The future of music

Audio Production: Your Career Guide

December 29, 2023
audio production

If you’re interested in sound and music technology, then audio production might be a perfect career choice for you.

In today’s article, we will explain what audio production entails and how it differs from music production.

We will also tell you how to get started with audio production, and what skills and qualifications are required to enter the field.

What Is Audio Production?

In short, audio production involves everything related to recording and manipulating audio.

It’s an umbrella term for a wide range of tasks, but it’s also a career path that requires a special set of skills.

Now, audio production is often used interchangeably with music production.

Although they’re interlinked, music production and audio production have many differences. 

In other words, they involve similar tasks and skills, but they can entail different responsibilities and roles.

For instance, music production can be described as a process of making a song or an album from start to finish – that said, music producers oversee and lead the whole process of making a record.

Unlike music production, audio production refers to the development of sound.

Music mixer used for audio production.

Music production usually refers only to music, while audio production refers to any sound which is recorded. 

However, the stages of audio production are similar to those of music production.

Generally, audio production stages include:

  • Songwriting
  • Arranging
  • Recording
  • Editing
  • Mixing
  • Mastering

So, audio producers record and edit the sound, and they can work in any visual or aural media.

What Do Audio Producers Do?

In essence, audio producers are in charge of the recording and editing process of audio.

Their main responsibility is to handle the technical aspects of recording music and sound.

So while music producers bring an artist’s vision to life and are focused on the creative flow, audio producers focus on the quality of the sound. 

Therefore, many audio producers (like audio engineers) work with the music that’s already been created. 

Audio producers are also engineers – they need to be familiar with the recording equipment, recording techniques, DAWs, digital tools, and so on.

They also need to be familiar with the mic positions, various methods of fixing the recorded audio, and other tasks that will bring the best out of the specific song, album, or project.

woman recording music and engineering audio.

Depending on the artist’s needs, audio producers may also be involved in the songwriting process. 

But even if they’re focused solely on recording and editing music, their role is far more than just technical – good audio producers need to be creative.

The thing is, you need to have an eye for detail and a creative mind to make good production choices. 

Besides creativity, some of the skills and qualifications of an audio producer include:

  • Technical knowledge and skills
  • Time management skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Flexibility
  • Basic music theory knowledge

All in all, audio producers should be both creative and technically minded.

Essentially, audio production is a combination of sound engineering and music production, and that’s one of the things that makes this career path so interesting and rewarding. 

Audio Production – Everything You Need to Know 

The truth is, audio production is a wide and complex field, and there are many challenges you’ll have to face if you want to take that path.

On the other hand, being an audio producer is very rewarding.

Once you start to earn a living and collaborate with interesting artists, things can get really exciting.

But it takes time to become a successful producer.

The music industry has a reputation for being one of the more difficult industries to break into.

We’re talking about a very competitive field, yet there’s no one-size-fits-all or secret formula for success.

Therefore, you need to find your own path and your own way of finding a place in the music industry.

On the other hand, there are certain steps you can go through to get things started and improve your career prospects. 

Types of audio production 

First and foremost, you need to think about what type of music career you want to pursue.

There are different types of audio production you can focus on.

You can work with artists, bands, and musicians, but you can also become an audio producer on TV shows, commercials, films, video games, podcasts, and so on.

Audio production isn’t only limited to music.

Generally, some of the careers in audio production include:

  • Music Producer
  • Audio Engineer
  • Songwriter
  • Mixing Engineer
  • Sound Designer
  • Mastering Engineer
  • Post-Production Engineer
  • Sound Supervisor

To decide what career path you want to take, think about your existing skills and strengths as well as your interests and try to find a career path you would find rewarding and enjoyable. 

If you focus on your passion, you will overcome all the potential obstacles more easily.

So if you’re wondering how to get into audio production, you can start by determining your priorities and career goals.

But if you’re not sure what exactly you want to do in audio production, don’t worry – many people figure this out during their studies.

Therefore, focus on honing your skills for now, and everything else will fall into place eventually.

Stages of audio production

If you want to start a career in audio production, you first need to be familiar with all the stages of audio production.

That way, you can start working on improving your skills, expanding your knowledge, and gaining valuable experience.

And then you’ll be able to find your niche and focus on your interests and goals.

1. Songwriting

Songwriting is probably the most creative part of audio production.

This step will also lay the foundation for the whole production process.

But this is not something every audio producer delves into – it all depends on the specific projects, demand, and the agreement between a producer and an artist.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested in songwriting, you should definitely learn more about writing techniques, composition, song structure, and so on.

There are many ways to write a song though, and producers sometimes work with artists and try to bring their ideas to fruition.

But songwriters (who write songs for a living) come up with an idea, transform into compelling lyrics and melodies, and write it down so it can be performed and recorded.

person writing a song on a notebook

Unlike lyricists, songwriters write lyrics as well as the musical elements of a song. 

That said, songwriters and audio producers who write songs need to have musical and lyrical abilities, and they need to have the technical skills needed to turn those ideas into music. 

Some producers are also relying on digital tools and AI music generators.

