It looks like the Stone Age now, but most of my demos in the mid and late 80s were recorded on a Tascam 38. That’s a legendary 8-track half-inch tape recorder, a true small studio workhorse. There was a lot of specific knowledge that a recording engineer needed to have at the time to get the job done well. This ranged from getting your levels right and dealing with noise to all kinds of mechanical tasks such as head-cleaning and knowing to store your tapes tails out.
Once I graduated to bigger studios with 24-track 2-inch tape recorders, such as Studers and MCIs, lots of the same issues were still there but on a different level and much more contained and manageable. At least the noise wasn’t as bad – thank you Dolby! We still used quarter-inch tape for mixdowns – that’s before DATs came around. I also remember intermediary formats such as Alesis ADAT and Tascam’s DA-88. Maybe you’ve seen these lying around.
And just like in photography, technology itself influenced the creative process. As a musician, when you had more chance of screwing up and fewer opportunities to fix it, you focused more on improving your playing and quickly getting the best sound out of your amp. Later on, it became more about the gadgets or creating patches or automation such as MIDI.
What You’ll Need To Learn
As is always the case when it comes to progress, a lot of specialized knowledge for music production has gone by the wayside. But there is plenty of it that’s as relevant as ever. There are many ways in which you guys have it way easier nowadays, but some skills need to be sharpened just as much.
There are a bunch of tasks that you’ll learn that will become obsolete – that’s a given. I used to be able to program a TR-808, 707, 505, SR-16 and a bunch of other drum machines, pretty much in my sleep. I also knew my way around the Akai S1000. You may need to learn how to deal with the MK3 or MPC X. These are the types of processes that will slowly evolve into others over the years. Trust me, though – this is not nearly as important as the evergreen knowledge!
On the technical side, I would say that using a compressor is number one by far. Whether that’s an LA-2A in a rack or a d3 in your software, it doesn’t matter. It’s important that you learn how to use it correctly. Any engineer worth their salt needs to be able to manage their thresholds, ratios, and proper attack settings for each instrument, no matter what device is put in front of them.
All the hundred uses of an EQ might be number two. Which mic to use for which type of recording and how to set it up is hugely important. Understand the signal flow will always be a thing and these days you gotta be lightning fast with your DAW – digital audio workstation.
On the analog side, you’ll need to be organized in so many ways as you’ll be dealing with lots of tracks, versions, plugins, etc. And maybe most importantly, you have to know how to deal with people. That’s if you’re gonna be working for and with others and I have a feeling you are. Gotta be open to learn and later on figure out how to handle certain types of colleagues, bosses, and not to mention customers to both keep them happy and do what’s right for the final product.
And it’s not all gonna be about making the recording sound better. Over time, personal development will become more important than getting the perfect sound out of a kick drum.
It’s a big theme in my life, learning about myself and being a better person. I’m a work in progress; I have revelations every day. – Rick Rubin
Anyway, I’m getting almost philosophical here. But there is a lot to learn and one course ain’t gonna cut it. That’s why I will recommend you start learning from courses that give you fundamental knowledge and continue niching down into your software, your style of music if you have one, and into particular tasks.
My reviews are usually centered around two to five carefully selected top courses. When necessary, or to be exact, when there is something else worth talking about, I’ll point to a small group of “honorable mentions” and that’s it. But this time, I wasn’t able to do it like that!
Music production is such a wide topic because there are many ways to break it down. First, there are different positions one might have in the process. Broadly speaking, those are the audio engineer, producer, and mixer. Then there are different software applications one might use: Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton, Cubase, FL Studio, and others.
In addition, there are many different music styles and they need to be treated separately: pop, acoustic, hip-hop, dance, heavy metal, and so on. They each require totally unique techniques to achieve their particular sound. Even if your dream is to create your own sound, you need to start somewhere. And finally, there are very specific methods for dealing with every instrument: vocals, drums, guitars, electronics, and more.
