I'm trying to learn how to produce music. More specifically, I use a lot of MIDI for orchestral/chamber works. And as a classically trained musician, I don't find it useful when they start trying to explain things outside of the production subject, like harmony, which it's actually a topic within music composition/analysis.

I want to learn what's a compressor, a de-compressor; how to use reverb; what buses are and why the are millions of them when I open a DAW; what are the parameters that control MIDI data and what they do; what is side-chain, a limiter, an expander; how to control MIDI from other programs; how to use VSTi's/AU's; what's CC11, CC4, CC(some random number); how can I use these things whenever I need to... And I think the list goes on.

And whenever I go, I get confused because there's information I don't know yet.

(I don't know if you could tell by my writing, but I'm quite stressed writing this x'D I don't know where to start)

  • Tip: there are plenty of producers who want to become better at the things you are proficient in (arrangement, harmony...). Look for somebody you can personally exchange knowledge with, it will be more worth that a hundred youtube videos!
    – moonwave99
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 7:54
  • Glen Fricker has a great youtube channel. If you don't mind the large amount of cynicism and swearing, but I'm sure his paid for content is civil. youtube.com/user/SpectreSoundStudios
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 10:14
  • If all you're writing are orchestral and chamber works, you don't need to learn what a compressor, a de-compressor, and side-chain are because you won't be using them.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 12:05

3 Answers 3


The most important thing is to start producing if you aren't already. I'm guessing you are. But if you aren't or you are getting hung up on things that you don't know instead of finishing something, just finish it. Do the best you can on what you're working on now and then ask "how could this be better" and use that as a guide for what to learn next or practice more of. But the point, again, is to just start and learn as you go. It's a much harder task to try to learn everything and then get to work.

Make a list of those things that you either don't know or want to improve upon—it looks like you've started already—and tackle them one by one. Open a new browser window, google "audio compression" (or whatever), open a bunch of the results and read them all. You'll probably have more questions but that's okay. Take notes and write down the things that you learn and the things that you're still confused about. When you have a specific question that google doesn't seem to answer, try asking that as it's own question here or at an audio production forum.

Also aim for learning practical things incrementally. For instance, do you really have an immediate need to know what MIDI CC11 is? If so, then definitely learn it. But don't waste time learning something just because you think you're expected to know it. Learn what is practical to your work right now and it you'll eventually get around to most of it. For example because you're working with MIDI a lot it might be good to read up a bit about how MIDI works generally and what a CC (continuous control) is vs a note. But it's not like you need to memorize what each CC number is. When you have a need to map something to a CC then look up a CC number list and find the most appropriate number. Learn it when you need it.

And, on the note of learning incrementally, it's worth noting that no matter how hard you try, you won't learn everything there is to know about, say, compression in your first go. Learn the basics and try using it in practice. Using compression well takes a while because you need experience using it to hear how it sounds and how using too much or too little affects the mix. Even if you did the deepest dive of books and video tutorials, you still wouldn't really understand it until you've used it for a while. And even years later you'll probably learn new things.

I say this not to be discouraging or make it sound harder than it is but rather to underscore my first paragraph. Make sure you are constantly making stuff and mixing it and then critiquing what you've made. There are a lot of things to learn but that process of making something and then critiquing it will guide your learning path more than anybody here could.

  • You forgot to mention the workgroup, peers or friends and the web forums for questions, help and exchange. Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 5:14
  • You got a point on that. Since what I study is more focused on music notation rather than audio and MIDI, getting to learn very little things about MIDI and Production has been really a challenge. And putting those things in practice made my questions grow too much (and all because I wanted to hear what I write with better sounds). Getting to understand how MIDI works is just my starting point to Production.
    – Kai Vinter
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 6:25

If you are going to be a sound engineer then MAYBE, harmony and arrangement skills are not necessary, but that is a big IF. If you want to produce actual music with a holistic approach then you need all of it.

You don't need to be a savant in an instrument, but decent piano and guitar chops are very useful. If you can get your head around basic vocal technique then working with singers will be much improved.

The thing is pure engineering work is not really all that profitable. There are too many people who know how to work a sound-board. Now what is really rare is a Quincy Jones / Eddie Kramer type who can do the technical stuff, but can help get the best out of musicians and make some of the most iconic records ever. That is what you win Grammy's for and that is what makes you a millionaire.

The main problem I have with your post is that you don't know what work you are going to fall into eventually. Denying yourself an education is never a good thing. Have you considered that if your production school teaches harmony it may be that the skills are necessary? Do you think schools teach subjects just for the heck of it? It may very easily be that your schools knows something about this subject that you do not.

Believe you me, you will not be the first, or the last, student who was taught something he / she did not like at college, but was glad later-in-life he learned.

  • Well, I think I didn't express myself correctly. I say that I don't find it useful because I'm being taught those subjects already at university. Moreover, my teachers are great at what they do, and some are composers themselves; so, any question I had regarding Music Theory could be answered by them. And I'm already used to those topics, so any technical information about music theory is no big deal (not that it couldn't be difficult, though. And I'm crazy about music theory). Production and Sound Engineering for me is "that thing that's not taught at school but I find useful to learn".
    – Kai Vinter
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 6:10

A contemporary music school or conservatory offers courses in music and computer.

If this doesn’t exist it might be up to the students to ask for workshops or organize them.

What we did as teachers: we organized courses together with music centers, producers like steinberg, klemm and others, regional and national workshops.

But this was 30 years ago before internet and youtube tutorials. At each corner you find a crack in music, wavelab, technology. Look at your school for partners with same interests and ask your teacher for a workshop.

But don’t think that you will handle the technology without learning basic music theory, like melody, rhythm, chords, progression and ear training - and practicing an instrument, at least a keyboard.

  • 1
    If you're in the US I'd also suggest checking your local community college. They may have introductory courses if not on music production then perhaps one of the software packages.
    – Duston
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 13:13
  • I'm not in the US, though. But I'll see what I can get in the place I live in. Thank you!
    – Kai Vinter
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 20:11

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