ah! perhaps unsurprisingly, that is a broad question. but I love helping to get people into making music, so I’ll try and answer this:
1. you’re going to need some way to deal with sound files.
this is the basic stuff: converting between formats, quick volume adjustment, chopping and cropping
i use an ancient version of soundforge pro, but I think audacity is a popular (and free) choice
I also use XMPlay as my main media player, and it has approx 1 billion plugins for opening various file formats. I can use it to convert a ton of stuff to .WAV and normalize automatically, so that’s handy! (It’s a damn fine media player, too)
2. you’re going to need to find a DAW you’re comfortable with
"DAW" meaning"Digital Audio Workstation" meaning "the thing you actually make your music in".
As best I can tell, there is a sort of holy trinity of popular DAWs: FL Studio, Reason, and Ableton Live
and then there’s the back alley where you find my DAW of choice: OpenMPT
(A quick note here: most modern DAWs use piano rolls for writing melodies/etc. OpenMPT is a tracker, which looks a bit more like MS Excel than a piano. Piano rolls and trackers fundamentally different ways of making music.)
Ok so, besides the tracker vs piano roll, every DAW you look at will feel different.
DON’T buy a DAW until you’ve tried it out, tried several alternatives, and have decided you’re comfortable with it. It’ll probably take a while, but that’s ok. It’s a lot of shit to learn. :P
3. you’re going to need a way to make sounds
freesound.org is a common resource for samples, but that’s super hit/miss for me.
if you dig around you can probably find some good sample packs or soundfonts
perhaps most importantly: VSTs!! there’s a ton of ‘em! half of which are free!
some essentials if your DAW doesn’t already have them: get a filter, an equalizer, a delay plugin, a reverb plugin, and a compressor. I also made a post with a bunch of rad free VSTs you can pick up, so play with that too!
3½. you will REALLY HEAVILY BENEFIT from looking at other people’s project files
you can steal sounds from existing songs this way, too. super handy!
however, project files may be hard to acquire if you use not-OpenMPT.
if you use OpenMPT (or any other tracker) then you’ve got about 25 years of archived stuff to pull from. :D
if you want the project file to any of my songs, just ask and I’ll see what I can do (some stuff I don’t want to distribute, but yeah)
4. you will HEAVILY BENEFIT from the ability to look at sound
refering to XMPlay again: it comes with a spectrogram, called “Spectrum (3D)” in the visualizer list. play your favorite songs and see what they look like. then play the songs you made, see how different they look. figure out why they look different.
it’s the best tool I’ve ever used to get a grasp on how sounds work
there’s a VST version called Sonogram SG1, for in-DAW use
FL Studio also has a spectrogram included, called “wave candy” iirc.
5. you probably shouldn’t share your first few songs with the world
share with your friends, make some musician friends, share with them. hold off on writing that email to OWSLA.
soundcloud, youtube, bandcamp? go for it.
it will take a while before you get good. and that’s normal. just be open to learning and having fun and you should be golden!
ok I think that covers the basics of the basics. feel free to ask me other questions!
hope that helps!