Jump to content

How did you get started with electronics?


Recommended Posts

So, my situation is this — I'm a career musician (primarily a vocalist), so I've got a good foundation in the art itself. I've written a good amount of scored music, and I actively listen to a number of genres.

I would love to work more with electronic music (maybe someday submit an OCR!) but I'm stumped. The tutorials and guides I've read here seem mostly focused on buying gear, or improving a project that you've already figured out how to start. But every time I open my DAW, I am overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of it, and my eyes go all googly. :shock:

I'm amazed by the talent and hard work that is evident in so much of the music I've listened to on this site, so I'll throw this question out there — how did you get started with electronic music? Did you have a friend who showed you the ropes? Did you take a class? Did you read some books? A n00b-friendly website? Did you just sit down at the computer and exercise god-like patience until you got it right?

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for any feedback you can offer!

-------

PS: I hope I haven't violated the "don't ask questions about getting started" policy that seems to be in effect... I have tried with the on-site tutorials. I don't expect anybody to hold my hand through the entire learning process, but I would dearly love to know what some of you did when you were close to where I'm at now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, my situation is this — I'm a career musician (primarily a vocalist), so I've got a good foundation in the art itself. I've written a good amount of scored music, and I actively listen to a number of genres.

I would love to work more with electronic music (maybe someday submit an OCR!) but I'm stumped. The tutorials and guides I've read here seem mostly focused on buying gear, or improving a project that you've already figured out how to start. But every time I open my DAW, I am overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of it, and my eyes go all googly. :shock:

I'm amazed by the talent and hard work that is evident in so much of the music I've listened to on this site, so I'll throw this question out there — how did you get started with electronic music? Did you have a friend who showed you the ropes? Did you take a class? Did you read some books? A n00b-friendly website? Did you just sit down at the computer and exercise god-like patience until you got it right?

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for any feedback you can offer!

-------

PS: I hope I haven't violated the "don't ask questions about getting started" policy that seems to be in effect... I have tried with the on-site tutorials. I don't expect anybody to hold my hand through the entire learning process, but I would dearly love to know what some of you did when you were close to where I'm at now.

What I did, even though I'm not a posted remixer, I feel I have learned alot in the months I've been practicing with FL Studio (My Current DAW). What I did first is I sat down. pretty much messed with it learned what this and that do, how to maniulate it, looked in the manuals, and got help from the forums when things stumped me.

You don't HAVE to have alot of equipment to get started with electronic music. For sounds, theres soundfonts, you could browse the web for, or pick up a copy of Electronic Musician, which comes with free software, and wav sounds for you to use.

Also, check out zircons tutorials check the tutorial thread too if you havent already and

www.zirconstudios.com

Practice is a key into learning your DAW. You might find it confusing for a while but as you start messing with it and such, you'll learn its controls, how to use them, manipulate them ect. I messed with FL for 3 or so months before I even bought it :P (I'm still not anywere great in using it :P)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The DAW is basically just a sequencer and mixer, and they're pretty basic things. Learn those.

I started getting into music by getting a sequencer and using that for a few years. Then I got a DAW in the same vein as the sequencer I had used before (trackers, if anyone cares). Then I got a simple "modern" DAW, GarageBand, and if you're on mac that's an awesome place to learn the basics of DAWs. After than, I got Logic, a "big" DAW.

Each step up took some time to get used to. Start by learning to sequence music, then move up to mixing volume. Then start using effects (EQ, reverb, delay, compressor, overdrive) to fit the tracks together better than volume alone can do. Additionally, you should learn to work with audio files in the DAW, and learn how samplers and synths (as in sound synthesizer, not music keyboard) work.

Three paragraphs... Shouldn't be hard to get your head around. Besides, one of them was just a summary of my exercise of god-like patience (I would call it "having fun with the computer" or "writing music").

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The DAW is basically just a sequencer and mixer, and they're pretty basic things. Learn those.

Thanks for that; that truly does make the whole thing seem much simpler. I run both GarageBand and Logic Express on my Mac, and so far have only been using them for recording. So, I will try experimenting with the sequencer aspect.

Each step up took some time to get used to. Start by learning to sequence music, then move up to mixing volume. Then start using effects (EQ, reverb, delay, compressor, overdrive) to fit the tracks together better than volume alone can do. Additionally, you should learn to work with audio files in the DAW, and learn how samplers and synths (as in sound synthesizer, not music keyboard) work.