If I were to select a handful of courses, there are bound to be a bunch of people left out, whether it’s for the style, software, or interest. Some folks might be left out almost completely.
So I decided not to go too deep, but rather go wide and give you a list of different types of online music production courses, online electronic music production courses, and online mixing courses. And I’ll group them by platform. They are still selected based on their quality, reviews, price, bang for the buck and so on. I just won’t give you as many details. Rest assured these production courses are the best of the best!
Best Online Music Production Courses
Coursera Music Production Specialization
This Specialization from Berklee College of Music will give you all the know-how and tools you’ll need to be able to record and produce professional sounding music.
No sooner than I told you I’ll review the programs differently, here I go with one big course! Well, that’s what it is in this case. This is a Music Production Specialization delivered by the world famous Boston-based Berklee College of Music.
Actually, it’s not one but four separate courses:
- The Art of Music Production
- The Technology of Music Production
- Pro Tools Basics
- Music Production Capstone
These courses will help you create your own creative music artist and producer identity and vision. You’ll learn the technical aspects of music production: how sound becomes an audio signal, different recording techniques, how to use effects like compression, delay, and reverb. You will learn the industry standard DAW Pro Tools to create your professional recordings.
And finally, as with all Coursera specializations, you will be able to apply your knowledge in a culminating 4-week Capstone. This is where you’ll complete one project starting at the pre-production stage, going through recording and mixing, and same as in the real world, finishing with mastering.
Exceptional and essential guide for music producers. This course really makes you think of music production from a holistic perspective. I’ll never listen to music the same superficial way anymore…
Great course! Fabulous instruction. Taught in such detail and in a way that is easily understood. Thank you for demystifying much of what I thought I’d need a house engineer to assist me with for all time.
Berklee College of Music prepares their students for music careers through the study and practice of contemporary music, and this is done in the very music styles and fields they’ll be working with later on. Founded in the mid 20th century, the college now reflects the state of the art of music and the music business.
Stephen Webber is an Emmy-winning composer, and the Director of Music Technology and Innovation at Berklee’s Valencia Campus. He’s produced and engineered albums for a wide range of artists. He is also a composer and a renowned turntable soloist. Webber has appeared on major US TV networks and in leading newspapers, magazines, and industry publications. His short bio alone would be longer than any section of this review.
Loudon Stearns is an assistant professor in Berklee’s Contemporary Writing and Production, where he teaches his students how to become self-sufficient music producers ready to work in professional positions. He also teaches online courses in Advanced Music Production with Ableton Live and Composing and Producing Electronic Music.
Chrissy Tignor-Fisher is an assistant professor, a full-time faculty in Berklee College’s Contemporary Writing and Production Department. She is also a producer, songwriter, recording engineer, and vocalist. She has an extensive engineering, performance, and educational career.
Platform, Cost, and Time
Coursera has varied pricing and payment options. Specializations are paid as a monthly membership. In other words, the faster you can take your four courses, the less you will pay. And if you don’t care about the certificate of completion, you don’t even have to take all of them.
All the courses were designed to run four to six weeks. Taking the courses at their suggested tempo which is about 3-4 hours per week, you should complete this whole specialization in about five weeks.
There are all kinds of free courses on Coursera. Unfortunately, this specialization is not free. However, you can take it on a 7-day full access free trial. Try it out and see if you like it.
I did manage to find two FREE courses for you! Both are from Berklee as well and would make a great addition to this specialization:
Who These Courses Are For?
All of the Coursera training for this specialization is general and fundamental knowledge that every aspiring sound engineer or producer needs to know. Some of the programs I will mention further below are more specific to certain genres and techniques. This specialization is required knowledge for everyone. I would include ProTools in that as well, whether you plan to use it or not. It is the industry standard and it isn’t that hard to learn the basics anyway.