However, if you want to be able to write a good, authentic song, you need to put a lot of work and effort into it.

Songwriting is not easy, and it takes time to become a great songwriter.

The important thing is to practice and write as much as you can – that’s the only way to improve your skills and find your own songwriting style.

As an audio producer, you’ll have to make sure the song sounds as good as it can; and that’s where your arranging skills will come into play.

See also: How to Become a Songwriter

2. Arranging

This stage will bring the best out of the track you want to record and generally prepare it for recording.

Generally speaking, arranging a song means taking the core elements of the song and breaking them down into building blocks. 

So in this stage, producers add melodies, vocal tracks, instruments, or various details to their track.

To make sure your song has all the parts it needs, make sure you include the following elements:

  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Chorus
  • Bridge

This is a standard song structure, but as a producer, you can always suggest changes, additions, and new elements that will make the song sound better and more memorable. 

But much of the arrangement also happens during the recording process. 

3. Recording

In this essential audio production phase, you’ll be in charge of the recording process.

You can record the music live, or you can play with different samples, virtual instruments, and effects.

If you’re just starting out with audio production, recording in a studio might seem a bit intimidating.

Therefore, you can start with digital tools and samples first – samples are audio snippets that can include anything from short melodies to individual instruments, rhythmic loops, and various tracks. 

Many producers use samples in their music-making process, but as you improve your skills, you should start recording with real instruments and vocals too.

black microphone condenser in a recording studio.

Now, the thing that will always dictate your recording process is the budget.

So, how you’ll approach the recording process will primarily depend on the specific situation and whether you’re hired by an artist or you’re part of a bigger project.

Nevertheless, learning all about recording gear and techniques is essential for every aspiring audio producer. 

And it will allow you to work on your own projects, practice, and gradually take your skills to advanced levels.

See also: How to Record Songs at Home

4. Editing

With modern digital tools and editing programs, editing music has never been easier.

However, the versatility of editing options also means you’ll have to learn a lot and take your time to hone your skills.

You’ll need to find a good DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and get comfortable with it, and you’ll have to find techniques and styles that suit you best.

Nonetheless, editing is an exciting part of audio production as it allows you to tweak and change the recording as you fit.

But editing can also be a tricky part for beginners, especially if you’re working with many instruments – you’ll have to pick the best takes of all the instruments and make sure everything works well.

But don’t worry – the next two steps will allow you to polish your track and prepare it for distribution.

5. Mixing

Mixing is an essential part of every audio production process.

Whether you’re recording a studio album or editing a sound for a podcast or a commercial, you’ll have to mix your track. 

Your final track needs to be coherent and fluid, so you need to blend everything together so it makes sense.

Mixing usually involves combining multitrack recordings, balancing sounds, and using different processors.

Some of the tools producers use in this phase include:

  • EQ – manipulates the frequency and shapes the sound
  • Compressor – helps you even out dynamic spikes and adjust the volume
  • Reverb – provides a sense of space and natural depth

Once they’re done with mixing, producers listen to the track on different sound levels and take care of potential mistakes and weak spots. 

In this stage, you need to make sure everything sounds right. 

And then you’ll be ready to move on to the final post-production stage.

6. Mastering

Mastering is the final step that will prepare your track for distribution.

Mastering can include enhancing the overall sound and optimizing the sound quality, and it’s usually done by using tools like equalization, compression, limiting, and stereo enhancement.

laptop and music pad on a table

Mastering is an essential phase of producing music because it allows producers to bring the best out of their recordings.

Mastering makes singles, albums, and sounds more coherent and consistent, and it generally makes them louder to meet industry standards.

And this can be a tricky phase for beginners, but there are many platforms and automated mastering services that make this process easier. 

For instance, services like LANDR allow you to create, master, and distribute music at a reasonable price, and they’re suitable for beginner producers.

You can also check out eMastered and iZotope 8.

See also: Best Online Mastering Services

Audio production equipment 

Besides good editing and mastering programs, you should also consider getting other key pieces of audio production equipment.

This way, you can start learning, practicing, and improving your production skills.

And you don’t have to break the bank – there are many affordable pieces for beginners that will help you get started with audio production.

In other words, you can build a home recording studio for an affordable price.

Generally, the essential parts of a starter music production setup include:

microphone condenser with headphones

Finding a good DAW is probably one of the most important things for beginner producers.

DAW is the program where the music production actually takes place – DAW is a software application for recording, mixing, and mastering audio files. 

If you’re just starting out, we recommend checking out the following DAWs:

  • Ableton Live
  • Apple GarageBand
  • FL Studio 
  • Pro Tools
  • Apple Logic Pro

Working in DAW is relatively easy, but you should take your time to get comfortable with it nevertheless. 

After all, this is where the actual production takes place, and once you get to know your DAW, you’ll be ready to tackle a variety of audio production tasks. 

Skills and qualifications 

Besides the knowledge of DAW, audio producers need to have a variety of skills.

But in the beginning, you can keep things simple:

  • Learn the basics of audio production
  • Get to know your DAW
  • Learn basic music theory
  • Listen to a lot of music
  • Network

With time, you will expand your knowledge and hone your skills. 

