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How To Make Electronic Music With Computer? Where To Start?

how to make electronic music

I decided to write down some guidelines on how to make electronic music (although some of the following tips may apply to other musical genres as well, not just electronic music) covering such things as what hardware is required or recommended, what kind of music making software is needed, how to get a hang of different kind of electronic music styles, etc. There’s a lot of choices in hardware and software, countless of ways to do things in production wise and as many arguments and differing opinions as there are producers. In this article I try to point you to the right direction in electronic music production, mostly based on my own experience.

A little info about myself is that electronic music production has been my longtime hobby for years and I’ve been creating music on such genres as trance, downtempo, ambient and experimental. Some of my songs has been released commercially through record labels and has also been used in a film project.

Excuse my english, it’s my second language and not so perfect, but I hope you understand and find these guidelines useful and get your answer on how to make electronic music. Also, if you have any questions, opinions or improvements, feel free to leave a comment!

UPDATE ON AUGUST 16th, 2015: Even though I wrote this article back in 2011, I’ll update it regularly so it should still contain valid information.

So, without further ado, let’s begin!

1. Computer and OS

Computer is naturally a must have hardware if you wan’t to make electronic music. You can actually produce good music with any kind of modern computer (I mean anything made in the past 5 years), including laptop. You also have a choice: PC or Mac. Both systems are widely used in many professional and home studios. You can make excellent music with both platforms and most of the music making software are available for both (except FL Studio, though the MAC version is coming). The thing is, you should pick a platform you’re already familiar with. If you’ve been using PC, stay with the PC. And vice versa. That way, you don’t have to put time and effort on learning a completely new computer system and you can concentrate more on learning how to make the electronic music.

However, like I already mentioned, even though you CAN make music with any kind of modern computer, it will help a LOT to have a decent specs. The more CPU power and RAM you have under the hood, the more smoother your music software will run and you’re able to build much more complex projects without choking your computer. Also, choosing the right kind of hard drive makes difference as well. You might even consider getting a solid-state drive (SSD).

The computer I’m using has Intel Core i7 950 processor, ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 motherboard, 12GB RAM and 24″ widescreen display and it’s been a very good computer setup for electronic music production for five years now. If I’m going to upgrade this at some point, I probably get the SSD where I install the Windows. That will speed up things even more.

If you’re on the edge of buying a new computer solely for music production and don’t have a clue what kind of specs it should have, look at some of the custom built computers that are made for audio production. Check what kind of specs and components they have and start from there.

Few words about the OS: if you stick with the PC, I can recommend Windows 7. I bought the Windows 7 Ultimate with my current computer setup and it has been mainly in audio usage for a little over a year now (UPDATE: 5 years now) and I can say it’s been good. Best Microsoft OS so far and I’ve been using Windows since 3.1. UPDATE: short while ago, I updated to Windows 10 and so far it seems to be really stable and working good with FL Studio 12!

Check these online shops for audio computer systems:

ADK Pro Audio Computers
Scan Computers For Audio

2. Sound card / audio interface

These days every modern computer has a some kind of on-board sound chip so basically you can start off making electronic music without spending money to external sound card or audio interface. And if you want to be able to use low latency with your sound chip/audio card and it doesn’t have native ASIO support (ASIO stands for Audio Stream Input/Output and it’s a sound card driver protocol for digital audio specified by Steinberg, providing a low-latency and high fidelity interface between a software application and a computer’s sound card), you can use ASIO4ALL driver. It works with most sound cards (even with those on-board chips) making it possible to use lower latency settings.

However, if you’re looking for a higher performance and/or planning to do a lot of recording from external sources, then decent quality sound card or audio interface is recommended. At this point, I recommend checking out the Tweakheadz article The “Best”Audio Interface for your Home Studio and Soundcard FAQ. Also, check the Image-Line’s knowledge-base Help choosing a soundcard.

I myself have M-Audio Audiophile Delta 2496 and even though it’s not a high-end sound card, it has been enough for me for all these years. And at 2015, I’m still happy with it! Some users report they are having problems with Delta series cards in Windows 7 machines though. But there are tons of alternatives too in a decent price range. For example, check out Sound Blaster Z PCIe. Or some of the Focusrite audio interfaces suchs as Scarlett 2ie.

3. Studio monitor speakers and studio grade headphones.

Although I created one of my dutch dance chart hit songs using only cheap Sony headphones I bought from a local supermarket, decent studio monitors (near field monitors) are highly recommended. Why? Because studio monitors are specifically made for audio production and they give an accurate reproduction of the tonal qualities of the source audio. In other words, they tell you the truth what’s REALLY going on in your music in a terms of frequencies. The sound is uncolored so there will be no bass or high frequency boosts or anything like that like the normal hi-fi speakers or heapdhones tend to have. This will help you to create music where every sound is in balance (depending on your mixing skills of course) and this will increase the probability that your music sounds good in different sound systems like car stereos, portable mp3 players with earbuds and so on.

