in a recording studio or in garage or a basement if you know what you are doing 🙂
  • These terms will come up :-
  • DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) are studios in software format to empower the beginners and professionals alike to do the heavy lifting of making, arranging, engineering the music at the comfort of their bedroom. garage, basement etc. They are used to record, edit audio, MIDI from keyboard thingies and engineer an artist rough recording to a final release.
  • Good industry ready DAW. Most of the names here are available on Windows or MacOS. If you wish to make music in Linux, then tools will change.
    • Ardour (Windows, MacOS, Linux)
    • Reaper (Windows, MacOS, Linux)

  • Audio Interfaces are the hardware that is used to handle the signal processing, digital to analog conversion and vice versa by the DAW of your choosing. They comes in many sizes and features that makes qualifies them to work in certain conditions. There are common consumer famous professional quality audio interfaces like Scarlett Focusrite series, Behringer U-series, PreSonus AudioBox etc. Most famous technology which is used to connect an audio interface to a computer is USB. Another one is FireWire.
  • MIDI
    • MIDI stands for musical instrument digital interface. As the name suggests, this technology is used to send digital data to a DAW which perform certain actions like playing a sound corresponding to the note value in the signal, change instrument from the available presets, trigger pitch bends, modulations etc. MIDI is a very versatile technology. It does not have a sound of its own, rather it sends the electronic metadata which is then interpreted and some sound or actions are triggered by the system.

3. Search for and subscribe to a course that takes a creator to make a song from start to finish in the genre of your liking.

  • To get a good overview on the process of making music in a DAW, a good course will definitely help alot. Personal training is the best way to get some real exposure and understanding but if you cannot afford, buy a course or subscribe to a free course on YouTube or some other free tutorial website which takes you from making a song from scratch to finalising and releasing it.
  • If it is available in the genre you love to play and want to make music in then good, else get something close to it. It may/may not provide you a tour/introduction of the DAW and other software but do it anyway. Do it with consistency, note down the terms and steps you do not understand and read about them just enough to get you through the course. Finer details will make sense after application of the information your learned.
  • Finish the course and see how much you understood. Both technically and non-technically.

4. Opt a course that gives a good overview of that DAW.

  • Now is the time to get a course which gives you a good tour of the DAW from start to finish. There are many points to cover and this will enforce what you learned in the previous course.
  • Also, you will learn new ways to organise the stuff around in the DAW. Some things will not make sense now but will be useful later in the path of your endeavour.

5. Now you have a good overview of what are the processes involved and how music is made.

  • Making Music ? Done.
  • Familiar with a DAW ? Yes.
  • Overview of the whole process ? Check.
  • So many questions left unanswered ? Absolutely.

6. Start learning the steps in the following list to achieve the foundational understanding and skill set to make, record and release music professionally.

  • You have an overall idea and some experience now. Good. But getting the basic skill set is necessary to build a good foundation from beginning. Many basic and important skills to learn but not all at a time. You will tackle and learn as you do more and more.
  • Reading about science of sound and music.
  • List of tasks and skills to get used to like second nature :-
    • Creating and Editing Audio/MIDI tracks.
    • Arranging the songs.
    • Mixing process
    • Audio FX (Effects)
    • Audio Routing
    • Phase correction
    • Vocal pitch correction
    • Background noise removal
    • Automation
    • SideChain compression
    • Type of mic and polar patterns
    • Project and Export settings

7. Again go through the course you opted previously and make strong and new connections between the knowledge you gained.

  • Go through the courses again and see how and where these different skills and tasks are performed in the DAW and music making process.
  • You will build amazing new connections and fortify old ones because of the steady progress in the musical journey.

8. Make profiles on social media and start spreading your music among friends, on social networking websites, local musical events, relevant forums and start building a collection of your work and connections online and offline.

  • Now keep applying what your learned and keep making music.
  • Regular growth will introduce new challenges and process will refine itself to your liking. You will get to know how you do work and how it sound.
  • Share your music with family, friends and like-minded people. Head to YT, facebook, instagram, soundcloud, forums like Linuxmusicians, reaperblog, ardour forum to showcase what you have done. Talk about other people stuff and have them talk about yours.

9. Start working with someone who is more knowledgeable than you no matter how less you will be allowed to do or what job role you are assigned to or whether you will be paid or not.

  • With a foundation and a good music sense, ask people to work together with you. Start local. You can start with your family or friends who are interested.
  • Go to local clubs and gatherings and play with musicians there. Ask them to add something to your music.
  • Go online and ask people there to fill in a guitar, voice, drums part to your music. Put it on your page and mention their contribution. Talk to them about new song or old music what new to add, what can be improved. get clear pointers.

10. Keep making music and reflect the improvements in your work and life.

  • Keep making music. See the improvement and then again make some more music.
  • Get a diploma/degree course in music. There are many. Go to a college and talk to them about what your requirements are and get to a decision.
  • Make some more music. and then some more.

11. Start working with other people to get to know how well you understand the business and your role.

  • Making music professionally with other people is a whole other bag of monkeys. Best way to find people to work is to play with someone for some time and then ask them to make some music with you. If they work in a good studio, ask them nicely to teach and help improve your technical skills.

12. Do it as a freelance or part-time/full-time at a recording/mixing studio or start doing it with the basic gear you have right now.

  • Search new groups or individuals to work with. They are easy because they are new. Locate, work with people as much as you can to make a good sense of how well you do with other people.

13. Have Patience with positive attitude, Persevere through hard time, Place your bets and give them your all.

  • Patience with good foundation and proper practice goes a long way. What is important is to have fun doing it.
  • Its hard sometimes and if you are out of ideas then ask your friends if they want to record something, if they are shy about it.. ask them to send or play it for you. If the idea sounds good, add some parts on it and send back. Ask them new to come over and they will not be able to refuse.

Remember to not to loose the sight of the music you are making and want to keep making. This process takes a bit of time and doing to settle down in your mind, heart and soul. Its OK to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Take a break and get back up and start making some sound. I hope this will take some weight off of your chest and heart and give a pointer to how to start a career in making music and succeed 😊

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