But besides gaining technical knowledge and learning more about mastering, mixing, and editing techniques to make your sound better, you also need to think about the other aspect of this career – communication and networking.

This is a very networking-oriented field, and if you want to enter the music industry, you need to start networking.

Besides bringing you new opportunities, networking can advance your career because it allows you to access new information, get advice and support, and look at things from a new perspective.

And when you come across a new opportunity, you should be prepared. 

That said, if you want to build a career in audio production, you should also consider learning how to play an instrument – this is usually not a requirement for becoming a professional producer, but it will definitely help you improve your career prospects.

More importantly, taking music lessons will help you understand basic musical concepts and allow you to train your ears and improve your musicality. 

And then you’ll be able to step into the role of an audio producer more confidently and professionally.

Audio Production Tips

In the beginning, you’ll probably do some tasks and projects you’re not passionate about.

But these projects are important as they will lead you to something bigger – the important thing is to practice regularly, collaborate with different artists, and gain experience.

To get to bigger projects, you need to build a good reputation.

And you also need to promote your services.

But if you produce quality sounds, you’ll manage to find good clients before you know it – some of the best advertising is word of mouth.

person adjusting music mixer

As an audio producer, you’ll also need to learn the industry – and that means becoming familiar with the business side of music.

You should become familiar with music rights, contracts, music royalties, and so on.

This way, you can even consider producing and selling your beats and samples – many producers earn money that way.

It all depends on what type of career path you want to take.

Either way, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to plan multiple income streams.

Besides working with artists and musicians, you can offer to master and mixing services or do freelance audio editing.

Once you build your reputation and bring your skills to another level, it will be easier for you to find work.

But until that happens, try to practice as much as you can.

Record any idea you have, even though you’re not sure of it – you never know how things will turn out unless you try.

Plus, recording and playing with different ideas will ultimately help you become a better producer. 

Also, explore different styles and genres, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

Finally, take advantage of all the learning sources and tools you have at your disposal.

There are many great online production courses and programs worth checking out.

But you can also take a look at music learning apps (they can help you build a solid foundation in a fun way), online music lessons, virtual classes, and so on. 

And if you want to take things to another level, you can consider enrolling in a production degree program.

Audio Production Degrees and Courses 

Many production jobs don’t require a music degree – experience and skills are more important.

However, some positions in the music industry do require a degree.

In any case, getting a degree in audio production will certainly improve your career prospects and give you an edge over your competition.

As we mentioned before, this is a highly competitive field, and you’ll need to find your way to stand out from the crowd – that’s the best way to succeed in the music industry and get the job that you enjoy and that gets you a nice salary.

And although there’s no one-size-fits-all, one thing is for sure: a music degree will equip you with valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences.

laptop and books on a table

An audio production degree program will prepare you for a variety of careers, including a Recording Engineer, Live Sound Technician, Music Producer, Mastering Engineer, or Mix Engineer.

Good production schools will also provide you with internship opportunities, as well as the possibility to practice in well-equipped recording studios and record labels. 

Alternatively, you can take an online production course.

There are many different online production and engineering lessons to choose from – some courses are ideal for beginners, and others are made for producers focused on a specific music genre or DAW.

That said, it’s important for you to find a course that fits your style, goals, and skill level.

Each online program has its own advantages and drawbacks, but most of them are convenient, engaging, and affordable. 

Regardless of what you opt for, building a strong foundation and delving into different aspects of audio production will help you find your niche – and that’s very important if you want to make it in the music industry.

See also: Best Online Music Schools

Is It Hard to Become an Audio Producer?

Truth be told, starting a career in audio production is not easy.

Being a professional audio producer requires a special set of skills, including technical skills, musical ability, basic knowledge of music theory and composition, and strong communication skills.

But the good news is that all of this can be learned.

If you’re motivated and persistent, and if you’re genuinely passionate about music and technology, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t build a successful production career.

However, you have to put in the work.

And you have to be patient – success doesn’t happen overnight, especially when it comes to music-related careers.

That shouldn’t discourage you though, and it definitely shouldn’t stop you from trying. 

a room full of organs, guitars, and amplifiers

But you do have to be ready for some challenges once you start working as a producer.

Working hours can be really long, and sometimes you’ll come across some difficult clients – but that’s the case in many other jobs.

At the end of the day, the difficulty of being a professional audio producer depends on the type of career path you choose.

And it depends on what suits you personally.

Some producers enjoy all the hustle, and others prefer calmer working environments.

In any case, being a producer can get quite exciting as well as demanding.

But if becoming an audio producer is your dream, it will all be worth it in the end. 

Audio Production – Final Thoughts 

The music industry is not easy to break into, and becoming a skilled audio producer takes time.

Nevertheless, if you learn how to produce music, work on your music and technical skills, and learn more about the industry, you’ll increase your chances of success.

In fact, if you work hard, focus on your goals, and find your niche, you’ll succeed in one or another.

The important thing is to get started – and you might as well do that today. 

You may also like: Careers in the Music Industry

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