Studio headphones are also recommended, for tracking purposes.

There’s a wide range of studio monitors and headphones in the market on all price ranges. The truth is, the more money you put into these the more quality you will get and be aware that many low-cost studio monitors actually DO color the sound or artifically boost frequencies even if they label themselves as “studio monitors” with flat frequency response.

Lot of audio professionals vouch for Genelec, Focal or Mackie monitors. They are in the higher price range, but the quality is the best.

In a few hundred dollars price range, I recommend checking out the M-Audio and KRK Systems. Here’s some specific models you may wan’t to check out: Studiophile BX8a & KRK Rokit G2 8.

As for the studio headphones, check out these: Beyerdynamic DT 880Sennheiser HD 380.

If you don’t have the possibility to use studio quality monitoring systems, use the equipment you have – whether it’s headphones or normal loudspeakers. Don’t let that stop you from start making music. However, before releasing your musical production to public, I recommend that you listen it through as many different sound systems as possible (like normal home and car stereos, etc.) and tweak your music until it sounds good and balanced on all of those systems. (Actually this is recommended to do even if you DO have a studio quality monitors).

Also, remember to position your studio monitors right. That makes a huge difference how they sound.

I personally have Behringer Truth B2031A’s studio monitors. Lot of professional say they are not very good, or that they completely suck, but so far I’ve been doing ok with them. And after all, I think one of the most important thing with your studio monitors is to learn to listen to them. Then you know how your music translates to other audio systems.

I’m also using AKG K271 Studio headphones occasionally and I must say I like them.

I have to say that studio monitors are one of the most important hardware in your home studio, so before choosing your monitors (or headphones), try to listen as many different models as possible and ask around and chat with the audio professionals and people who work in the audio production field. Search KVRaudio and Gearslutz forums for more advice.

Here’s some articles I recommend checking out:

Best Over-Ear Headphones Favorites of 44 Experts in 2015
The Truth About Studio Monitors
Studio Monitors Buying Guide
Studio Headphones

4. MIDI keyboard controller

MIDI keyboard is not necessity though. Personally, I’ve created many songs just by using mouse and regular computer keyboard. Many computer music software like FL Studio and Ableton Live lets you play music using your computer keyboard. It’s like having a virtual piano keyboard. But on the other hand, you get a totally different feel for playing melodies and controlling your audio software with a MIDI keyboard controller. I use M-Audio Oxygen 61 (the first generation model) and I’m still happy with it.

Here’s more helpful articles:

Tips on Buying a MIDI Keyboard

5. Sofware – DAW

Get the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). The DAW is a software environment where you actually create and compose the music and it is one of the most important components in your electronic music studio. To put it simply, its a music making software.

There’s lots of DAW software choices in the market, but the following four are the most popular, especially amongst electronic music producers: Logic Pro X (for Mac only), Ableton Live, FL Studio and Reason (other well known DAW’s are Cubase, Cakewalk Sonar, Reaper, Bitwig Studio and PreSonus Studio One to name a few. There’s some free alternatives too such as Ardour and Zynewave Podium).

If you ask me what DAW I would recommend, I’d say FL Studio hands down! Why? Well of course, I’m strongly biased as I’ve been using it over a decade now. It’s very powerful, easy to use music making software and you can produce just about any type of music with it: hip hop, rap, r&b, house, dubstep, chill-out, film music, etc. IMHO FL Studio is MADE for electronic music. The sequencing features and workflow compared to other DAWs are simply unbeatable and that counts a lot because it goes hand in hand with how well you are able to put your musical ideas into action (NOTE: if you decide to buy FL Studio, I have a special LINK which gives you 10% off the regular price).

Ok ok enough of this FL Studio ‘sales pitch’ (I just had to do this)! :) Choosing the DAW is something you have to do yourself… You need to download the demo versions, test them thoroughly and pick the one you feel most comfortable working with. And learn it inside out!

6. Software – VST synthesizers (VSTi) and VST effect plugins

(Check Virtual Studio Technology)  VST/AU synthesizers and effects are MUST if you’re going to start making music digitally with computer. VSTi’s (VST instruments) are virtual synthesizers that produce different kind of sounds. You can use them just like you would use real hardware synths – only difference is that they’re software and you install them as plugins (some work as stand-alone too) to your DAW which acts like a host to these synths and you use them to produce sounds which you can use to compose melodies and make music.

