One thing DJs often find themselves thinking is: how can I take my career to the next level? Why not try music production? Here’s 6 reasons why becoming a music producer could be the best thing you do..
1. Your DJ Knowledge Gives You A Head-Start
You already have a great knowledge of music, you’ve honed your taste and have an appreciation for genre. DJing will have introduced you to a variety of different kinds of music which can be used as a palette to draw inspiration from – no doubt you will already have some good ideas about the kind of music you want to make. There’s a lot of crossover between the DJ and production worlds, so you will find that you as a DJ are already equipped with some of the technical knowledge and language that you need for production, such as how looping works, how to keep levels balanced with EQs, how to use effects and how to layer sounds together. You also have the significant advantage of knowing which tracks work when played in a club.
2. It’s Easier Than You Think
It may look challenging but these days production is more accessible than ever before. You do not need any music theory; music technology has evolved to cater for all levels of musical knowledge. Plugins such as Ableton’s Instant Haus generates house drum patterns automatically, which is great for teaching you how patterns are structured as well as getting half the job done already! DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation, i.e. the software used to create music) often come with a load of synth presets and melodic/drum loops, which will speed up the process of getting your ideas down. For those who aren’t confident with melodies/harmonies, Serato Studio, a DJ-friendly DAW, has you covered with its ‘master key’ function – it locks everything into a key of your choice, so you can’t go wrong!
3. The Scene Requires It
These days for high-profile success it is practically essential for DJs to make their own music too. When the electronic scene was young DJ equipment was more expensive, the playing field was smaller & you could more easily break through with a stellar record collection & some networking. Nowadays high-profile DJs who don’t do a scrap of production are few and far between and have often put in hard graft in other fields (such as Annie Mac, who found fame as a Radio One presenter). Because DJing is much more accessible and affordable, DJs are branching out to other creative means, challenging themselves in new ways and putting original content out there to make them stand out from the crowd.
4. From A Business POV…
Producing original music is a natural career progression for a DJ because, simply put, producers of big tracks get DJ bookings. Even just one killer track can help you get onto the local scene and boost your profile. Also, a really great tune, played by other DJs you’re affiliated with, is a great advert for you. It works like a business card, spreading the word about you as a musical artist & hopefully leads to people wanting to book you.
5. From A Creative POV…
Music production is fun, fulfilling and – once you have the bug – addictive. It doesn’t just have to be about ‘making it’; there are plenty of musicians who just want to make art and aren’t too fussed about fame or money. Production is great for DJs who are in it for the sheer pleasure of doing it; if you enjoy the rush of playing a sick DJ set, crafting your own unique material is arguably even more of a buzz. Playing your own music gives you instant access to gems nobody else has, and having people ask you for track ID on your own material is one of the best feelings!
6. It Doesn’t Have To Break The Bank
Not sure where to start with regards to gear? There is a lot of gear out there, but the good news is that production doesn’t have to be mega expensive, and you don’t need to try find room in your house for 10 new gadgets! The absolute essentials for getting started are a computer (Windows or Mac will do fine), a DAW and some headphones or speakers. A great place to start is Ableton Live Lite which comes free with many MIDI keyboards and interfaces. This pared-down version of the dance music world’s fave DAW has the basics: 8 audio/MIDI tracks, 8 Scenes (horizontal row of clips that contains sound), Live’s core library of sounds and presets – plenty for you to test it out and see if you like it. In fact, limitations can be very good for creativity – you’ll get good at using the essentials in the most effective way, without the distraction of endless plug-ins to scroll through!
If you want to go a step further you can purchase Ableton Live Intro for only £69 which has more features (more effects/plugins/sounds etc.) and double the amount of Scenes meaning you can get more ideas down in one project. And if you like what you find, you can upgrade to Standard/Suite versions later down the line when you feel more comfortable with the software.
As a DJ you’re probably a fan of the hands-on playability of decks and will likely want some hardware to control your DAW with. Again, there are plenty of reasonably priced options. Not only are MIDI controllers inexpensive, but because of the nature of the digital world – with its many free plugins, sample packs and loop libraries – your MIDI controller can act as all manner of soft synths, samplers, drum machines, the possibilities are virtually endless – and all without spending an extra penny let alone having to buy a load of external gear!
Here are our top twelve picks for a beginner production set up:
1. Ableton Live 10 (any version) – the dance music world’s favourite DAW
2. Novation Launchpad Mini Mk3 – a pad controller, perfect for studio or live sets. Comes with Ableton Live Lite
3. Native Instruments M32 – compact and portable MIDI keyboard, comes with Ableton Live Lite
4. Native Instruments Maschine Mikro – compact beatmaking machine, comes with software bundle including iconic synth MASSIVE
5. Ableton Push 2 – an amazing machine with the biggest amount of Live integration in a MIDI controller on the market, making it extremely intuitive to use. Comes with Live Intro
6. Maschine Mk3 – the big brother of Maschine Mikro, with a more extensive feature set and beautiful screen display. Comes with Komplete 12 Select, a lite version of Native Instruments much-loved software. Includes 7,000 sounds, and over 45 GB of instruments and effects, including MASSIVE
7. Modal Electronics Skulpt – a bargain of a hardware synth, looks tiny, sounds massive.
8. Modal Electronics Craft Synth 2.0 – an even teenier hardware synth, as a wavetable synth it has much in common with iconic soft synth Serum
9. Audio Technica ATH-M20X Headphones – great value production headphones with a flat, honest sound
10. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 & 2 – bestselling value interfaces, come with Komplete Start (most basic version of Native’s software) & Ableton Live Lite
11. ADAM T5V speakers – great value studio speakers with a flat frequency response for reliable studio referencing
12. Serato Studio – DJ company branches out to production with this DJ-friendly DAW. Similar format to Serato DJ and has many handy features such as the Master Key function
The bottom line is – of course, you don’t HAVE to produce, but why wouldn’t you want to? Propel your DJ career, fulfil your creative needs and find your unique sound. Go beyond mixing other tracks that you love and start making ones that will inspire your crowds in the same way. Find your sound & weave it into your sets to completely transform them. You’d be surprised how easy it is to do this and how satisfying the results are.