Aha! A curriculum! Awesome. Breaking it down into steps is exactly what I need. So far it's just been me in front of the computer, saying to myself, "make music" which is frustratingly vague.

Three paragraphs... Shouldn't be hard to get your head around. Besides, one of them was just a summary of my exercise of god-like patience (I would call it "having fun with the computer" or "writing music").

Yes, I think even my feeble mind can grasp three paragraphs. :lol: I will try to call the process by one of those names, too. I think it will be easier now that I have an idea of where to start. Thanks very much for your advice, Rozovian!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

alright here's my success story

summers ago in the ripe year of 2005, a friend suggested i check out FL Studio. prior to this, my only experiences with digital songwriting involved sequencing my own MIDIs, which at the time was pretty cool stuff. getting FLS opened up my world incredibly, and i remember i'd sit around sequencing and composing all these random songs with no real goal in mind. it was the most basic stuff you could imagine but it blew my mind

so months would pass and "songs" would be pumping out regularly. i think by the end of 2005, i started to get an interest in putting together actual albums. over the course of about four years, i've recorded give or take 30 albums of music, with about a half of those solely dedicated to electronic music (the rest were on guitar and stuff)

now you hear a lot about how it's "quality over quantity", and i couldn't agree any less with that saying. however, sometimes when you're pursuing something, it's best to do as much as possible without regards to acute perfection at all. some ambition is key, because it keeps you on the right track. for me, recording full albums of music furthered my songwriting skills tremendously. naturally whenever i'd be finished with one, i almost immediately find it to be subpar and mediocre, because i learned so much more about the recording process in that time. it's something like "alright here's the product of the last few months, i'm proud of it, but i know i can do better and i'm yearning to outdo myself." so you wind up constantly improving. this is one of those rare cases, i think, that quantity benefits you more from quality, because in time you'll gain a natural instinct for what sounds the best

it's been a solid four years since i got fully immersed into the songwriting biz. a couple dozen albums and undoubtedly hundreds upon hundreds of songs later, i still catch myself improving after each endeavor. practice has indeed helped make perfect, and it's a momentum that really keeps me on track with new material and getting myself up to standards with today's extremely gifted songwriters, producers and composers

just keep at it, no matter how simple you start out with. it'll be a long process depending on how often you set out to record songs or albums, but the more it's tackled, the more it'll get easier and closer to your expectations. keep an open mind and do new things as they strike you, and most of all, make it fun. if i didn't have fun with writing and recording, i certainly wouldn't have poured a large portion of my life into it

hope this helps... not sure if this was just inspirational ranting or psychobabble

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SI'm a career musician (primarily a vocalist), so I've got a good foundation in the art itself. I've written a good amount of scored music, and I actively listen to a number of genres.

If you're a professional musician then you're already ahead of the game. Most remixers are helpless without software. The DAW itself is their instrument.

So you've got a lot to build upon.

But every time I open my DAW, I am overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of it, and my eyes go all googly. :shock:

The people who really know this stuff never have that attitude. When I see software I don't understand, I take that as a challenge. I work with it and use whatever learning resources are available until I can make something with it. I never stopped to ask how to get started - instead I just got started.

Did you have a friend who showed you the ropes? Did you take a class? Did you read some books? A n00b-friendly website? Did you just sit down at the computer and exercise god-like patience until you got it right?

To answer your survey: All of the above.

cheers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

over the course of about four years, i've recorded give or take 30 albums of music, with about a half of those solely dedicated to electronic music (the rest were on guitar and stuff)

8-O Wow. 30 albums in 4 years? You've been hard at work!

now you hear a lot about how it's "quality over quantity", and i couldn't agree any less with that saying.

I get what you're saying here. I've found the same to be very true for my writing of more traditional music; if you worry too much about making it perfect, you spend way too much time on a single idea and not enough honing your craft in general.

...and most of all, make it fun. if i didn't have fun with writing and recording, i certainly wouldn't have poured a large portion of my life into it

hope this helps... not sure if this was just inspirational ranting or psychobabble

Absolutely. Music is a blast! Thanks for your inspirational psychobabble :razz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for your insight, analoq!

The people who really know this stuff never have that attitude. When I see software I don't understand, I take that as a challenge. I work with it and use whatever learning resources are available until I can make something with it. I never stopped to ask how to get started - instead I just got started.

Well, I certainly can't claim to know this stuff yet. I already think it will be a fun challenge, and I try to make sure I challenge myself on a regular basis. Asking how to get started is just the natural first step for me — I admire the self-directed learning process, but there's something to be said for saving time by getting pointers from folks who've already been there.