There’s a lot of VST effect units as well such as reverb, eq, compressor, delay, chorus, phaser, some special fx, etc.

You can find  tons of free VST plugins in the net. Just Google for “free vst plugins”, “free vsti” or “free soft synths”. Or check out this website. If you have money, I highly recommend Native Instruments stuff. Check out the demos of synths like Absynth, FM8, Massive, Reaktor. These are suitable for almost any kind of electronic music style. Also, reFX has some quality synths like Nexus 2 for example which is their flagship. It’s awesome sounding all around rompler. It has sounds for practically any kind of musical style from trance to house to hip hop to ambient to film music.

One of my personal favorite virtual synths are made by U-He: for example, check out Diva, Hive or Zebra.

Also, check out Reveal Sound Spire.

Moreover, check out some of the IK Multimedia stuff. I have all of their virtual synths and I especially love Miroslav Philharmonik which has very good orchestral sounds.

All of these virtual synths are very good for electronic music.

But are there any free virtual synths or effects?

Yes, tons of them!

Actually, there’s just too many of freebies to list them one by one so here’s a links for places where you can browse and download whatever you want:

Freeware VST plugins
Dontrack.com
VSTplanet.com

7. Software – audio editor

Even though most of DAWs does have a basic set of tools for such audio editing tasks as cutting, fading and encoding to MP3, you may prefer a separate audio editor. If that’s the case, I recommend Sound Forge Audio Studio. It’s cheap, yet versatile. There are free alternatives as well like Audacity.

8. Samples

You need a bunch of good quality samples as well. Usually, samples are used for drums, percussion, effects, etc. There are THOUSANDS of commercial sample packs costing anywhere from $10-$200 or more. Sample packs are mostly genre specific meaning they contain samples that are suitable for a certain musical genre, but you can use whatever samples in whatever genre you wan’t – it’s up to you and your imagination.

Sample packs consists usually of single drum hits like kick drums, snares, hihats, hand claps, crash cymbals, percussion sounds, synth hits, bass sounds and so on which you can use to build your own beats and grooves. Most of the sample packs includes loops as well well: drum loops, top loops, bass loops, synth loops, fx loops… (loops are ready made grooves or melodic compositions which you can use in your own music). I personally use drum- and top loops quite a lot to enhance the rhythmic sections of my songs.

When you buy a commercial sample pack, you buy the license to use the samples and most (if not all) are royalty free meaning, if you create a song which uses samples from these sample packs, you don’t have to pay any additional fees to the sample manufacturer.

Here’s more links to some well known sample manufacturers and online shops:

Loopmasters (my personal favorite, I’m a regular customer!)
Sample Magic (my favorite!)
Wave Alchemy (my favorite!)
Big Fish Audio
Primeloops
Vengeance
Best Service
Ueberschall
Producerloops
Soundstosample

There’s also TONS of free samples available in the net. Here’s links to some of the free sample resources:

Free samples
Linklist for tons of free samples
FLstudiomusic.com
Sampleradar
Thesample.net

Okay, so now that you have your hardware, software and sample collections in place, you ask: how do I make that electronic music then?

9. Listen electronic music and learn

Let me tell you how I learned to make electronic music in a first place: I listened what other artists do and started to do the same. Just like many painters have learned to paint by studying and copying other peoples work, same goes to electronic music. (I don’t mean that you should copy the song melodies and ideas. Songs and ideas are copyrighted and there’s legal consequences if you take a eg. a melody from another song, and use it as your own without permission from the original author). So before I was able to make my own song in trance genre, I listened a lot of other producers trance songs, analyzed them (especially the song structure) and finally got a hang of how they were put together.

So, in order to learn how to make electronic music, I would recommend taking these steps:

  • Decide the musical style or genre you wan’t to make music in.

Get some songs from that genre. For example, go to Beatport.com – it’s the most popular electronic music online shop and you can find all the most popular songs from every electronic music genre there.

  • Listen HOW the song is built.

Take a song you like, listen it carefully – over and over again and pay attention. Analyze it. Learn the song structure first. Every song (in almost whatever genre) follows some sort of common and logical structure – including the different styles in electronic music. Try to get a hang of what the structure is in your favorite song: how does it progresses, how long is the intro and breakdown.. In other words, WHAT happens and WHEN.

If we think of a popular radio songs (in rock, pop genre) they’re typically 3-4 minutes long and many of them follow this kind of structure:

[intro]->[verse]->[chorus]->[verse]->[chorus]->[bridge]->[chorus]->[outro]

OR chorus can also work as intro. Then the song structure would go like this:

[chorus(intro)]->[verse]->[chorus]->[verse]->[chorus]->[bridge]->[chorus]->[outro]

There’s few other variations as well, but I think these are the most common ones. Just check out Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right” or Katy Perrys “Hot And Cold” for example. Or any other popular radio pop song. They all follow pretty much the same structure.