Once again, although some courses on Coursera are accredited, this one isn’t. You will receive a Specialization Certificate which is not a document of any academic value. However, of all the courses that we’re reviewing here, this is the only one that carries a world-renowned school’s name on it. I do believe that it would stand out on any job application. But as always, it’s your experience that will matter the most. But, first things first – let’s get you educated!
This course has everything you need to get started. And there is absolutely no doubt about the quality of the curriculum, professors, and the high standards of the school they represent. There are also several advantages to the way the courses are organized.
One major advantage is that you will have regular deadlines to meet. For most people, this can be a make it or break it difference. I know I tend to get a little lazy so this type of commitment would be very useful for proper learning and course completion.
Another great benefit of having it culminate in the Capstone project is that you will go through the complete production process hands on. It will also give you an opportunity to give to and receive feedback from other students, which is great for learning the craft of music production.
Great course. A great benefit is that everything is explained very well and can be applied to any DAW with some fiddling around, not just Pro Tools. The course also covers the production process very well.
I found the peer review process and feedback to be very helpful and a great learning experience. The assignments encouraged me to produce deliverables and focus on areas where I needed more work. Glad to have taken this course and grateful for the other student as well.
I am personally more into taking a bunch of other smaller courses, but that’s just me. This can work really well for you if you have limited free time available in your week and also if you want the credibility of having Berklee’s name on your CV.
Hey, can’t go wrong with a week-long trial!
Loopmasters Producers Studio Guide Course Bundle
In this music production course bundle, you will learn the fundamentals of compression, equalization, stereo width, and how to record, process, and arrange vocals.
Arguably, the secret sauce of a professional sounding music mix can be found in the producer’s expertise at managing the dynamics, frequencies, and the image width of his tracks. These four courses provide you with the expert knowledge in these three aspects of music production plus a full guide to vocal production.
Complete Guide to Compression
Much used but rarely fully understood, audio compression is an incredible tool utilized by audio professionals in every field. Delivered by a certified trainer Rob Jones, using interesting visual and audio demonstrations and an informative commentary, these detailed lessons will give you a thorough understanding of this powerful technique.
Complete Guide to EQ
A professional engineer and a mastering master Nick D’Ombrain gives a comprehensive course covering one of the most important aspects of music production – equalization. There are 5 hours of tutorials as well as various PDFs with useful graphical reference illustrations.
Complete Guide to Stereo Width
One more course by the senior instructor Rob Jones, it will provide you with everything you need to tackle a stereo mix. Through a comprehensive look at how various Live effects can affect stereo width, as well as a guide on how to create customizable Ableton Live Effect Racks, this course is a must for any producer looking to create large, wide-sounding music mixes.
Producer’s Guide to Vocals
Great vocals have the power to transform an average track into an unforgettable global hit. This course provides all the knowledge you’d need to write, record, and process vocals. Instructed by Ian Bland, an experienced producer who has remixed Prince, Bizarre Inc, and Queen.
Platform and Cost
Loopmasters is best known as an English sound design record label. They publish sample packs for major music software by Ableton, Steinberg, Native Instruments, Apple, Propellerheads, and others. They were among the first to release samples from renowned DJs, performers, and producers like Deadmau5, Re-Zone, Coldcut, Mad Professor, and many others.
They call themselves “The Sample Boutique” but they are so much more these days. There are well over a hundred different courses available on their site. Most of their courses are geared towards users of specific software synths such as Spire or Avenger, suites like Neutron or Ozone, or even hardware like the MK3 and Push. There are also quite a few courses for specific music production techniques with titles such as “Bass Mixing Techniques”, “Jungle Production Fundamentals”, and “House And Techno Groove Production Masterclass”.
Bundles at Loopmasters can and do change over time. This one seems to be the only one of its kind so I doubt that it will go away. But if you can’t find it, just go to the search menu, search for “bundle” and then narrow down your results by selecting “courses” from the first menu that says “Choose content type”. That will show you the full list of currently available course bundles.
Who These Courses Are For?