To answer your survey: All of the above.

Any resources you'd suggest?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

check this site out http://zalmusic.blogspot.com/2008/03/beginner-trance-production-tutorial.html

It's a trance tutorial. The hardest part for me is FX and Special Sounds. All those sweeps, wooshing, beeping effects, etc. is something I still have trouble with :?. His tutorial doesn't help much with this. I really need a tutorial that covers this.

If you want to learn more about a specific DAW, do register and ask questions at the respective forums. You get lots of help. As a FL Studio user, I get help from Theflipsideforum.com, but remember to use the search function first before asking!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, when you say your starting out, do you mean your 'I-haven't-ever-touched-a-DAW-before-and-I-don't-know-what-is-what' starting out, or is it more like 'I've-tinkered-with-some-programs-like-MIDI-sequencers-and-scoring-programs-but-the-DAW-has-a-bunch-of-new-stuff'? If it's the first I'd seriously recommend picking up a MIDI sequencer and learning the ropes of basic sequencing before entering the world of screwing with a DAW.

The thing is, with the more powerful workstations, you'll need to deal with a whole lot more variables just to make a sound, but if you don't know how to input the sounds then you'll be very much screwed. Not only are you looking at what notes the sequence should be playing, but also the plugins, the connections, the mixers, etc. must be in the right spots and such in order to just make a sound. That's great and all, but if your an absolute noob it may make it difficult to learn any aspect at all as you'll need to basically learn everything simultaniously in order to make sound. Granted, it could work for you, but by the sound of it you might benefit from downgrading a little before getting into the more powerful equipment.

Of course, if your already familiar with basic sequencing then those things are exactly what you should be worrying about, so time and patience would be all you need (along with the other stuff mentioned before). If your a complete noob then I'd recommend practicing basic sequencing for a little while until you get the hang of that before entering the realm of more complex sequencing; otherwise just try making random stuff just to get a feel for sequencing (personally I like to remix crap in order to get a feel for a new program :-P).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...or is it more like 'I've-tinkered-with-some-programs-like-MIDI-sequencers-and-scoring-programs-but-the-DAW-has-a-bunch-of-new-stuff'?

That one... I think. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the exact definition of a sequencer. I've done a lot of work with notation software like Finale and Sibelius, and I've created and edited MIDI files using traditional and piano roll notation... working with things like dynamics, note duration, key velocities. That was a long time ago, though, and there is probably tons I still need to learn about sequencing, so I guess that's where to start.

...but if you don't know how to input the sounds then you'll be very much screwed.

Case in point. This is exactly where I'm at now. I've come to understand some of what the DAW can do, but every time I open it, I think, "OK, great. How do I actually create the music to edit?"

...if your an absolute noob it may make it difficult to learn any aspect at all as you'll need to basically learn everything simultaniously in order to make sound... by the sound of it you might benefit from downgrading a little before getting into the more powerful equipment.

Yeah, that's where the googly-eyed sensation in my OP comes from. I've got GarageBand and Logic, maybe I will put the latter on hold and try to make something decent with the first one first.

...otherwise just try making random stuff just to get a feel for sequencing (personally I like to remix crap in order to get a feel for a new program :-P).

I agree. Some of my best learning experiences as a composer and arranger have been taking a piece that I hated and just playing around with it. It removes any pressure of wanting a perfect result, since it's guaranteed not to happen, and it lets you focus entirely on the process.

Thanks for your input, Gario!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That one... I think. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the exact definition of a sequencer. I've done a lot of work with notation software like Finale and Sibelius, and I've created and edited MIDI files using traditional and piano roll notation... working with things like dynamics, note duration, key velocities. That was a long time ago, though, and there is probably tons I still need to learn about sequencing, so I guess that's where to start.

Sounds like you got the basics, just gotta learn to use them in GB and Logic.

Case in point. This is exactly where I'm at now. I've come to understand some of what the DAW can do, but every time I open it, I think, "OK, great. How do I actually create the music to edit?"

Command-click or right-click. Everywhere. ;)

In Logic, later, you'll have to set the pencil tool as the right-click behavior.

Yeah, that's where the googly-eyed sensation in my OP comes from. I've got GarageBand and Logic, maybe I will put the latter on hold and try to make something decent with the first one first.

Spend a month or two just toying with the program. Write songs, then mix songs, and always take the time to try something new. Take backups, then toy around.