Check out these articles for more info about popular song structures. Yeah, they’re about pop, but it helps you to get a hang of the idea of song structures and you can apply the same principles to electronic music as well.

Study The Hits!
How To Get Started With Songwriting
How Music Works
Songwriting Tip – Structure of a Pop Song

However, in EDM (electronic dance music) such as uplifting trance or dance music that is generally aimed for club’s, structure is a bit different than in radio pop songs. Different parts are longer and usually intro is like one big buildup to the breakdown. If you’re into trance music, you might wan’t to check out my tutorial about trance song structure and how it progress. It’s a bit old, but it should give you the idea though.

Here’s one common structure in EDM, such as uplifting trance:

[intro]->[breakdown and buildup]->[section after the breakdown and buildup. It’s usually called drop, release or climax]->[outro]

Or a little longer version:

[intro]->[breakdown and build-up]->[drop]->[another breakdown and buildup]->[drop again]->[outro]

And here’s explanation to those terms:

[intro] This is the part where you slowly build up your song towards the breakdown from the beginning. Usually, you build up the intro by adding a new element after eight or sixteen bars. So it could go like this: first eight bars contains just the kick. After that you add in maybe hihats and claps or some percussion loop. After sixteen bars comes the bass. And so on.

[breakdown and build-up] This is where the musical elements introduced in the intro usually disappears completely for a while and you introduce your big musical idea which could be a nice, emotional and uplifting melody for example (let’s just call it a “hook”). In here you also start to build tension towards the drop which comes after the build-up.

[drop, release or climax] This is the best part of your song! Usually, this is where drums, bass (and maybe the “hook” melody) start to play together and everything kind of explodes. This is very typical in EDM. At this point, people will typically go NUTS on the dance floor and dance like crazy!

[outro] Things are starting to fade out towards to the end.

That’s it basically.

When you start to create your own song, I suggest you pick up your favorite song and load it into your DAW and – no, do not copy the song itself, but use the song structure like a reference to see what happens and when.

Also, while listening your favorite song:

  • Pay attention to the sounds

Make notes what kind of sounds it has. Saw lead synth sounds, square wave bass sounds, huge pads, weird effected sounds are all the basic musical elements in electronic music. Try to hear what kind of sounds your favorite song has and try to replicate these sounds with your virtual synths. Or use ready made presets. Many virtual synths have readily programmed preset sounds for various electronic music styles. Use them to your advantage.

Next, try to get a hang of the:

  • Melodies

What kind of melodies your favorite song has? Some certain chords and chord progressions are commonly used in trance for example, but there’s definitely room for fresh melodic ideas so don’t be afraid to depart from them.

And one last thing:

  • Sound effects

Pay attention on what kind of sound effects you can hear in your favorite song. Swooshes, risers, uplifters, downlifters, white noise sweeps and fx hits are some commonly used effects in electronic music. You can find these in many commercial or free sample packs.

Here’s some helpful guides on various electronic music styles:

Trance Song Structure
From An Idea To A Song
Hip Hop Beat Construction Made Easy
Hip Hop Beats: Song Structure
Dubstep Structure

Also, go to Youtube and do a search on “how to make EDM”, “how to make trance” or “how to make hip hop” and you’ll find tons of tutorial videos there.

Seriously, I really think the best way to learn how to make electronic music is listen tons of other producers work and then try to do the same. But remember, keep it original and don’t be afraid to try something completely new. There’s a lot of room for fresh ideas!

Next, a few short words about the production itself.

10. Start with the drums and bass..

Personally, I’ve found it’s best to first build the drum groove. At this point, the sample packs I mentioned earlier comes in very handy. You can also use the ready made drum loops to help you to build your grooves. Whatever the style is going to be, with a cool drum groove, it’s much easier to start creating other musical elements such as bass groove on top of it and other instruments as well. Remember to make drums and bass work together. They’re one of the most important elements in any kind of electronic music that has a drum beat. Seriously, I recommend to put a GREAT effort on these two.

11. … and add the synth melodies

Again, this is where the VST synths come in handy. Start building a melody on top of the drums and bass groove. Like mentioned earlier, many VSTi’s have several ready made quality preset sounds to start with. These will help you to get going. However, I also recommend to experiment and tweak the knobs, sliders and buttons and see what happens. You can come up with some really original and wild stuff just by experimenting with the different synth parameters.

Next, few words about mixing.

