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The Beginners Guide to Producing Electronic Dance Music

How do I create electronic dance music? Where do I start? And what do I need to create it? These are the questions we’re all faced with when we’re starting. Our guide below will walk you through the basics of what you need to know. 

Your Studio – A Laptop & the DAW.

The Digital Audio Workstation forms the centerpiece of your studio. It’s a software program that can run on either a Mac or PC and will allow you to perform everything you need to write and produce electronic dance music. 

At this early stage, we would not recommend purchasing audio interfaces or anything else that may be pushed onto you by manufacturers. All you need for now is your computer and a good pair of comfortable headphones.

Nobody can tell you what D.A.W to use and choosing a specific DAW because your favorite artist uses it is a pointless exercise. They’re like games consoles. Do you choose Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox or Nintendo? The answer depends on a number of factors such as which has the games you want to play, and whether your friends are using the same console.

Each DAW has its own, different workflow but they all fundamentally do the same thing. Unfortunately, only YOU can decide what workflow suits you the best. Many new producers will often switch and change between DAWs until they find one that suits the way they like to work. And many professionals will use a couple of DAW’s for their work, using one to get ideas down and then switching to another to finish the track. 

The Terminology

There is a lot of terminology in music production that you will need to learn before you can fully appreciate the DAW. Opposite is an excerpt from our book, The Dance Music Manual (4thEdition), published via Taylor & Francis. 

Learn the DAW

The DAW is like any musical instrument, at first it can appear overwhelming but within a few hours of use, you will become comfortable with the interface and some basic functionality.

It isn’t worth attempting to create music within five minutes of first opening the software. Instead, you should watch one of the many free tutorials on YouTube that introduce the basic layout. You should learn how to add audio tracks, MIDI tracks, how to insert effects, and instrument plug-ins onto channels, how to use the piano roll editor, and also how to add virtual instruments.

At such an early stage don’t try to produce a complete piece of music because it will end in frustration. Additionally, if you watch any tutorials on creating music, you will struggle performing the simplest of tasks such as creating channels and calling up instruments and plug-ins. This will result in you pausing the video every 20 seconds and also runs the risk of being deluged with too much information, too soon.

Just play with the DAW, its instruments and plug-ins and have some fun. Turn knobs on plug-in synthesizers and insert effects plug-ins while listening to the results. You can’t break anything and this form of play will gradually help cement the workings of your DAW.

This is the quickest way to learn the basics, You’ll pick up on quicker ways to create channels, open instruments, open and close effects, and flick between pages. Do not concern yourself with any of the in-depth features of the DAW – you just need the basics.

How To Learn

  1. Choose a DAW
  2. Learn to navigate your new software
  3. Start simple
  4. Be careful what you learn!
  5. Read a book

Once you’re partially familiar with the basic operations of the DAW, begin with some basic tutorials.

In order to help beginners and the more experienced producers, we rate the level of every one of our tutorials on a scale of 1, 2 or 3. Level 1 is suitable for all newcomers (who have a working knowledge of their DAW) while level 3 is for the more advanced users.

Where do I start?

We all want to jump straight in and create great music but its best to start small. Drums form the very heart of electronic dance music so creating drum loops is perhaps the best place to start.

It involves little music theory and a great drum loop gives you something to nod your head too, as well as providing a great foundation for the rest of your music. We have specific courses tailored for beginners from creating drums through to music theory but you can find many tutorials on the subject.

View Courses

Caution

A WORD OF warning

Anyone with access to the internet can start a website selling music production video tutorials!

A number are created by under-qualified, inexperienced individuals who are after making a quick buck. These “tutorials” are often packed with misinformation, poor techniques, and guesswork/poor explanations. 

If you learn misguided dogmas, theories and practices from an under-qualified or inexperienced producer it will add years onto your training!

There is only one regulatory body that monitors the education of electronic dance music online. The Electronic Music Training Accreditation Society (EMTAS) audits electronic music educational websites ensuring they conform to a number of standards for teaching new producers. They audit the content and the instructors, confirming their qualifications, experience, expertise, and history. They ensure they are qualified or experienced enough to teach you and that the techniques you learn are current and accurate. In addition, they ensure that any reviews on the website are honest (you can buy false reviews!).

EMTAS membership is not mandatory but websites that are part of the EMTAS scheme (and display the EMTAS logo) show they have nothing to hide and that their training has been externally audited for content.

It’s an excellent indication that you are offered a trustworthy source of information. If they are not EMTAS accredited, you should be absolutely clear on the instructor’s qualifications and prior experience in the field.

If you think professionals are expensive, wait until you hire an amateur!

Read the Manual.

There is no escaping the fact that music production is an involved process. Just as you spend time learning to play an instrument, you should equally expect it to take time to learn music production. You need a basic grounding in music theory, sound design, effects, and processors before you can really begin to create those classic grooves you hear in your favorite electronic dance music.

No web page or blog can cover all the information you need and that’s why we wrote the Dance Music Manual. Now in its fourth edition, it’s recommended by magazines, artists, and producers all over the world. It’s been in Amazon’s top-ten electronic music production books since its first edition in 2004 and is required or recommended reading at many universities and colleges.

We carefully organized its contents to introduce you to all the topics and theory involved in electronic music production in a steady, controlled manner. 

Dance Music Production is committed to maintaining high educational standards and business practices.