The Learning Years – This period can vary from between 3-10 years and what is learned during this time can be the necessary foundation for future success. To bypass this foundational period can ultimately cause delay and failure in ones music production career. The activities in this stage generally revolve around:
- Learning an Instrument – Learning to play an instrument is a vital element to this step as such a skill gives immense flexibility and freshness to the production. This must also include learning to use the equipment and determining what works for you. Dr Dre uses the Akai MPc3000 and does so proficiently after years of practice. What is surprising today is how many young producers' eagerness to release music without sufficient learning experience. Perhaps it is a reflection of today's fast paced society. Quincy Jones played trumpet for the band Dizzy Gillespie honed his skills with.
- Joining a Band or Playing Live – There are so many lessons one learns through planning in a live situation that cannot be thought otherwise. These activities enable the producer to know the beats that people like, how sound works and how to work with others. If this activity includes session work it makes it more of a focussed learning because you are able to learn from the experiences of other musicians and producers. Many great producers were in a band prior to becoming great producers.
- Mentorship / Education – 'Sitting at the feet' of another producer who can impart skills and experience into a person's life could be the best investment one can make at the early stages of ones life. The role a 'Tea-Boy' is still a valuable entry point into the lives of many people who can mentor a budding producer. Many production techniques that take years to acquire can be learnt in record time. Sometimes it could be worth the investment of attending a special school that will teach the skills as well as other music business subjects.
- Developing Your Own Unique Sound – As a top producer, people come to you because of the uniqueness of your sound. Some producers are excellent vocal arrangers and musicians whilst some just have a distinct sound. Teddy Riley, Timberland, David Guetta, CJ Mackintosh are all producers with varied but distinct sounds. Dr Dre's memorable sound is from the mood which you would find in most of his tracks. A producer is able to increase his / her earning potential based on how different they are from others within the same market. I am aware that this can take years to acquire but a new producer must be heading in this direction.