Can You Produce Music If You Don’t Play an Instrument?
The short answer is "yes." You can produce music if you don't play an instrument. Within all industry-standard music production software, it's possible to program notes and play back your arrangements using virtual instruments. Although, you'll want to learn some basic music theory so that producing music isn't an entirely random and chaotic process. The good news is that you can learn music theory that will help you write songs in just a few hours.
What Is Music Theory?
Music theory is information that you can use to quickly write rhythms, melodies, basslines, and chord progressions (harmony). These components make up the basis of music. In fact, audio that lacks melody, harmony, and rhythm cannot be considered music by definition.
You can compare music theory to grammar. If you write a book using poor grammar, it makes for a challenging reading experience. Worst case scenario, the person reading your book may misunderstand the information you're trying to share. Just like a good book, music isn't meant to be difficult to consume. If it is, most people won't want to listen to it.
When you gain a solid grasp of essential music theory concepts, it allows you to express yourself better. You don't need to become the next Beethoven to write music but learning basic music theory will make writing music easier for you, and more enjoyable for your listeners.
Do You Need to Learn Music Theory?
You can dive into music production without understanding music theory at all. In fact, that's what I did 10 years ago when I first started producing music. However, I quickly realized that learning about the techy side of music production wasn't enough on its own. I knew how to use my music production software inside and out but my musical ideas were painfully lacklustre.
Writing music that elicits particular emotions becomes astronomically easier when you know basic music theory. Maybe you want to write a sad love song. If that's the case, you probably want to write your song in a minor key. A key is simply a grouping of musical notes that bring about a particular feeling when played together.
If you're going for an upbeat, high-energy, and happy festival house track, writing your song in a major key can provide you with the results you're looking for. As long as you use the notes included within the key that you've chosen to write your song, it becomes quite difficult to play a "wrong" note.
Music theory provides you with the tools you need to write exceptional songs. This doesn't necessarily mean that all of your ideas will turn out great but you will notice an instant improvement in the overall quality of your music. At the very least, music theory will help you push through ideas that miss the mark and quickly come up with new ones.
How Hard Is It to Learn Music Theory?
Truthfully, it's not that difficult to learn music theory and if taught properly, it doesn't take that long to learn. The problem is that if you ask a piano or guitar instructor to teach you music theory, you'll often be sorely disappointed.
These instructors will teach you the music theory you need to read sheet music but not necessarily write songs on your computer. The basic principles are more or less the same but the way in which the theory is applied is different. Reading sheet music and composing songs are two entirely different skill sets, just like reading a book and writing a book.
I attempted to learn music theory over a decade ago, around the time I was 18. It was a huge challenge because I didn't know which music theory I needed to write songs, and I didn't have anyone to point me in the right direction. If that sounds like you, I've got you covered.
Which Music Theory Concepts Should You Learn to Produce Music?
At the very minimum, you need to learn about tempo, time signatures, note values, and pitch. Without this foundational information, you'll have trouble creating anything that resembles music. Many of the features found in your digital audio workstation (music production software) won't make sense either.
Next, you should learn how to create and name intervals, become familiar with the formulas to create major and minor keys, and gain an understanding of how you can use The Circle of Fifths to make writing music easier.
With the fundamentals out of the way, you can move on to writing rhythms, melodies, basslines, and chord progressions. Performing these tasks is a streamlined process if you use the right composition techniques. Although, it's this stage of the process that your average piano or guitar instructor may be unable to help you.
What's the Fastest Way to Learn Music Theory for Music Producers?
One of the fastest ways to learn music theory is by watching some high-quality video tutorials. Many beginner music theory books are aimed at children and fail to dive as deep as necessary. There are a handful of beginner music theory books for adults but they tend to place their emphasis on reading sheet music.
Music Production for Beginners is a video course that teaches you all the music theory you need to produce songs, and more. It starts with the basics and explains tempo, time signatures, note values, and pitch. Then you learn about intervals, major and minor keys, as well as The Circle of Fifths. Using that information, you're guided through the process of writing your own original song containing rhythm, melody, a bassline, and chords.
This course is for complete beginners—no previous experience required. You learn how to write, record, mix, and master music at home. All you need to get started is a PC or Mac computer and some free music production software. Click this link to get started and produce your first song in under an hour.