Pursuing a career in music production can be really exciting, but like most other professions in the entertainment industry, it’s full of obstacles that will weigh you down and discourage you if you come unprepared.
First off, if you don’t already have some prior knowledge about how to play the piano or guitar or anything about music theory, then I would highly recommend that you hit the books or find a tutor to get you up to speed!
The same principle applies to any respectable institution or academy that specializes in music production courses; don’t expect anyone to really hold your hand in the process and teach you stuff that you probably could’ve learned for yourself by watching a few YouTube videos or practicing with a tutor. Most prestigious music programs will require you to be able to play at least one instrument and will request that you participate in an audition!
Learn The Basics Before You Enroll
Being able to navigate your way through the production process is largely contingent upon knowing the difference between C minor and C# minor, or understanding what people are talking about when they say things like, “Hey, could you play the 2nd inversion of that D major chord you just played?” or “Could you move that up by a fifth?” (A “fifth” usually denotes a perfect fifth but can also mean an augmented fifth (which is also a minor sixth) or a diminished fifth (likewise also an augmented fourth).
Good, that means you’ve got some studying to do!
I would also recommend that you check out a really cool and massively informative website / blog by the name of Audiotuts, as they have tons and tons of great articles that will walk you through just about every aspect of music theory, music production, mixing, mastering, sound design, etc.
Most People Struggle In The Beginning
As a note of my own personal experience, when I started producing back in 2007, I really didn’t have any clue about what I was doing and could barely make my way around the keyboard. I just basically fired up the copy of Ableton Live 4 that I had bought at the time and started fiddling around with all the cool plug-ins and effects that I was simply overwhelmed with at the time.
Of course, my first wave of “productions” for the first two years were nothing but complete crap, and while I improved mainly from a technical perspective (in terms of the quality of my mixdowns, my study of synthesis, effects usage, and sound design), my compositional skills still left much to be desired.
Today, I can work out melodies and chords much more easily than I used to, although I’m still no concert-level pianist by any stretch of the imagination! And the honest truth is, being super-talented at playing the guitar or piano can help you excel exceedingly at learning music production, but those things alone won’t make you a great music producer!
Fundamentals Are Key
Many music production programs will start off by jumping right into things like meter, counterpoint, fugue, and tonal harmony, so it’s highly recommended that you get yourself squared away on the basics so that you don’t get lost in the process!
In comparison to the syllabi of many advanced music production courses offered by schools such as Berklee or Pyramind, the music production course that I attended didn’t offer nearly a tenth of what these programs offered, nor did they really address me at the skill level that I was already at with my productions at the time.
They more or less assumed that people taking the class were basically clueless about music theory or music production in general, and sadly enough, they were right about that fact for the most part!
Find a Good Tutor
I took what I could from the course, but as it only lasted for maybe two months (if that), there wasn’t really a whole lot of information that I was able to retain apart from learning about a few basic scales and memorizing all the intervals.
What really made it possible for me to progress from banging on the keys like a monkey to figure out what sounded good to actually being able to accurately reproduce melodies that I would constantly hear in my head was made possible by taking lessons from a highly qualified piano tutor (and a good friend of mine who makes really great dubstep and breaks) who taught me theory by showing me how to properly work my way around the keys.
He related the more complex aspects of music theory and composition by helping me work those complex aspects out on the piano, which helped me immensely.
What About Online Classes?
In regard to the pros and cons of online learning versus actually attending a physical classroom in person, there are a few things that you should consider:
1. Own or Share Equipment
If you’re taking an online class, you’ll have to provide for all your own equipment, which can be considerably expensive in addition to the course fees, and if you’re taking a course in a physical classroom, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the equipment that’s available at that school, and you’ll have to share it with a lot of people.
Of course, the benefit of owning and using your own equipment is that no one else will be able to use it except you, although conversely, if you experience any technical problems that you can’t quite solve on your own without certain technical assistance, you’ll be on your own for the most part.
2. Can You Travel?
Online classes are definitely beneficial for distance learners and people who can’t really afford to travel to a certain area in order to attend a certain school, or even for people who are pursuing careers that won’t allow them to travel for the time being.
Nonetheless, if there’s anything that you need to learn in this industry, it’s being able to network with other people, which can only really be effectively done in person, and if your Internet goes down for any reason, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll jump on a plane just to go to class (and if you would, I salute you!).
3. Classroom vs Home
The last point that should be stressed is the lack of one-on-one interaction between students and their instructors, which will be far more likely if you happen to be taking online classes, although that’s not to say that physical classrooms with over 20 participants won’t experience similar issues.
Of course, given the breadth and complexity of the subjects at hand, class sizes for physical participants should really be no larger than 10 people at most at my opinion, and you’ll see that the top schools out there like Berklee tend to follow that trend.
Choose a Music School & Get Started Now!
As a final note, just be as proactive as possible about your education, and apply the things you learn as much as you can outside of class.
The more you practice, learn, and do the things that you’re being taught, the more successful you’ll be in the long run; it really is that simple!