Electronic Music Production: Zero-to-Hero

To Dru,

Every journey has its beginning, and here is (y)ours. Thinking of what to say to you now, I wonder what I wish I would’ve been told at the start of my journey. Many things come to mind, but I’ll try my best to keep it simple. Grab a couple pieces of paper and a pen[cil] & let’s get started.

  1. Why do you want to make music?

No, really. Why? This is your fuel. Your answer will change over time but fundamentally the part that’s closest to your heart will never change. The better you can identify and capture the reason you are starting this journey into the unknown, the easier it will be to overcome the ruts you will inevitably find yourself in. My only advice when capturing your reason to produce is to focus on YOU (“I want to be on stage” is a stronger reason than “I want others to see me on stage”). Once you’ve come up with a satisfactory answer write it on the first lines of what we’ll call page 1.

2. What music do you love?

This will require all of page 2. On page 2 I want you to write down every musician/producer/band/film scorer/etc. who’s music you love AND can see influencing the type of music you end up creating. Don’t be afraid to make an eclectic list here, that is why a whole page is needed. You may want to look through old CD collections, iTunes libraries, likes on Soundcloud/Spotify/whatever, take your time. Now before you write them down on page 2, split the page into 3 sections, 1 on top, 1 for the middle, and a bottom section. As you jot down names, list the most influential on the top & least influential on the bottom. Now fill page 2.

Awesome. Now go back to page 1, and under your reason to start, write all the names from the top section (preferably narrowed down to 10–15 names maximum). Now you can hang on to page 2 if you want to or throw it out. The point of writing all the names for sections 1, 2, & 3 was to make you choose which artists really were the most influential. I remember during this exercise repeatedly erasing names and moving them to lower sections to make room for a forgotten producer to fit. Basically it helps you be clear on who’s music means the most to you. It makes for a better section 1, the section whose names will be actionable.

These names from the top section are going to be your guides. Whenever you are starting out, you are going to want to experiment and transmit your musical ideas into projects. This is necessary. But you must also balance the time spent experimenting with the time spent recreating your favorite tunes from your guides. This will not always be as fun, but will teach you some invaluable lessons that will help structure your experiments moving forward.

3. What word encapsulates your answers for 1 & 2?

This is going to be your artist name (at least for now). Use a 3rd page to jot down ideas. Write out at least 20 ideas quickly so you can get past judging each new idea too critically. I want to rush the ideas out of you, but I don’t want to rush you into choosing. Truly, when you write the ‘one’ down, you will know it. You will know it represents you and everything you want to create. Listen to your heart.

If the ‘one’ doesn’t appear after 5 minutes of writing down your ideas, then pick your favorite and move on. Leave the question open and let your subconscious ponder it in the background. Your subconscious is capable of working on problems beyond your present awareness and the best part is that once it finds the answer it is looking for, only then will it make it known to your conscious mind. So don’t sweat it, let it ruminate in the depths of your mind, and it will come. [This is also a handy process for coming up with song/album names].

I could write until my fingers fall off but I’ll save it until next time. So far you should have 1 page with the following info:

  • Your reason for producing
  • Your guides
  • Your name

Now hang it up, put it on your mirror, whatever, just keep it handy.

P.S. If you’re extra-corny like I am, you can put a little saying that you know will always be able to pick you up &/or inspire you to put in the extra time getting close to those big dreams of yours. Mine says ‘Stay GOLD’, G.O.L.D. meaning Grateful, Optimistic, Loving, & Devoted. This works for me. If something works for you, that is, it helps you focus on the amazing opportunity you’ve got of showing the world a new form of beauty and keeps your mind off the obligations of the process, then write it down.

Anyways, until next time, Stay Gold.