How to get started in electronic music production in NYC?
May 3, 2009 9:06 PM   Subscribe

I've been toying with the idea of getting involved in music, and I've finally decided to take the plunge. What's the best way to get started in computer music production - specifically in NYC?

What's the best way for me to get the ball rolling in creating my own music? I have some musical background: I can read sheet music, I've taken a class in musical theory but have since forgotten most/all of it, and I used to play (classical) piano a ways back. Currently, I've been playing around in Reason 4 with a small M-Audio midi control, but so far I've been limited to a few simple melodies over a drum beat and I'd like to take this much further.

Specifically I'm interested in some of the more downtempo electronic music - some of my favorite artists are Bonobo, Thievery Corporation, Mr. Scruff, DJ Shadow, Manitoba/Caribou, Four Tet and Quantic. Much of my favorite music is a merging of jazz/funk and electronic beats, and this would be the style I'd be interested in pursuing.

From browsing around previous questions on the topic, it seems that reading a book on music theory is a good way to get started on my own. Are there any definitive books on the topic?

In addition to doing this on my own, I'm interested in taking some lessons. I'm not specifically looking to be limited to Reason, but I have a feeling that a lot of programs out there are fairly complicated, and since I'm really interested in composing full songs on my own, I feel like having a teacher will help me out greatly in learning the nuances of the program as well as things like song structure, and will provide some good motivation to keep me on track. I've looked around Craigslist for the past couple of weeks and haven't really found anyone who seems to be offering what I'm looking for. Are there any better resources for finding a teacher on this topic? I live in Manhattan so local suggestions would be great, but if there are any resources online, helpful books, or anything else, I'd love to know about it. Also, I've found Reason great, but are there any better pieces of software I should be looking at for what I'm trying to do? Would I be better off with a full size keyboard/midi control rather than my small 25 key-er? This has been a longtime dream for me, so I'd love and appreciate any other advice or suggestions.
posted by KilgoreTrout to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Check out music production sites. I forget all the different ones, but I remember em411 having useful forums.

I would also recommend Ableton Live.
posted by apetpsychic at 11:01 PM on May 3, 2009


Go to music events where they play the music you enjoy. Don't go to the big event in the expensive 3000 person venues. Go to the small bar and coffee shop events. 20-30 people in the audience is ideal. Chat up the other people that attend, and find the ones that also produce music. At smaller events, you can even chat up the performers themselves. Find some cool people to hang out with, and eventually they will help you get going.

Once you figure out where the electronic music people hang out, show up with your laptop and make yourself conspicuous. Don't be obnoxious, but make it clear you are fiddling around with music. A physical book next to your laptop or some music notation paper won't hurt.


I'm not specifically looking to be limited to Reason, but I have a feeling that a lot of programs out there are fairly complicated

Actually, Reason is fairly complicated, and really makes the most sense if you've ever played with the real physical gear. Even then, mousing around Reason is a lot more clumsy (but much cheaper) than turning real knobs. You should learn the basics of a real sequencer - Logic, Cakewalk or Cubase. The sequencer you choose is a holy war greater than emacs vs. vi, but it doesn't really matter which one you choose. Just don't choose Pro Tools :)

I feel like having a teacher will help me out greatly in learning the nuances of the program as well as things like song structure, and will provide some good motivation to keep me on track.

Yes and no. A teacher will help you understand the "tribal knowledge" of electronic music. A teacher will probably not help keep you on track, because the teacher will be a friend who wants to hang out and drink beer, etc. Keep yourself on track.

Are there any better resources for finding a teacher on this topic?

There are probably bulletin boards or forums that cater to people in the NYC area who are in to your genre of music. Craigslist is too general.

I live in Manhattan so local suggestions would be great

I've been away from Manhattan for about a decade now, but I'd bet a year's wage that whatever scene you are looking for can be found locally. Manhattan is that sort of place (but you know that).

Also, I've found Reason great, but are there any better pieces of software I should be looking at for what I'm trying to do?

Yes, there is a lot of other software you should play with. Great topic for chatting electronic music geeks up!

Would I be better off with a full size keyboard/midi control rather than my small 25 key-er?

Maybe. Do you feel confined by your current keyboard? If so, get a better one. OTOH, you can probably drag the mini 25 key keyboard to a cafe.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:07 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, for the style of music you like, you will almost certainly be better off with an multitrack audio editor. Back in the day, ACID was the way to go, but most of the big sequencers can probably do what you need.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:12 PM on May 3, 2009


Or Ableton Live if you have a mac.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:28 PM on May 3, 2009


I wouldn't worry too much about trad theory. Just start pasting things together and see what you like the sound of. You don't need to know what a plagal cadence is to start making somewhat interesting noises.
posted by Wolof at 11:36 PM on May 3, 2009


You might also want to check out the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots in Brooklyn. They have classes, workshops and all sorts of things relating to art, music and electronics.
posted by saxamo at 11:53 PM on May 3, 2009


I second what b1tr0t has said, you want to break into a scene and learn from the people who are making things happen, you need to make face-time happen in small venues.

It is a useful exercise, to find a piece of music and attempt to recreate it in some way. "I like that synth sound, let me make one like it". It can be frustrating if it does not come out how you want, but you will learn 10 things along the way.

Traditional music theory itself is not so useful, but getting some background in the theory of electronic music / properties of sound is useful. Here is an online text which uses program called pure data to illustrate. It can be dense and Pd specific, but it would give you a sense of how sounds are made digitally.
posted by sundri at 1:14 AM on May 4, 2009


b1tr0t: Ableton Live works for Windows as well. I've used it on both, and it's pretty much the same experience on both.

KilgoreTrout: Wikipedia's list of Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software is worth a look. You didn't mention your platform, that would probably help with the recommendations.

If you are looking for formal education, specifically in Live, Berklee's music department has a course called "Producing Music with Ableton Live." I'm more of a fan of the trial-and-error approach, the tutorials included in the app and the vids on their support site are an excellent start.
posted by wheat at 8:33 AM on May 4, 2009


Even better: Ableton keeps a list of certified training courses and certified trainers. Some of both are in NYC.
posted by wheat at 8:41 AM on May 4, 2009



here in seattle a bunch of local producers (both 'professionals' and hobbyists) organize free meetups/lessons. i'd be surprised if there wasn't something similar in nyc. so i'd suggest asking around on local electronic music mailing lists. the only one i know offhand is the ancient nyc raves but i'm sure if you ask there they could point you in the right direction.
posted by groovinkim at 5:16 PM on May 9, 2009


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