Music production or "producing", what exactly does it mean?

How producing applies to your songs, with 4 practical tips

You want to make it big with your own songs and one day have your album go platinum? Then you need to know how to produce your own music until you get that major deal. Because even rock legends have to start somewhere. They usually have to spend years"paying their dues", playing the smallest clubs and festivals as well as making test recordings and demos. A lot of it is DIY, so it doesn't hurt to know something about all the technology you use.

Unless you have your own crew you will have do most of the work yourself, which means touring from gig to gig with your own equipment in your own car. And until you sign that lucrative deal, you'll be recording your demos in small, self-furnished living rooms or basement studios (possibly using egg boxes as panelling). Afterwards, you can sell them at your own merchandise stand or send them to record executives in the hope that they will recognise you as the next big thing. When you make recordings, you do the set-up yourself, record the instruments and the vocals, mix and edit. In short:

You produce your own sound – your recording DNA!

You can either do this averagely or you can do it really well. In this article, we have put together a few basic ideas for you.

This is what you can expect here:

Music production vs. "Producing" – what are we talking about here?

Making it big in the music business depends on creativity and musical ability, but at least as much on discipline and hard work as well. When it comes to working your way up, when you have your sights set on your first big record deal you need to stand out from all the other bands in the same position. They also make great music and they are at least as hungry for success as you are – so good producing can make the difference. The final product, your song, goes through a series of stages from the initial idea to the finished audio track, which we show you in more detail here.

With the right DAW and some dedication, you can produce music from the comfort of your own home

Even if many things were different in the past (some say "everything was better"), a lot in the 2020s depends on your music being unmistakably authentic and individual. A lot of things can be ironed out in the studio with technology, but if you can't manage a chord progression or if you're a singer who just can't hit the notes, you'll have a hard time making it to the top. On the other hand, editing sound in the studio is an art form in itself and the DAW is an instrument in its own right.

For some years now, it has been possible to make a high-end recording without paying for professional sound engineers in really expensive studios just by using a home PC (plus a little extra equipment, of course). Here you will find all the hardware and software you need to achieve professional results at home.

The term "producing" has various definitions. First and foremost, it refers to the technical process in the studio when a producer arranges, cuts, masters etc. your song. In hip-hop, house or electronic dance music, "producing" means making beats yourself.
Performers may also get confused by this term. The "producer" can be the "doer" hired by you or the management in the big recording studio, usually in addition to the audio engineer. A professional music producer…

  • gives artistic advice on the material

  • coordinates and organises the recording session

  • and also provides creative input.

However, anyone with a computer who creates electronic music at home is also a producer. Independently and with less technology and a lower budget, of course. In short, there is no clear-cut demarcation.

Learn more about sound technology and the live experience?

These are the 5 phases of producing music

Music production involves a multitude of steps, the basics of which we present to you here. Don't worry, it's not complicated. Just get started, modern technology (which is also affordable) makes it easier for you than ever.

Producing music is more than just the final mixing and pressing onto a record. It ranges from the initial creative tinkering on a piano during songwriting to the final mastering.

Inspiration before craftsmanship: without creativity, there is nothing to produce

Before you can produce anything, the writing comes first. This creative process is different for every musician. Inspiration may come to you as soon as you sit down at the piano or pick up the guitar. Others prefer to write in unusual, changing places. Did the inspiration for a catchy melody strike you yesterday in the café? Do the perfect lyrics for the chorus sometimes come to you when you're riding on the underground? Great, first make a rough sketch of it as a draft. You can work it out properly later. And if you ever have writer's block, here are a few good creative techniques.

The 5 phases of producing

Spending time in a studio is expensive. If you record your music in your own rehearsal room, it doesn't cost money but it does cost time. So you need to be clear about some design issues beforehand. This phase is also called pre-production. Here, you'll get answers to questions such as:

  • How should the rhythm guitar sound?

  • Where are the lead guitar parts?

  • Is the singing monophonic or polyphonic?

  • Should the drums align with the riffs or vice versa?


The first recording in the rehearsal room can help you hear the song the way your fans do. It pays off to be clear about important things like these already before you start recording.

You've been working towards this moment, now it's time to start recording. If you have a sound engineer there to help you in the studio, he or she may have some ideas and tips for your recording as an objective advisor: how to enhance the mood with effects, where it is less effective, and so on. Established bands employ a producer who is involved in developing the song, takes part in the pre-production stage, and makes sure in the studio that they and their material make full use of all the possibilities available to them. Do you do everything yourselves as a band? That's also good. Though you need to be careful not to get too emotional about your creations. If a track just doesn't fit with the style of the rest of the recording, leave it out. But leave it to one side, maybe its time will come.

Learn how to record vocals properly at home here in the magazine.


Since there is no such thing as a perfect recording, you usually do several takes. When editing, pick out the best takes and remove any noise such as hisses or unwanted breaths by your singer. Here is where you put together a perfect track, which may be made up of several recordings. To do this, the timing has to be just right. This is a time-consuming production step, and you need the overview as well as a certain distance from the material. Therefore, it may be useful to have someone edit your rough mix who has not recorded it themselves. The alternative is to leave the mix for at least a few days.