...and make sure to have fun with it. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rule 1: (straight from the Buddha) - Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Rule 2: There are rules. There are no rules.

There are no rules because nobody's holding a gun to your head when you're working, saying he'll pull the trigger when you do something wrong or out of bounds or anything that's not recommended.

There are rules because mankind has been making music for millennia, and using recording gear for several decates. By now we've got a reasonably good idea of what works and what doesn't. Don't reinvent the wheel, but take every chance to study it and think of how you could improve it, and keep yourself asking why someone does something in such a way.

Rule 3: MIDI is not audio. MIDI is to audio as sheet music is to a CD - one tells you what you should play, but not how it sounds; the other tells you what it sounds like, but not how you should play it.

Rule 4: Use anything that does the job. Constrained art can be fun; constrained thinking isn't.

Rule 5: If it sounds good, it is good. We'll tell you if it doesn't sound good, and we'll be merciless.

Rule 6: Tell a story, go into a direction. While pop is about boy meets girl or vice-versa, abstract techno may be about a sunset or avalanche. Ambient has direction and a theme, too. Electronic music without direction isn't fun to listen to.

Rule 7: Buying the same synth as your favorite remixer/DJ/artist won't guarantee anything. More gear never made anyone a better composer or player. Learn how to play; learn the scales and the chords, because it means you'll write your ideas with far more ease.

Rule 8: Each sequencer has its own philosophy. If you feel a piece of software is not cooperating with you (when you have an idea of what you want to do and know the steps), switch.

Rule 9: "Professional" means that you're making money with it, nothing less, nothing more.

Rule 10: Re-learning a piece of software from scratch after you've switched may take up to 3-6 months if you've been using the previous software for a year or 2. Right now you still have all the choice.

Rule 11: Plugins have knobs. They're meant to be used; if the sound you're looking for is not in the presets, roll your own. If you don't know what the text on the label means; doesn't matter, just memorize and learn by rote what its effect is. If it doesn't do anything, it depends on something else.

Rule 12: A DAW consists of a computer, software, a controller and an audio interface. Picking all these depends on your budget, so if we know that, we can recommend something.

Rule 13: Writing 10 tracks and getting 1 gem in the rubble is better than writing 1 song that's 90% rubble.

Rule 14: Memorize. Google. Wiki. Look up any word you don't know. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; don't be afraid to screw it up, and don't be afraid to spend an hour messing with something; you'll emerge wiser from it. Experiment, but don't experiment randomly; write down your findings and systematically try to find out what things do.

Rule 15: Simplify. Don't throw complete mastering effects over your final mix that consist of a dozen buttons while you don't know what 10% of 'm do. Logic Express has a clearly laid out set of effects; throw in a simple drum loop and use one effect at a time, and find out what it does.

Rule 16: If you're not writing anything experimental; if it doesn't sound good on a regular piano, you probably should start over again.

Rule 17: Don't be afraid to copy, but copy wisely: instead of asking how each sound in a track is made, rather take the structure of a track, write down at which measure you start hearing things (or elements are taken away), and see if you can use that as a skeleton.

Rule 18: Less is more is not about numbers but about focus. That said, having 200 free plugins just because you can have 'm is probably not a good idea.

Rule 19: Show what you've done when you have questions. If you don't have the correct terminology, add (cropped) screenshots, add audio demos, add Youtube videos with the exact time of when something happens. You'll see that people at all forums are far more willing to help you out than when you'd scream HEEELLLLPPPP!!! in the topic title and ask how Tiesto does this one sound in that track nobody heard of but you know what I'm talking about right?

Rule 20: The reason people stick to certain pieces of software or hardware is either because they've started out with it and are fluent in it to the point where they no longer have to think in order to do something; they just do - or because back then it was cheap, and it was all they could afford. This is so true for such a large part of all electronic music that it's not even funny. There's also the point where they finally get a load of money and then buy everything they've been dreaming of since they saw it in the music store.

Rule 21: Take care of your ears; after your brain, they're your most important piece of equipment.

Rule 22: You usually don't hear a sound on its own; almost always, effects come into play. Obvious example: 1 and 2 - both are the same (free) plugin with the same sound dialed in.

Rule 23: Record anything anywhere at all times. Your harddisk is big enough; there's no reason to throw anything away. Consider your crappy ideas folder like a modern garbage dump - in the future, we'll start mining them for resources. Even if it's just a 4 or 8 bar loop; don't keep waiting for that perfect song to come by.

