In 2014, we are very lucky to be spoiled with an abundance of music creation tools. Anyone is now able to learn how to produce a song at home – or anywhere for that matter, due to technological leaps in computers, laptops and music production software.
I’m going to list everything you need to have in order to start producing music. Fun fact: you’ll probably already have most of it in your possession.
What You Absolutely Need
Any modern computer will do, be it a desktop or laptop. Keep in mind though, that CPU power and physical memory are key here. With 8 to 16 GB of installed memory and a CPU capable of multithreading, such as the Intel Core i7-2600, you’ll have a killer rig that will handle any situation in your production affairs.
- Audio Interface
Every modern computer will have an audio interface integrated into it, so you can get straight into the production game. But if you are even the least bit serious about making your own tunes, you need to buy an external audio interface, so you’ll get your audio performance, sound quality and latencies to real world levels. You’ll be able to record your instruments or singing through it as well. Read my review of RME’s Babyface interface here.
You probably have a set of speakers already, and those will work just fine, up to a point. When I started out, I owned a pair of Logitech T20’s, and made a bunch of music with them. Porter Robinson used a pair of $100 Logitech Speakers too, and look at him now. After some point though, you’ll want to look into acquiring real studio monitors, such as the cheap but surprisingly good Behringer Truth –series.
In addition to speakers, you could look into using headphones. Read my review of Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones.
- DAW Software
Lastly, you need a Digital Audio Workstation – a DAW. There are lots to choose from, and you should check out this list by Musicradar if you are in the search of one. Personally, I have used Image-Line FL Studio, Cockos REAPER and Avid Pro tools, and they are all good, capable workstations, though different. Choose wisely for your own needs, and stick with it.
Most DAWs are fully equipped with everything you need to make music. Virtual instruments, effects, mixer, sampler, it’s all there. You could basically use your mouse and keyboard to make full songs, as I have done when I was a starting out.
What Are Optional, But Highly Recommended
- MIDI Keyboard
You wouldn’t be wanting to use your mouse or keyboard to play virtual instruments forever, would you? These things go for very cheap, and I think it’s an essential piece of hardware to have in the studio. You can basically trigger all MIDI events with it. You can play drum kits from samplers, improvise with a virtual piano or create the nastiest bassline by playing it.
- Real Musical Instruments
Having real, actual instruments is always a good thing. Musical ideas are easily extracted from different instruments, by playing and just improvising with them. Also, they provide true contrast to all
the digital. It’s only healthy to have at least some instrument laying around, such as a guitar.
If you want to record yourself singing, you need to have a microphone. You could also record yourself playing for example, acoustic guitar, and lay down songs in no time.
- Virtual Instruments and Plugins
There are tons of virtual instruments and effects plugins out there. Even though most DAWs have their default instruments and plugins, and you’ll do perfectly fine with them, it is a good idea to do some research about a particular instrument or effect you would be searching for, because they could greatly increase the quality of your productions. Check out this article over at Producer’s Mind for a good selection of third-party instruments and plugins.
- Sample Packs
You’ll probably need samples, most often drums (if you’re not a drummer and willing to record yourself playing) to be able to lay down a beat. Again, DAWs usually have a set of default drum kits, but look deeper for a quality boost in your drum samples. Native Instruments’ KONTAKT has some great drum kits and sampled instruments which I use all the time.
As DAWs are relatively cheap nowadays (such as Cockos REAPER, which costs only $60 – the price of a video game), it would be a perfect gift for someone interested in music to get their hands on a fully equipped music creation environment.
I hope you now have a picture of what you need to do to immerse yourself in the world of music production. Of course, after you have acquired all the necessary tools in order to make music, all you have to do then is, well, make music. If you have questions, comments or feedback, please leave them below and I’ll get back to you.