These days, electronic music isn’t just reserved for DJs or techno artists. While its origins stretch as far back as 1948 – when electronic sounds were first used in the ‘musique concrète’ movement in Paris, and soon spread to Germany where music was first produced by electronic generators in the early ‘50s – its legacy endures today, stronger than ever and in numerous forms.
Anyone looking to move into making electronic music should first decide their niche and genre – it isn’t limited to only industrialized music now. Electronic elements today are heavily incorporated into popular music, rock, and has even spawned an ‘electro swing’ style that has plenty of fans.
Below are some electronic devices and instruments easy for beginners to pick up and start playing. You could go from being a bedroom DJ to touring the world with some hard work and creativity!
Synthesizers, or synths, have been used since the very early days of electronic music, made famous by pioneering artists like German band Kraftwerk in the early 1970s. The band were known for using synthesizers, drum machines and vocoders, an early form of voice transformation device. Synths are a huge foundation of popular music today, utilized by artists like Hot Chip, Marina & the Diamonds and Lady Gaga.
Synthesizers are commonly played via a normal musical keyboard but can also be used with other forms of controller, sequencer or fingerboard. Players learning the synthesizer can experiment with these forms to find what works best for them; but perhaps the easiest way to start is with a traditional keyboard with piano keys.
Electronic drums, or e-drums, can range from a small computer plug-in to a full drum set made from electronic pads, which are hit in the same way as traditional drums but take up much less space. Benefits of using e-drums over traditional drums include the ease of sound manipulation and that they are lightweight and easily compacted for transportation.
If you have an interest in playing the drums, e-drums are a fantastic way to start. They’re also a great first instrument for kids to master. As mentioned, they’re easily transported so you can take them to lessons or to gig venues easily, and headphones can be worn during practice so that only you can hear what you’re doing, minimizing complaints from neighbors!
You can buy starter kits cheaply, or for more experienced players, kits made by well-known professional instrument manufacturers like Yamaha and Roland. Check out the reviews of kits for beginners and pros on the website bestedrums.com to help you decide which set sounds best for you.
Once mocked as a crutch for famous artists who couldn’t really sing, auto-tuning has been repossessed by many popular musicians today as a stylistic device. Pop stars like Charli XCX use exaggerated auto-tune on their voices on purpose to create an electronic, almost robotic sound to accompany their music. This can be hard to replicate during live vocal performances but is great for DJs looking to play pre-recorded tracks.
Auto-tune can be used or experimented with today via a whole range of mediums – computer programs, plug-in machines, and even apps. You can buy microphones from brands such as Shure with built-in auto-tune, use the Apple program Garage Band, or download apps like Voloco and Tune Me. These are easy, inexpensive ways for would-be musicians to experiment with auto-tune without having to book a studio session with professional producers.
Pioneer, Numark and Rekordbox are brands that produce excellent starter DJ decks and sets, helping novice disk jockeys break into the competitive business. Whether you want to become a local wedding DJ or the new Diplo, you need to start somewhere! Simple decks with a few features are best to master at the start of your career, before moving onto systems with more settings and buttons than you can count to make fully customized tunes.
Today’s decks usually come with both digital and physical record capabilities, so you can choose to play tracks from your attached laptop or spin vinyl. Good-quality beginner sets start from around $300, so get saving!