Rule 24: Music theory. It makes you a better writer if you read other books; it makes you a better composer if you figure out how everyone else did it.

Rule 25: Make sure your studio is a comfortable working enviroment where you don't get disturbed. A clean desk is a clean mind; a clean setup is a clean start. You will not be happier if you first have to do all kinds of cleaning on either the computer or in the room if it blocks you from doing anything. Look into templates and take your time to make a setup you can start from; you should not have to configure everything every single time.

Rule 26: Whenever you read little nuggets of studio wisdom, like EQ charts - http://www.recordingwebsite.com/articles/eqprimer.php or http://www.ethanwiner.com/equalizers.html - always keep in mind that most of the time they can't be applied to electronic music since they're for real instruments. Those nuggets of wisdom may prove to be nuggets of poo if you blindly follow them and apply them to the wrong thing. See also: rule 2.

Rule 34: There is porn of it. No exceptions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds like you got the basics, just gotta learn to use them in GB and Logic.

Yeah, you know, the more I've been talking this over on this thread, the more I'm realizing I actually do sort of know where to start. I just successfully put together a 30-second clip with multiple instruments and everything. Hardcore.

Command-click or right-click. Everywhere. ;)

Funnily enough, GarageBand won't let you right-click on anything.

...and make sure to have fun with it. :D

This is fun. :<

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, you know, the more I've been talking this over on this thread, the more I'm realizing I actually do sort of know where to start. I just successfully put together a 30-second clip with multiple instruments and everything. Hardcore.

I'm jealous. I'm still kind of stuck.

Part of the problem is, my Internet access on my CCRMA-enabled OS is patchy at best, so it's hard for me to do work and have Internet open at the same time. So I have to fiddle around without help, and if I need to check something online I need to save my work and reboot in Ubuntu. Kinda lame.

But I'll be watching here anyway. Hopefully I will eventually get something done. Good luck to both of us, TC.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yoozer —

:shock: That is a lot of rules. So, clearly, rule 2 is correct. The one that says there are rules. Because there they are.

I will take many of these to heart, and my own experience as a musician has already proven several of them, so I hope they are useful to others too. A couple in specific spoke to me at this point in time...

Rule 9: "Professional" means that you're making money with it, nothing less, nothing more.

This is true. Although, as someone who uses that term about myself a lot, I like to cling to the "nothing less" part. I don't think I am anywhere near deceitful enough to make money at something that I wasn't skilled at. Plus, I feel like that term justifies my lack of a day job. ;-)

Rule 12: A DAW consists of a computer, software, a controller and an audio interface. Picking all these depends on your budget, so if we know that, we can recommend something.

I think I'm all set for gear.. I hope so, anyway, because my budget is next to nothing right now. I'm running a 2.8 GHz iMac with GarageBand and Logic, and I've got an M-Audio 88es keyboard controller and an M-Audio MobilePre USB preamp/audio interface.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Part of the problem is, my Internet access on my CCRMA-enabled OS is patchy at best, so it's hard for me to do work and have Internet open at the same time. So I have to fiddle around without help, and if I need to check something online I need to save my work and reboot in Ubuntu. Kinda lame.

That does sound frustrating, although I have no idea what CCRMA or Ubuntu are. What's your current goal? I set myself the task of sequencing the "Hammer" theme from Donkey Kong:

I couldn't think of anything simpler. Now I am just repeating it with other elements thrown in, some really basic drums, some chords on strings... I'm getting a pretty good feel for how the sequencing works on this application.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My current goal at the moment is to get my apps to work.

Planet CCRMA is a bunch of audio apps and technologies designed for the CentOS (and also for Red Hat) operating systems. Audio work in Linux is struggling a bit compared to Macs and PCs-- specifically it's kind of hard to get everything to link up and work together. So I'm just trying to get sound to be produced in a sequencer/DAW (Rosegarden) with which I'm not even familiar.

*shrug* I'll figure it out. I just need more time...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think I am anywhere near deceitful enough to make money at something that I wasn't skilled at.

If you can get away with it, why not?

I'm running a 2.8 GHz iMac with GarageBand and Logic, and I've got an M-Audio 88es keyboard controller and an M-Audio MobilePre USB preamp/audio interface.

Excellent - but your posts only told me you had a Mac w/ GB and Logic, so... (also, several people spent clicking everything in FL Studio's piano roll for a long while until they got controllers. It's a way of doing things, just not a particularly good one if you want to avoid RSI ;) ).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...