While most courses on Loopmasters are geared toward particular music software or styles (DnB, house, hip hop, techno, dubstep, glitch hop, etc.), the courses in this bundle are general knowledge that any sound engineer needs to have a good handle on.
Keep in mind that both compression and stereo width courses are based around Ableton Live, although they do deliver the essential knowledge regardless of the platform. That being said, you’re not gonna miss out on learning the topics at hand, but you will get much more value if you are a Live user already.
I would recommend Loopmasters primarily if you are into these music styles or use this type of software. You will find so much more here that is bound to be totally up your alley that this could become your go-to site. So you might as well take the fundamental courses here. The instructors are great and very competent, and the knowledge they’ll impart to you will be immediately usable.
Noiselab Electronic Music Production
A complete music production course centered around Ableton Live. If you are looking to learn how to create electronic music in addition to how to produce it, this is the pick for you.
The Electronic Music Production training are actually three separate courses and each of them runs about four hours. The first one, which is FREE, covers some pretty fundamental topics:
- What is a DAW
- What makes Ableton Live unique
- Session and Arrangement Views difference
- How to work with MIDI instruments
- How to work with audio clips
- How to combine MIDI and audio together
Level II covers basic music theory and composition techniques:
- Drum Composition Techniques
- Groove, Swing, and Humanizing Drums
- Melody Part 1
- Melody Part 2
- Melody Part 3
Level III focuses on using EQ, effects, creative sampling techniques, and export settings:
- Basic Mixing Techniques
- Insert Effects
- Send Effects
- Grouping, Routing, Resampling
- Arrangement View, Master Effects, and Exporting
After completing these three courses, you will be able to combine all of this knowledge and create a song in Live.
Thavius Beck is a producer, a musician, and Ableton Live Certified Trainer. He has worked with artist such as Nine Inch Nails, Skylar Grey, The Mars Volta, Saul Williams, and many others. He has instructed countless Live students through courses at music institutes, in private lessons and in dozens of Ableton Live workshops he’s held throughout the country.
The instructors that teach other courses on the site are either Ableton Live Certified or established and experienced in electronic music production.
Noiselab is an online community of Ableton musicians and producers, so there’s always support for any questions you might have. They sell some sample packs and MIDI loops as well. Their training is done by certified Ableton trainers so it’s top notch for that.
They say that the courses are added monthly but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case as they’ve been around for a while and at the moment I’m counting only about 30 courses. But don’t let that deter you – these are quality courses, nevertheless! Just don’t count on that number to grow.
While the course selection is relatively small, they do cover lots of important topics that are not necessarily tied to Ableton Live with topics such as:
- Music Theory
- FM Synthesis
- Mixing Essentials
- Making 808 Sub Kicks
- Song Deconstructions
The rest of the courses dig deep into using Ableton Live.
If you buy any particular course, you will get lifetime access to that course. But I think their individual courses are a little pricey. Well, they are not expensive for the value they deliver – only when compared to other options out there. There’s enough competition out there that online learning has become pretty darn cheap. A little too inexpensive! Good for us!
Luckily, there are also subscription options. I would definitely NOT go for the lifetime payment option! That would only make sense if there were new courses added every month. Your best deal is monthly access. That’s how you’ll spend the least amount of money and get the most courses, depending on how fast you can go through them. If it’s gonna take you longer than six months to go through everything, you can prepay for one year cause that will cost you about the same.
If you are not into electronic music or Ableton Live, you should probably go with one of the other recommendations. While you do get plenty of general and important sound production knowledge, everything revolves around Live and that may be just too distracting.
Another thing to keep in mind is that these courses is focused not just on electronic music and using Live, but also on creating electronic music. If this is not a part of your goal, I would again suggest one of the other numerous choices on this page.
Otherwise, you have a free course to start with, inexpensive subscription as well as a 30-day money back satisfaction guarantee. Easy peasy!
Creative Live’s Mixing and Vocals
Two excellent courses from Creative Live that cover two of the most crucial topics in music production in depth: mixing and vocals.