12. Mixing – give a power to the beat

When I mix my songs (if it’s a electronic dance music aka EDM), I  give most power to the drums. Kick drum to be exact. In most electronic music, drums are the element that should be heard clearly. Especially the kick drum. Then, I balance the bass and other instruments against the drums. Mostly with the kick. I always use drums as the foundation on how I mix other instruments in my song. I try to make sure that the drums are punchy and loud enough and if some other instrument is trying to compete with my drums too much in frequency wise (or bass in this matter), I use equalizer to cut the low frequencies off from that sound. I use my drums to measure how to mix other instruments in my song.

13. Mixing – hear how pro’s mix and try to do the same

Again, listen to your favorite songs in the same genre you’re trying to make music in and notice how they’re mixed. What kind of sounds stand out and why? How does your song sound compared to your favorite, professionally mixed songs?

Here’s a tip: try listen your mixes through as many different sound systems as possible: car stereos, home stereos, through ipod with those little earplugs – basically everywhere and try to make it sound as good as possible on all of these systems. Try to find the balance.

I have to say that trying to make your mix sound good is probably one of the most hardest part in music making. And it’s something you won’t learn overnight. Yes, it takes quite a lot of practice (through trial and error) to make mixes sound decent, but don’t worry, it’s NOT an impossible task. You will learn it. It just takes some time.

14. Beware of ear fatigue. Take a break or continue producing in the next day

It has happened to me several times, that I thought I’ve made a killer song in a day and then, in the next day when I listen the song again, it sounds like garbage: all the sound levels and EQ settings are out of balance or there are elements that doesn’t seem to fit in to the mix at all. At that point I usually get frustrated, give up and forget the whole song. This can happen if you produce music for several hours non-stop: your ears get tired and in the end of the day you, can’t hear things as balanced anymore as with fresh ears. So, my advice is this: try not to finish a whole song in one day, spare your ears and leave something for a next day.

15. Links to forums you should start reading

Here’s a bunch of forums where I have learned quite a lot. Lot of audio professionals are hanging there. Read the threads and ask questions.

KVRaudio
Future Producers
Gearslutz

The end. Hopefully this gave you a rough idea on how to make electronic music. :)

About Petri Suhonen

Petri Suhonen is an electronic music hobbyist. He has been producing music with computers over a decade on such styles as trance, downtempo, ambient & experimental electronic using FL Studio.

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325 comments

    • Thank you!

      Excellent links, I will add them to the article :)

      • Thank you for all your hard work putting this together. This has helped me get started in the right direction. What would you recommend for controller and software? Tracktor / Serato? Which do you think is better? Im looking at the new Newmark control w Serato or the Tracktor control w tracktor software of course. And do you think Reason is better than Fl Sudios? Which one should I buy?

        • Danny,

          Firstly, thanks again :)

          Secondly: unfortenately I dont have any first hand experience on either of those devices.. I’m just playing with my ‘good ol’ Oxygen 61 MIDI keyboard controller.. However, Traktor is NI and NI = only good stuff in my personal experience (at leas when talkin’ about the sotware!)! 😀

          As for Reason vs FL: well, I’m biased (I’ve been playing with Reason as well) I would choose FLS! Why? VST support and the workflow! 😀

          Cheers, mate!

      • bro richard from this site, may i kindly ask you for a scrachsss tutoriallll that would be fantastic watch it comming from you…. best regardssss broooooo from slovakia…..

    • thanx a lot man. i was tired of trying to find musicians for my song. once i make it, and i hope it isn’t the last one, i’ll put up a link here for everyone’s opinion. it could take a few weeks i guess, as i’m just starting out. thank you for all the help :)

  1. Hey thanks so much for this info was very informative i have just been making loop based electronic music but am self taught and am using sony acid pro . I’ve posted one song on soundcloud under sanctum. I’m definatly still learning! Cheers

    Sanctum
    Nat shand

  2. While its good info for starters, i can personally say from experience there are some improvement you could give to you overall kit, example are the monitors, i had behringer and they dont tell the TRUTH!! they are not very good for a neutral frequency output. at work i have BX8a m-audios and for their price they rock, hard. At home i have genelec and they rock harder, but are a bit steeper in the price range.

    As for soundcard, also used to be a m-audio user and quality was…best put it bad. Switched over to apogee, got the one and duet and they are quality.

    As for DAWs, i think FL is pretty damn simple, really simple, missing out on key options simple. I know producers though who dont just use one DAW but switch between two, maybe even more. I guess what i would say is don’t stick to just one. Just make sure u know your standard DAW well, and i mean really really really really really well before starting another, there are loads of little tricks in DAW programs you dont find at first, luckily there are forums and youtube to help increase your knowledge of your DAW.

    finally a little song structure amendment, not an amendment really just a tip, the “release / climax” should be split up a little, i work, as a hobby, on producing minimal and techno, and there after the intro there is simple stripped down melody, bare to the bone for minimal, before dropping all the percussive elements, ie drums, anything which is not essential to the mix, building up to the climax of the track, where everything together explodes. Obviously it doesn’t have to literally explode in sounds, it can still remain minimal, just as long as it ties in together, before heading off into the outro.

