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Is it possible to learn music production on your own?
What are the pros and cons of self-study vs. going to a music production school?
Discover some great new resources for learning music production on your own!
A few months ago, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Audio Engineering from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Getting the chance to go through that program was an amazing opportunity for me to learn about music production, and really helped me to grow my musical knowledge and abilities.
In the few months that I have been out of school, however, I’ve become more aware of the increasing number of online resources available for anyone who wants to learn music production. This got me thinking about a question that you, an aspiring music producer, might be wondering yourself…
Can You (Actually) Learn Music Production on Your Own?
The short answer is: YES! There are plenty of great resources available for learning music production, which we will discuss.
This does not mean that going to a music production school is unnecessary, however. It’s important to consider your learning style, work ethic, etc. when evaluating your options. From there, you can choose what experience will help you learn the most!
Evaluating Your Options
Let’s take a look at some reasons why learning music production on your own may (or may not) be for you…
But before we dive in, I want to clarify that I am writing this under the assumption that you do not have barriers such as money to consider when making this decision. If you stick around, we’ll get into some great (and mostly free) ways to learn music production on your own.
Consider Your Learning Style
Probably the most important thing to consider when deciding how you want to study music production is your learning style.
The hard truth is that learning how to produce music professionally is a difficult process. If you are interested in music production becoming your career, it will require a lot of time and effort in order to gain a professional level of skill.
This means that if you choose to go the route of self-study, you will have to be self-motivated enough to create a game plan for how you are going to learn and put the time in to develop your skills. This is especially important if you want to become a professional in a short amount of time (i.e. a few years).
For me, going to a music production school was really beneficial for my learning style. While I would consider myself very self-motivated, having regular assignments with deadlines helped me stay on track as I tried to learn and grow my skills.
The outside pressure of needing to have an assignment done by a certain time, and needing to do well on it in order to pass a class forced me to understand the concepts behind music production.
I still had to motivate myself to put the work in, but that outside pressure aided greatly in keeping me motivated during the moments where I felt frustrated and wanted to give up.
I believe this helped my skills develop faster than they would have had I tried to learn on my own. This is simply because I wouldn’t have known where to start on planning a reasonable timeline for what I needed to learn and how I was going to progress towards my goals of becoming a professional music producer.
Now, I say all this not to discourage you from self-study, but more so you can understand why I chose the path I did. You might be reading this and thinking that you don’t need the pressure of assignments and deadlines to keep yourself on track, and if so that’s great!
However, I do think it is important to think about how you learn and what will help keep you motivated to continue learning your craft as you work to become a professional.
Consider The Type of Experience You Want To Have
Another potential benefit of going to a Music Production School is (in particularly good programs) the access to equipment that you will have. Through my program, I was able to work in world-class recording studios in Nashville and had access to all kinds of analog and digital studio equipment to learn on.
As I’m sure you know, you do not necessarily need to have this experience in order to become skilled in music production.
You could easily invest in a computer, recording software, audio interface, and a microphone, then use free online resources like YouTube to get to grips with how it all works. Even big-time producers such as Finneas work with a simple setup like this…
For me, the decision to go to a school so I could work in recording studios was more of a personal one. That was an experience I wanted to have. For you, that may not be as important, so again it is crucial to think about this when deciding which path you want to take.
Great Resources for Learning Music Production
If you’ve decided that you want to learn music production on your own, the good news is that there are a ton of great resources out there for you to take advantage of!
Here is a small list of just some of the different ways you can learn music production. Most of these resources are free, or relatively inexpensive…
You might be surprised at how many professional music producers have started their own YouTube channels. From Warren Huart to Eric Valentine, many producers have used YouTube to give people a generous look into their music production process.
I can say from experience that this is an incredible way to learn if you are a beginner. While attending school helped me understand the concepts behind producing music, watching videos from these producers really helped me get how those concepts are applied to today’s music.
I would highly recommend the Produce Like a Pro channel from Warren Huart as well as Eric Valentine’s channel – his videos tend to be upwards of three hours long and go into every little detail of whatever song he is breaking down, so you can really pick up a lot from those videos!
If you enjoy listening to podcasts, there are plenty of shows about music production on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. A personal favorite that I’ve been listening to recently is the Mixing Music Podcast, hosted by engineers Dee Kei and Lu Moreno. They cover a variety of topics including how to produce and mix, what gear they use, and even how to run your own music production business!
If you’re a reader, there are plenty of great books about music production out there! I recently just finished reading Mixing Secrets for the Small Studioby Sound on Sound writer Mike Senior, and I learned so much from it. Even if reading isn’t your thing, you may be surprised at what you learn from picking up a few books.
Many producers and studios will often have internships available, which are designed to be educational experiences for those interested in learning music production. I had the chance to intern with a producer in Nashville for a few months, and it was an incredible experience!
I got to observe him working in sessions, perform tasks such as instrument editing and vocal tuning, and even got feedback on my own production work! If you can find an opportunity like this near you, I would highly recommend applying for it. You will learn so much!
Even if there is not an opportunity like this near you, if you have a connection (or can make one) with a professional in the music production industry, ask them if they would be willing to mentor you. What have you got to lose?
If they are open to hearing your music and providing feedback, this can be valuable advice. They will be able to directly mentor you in order to get your production chops up to a professional standard. This is a personalized experience that no YouTube video or book can match.
Having this kind of relationship with music industry professionals really helped me grow and improve my skills as a producer!
The main goal of Producer Hive is to provide musicians and producers with informative content that helps them discover even more about their musical passion.
If you’re new to music production, here are some of our articles that will help you get started on your journey. Make sure you bookmark them for later as you definitely won’t have time to read them all…
While all the resources listed in this article are certainly trustworthy, if you end up doing your own digging on Google and YouTube, just make sure you take what you find with a grain of salt. You need to be able to distinguish between facts and opinions, but it can be tricky knowing which is which when you are just starting out.
The truth is, producing music is not a purely objective art form. There is a strong creative component involved, which means that no two producers are going to tackle things the exact same way. They will each have their own processes for getting the sounds they want to hear.
So, for example, if you hear one producer talk about his vocal chain, but another one has a completely different chain, that doesn’t mean that one chain is “right” and the other is “wrong.”
Treat each separate approach as a new learning experience – so in this case, you should be looking at what the plugins are doing and why they have been chosen.
In general, if you understand the basic concepts of audio and the tools you have at your disposal, you should experiment with the different techniques you learn about and find an approach that works for you.
There is so much you can teach yourself about music production simply by playing around in your DAW with different synths, effects, and recordings. Just make sure you don’t jump to any conclusions you are not sure about, as it can create bad habits or superstitions. So it’s important to reinforce your experimentation with informed explanations from professionals and you’ll be golden.
Once you get the basics down and your confidence built up, you can get creative and find your own unique sound!
So, can you learn music production completely on your own? Absolutely! However, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. It is important to choose the right learning experience you want to have to see if self-study or going through a music production program is right for you.
If you want to learn how to become a professional music producer and do it as a full-time job, you will need to consider what environment will be best for you to learn quickly. If self-study ends up being the best route for you, there are plenty of great resources available to you in this article and elsewhere on the net.
Learning how to produce music is a process that takes a lot of time and effort, but it is incredibly rewarding. No matter how you decide to go about learning music production, I wish you all the best on your journey!