These two courses are not related in any way on the platform, but I’m bundling them together because they are hugely important elements of music production.
Mixing Master Class
This course is of particular interest to anyone who will be working with live instruments and especially in the rock genre and related. The instructor is well-known for his great production work in metalcore, but don’t let that keep you away.
I don’t work exclusively in the same genre as Joey but I always make sure to clear my schedule when he’s on CreativeLive.
In the last decade, Joey created a signature sound and in this class he reveals his unique mixing techniques to get it. This class picks up where Joey’s Studio Pass class left off which is what to do after your session’s been recorded and edited. That is the time to polish it into a world-class mix.
While this course is titled a “Master Class”, that may be slightly misleading as it’s not exactly for advanced users – more like for beginners and intermediate. He covers topics like:
- EQ and compression strategies for all different instruments
- Using automation to fix problems and bring out the dynamics
- Lots of tips and tricks to elevate the mix from good to great
And here are just some of the glowing comments:
Man, this is the best class of audio you will get. Explain a LOT about mixing methods and producer tips.
What’s great about this course is that Joey takes the time to explain the reason behind every choice he makes while mixing and mastering right there on the fly. It’s easy to watch someone do something and then copy it, but to understand why makes all the difference. I’ve started applying some of the concepts in this course and already hear a noticeable difference in my mixes. Strongly recommend this class.
This is a 10-hour course that packs plenty of punch!
Flawless Vocals: Recording, Editing & Mixing
One of the music industry (and audio post-production) sayings and truths is that you can’t polish a turd! So very true! In other words, no magic gear can make a crappy vocal performance or a weak voice into a mind-blowing one. But when you have a strong starting point, you can definitely take it far. And this is exactly what this course is about.
Kris will show you how to record, edit, and mix these performances. In the course, he uses the Pro Tools session files from an actual album – the debut by Issues, a nu metalcore band. He has a fresh approach to dealing with vocals and he’ll share it all.
I got this as vocals are something I wasn’t confident with in a mix. This course has drastically increased my confidence in recording, editing and mixing vocals
This 12-lecture 5-hour course covers a lot of ground on this important skill.
Joey Sturgis is an award-winning producer, recording engineer and mixing engineer, as well as a writer, performer, and software developer and programmer. He has over a decade of experience working with the new wave of American metal – The Devil Wears Prada, I See Stars, We Come As Romans, Attack! Attack!, Of Mice & Men, Attila, Blessthefall, and many more.
Joey Sturgis is one of the most talented, humble, and well spoken producers/audio engineers in the industry. His Mixing Master Class inspires both a sense of structure and maximum creativity. Well worth the asking price. Thank you, Joey!
Kris Crummett is a producer and an engineer based in Portland, OR. In the past decade, he has worked with hundreds of bands and labels around the globe. He produced some of the most dynamic rock and post-hardcore bands including Sleeping With Sirens, Dance Gavin Dance, Jonny Craig, Alesana, and Issues.
Kris had a good way to explain things and guide through the course, perfectly understandable even for a non-native english speaker as me.
Platform and Cost
I’m a big fan of Creative Live because their courses are at least one notch above Udemy. While here you won’t find a $10 lifetime access to any one course, most of their courses are fairly inexpensive and these two most certainly are.
As always, you should check to see if there is a bundle and if its content is of interest to you. However, I will always recommend you start the free one-week trial for the yearly pass. They have so many high quality courses, and if you only watch two per month, you’ll be very close to those ultra-low per-course prices we are used to seeing at Udemy. And not only do they have over 1,500 courses at the moment, but they continuously and actually add new ones!
Who These Courses Are For?
Both of these courses are taught using some very hard rocking music. Regardless, unless you know you’re gonna be working exclusively with electronic music, I would still recommend both of these courses. I believe that the signal flow, mics, and all the effects that are used on live instruments are the best way to learn these crucial production skills.