It is best to record your instruments individually as this improves the quality enormously. This way, individual tracks are gradually created for guitar, bass, drums as well as the other instruments in your band. Don't forget your lead vocalist. During the mixing process, all the tracks are mixed together so that the individual pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly. Should the electric guitar in particular be in the foreground? How do you get the characteristic bass line to come through in the track without drowning everything out? In any case, your vocals must always be easy to hear. The voice of your lead singer and the words in the chorus should be remembered by your fans. In this step, you will probably work with additional effects on individual tracks.

We have come up with the "5 biggest sound pitfalls when mixing music in your home studio"  for you here in the magazine.

Mastering is the final intervention to your material to bring it to the right quality and volume and to make minor changes with the equaliser. This is where the finishing touches are made and the final quality check carried out. If you are recording several songs for an EP or even a whole album, this is the stage where all songs are aligned to ensure they have the same volume and all tracks are given a consistent sound. Sonic elements are balanced in a stereo mix and playback is optimised across all systems and media formats. This "refinement" creates the polish for the overall piece of work. "Mastering: putting the finishing touches on your music – step by step" shows you how to polish your tracks so they are ready to go out into the world.

Get more tips on home recording here in the magazine.

Of course professional recording studios use the same processes as home recording studios, but with more sophisticated technology and professionals who do this for a living. It's expensive, but you do get value for money. Sound engineers get the best out of your sound and more. They have years of experience at hiding small vocal imperfections or placing the guitar riffs in the foreground or using effects wisely, etc. But no band starts off that way. When you are just starting out in your career you really impress with your raw material, not material that has been professionally smoothed. It has to be "real" and show your potential. The big recording studios only come once you have a record deal with a producer or a label. Then the whole thing picks up speed, and becomes more professional step by step.

Nowadays, it’s easy to record and produce music at home without much prior knowledge or expensive equipment. Anyone can produce their own music even as a newcomer to the field.

This is what you'll need to produce music

Ever heard of Billie Eilish? The American singer-songwriter, who was born in 2001, had her big breakthrough in 2019. Her album "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" won six Grammys in all major categories, including "Best Album" and "Best Song". What's more, she did this as a complete newcomer and unknown, who recorded her songs sitting on her bed and had her brother produce them on her home computer. He also received two Grammys for it. Now that's a successful sibling partnership! That's certainly not a typical experience, but it shows that you don't need the big studios to be successful. You can achieve something similar in home recording with some creativity, dedication and a lot of hard work. It does still take a bit of equipment though. You don't have to go into debt to start producing music for your band, but you do need some basic equipment:

  • Audio interface

  • Software

  • Studio microphone

  • Headphones

  • Cable

You can get them for as little as €300. Studio monitors are not yet included, however. More expensive equipment doesn't make your music better: you can achieve what you want in the smallest of spaces and with minimal equipment. Just look at Billie Eilish.

These 5 equipment elements you need for home recording

As the main working device and control centre, all analogue and digital components converge in your computer. It should have enough memory and a fast enough processor to be able to cope with audio tracks. So it's best not to use a ten-year-old computer that might also produce annoying noises. The most important piece of software you need is a DAW software. This digital audio workstation gives you your own little recording studio in your home PC. Learn more about the software you need here.

An audio interface gives you your own "mini-mixing desk" which all instruments and microphones are connected to. An audio interface serves as an interface and converts analogue input into digital signals, which you can then process on your computer.

Audio interfaces have at least one microphone preamp with 48 V phantom power and an instrument input. You can use it to pick up and record voices or instruments. The instrument input (DI) lets you play your guitar or bass directly into the software. Don't rely on your computer's on-board sound card, because:

  • The sound quality with an interface is far better.

  • Integrated sound cards usually do not have a proper microphone preamplifier.

  • Latency-free, i.e. delay-free monitoring of your input signal is only possible with external audio interfaces.

When buying, make sure it has the inputs you need for sound recording and production. How many sound sources do you want to record in your production, i.e. different instruments plus voices? We have two compact USB recording interfaces in our range: MX-1IO and MX-2IO.

You definitely need loudspeakers, because otherwise you won't be able to check out the ongoing production process or the finished result. Professional sound engineers use special monitors in studios to create a linear sound pattern. Nearfield monitors are special speakers that sound clean, clear and flat. They don't make music sound better, but show a neutral sound. This reveals all the small errors and inaccuracies that you can clean up during mixing. They are not a must-have at the beginning, but if you have money to spare they are worth it. It is also enough to listen to it on your home stereo system without separate studio monitor speakers. Here, however, you must be prepared for the stereo system to present your result in a way which feels glossed over and therefore uncritical.

If you want to record your instruments and your singer's voice as a band, you need microphones. These need to be mounted on stands to eliminate any disturbing noises.
There is a wide range of types of microphone, which have different types of application. Condenser microphones are most suitable for recording, since they pick up a clearer sound and capture more detail than dynamic microphones. They are often used in live performances. If you want to know more about which microphones are more "stage mics" and which are "studio mics", have a look here.

