Hello, I am MysteryFlavor !x/NFmuJ7Ic, and I wrote this article to help you beginning producers get a basic understanding of music production. If you enjoyed the article, please follow and support my twitter account @mystery__flavor, if you have any comments/questions/suggestions for what I should write about next, let me know on twitter or here on the comments. Thanks.
A WORK IN PROGRESS!!!!!Edit
Ableton is a very good program with a tough learning curve at first, but once you get past that it is a very solid program with endless possibilities
With Ableton there is a session view. This view goes from top to bottom.
In this session view you practically put together the basic building blocks of the song you want to make.
This session view can also be used for live performance, or "dj'ing". View youtube to get more specific details on that.
There is also the arrangment view. The arrangment view goes from left to right.This is how most DAW's look.
This view is primarily used to put the complete song together, with your automations and little bells and whistles you couldn't really do in the session view.
If there is something you don't understand or a word you aren't familiar with, I highly suggest you google it.
Reason is also a very good program that for a very long time you were only able to use the instruments that where provided with the program.
Now I believe with the latest version which is reason 7 they allow VST's (Virtual Studio Technology) More info on VST's later.
Reason is based on the oldschool way of making music, which is connecting cables from one synth into an effect rack, all done virtually though.
This is a good program to use if you plan on using hardware later on. How do you know if you'll be using hardware later on? I have no idea.
Reason only has an arrangment view. This is the left to right view where once again you will be doing all your automations and placing your melodies/rhythms/drum sequencing/etc.
Fruity Loops is a good program to start with. It is very basic to use and where most producers have started with/stay with.
Fruity Loops is known for its easy to use piano roll (the screen where you input your notes for your virtual synths to play.)
It uses the arrangment view.
I don't really have much to say about this one, for I haven't really used it in a very long time.
Logic is a DAW that is specifically only on OSX (AKA MAC)
I have never used this program, but from what I hear it is a glorified Garageband on steroids.
It uses the arrangment view.
Looks like a solid program IMO.
Reaper is popular for the fact that you do not need to pirate it to use it. It is not free but you are still able to fully use it after the trial has finished. So in a way it is free.
Reaper is used by many people to record audio, and also as a mix/master suite.
It uses arrangment view.
I am not too familiar with this program, but if you don't want to pirate software, or just want to dip your feet in the ocean that is music production, this is a very good place to start.
This I wouldn't really consider a DAW, but it can still be used as one.
I primarily use this to edit samples when I want to refresh my creativity from constantly using the same DAW over and over again.
It uses the arrangment view.
This is also a good program to use if you need a free DAW to test it out or if you primarly are going to be recording audio instead of using virtual instruments.
7. Garage Band
This program is a good starter if you are on MAC.
It gets you started on how DAw's work and is pretty fun to just mess around with.
I would not consider this a solid DAW for real music producing though.
It uses the arrangment view.
VSTS AND LOOPSEdit
VST's are external instruments/effects you add into your DAW that the original DAW does not provide.
Most, if not all DAW's (excluding audacity) provide their own instruments and effects to use.
In my opinion I highly reccomend you get used to the instruments your program provides and understand the basic functions of how synths work before you get into the fancy VST's.
The instruments your DAW's provide you can most of the time do everything a fancy VST can do if you know what you are doing.
I highly recommend that you do not use presets and learn how to create your own sounds. Presets are for chumps! :)
Once you learn the instruments your DAW has provided, then, if you even feel the need to, go exploring for specific VST's of say, an emulation of a sweet vintage synth that you can't afford.
VSTS WILL NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER PRODUCER. THEY WILL NOT MAKE YOU SOUND LIKE (Insert famous Producer here)
DO NOT FALL FOR THE HYPE.
Loops are cheap.
Loops are sounds, say a melody, that has already been pre-recorded and you basically put a bunch of loops together to create a song.
This isn't really producing, this is building legos following the instruction manual.
I highly advise you do NOT use loops, for it will hurt you in the long run.
Drum loops are fine, but even then I advise you learn how to make your own from scratch.
- frequency is the point in where your sound lies on the spectrum of sounds. Higher frequencies tend to be bells, cymbals, whistles. Lower frequencies are bass, etc. (just to give you an idea)
Basically a synth is compromised of many different components, such as the oscillator, the filter, envelopes, effects (sometimes) lfo routing, etc.
In most general keyboards, the oscillator is the basis of your sound. This consists of either a saw wave, square wave, sine wave, triangle wave, or noise. (sometimes you can even create your own wave depending on the instrument)
A voice is generally refered to as polyphony.
Basically a voice is 1 fraction of the sound being processed by the synth (this includes the whole sound, meaning that 1 voice is processing the whole sound from your keyboard. multiple voices means that the synth has to process that same sound times x (x being the amount of voices you select on your synth) More voices on your synth tend to cause a tone with much more pressence than using a single voice.
MONO: a combining form meaning “one, single, lone” A mono sound can still consist of multiple voices though, do not get confused.
ADSR dictates how your synth puts out your current sound.
ADSR is short for Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release
Attack dictates how your sound will start off, the higher the attack, the longer it will take for your sound to begin.