    Whenever i talk about music production with friends i always say there is never one way to do something. So i always try through experience, and every producer should as well. I have bought countless monitors and talked to countless people about them before finally finding a set that i like. As well with producing, watched way to many youtube videos, took online courses via pointblank and just talked to friends about it, information is key.

    • Boni M,

      I highly appreciate your valuable comment, thank you! I may actually add some of your gear recommendations to my article. Anything that is valuable to the readers.

      About monitors: While I agree your opinion about the Truth’s that they’re not the best in the market, I’ve been quite happy with them and been able to produce ok sounding music. I haven’t heard the Genelecs in action, but people are saying they’re really good. But so is the price. :) Also, positioning is very important to get the most out of whatever monitors you have.

      About soundcard: Referring to your comment about m-audio, what model specifically and by bad quality do you mean the overall sound, recording from external sources, driver problems or something else? I have to say I haven’t had any major issues with Delta 2496. But then again, I don’t record anything from external sources, I just use it with VST plugins and FL Studio and so far it has been doing ok.

      About DAWs: can you please elaborate what key points FL Studio is actually missing? :) As a longtime FL Studio user I think it’s a VERY versatile DAW and capable of amazing things if you know how to use it. But I agree with you fully about knowing your DAW inside out. That’s essential. However, I personally like to stick with just one software. I used to use three different DAWs, but I found it’s just too much hassle switching over from one DAW to another. I like to keep things simple and to consolidate my audio work inside one environment.

      About song structure: thanks for the tip :)

      Thanks again for your comment, Boni, I appreciate it.

  3. Hello! If I already have a DAW software, do I still need to get an audio editor? Isn’t it possible to edit audio in the DAW itself? Thanks! 😀

    • Hi Kurvine!

      Good question. :)

      Separate audio editor isn’t actually necessity. For example in FL Studio there’s Edison which is fully featured audio editor and most of the DAWs have some sort of audio editing capabilities.

      I personally like to use separate program for audio editing. I’ve been favoring Sound Forge because I can do the required precise cutting, copying and pasting with it. Audacity is also good.

  4. Great article but I dispute one of your claims – you really don’t need an excellent sound card for audio production. Since you can render to lossless WAV it’s pretty much irrelevant to have a fancy sound card unless you’ll be delivering performances from that same machine. True?

    • Hey Brian,

      That is true.

      I personally made music for years just by using the onboard soundchip and the audio quality was as good as it’s now with a decent soundcard.

      However, if you record a lot from external sources, then you should look into the more advanced soundcards/audio interfaces.

      I propably should have wrote “Decent soundcard / audio interface is RECOMMENDED” rather than “MUST have”. Need to fix that a bit :)

      Thanks for pointing this out, Brian.

  5. Hey Petri,

    thanks for this awesome “tutorial”!
    after nearly an decade in the metal/rock scen with nearly a dozen bands, some cds and lots of gigs i looked out for something fresh an totally fell in love with electronic music. especially acts like justice or digitalism.
    though i have some experience about how to “structure” a song and some recording stuff, this totally helped me out.
    thanks a lot!

    greetz
    Timbo

    • Hi Timbo,

      Thanks for checking out the article, I’m glad you found it useful!

      I must say that you have stepped into a very diverse and interesting genre :) I’ve been dealing with electronic music well over 10 years now and it’s just getting more and more interesting and the fact that the technology has brought the possiblity for anyone to try make professional music at home with a relatively low cost makes it even more attracting.

      Btw, have you heard Deadmau5? He’s genius in the EDM scene and I recommend to check out his work as well.

      Anyway, welcome to this scene and to my website,

      Cheers,
      Petri

  6. Just getting into this on my MAC, I have downloaded Ardour and am tryin to install some VST’s but when i install them they dont work, what am i doing wrong?

    • Hi, unfortenately I dont have any experience dealing with mac, but as far as I know, you need to download the Audio Unit version of the VST plugin. I think the Audio Unit in mac is sort of equivelant to VST in pc. Many of the free VST plugins are available as Audio Units as well. For example, TAL-NoiseMaker offers the Audio Unit version in addition to VST..

      Also, other possibility is to use VST to Audio Unit adapter. Hope this helps.