These two young engineers / producers can teach you the evergreen knowledge that is essential to a professional music production and music engineering career. They each have more courses on Creative Live that expand on these topics and I suggest you check them out. These two are quality courses and I can only strongly recommend them. I wouldn’t have picked them otherwise!
Udemy – Music Production
Two beginner courses where you’ll learn how to record, mix, master, and produce high quality music using any DAW.
The first volume of this course is for the beginner without any previous knowledge in music production. If you don’t have a DAW, there is a free one that is used and explained in this course. In addition, the instructor covers popular DAWs like Logic Pro X and Pro Tools.
Some of the subjects you will learn are:
- Microphone placement
- Recording audio
- Audio editing
- Effects processing
- Importing and exporting tracks
Even if you’ve never worked with sound gear before, or the terminology above is unfamiliar to you, by the end of this course you’ll be on your way to starting a career in music production. You’ll be able to record and produce music from scratch all the way up to mastering and releasing the music.
In the second course, all of these techniques are done on the next level:
- Advanced Music Production and Recording Techniques
- Recording MIDI Events
- Advanced Editing Techniques
- Advanced Plugin Automation
- Creating The Perfect Mix
- DAW Tips and Tricks
- Keyboard Shortcuts
This course builds on what you will learn in Music Production I so it is required that you take that one first. Otherwise, in this second part you will not be able to follow some of the techniques and DAW-related info.
Mitch Houston has been in the music industry for over 15 years. He started as a musician and he’s also a songwriter with hundreds of tracks and multiple released albums.
He’s a professionally certified audio engineer as well as Pro Tools Certified. As a sound engineer, he has experience from simple audio interfaces all the way up to million-dollar consoles. He owns and operates his own broadcast and production studio.
As usual, Udemy provides us with courses that are easy to digest and very easy on the wallet. These two are no exception. There is even a third course in this series, but it focuses on Mastering with Logic Pro X. If you are a beginner, start with the first one and see how you like it. As always, Udemy has a satisfaction guarantee so there is no risk to you whatsoever.
As I’ve mentioned in the intro, learning music production and engineering is a very broad topic. All the courses I recommended above cover the essential know-how that is not optional. But there are many other areas where you could take more specialized training. Here are some of my other interesting finds on Udemy and their current ratings.
- Pop Rock
Mixing Music – Learn how to mix a Pop Rock Song like a Pro! (4.1)
- Hip Hop
Mixing Music – Learn how to mix a Hip Hop Song like a Pro! (3.8)
- Electronic Dance Music
Mixing Music – Learn how to mix an EDM Song like a Pro! (4.1)
- Heavy Rock
Mixing Heavy Rock (4.3)
Mixing Music: Learn how to get an awesome sounding drum mix! (4.7)
- Acoustic Guitar
Record & Mix Music like a Pro – Acoustic Guitars and Vocals! (4.5)
Learn Compression: The Beginners Guide to Mixing! (4.1)
- Pro Tools
Avid Pro Tools: Audio Recording For Beginners In Pro Tools (4.6)
Avid Pro Tools 12 Fundamentals (3.9)
- Ableton Live
Ultimate Ableton Live 9 COMPLETE: Parts 1, 2, & 3 (4.5)
Ultimate Ableton Live 9 Complete: Parts 4, 5, & 6 (4.5)
Learn How to Make Electronic Music with Cubase (4.6)
- FL Studio
Music Producer Masterclass: Make Electronic Music (4.4)
There you have it. One big review, but not everything is for everyone. I know this topic well so I’m able to give you educated recommendations. Do not skimp on the fundamentals otherwise you’re gonna suffer later in the process. The sooner you tackle the essential skills, the sooner you can have more free brainwaves to train your ears to listen.
Always protect your hearing and keep learning!
If you had a sign above every studio door saying ‘This Studio is a Musical Instrument’ it would make such a different approach to recording. – Brian Eno