How‌ ‌to Make an ‌EDM Song

Recording Connection grad Emily Stamer aka Lucii the Alien performs as a Live DJ
Recording Connection grad Lucii the Alien

Electronic Dance Music, otherwise known as EDM, owes a lot to the computer boom of the 1980s. While it was influenced by a range of music from the 60s and 70s, including dub, hip hop, and disco, EDM didn’t truly take off until the home computer became more accessible.

As home electronics improved, so did electronically produced music and instruments. The Roland Corporation was at the forefront of this revolution. Producing the poorly-received but fondly remembered 808 drum machine in 1980, Roland allowed producers to electronically make drum beats.

Although many critics thought the drums sounded unrealistic, it came at a time when hip hop and dance music was evolving. Afrika Bambaataa proved that the 808’s “unrealistic sound” was right at home on the dance floor. Roland released its subsequent so-called improvement, the 909 drum machine which featured a sequencer that could chain up to 96 patterns and a sound that wasn’t “boomy” like the 808 but rather, aggressive and “punchy.”

The ability to work with all of the instruments, without having to know how to actually play them, opened up electronic music production to the masses. Well, the masses that could afford electronic instruments along with the computers and processing power needed to run them.

Building on the sounds originated by Germany’s Kraftwerk and Japan’s Yellow Magic Orchestra as well as established hip hop, EDM started gaining a foothold in America. As prices for the hardware came down, the amount of EDM produced went up. But something else was at play – individuals began to manipulate the sound design, speed the tempos, and bend the music to their wills, regardless of convention.

Sects and Sub-Genres and Splinters

The Chicago underground, the streets of New York, and clubs around Europe began adapting EDM for their purposes. As quickly as EDM hit the mainstream, it started splintering off into wholly new sounds. First came electro and house music in the mid-‘80s.

When computers dropped even more in cost – and there was an emergence of new software and gear – new sub-genres grew exponentially. This was made possible by digital audio workstations. Taking the place of the 808, 909, and other electronic instruments, those who aspired to be electronic music producers no longer needed a studio.

The world of music would never be the same. Sub-genres started having their own sub-sub-genres. New sounds took the limelight while other sounds stayed in the gritty underground. Here are just a few of the styles of EDM (there wasn’t room for the sects of each genre – click here for a much larger list):

Acid House
Breakbeat Hardcore
Drum and Bass
Electro House
Trap Music

Want to create your own sub-sect? Or get back to the roots that started EDM in the first place? Either way, if you have a speedy computer, you’re halfway there. The first thing you’ll need is one important piece of software that’s revolutionized the entire industry.

A DAW for Every Dub

Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) make it possible for any computer with the right amount of speed and storage to become a virtual studio. In some cases, a tablet or even a smartphone is all you’ll need to put down a beat from start to finish. Although, in the case of a mobile device, it won’t be a very in-depth beat.

The top hip-hop, techno, and electronic artists in the world use DAWs to produce and perform their music. They usually run the most powerful DAWS available, such as the latest versions of Ableton Live, Logic Pro, or Pro Tools. Each piece of such music-making software can cost hundreds of dollars.

With other hardware, you can start to run a little thin on money. Luckily, you don’t have to do that right out of the gate. Many of the most popular DAWs have free versions (such as Ableton, Pro Tools, and FL Studio) and there are several free DAW apps in the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

This will give you the option to choose a DAW and feel it out. If you don’t like it, try another. Fortunately, most DAWs have a similar interface, so moving from DAW to DAW won’t involve starting from square one.

Picking up a pair of headphones might be a good idea, too. Your first efforts may be less than stellar, so no reason to infuriate your parents or roommates. But keep at it – practice makes perfect. And you’ll need plenty of practice to learn how to set the tracks, manipulate the instruments, and run other aspects of the DAW.

Once you’ve established a solid understanding of how a scaled-down version of a DAW operates, consider an upgrade and spending some money to further expand your skillset. You’ll need the extra options, increased storage space, and additional features of a fully equipped DAW to really start producing your own EDM. Practice, learn, and practice some more. You were drawn to EDM for a reason. There was a song, artist, or genre that pulled you in. Listen to that music as much as you can, try to replicate it, and then make changes to suit your taste. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll learn from them too.

Outside resources like online tutorials, YouTube videos, and even message boards can provide a wealth of information. Reading about music theory, asking others for recommended reading, or even reaching out to local EDM artists through social media for suggestions are other ways to build your knowledge base. You don’t want to ring that bell too often, but most music producers don’t mind imparting a little wisdom here and there.

Once you’ve created a song, set it free. Let friends have a listen, post to social media, or even send it to the artists you’ve developed a relationship with. Take their feedback, incorporate into your music, and move forward.

It will take some time, hard work, and determination. Then you get to do it all again for your second song! And a third and a fourth. You’ll pick up new hacks, and leave old techniques behind. At some point, you may even perform in front of a crowd. If that goes well, you’ll play in front of another. Who knows, in a few or years, you may find yourself on the Spotify charts!

Recording Connection may be able to shave a few months – or even a year – off that timeline. But you’ll still have to do plenty of heavy lifting.

Learn from the Pros

Recording Connection offers several programs that will show you how to use a DAW, integrate soundboards and other hardware, and mix and master your songs. Beyond that, you learn how to set up a studio, collaborate, and how to work like a professional. That’s exactly what we do.

Recording Connection will pair you with an experienced EDM producer inside of their studio. Acting as your mentor, this industry insider will give you the scoop on how to make electronic dance music, how to keep making EDM, and how to market yourself.

The Ableton and Advanced Ableton Electronic Music Production and Logic Pro Electronic Music Production Programs will teach you the ins and outs of how to use a DAW. Our Live DJ Program will reinforce what you’ve learned in the Ableton and Logic Pro programs, as well as prepare you for live audiences.

We also offer Hip Hop and Beat Making, Music Business, and Music Producing Programs. And you won’t have to move to Los Angeles, New York, or Miami to do it. We have mentors in 48 states as well as programs in Canada. The programs last anywhere from six to nine months, shorter than a trade school or 4-year university.

You’ll save time, you’ll save money, and you’ll save yourself from learning the wrong way. But you’ll definitely work hard, probably harder than you’ve ever had to before. These programs aren’t for weekend warriors, they’re for those really looking to make a career in the music business. If you have the drive – and the love – of music in you, put it work. Apply today.

Build your music production and audio engineering skills by learning with an industry professional near you.