Decay dictates the highest point your synth will get to right after it has reached it's maximum attack but before it "releases". The higher the Decay, the higher your synth will reach its maximum sound before it begins to "decay"
The Decay wont reach its highest point till the Attack has reached it's highest point.
Sustain dicates the prolonged time your synth holds on to the note after it has reached it's decay right before you release the key.
Release dictates how long your sound will continue to go on after you have let go of the note.
Filters are what your oscilators go through to get more out of your sound.
Filter tend to consist of High pass filter, low pass filter, bandpass, comb filter, band reject, band crusher
High pass filter filters out all the low end at it's highest point. The lower you go on a High pass filter, the more low end gets added to your sound.
high pass filters look like this, think of the dots as your sound and the forward slash as your filter
right here the high pass is almost at its highest point, and it's only playing out the frequencies from the slash to the right, everything from the left is being "filtered"
Low pass filter filters out all the high end at it's lowest point. The higher you go on a Low pass filter, the more high end gets added to your sound.
Low pass filters look like this, same rules apply as the last example
right here the low pass is close to it's lowest point, and it's only playing the frequencies from the backslash to the left, everything to the right is being "filtered"
Bandpass filter filters out everything from the left and right other than where the bandpass is currently placed on the frequency range
Bandpass looks like this
right here the bandpass is around the middle. It is only playing the frequencies inside the triangle. everything else is being cut out.
Comb filter adds a bit of delay to your current sound, and it tends to distort it a bit. You can get some interesting sounds with this if you use it right.
There isn't really a specific diagram to use for this one, you will have to research it on your own to learn more from it.
band reject is basically the exact opposite of a bandpass filter (as seen above) Instead of boosting a certain range of frequencies you are just taking away from it.
Sometimes synths have an ADSR to your filter. This allows for even more control of your sound. Not much else can really be said about this, just experiment!
Resonance is part of your filter, and plays an important role. It amplifies the certain frequency your current filter is placed at. Becareful though, playing with his frequencies and high resonance
can induce some painful sounds to your ears!
lfo is usually found on most synths. It is a low frequency oscilator. LFO's are used to mod your sound even more. These can come in the form of different waves such as sine,square,triangle,saw/etc.
LFO's as an example are generally used to create a "wobble bass". Those are generally used with sine waves. It takes your sound and filters it through a wave (depending on the shape of the wave, this could be a sine, saw, triangle, etc.)
Effects allow you to add even more depth to your sound outside of what your synth provides you. Here are a list of the most basic effects you can usually find on any DAW.
Delay repeats the sound previously played. The higher the rate, the faster it will repeat itself from the initial sound. The lower the rate, the slower it will repeat itself.
Equalizer lets you cut out certain frequencies, or boost certain frequencies of your current sound.
Reverb is basically a bunch of delays put together and basically adds a "cloudy" tail to your sound.
Chorus thickens your sound, adding a bit of flange depending on how fast you place the rate.
phases your sound. Kind of hard to explain without an audio demonstration.
Compressor compresses your sound (obviously), It boosts the lowest point of your sound and lowers the highest point, thus leading to some sort of balance in your audio which results to being able to hear the lowest sound of your signal to the same level as the highest sound of your signal. The threshold on your compressor dicates how loud the audio can be before it compresses it. The lower your threshold the more your lowest point will equal out to the highest point. Ratio is how much of the compression is applied to your audio. depending on which ratio you choose will determine how much the input audio has to be reduced before the overall output is gained. The attack determines how long it takes the compressor to take affect of your audio. The release dictates how soon the audio returns to normal once the input is lower than the threshold. Make up/gain allows you to bring up the sound of your audio. Compressing audio tends to make you lose alot of your sound depending on how you are using it. An example would be a recording of a guitar melody, and say someone coughed in the background. If you compress the sound properly you can get the low cough in the background to practically be at the same level as the guitar melody being recorded. I hope you can get a basic understanding of this!
A limiter is a device that allows you to set a ceiling to your audio, and that ceiling puts a cap on the dynamic range of your audio. After that, you are given the ability to add gain (dynamic range : the distance from lowest to highest pitch your instrument can play) in some ways a limiter can be similar to a compressor.
A Gate allows you to filter out unwanted noise coming out of your audio. For example, a noise gate on your guitar can determine how much sustain your note will hold for, and also how much feedback will be coming out of your amp. So say you have a high gain amp that produces alot of feedback, the gate, if used correctly, will allow your amp to be played at full potential without that unwanted feedback.
Arpeggiator creates a sequence pattern to your current sound. Say you have a chord, the arpeggiator will a sound on each note of the chord rather than the whole chord.(chord is multiple notes at once)
Arpeggiator looks like this
_ _ _ _ _
_ _ _
Chord looks like this
Distortion mangles up your sound and makes it dirty
Overdrive amplifies your sound and adds a bit of crunch to it. Some overdrives allow you to "drive" a certain frequency.
yes there are free vsts. and they aren't even that bad to be honest.
heres a list of ones I persoanlly like
I love these, all of them.
http://www.kvraudio.com/q.php <---- this a very good database with a sweet search bar.they provide many links to free vst's. link is said search option.
http://www.pluginboutique.com/ <------ just like kvraudio, very good database that provides a search option for free vsts'