  7. Hi,
    I have not yet started making any form of electronic music yet, but I think that this has given me a great starting point. Now I am in a remote part of Australia and have found that computers and hardware are VERY expensive. Because of this I would like to know some minimum specs. At the moment I am using a crappy laptop with 2GB DDR3 RAM, a 320GB HDD, only 2.3Ghz Pentium Processor, and to be honest I wouldn’t have a clue as to sound card details. Is this, combined with some of the cheaper options in the list, a viable setup for beggining music production?

    Also, how hard is it to make a Drum base without using preset loops. When i begin, I want to try keep away from preset loops and conventional music production. I am looking at making sounds that are not the ‘norm’, so like not just 16 beats before a change and have kicks in odd places, similar to what deadmau5 uses.

    Thanks again.
    Camm,

    • Hey Cameron,

      Yeap, you can start with those specs. I had a 1.3Ghz AMD Athlon, 1GB of RAM and a integrated soundcard and I used it to create “Turnpoint” which was good enough to get me a record deal and all the way to the dutch dance charts. And before that I used even lower specs to create music.

      Now to your second question: it’s not that hard. I have created a tutorial video where I show you how to make a house beat. It should give you an idea how the beats can be created from scratch.

      Deadmau5 is genius by the way :)

  8. this post is bloody awesome!

  9. don’t get too hung up on “gear”. i use fl studio because of the piano roll step sequencer and the pattern approach to assembling a tune but i also use the Nintendo Korg DS-10 to make electronica and i’ve got to say that the DS-10 is quite the “portable” DAW.

  10. What’s the point of 12gb’s of ram if Win 7 can only use 6 gb of it?

    • Hi Asd,

      Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate will support up to 192 GB of RAM so 12GB comes actually quite useful at times. However, the music making programs such as Ableton Live supports up to 3.2 GB of RAM and FL Studio 4 GB so the whole 12 GB isn’t actually needed in these applications.

      But when I bought my computer, I choose to go with the 12GB just to make sure I will not run out of RAM in anytime soon :)

  11. Awesome post Petri!!
    This is a loaded question, but here goes… I’m wanting to build my own computer for music and assemble a decent recording setup. I’d greatly appreciate comments, ideas, feedback on anything below. THANKS!

    Computer….
    •Coolmaster HAF932 case (highest rated case on amazon)
    •ASUS P7P55D-E Pro ATX Intel motherboard
    •EVGA GeForce 9500 GT 01G-P3-N959-TR video card
    •Intel Core i7 Processor i7-960 3.20GHz 8MB LGA1366 processor
    •Kingston DDR3 8gb ram OR G.SKILL 8GB (2 x 4GB) Ripjaws X Series DDR3 1600MHz 240-Pin PC3-12800 Desktop Memory
    •Intel X24M Gen 2 SSD 160gb OR OCZ Vertex 2 OCZSSD3-2VTX120G 3.5″ MLC SSD
    •Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB 3.5″ SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Hard Drive and/or fanless HIS Radeon HD 5550 512mb
    Also…
    •Media Card Reader: Kingston or AFT
    •Firewire card
    •MIDI Controller

    And the external bits I’d like…
    •PCI sound card/converter: M-Audio Delta 1010
    •Pre-amp: haven’t decided
    •Microphones: mainly piano and vocal, Rode NKT, Shure SM7

    • Hi Luke, looks like a pretty powerful setup :) 8 GB of RAM is plenty and SSD drive should be a very good choice for the OS. What kind of MIDI controller you were planning to get? I also recommend getting Windows 7 as the OS. About the soundcard: I’ve read through the M-Audio forums that lot of people have reported glitch and crackel problem when recording with the delta 1010 in Windows 7 machines. Have you checked the other products from M-Audio – such as their firewire audio interfaces?

      • Thanks for the quick reply Petri! I’m still learning about all this, haven’t looked into M-Audio much. I had thought the MIDI Controller was a part of the PCI converter. So I need 3 pieces, PCI, MIDI, and pre-amp? I haven’t looked into those much; what do you suggest?
        I’m curious why you recommend Windows 7 over OS X… isn’t Apple less virus prone?
        And do you know if all my computer bits will be OK together? I’ve read compatibility can be a problem, want to make sure I get all the parts right before buying them.

        thanks so much for your help?

        • Luke,

          MIDI controller is an external device you plug-in to your computer via USB. It sends a MIDI data to your computer and you can use it to control your music software and virtual instruments. There are different types of MIDI controllers, but most commonly used external MIDI device in nomal home studio is MIDI keyboard. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIDI_keyboard)

          So basically you need just a soundcard OR if you need to have a pre-amp, firewire or USB audio interface with pre-amp built-in might be something to consider. Maybe something like http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/FastTrackPro.html.

