Music and How It's Made

Music and How It's Made

If asked why this particular topic came to my mind, my answer would be that my brother brought up this question the other day. We were intrigued by a particular portion of a song we were hearing and wanted to understand more. So I figured, why not tell people about it too? Article by an average music enthusiast : Ritesh.

A Brief History of Music

Music, believe it or not, dates back to the Paleolithic Period, which is around 250,000 to 40,000 years ago. Now of course this does not mean that Neanderthals were dancing to Billy Joel on their way to hunt a few woolly rhinos, but in this case, they did start the fire. Taking a while to progress, opera, jazz and rock soon entered the picture and changed the style altogether. With the technology and software we have now, instruments aren't even needed. Electronic tools let us regenerate any sound an instrument can produce and even create some new ones.

Now the people reading this who were lucky enough to have been taken to musical instrument classes when they were young, will say that this ruins the individuality and creativity of music. And I agree with them, a lot, so please, someone come and teach me the keyboard. However, all you need now for a song is a decent PC, a few shirtless friends and some zaza?

Tattoos, Tweaking and Tunes

From what I've learned from a few song making videos, you've gotta. But jokes aside, making a song takes a lot of time, creativity and understanding. You have the freedom to make whatever kind of music you want, but people also have the freedom to listen to whatever they want, so you have to meet the quality of 'good music'. Music production is basically whatever work you have to put in to design and refine a piece of music and digital tools carry this process. This isn't set in stone, but here are a few rough stages of the intimidating task :

  1. Songwriting - you know, writing a song with a complete idea
  2. Arranging - how different sections are put together, avoiding repetition
  3. Tracking - recording sounds, instruments and the song altogether
  4. Editing - cleaning/polishing/fading/making it sound good/and stuff
  5. Mixing - an integral part - combining everything and making a pre-masterpiece
  6. Mastering - finishing touches, make sure it hits how its supposed to hit

Songwriting is something that I value a lot, because the meaning of a song has a great effect, especially when it's relatable. You can think of prosody - how the lyrics and music work to support each other, and when this happens, it takes you to a whole new place altogether.


Now if we're talking about taking out your PC and making a track yourself, I can tell you some basic stuff that might help. Essentially, what you need is a DAW, a Digital Audio Workstation, such as GarageBand, which is basically where all the magic happens. Software and headphones, that's it. As to how to use a DAW, there are some good tutorials out there, but let's look at one which is easy (and free) to use, since we're all (I think) beginners here. Ableton 11 Live Lite, and here's a tutorial. Boiling it down, there are some workflow elements which form the process.

Tracks are where you add the individual elements of whatever you're making. There are audio tracks, which is mostly samples that you can use in your productions, or MIDI tracks which basically tells the software how you want the instruments to make the sound (playing the notes).

Mixer, is where you balance your music into levels, give it space, add variations, panning and essentially optimizing the recording. The main parts focused on here are EQ, compression and reverb. Mixing music is generally difficult and can take a long time to learn well.

Instruments, and effects can be dragged to the tracks to use them.

Now this was just a brief insight into how things are done electronically, of course this isn't the entirety of production. Hopefully this has made the whole process seem a bit more doable and exciting, but there will be some fumbling and some frustration. However, with some education and experimenting, you'll surely end up with something you're proud of. Good music is subjective, and now we know that there is a lot of work that is put in for every track out there.

True inspiration is impossible to fake