If you're on a tight budget or you can't turn up the volume as much as you'd like in your home studio, headphones are an option for mixing and mastering. Some producers can't do anything with them, while others get good results. It's a matter of taste! Certainly since the success of Billie Eilish, the keyword "bedroom producing" and the associated freedom from location are becoming increasingly important in the modern production process, which opens the door for (also high-priced) headphones as sensible equipment for the home. Some manufacturers have headphones in their product range which are specially designed for producing and help you to hear all the subtleties.

These software/programmes will get you further

If you want to produce your own songs with a home recording studio, you need DAW software. Digital Audio Workstation is the name given to the comprehensive programmes that replace the professional recording studio – strictly speaking you could use that term to describe the entire PC, including music software. Most of them have such a wide range of functions that you can carry out all important production steps with them. However, there are also a number of additional plug-ins (both free and paid) which you can use to cover additional functions.

You need this software for home recording

The DAW is the "centrepiece" of your own digital studio on your home PC. For some years now, there has been a variety of programmes that provide even advanced and professional users with everything they need:

  • Recording

  • Cutting and mixing

  • Merging several tracks

  • Adding effects to your tracks

  • Adding the finishing touches in the final mastering

DAWs were originally intended for recording and editing in recording studios, but many have now also become comprehensive all-in-one solutions for beginners at home. The usual equipment, with effects, sound libraries or amp simulations, is more than enough for most projects.

Examples of comprehensive and user-friendly DAWs include: Ableton Live Standard, Steinberg Cubase Elements or Presonus Studio One. If you're an Apple user, GarageBand DAWs include the following features:

  • Session view with clips and clip automation and classic track view

  • Automatic dynamic tempo alignment to incoming audio signal

  • Pattern/step sequencer for intuitive drum and melody programming

  • Arranger track

  • Cross-track comping and editable folder tracks

  • Transient detection with editable markers

  • Real-time warping and time stretching

  • Groove extraction via drag-and-drop

  • Event-based effects

Plug-ins are virtual instruments and effects. Plug-ins let you create sounds and textures in your mix. All DAWs include a comprehensive set of plug-ins but there is an almost unlimited number available online, some of which are even free. Create your own plug-in sets for your productions if the DAW's built-in sets are not adequate for your needs.

Samples are snippets of sound that you can use for your tracks. These puzzle pieces are not only used in electronic music but also in many other genres. Samples can be practically anything from individual drum hits and short instrumental melodies to complete tracks or rhythmic loops. In rap music this has long been a tradition.

There is more behind a track than just the creative spirit and individual skill of a musician or band. The sound developed and mixed from notes, chords and vocals is also partly the result of a producer.

The 4 best tips for getting started with producing your own music

1. Don't spend too much money, especially at the start.

Sounds kind of banal, doesn't it? What we mean by this is that first and foremost you should work out what equipment you actually need. What are the must-haves? The next step is to work out a sensible order for which items you need to buy first. You don't need everything to get started at home. The end result doesn't always have to be something worthy of a Grammy award.
What do you absolutely need straight away, what can be added later on and what do you not need at all? Whatever your answers to these questions, you need the building blocks mentioned above:

  • computer
  • audio interface
  • monitor
  • microphone
  • the right software

2. Uses free tools and features

You can also produce your tracks with free DAWs. There are full versions that have a full range of functions. You can use them to produce music to a professional standard, and even as a relative amateur you can record your (hopefully successful) demo with only a little practice. Try tracktion's Waveform 7, for example, which is available as a free download.

3. No matter where you are, pay attention to the acoustics when home recording

Good acoustics make your whole production more successful. Do you have a room of your own that you can transform? Great, then make sure that you are heard as little as possible outside of it and that you only hear what you want to hear inside the room. This means no annoying echoes or reverberation.

Yes, egg boxes were used a lot in the past. But they never really achieved anything. Rough sound defects can also be eliminated using solutions that aren't too expensive. Even low budget acoustic panels catch sound waves and echoes, which result in a quieter sound pattern.
Another tip which is as simple as it is important is to be careful where you place the microphone and speakers in the room. This is because every sound changes greatly depending on where you are in the room and in relation to the sound source. Bare and tiled walls in bathrooms and kitchens create unwanted sound reflections. Carpet and fabrics generally absorb sound, which you will notice later on in your recording. Avoid working too close to walls or smooth surfaces, because reflections will also occur there. Making your recording in the middle of the room is often a good idea if your microphone is set up facing an open space.

Our magazine article "Beyond the egg box: insulating rehearsal rooms and improving room acoustics" includes some more tips for you on this topic.


4. Learn from YouTube, from professionals, and above all by trial and error

There are a lot of tutorials and beginners' courses on YouTube that will teach you a lot about producing music. You can learn all about home recording technology and get tips for buying equipment. If you have the opportunity, take a look at professional sound engineers and producers at work in the recording studio: when do they pull the knobs and push the buttons? Of course, neither of these are a substitute for simple trial and error and learning by doing. Take the time to familiarise yourself with all stages of the production process as well as the necessary hardware and software.

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