          I personally don’t have much experience dealing with USB/firewire audio interfaces (other than Zoom H4 and Zoom R16), so can’t recommend much based on my own experience, but if you’re planning to record via external sources like guitar and microphone that FastTrackPro might be something to check out.

          So basically, to be able to make music with computer, you need these:

          – computer (Mac or PC)
          – soundcard or audio interface (you can even start with the built-in soundcards that every computer has these days, but if you wan’t a better performance or plan to record from external sources, then something like FastTrackPro might be something to consider)
          – MIDI keyboard controller (not necessity though, but recommended)
          – studio monitors/headphones (even studio monitors aren’t necessity, but highly recommended though)
          – music software

          About OS: let me explain a little. I was recommending Windows 7 as the operating system for PC machine. I wasn’t comparing it to OS X as OS X is only for Macintosh machines.

          For PC you can choose from Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 or maybe Linux.. from these operating systems I am recommending Windows 7.

          But if you are going to choose Mac as your computer, then OS X is your choice.

          About the computer parts: this is something you have to ask for your vendor.

          Hope this helps :)

  12. Hi Petri-
    As a beginner I’m wondering which DAW you would recommend for the Mac platform? I am a musician but not too savvy (okay, not at all savvy) with the technical stuff. Is there a particular software that is easiest and most simple to use and start out with, but still has a lot of built-in features and sounds? And possibly one that I could use my computer keyboard as the controller (like the FL Studio)? Thanks!

    • Hey Stephanie,

      I would recommend you to check out Reason: http://www.propellerheads.se/download or Ableton Live Suite: http://www.ableton.com/products. Both have tons of sounds and features. Ableton let’s you use natively your computer keyboard as a virtual piano keyboard, but I’m not sure if Reason supports that. However, it’s not an issue as you can always download a third party application for that. Check out VMPK: http://vmpk.sourceforge.net/

      As for the learning curve, well, either one of those isn’t impossible to learn, but I think you may wan’t to check out the Reason first.

      Try the demo versions or both software and choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

      Hope this helps!

      • yaniv sharon

        not meaning to mess up the reply but I found propellerhead rather difficult to use..I would say ejay is the most simplest software to use. But fruity loops is better as you can do more, but yes very difficult for someone with little or no music background like me.

  13. This article opened my ears and mind. Have you heard Cutworks – Spacecraft Tools, please listen if you can, and can you recommend similar music? I was told it is Liquid Drum n Bass, but I could not find anything equally satisfying in that genre, to the extent that I tried. . . thanks again for the wonderful article and generous sharing of your experience and ideas. TC.

    • Hey Adil, glad you liked the article! I hadn’t heard Cutworks before I checked the song on youtube: nice drum & bass. For something similar, Simon V may come to close. Try to find his older songs such as Icebreaker or No Time To Cry.

  14. Hey there
    Ok so i want to start making music on my computer and i found this but im having a little trouble
    Im using fl studio but im not all that great at “self teaching” can you recommend some tutorial’s that will help me get started

  15. Hello,

    Great article- it’s been an incredibly helpful learning tool as I begin to try my hand at making music. I’ve gotten to the point now where I need a MIDI keyboard to help make things easier on me. What do you think of this keyboard?

    http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/KeyStudio.html

    It is obviously a low-end keyboard, but that’s what I’m looking for (I’ve been using the DAW Zynewave Podium, so I’m obviously doing this on the cheap for now). Reviews say that it also works fine with Windows, even though it says it’s for Mac. Do you know of any other cheap but effective beginner keyboards?

    Thanks for your time.

  16. This article is really useful for beginners like me.I have one doubt that is [i don’t have a midi keyboard] so if i just buy one…with a sound-card …as im using fl studio can i record the notes on piano roll?

  17. Awesome stuff indeed, so as the whole web site, i will have to read a lot :)

    Im starting to deal with FL studio more seriously, so i wanted to ask does these tutorials on your web site cover FL studio 9, or they are for FL studio 10, or could they be used for both ?

    Keep up the good work :)

    • hi, there and thanks for reading the article! Yeah, 99% of the tutorials I’ve been producing so far will work with FLS 9 as well. However, some tutorials will have .flp project files that are made with FLS10, but most of them should open in FLS9 as well. :)

  18. Yo thanks again for posting this.. Really is a great resource!!! Thank you!!

  19. Jonathan Stone

    Hi Petri,

    Thanks for this website. I am extremely new at this and would love to just start experimenting with creating electronic music. Can you please in your reply post ‘FREE’ version links for: DAW, VST plugins and free samles please… I went to the links you provided and they were just forums or they did not provide much help.

    Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind Regards

    Jon

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