So.. you want to become a music producer? You've come to the right place! In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know to get started with making and selling beats. From picking a computer, to what gear you'll need to make the finest melodies and chord progressions. We will cover all the necessary information to get you started off properly. So with that being said, let's get started.
How to pick the best computer for music production
Now it all starts with picking the right computer or laptop as your primary workstation. Nowadays everything is created on a computer. So picking the right computer is extremely important.
Firstly you have to identify whether you'd want to work on a laptop or a PC. If you want to be more mobile, obviously a laptop would be the perfect choice since it gives you the freedom to bring your work on the road.
A desktop will not give you that freedom but it might give you more power for a lower price. If you have no issues with being more stationary, a desktop might be the right choice for your setup. Bottom line is, if you want more bang for your buck, you should go with a computer. If you want to be mobile, go with a laptop.
Windows or mac for music production
The next obvious choice you have to make, is to decide whether to go with a Windows or Mac operating system.
Again, this comes down to personal preference and it doesn't really matter which operating system you go for.
But if you already own other products by Apple, such as the Iphone and/or Ipad, it might be a better choice to get a Macbook or Imac.
The only thing you should be mindful of is that not all DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) are compatible with either operating system. We'll get into that later.
Computer specs for music production
Now this is where it gets interesting. The specifications of your computer or laptop should be decent enough to run music production software which can be quite heavy on the system.
First off, your CPU should be atleast a Quad-Core or higher. The more cores you have, the better your computer will run. The CPU is basically the brains of your computer. So the more brains your computer has, the faster you can process and render things.
So more cores are always better. We would definitely recommend a Quad-Core. Luckily nowadays most Mac and Windows computers are equipped with Quad-Core processors at an entry level.
However, if you also do your own video editing or graphics design, you should aim even higher than Quad-Core. If you just stick to music production, 8 cores is perfect and Quad-Core is the bare minimum.
[caption id="attachment_36203" align="alignnone" width="600"] A photo released Oct. 8, 2018, shows a 9th Gen Intel Core processor packages. The processor family is optimized for gaming, content creation and productivity. (Source: Intel Corporation)[/caption]
How much RAM do you need for music production?
RAM is also very important. The more RAM you have, the better. Period. I would recommend at least 8GB of RAM.
Why do you need so much RAM? Because if you load up a lot of VST plugins, the more RAM you have the better. A lot of these plugins such as Serum and Omnisphere are CPU and RAM hungry.
The more RAM will help you out because you'll be able to offload some of that data onto the RAM to keep your computer running smoothly. If you want to run 8 or 10 instances of a certain plugin, you'll need more RAM.
I would recommend not to go lower than 4GB as the bare minimum. If you can, try to go with 8GBs. With 8GBs of RAM, you will be good to go no matter what your level is. Again, you can always go higher.
HDD for music production
You should lean towards the SSD for the main OS system and main DAW. Also your VST plugins will load up a lot faster on a SSD HDD. So Generally a SSD HDD is recommended.
You will also need at least a 7,200 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) disk. Typical HDD work at 5,400 RPM. Regarding the speed, HDD devices speeds can go from 50 Megabytes per second to 120 Megabytes per second.
You can get a stand
ard HDD for saving samples and other less important things that don't need to load up super fast. Luckily for you, these type of HDDs are also much cheaper.
Also make sure to have a lot of hard drive space. The hard drive is something you can't get around. The more you have, the better.
Think about all the data that needs to be saved. You're gonna be saving samples, recordings, renders, beats, trackouts, session files etc.
You want to make sure you have enough store because it will take up a lot of space. Unless you're purging your unused audio, you will build up a lot of audio clips.
Most importantly... GET A BACKUP!! Trust me. I can't stress this enough. You don't want to spend hours, days, weeks, months on music projects and one day have your HDD crashing on you. So definitely get a backup HDD to make sure your most important files are stored safely.
Which DAW should you choose
Now your DAW is gonna be what you're gonna be working in. Here's the thing. All DAWs sound the same. There is no sound difference. So we can stop arguing about Ableton being better than FL Studio or vice versa. Sound quality wise, they're all good.
Now when it comes to workflow, every DAW has a different workflow. This again comes down to personal preference.
One of the easiest and most popular DAWs among beginners is FL Studio because you can pretty much create your own workflow.
Most other DAWs such as Ableton, Logic Pro, Reason or Pro Tools can be kinda linear, meaning everything is already routed for you.
In my opinion, FL Studio is a great DAW to start off with. There is tons of content on the DAW and therefore, getting started should be fairly easy even if you've never opened up a DAW before.
If you're looking for a more traditional DAW, you should look into Studio One, Logic or Cubase. If you want the industry standard, you should go with Pro Tools.
It all depends on what you want to use and what you personally prefer. I would suggest to try out as many as you can to see which one you like. The most important thing is to have fun with it!
What audio interface should you get?
Now that you got your computer and DAW, it's time to start making some beats. So what do you need to actually make beats and record?
First off, if you're gonna be making beats it's pretty simply. You need an audio interface.
Why? An audio interface is gonna be the way to get sound into your computer, and out of your computer. Basically turning an analog signal to a digital signal, and a digital signal to an analog signal.
You will need that because most computers don't have audio interfaces. And it will also provide the best quality possible.
I would start with the more cheaper, affordable models. By far, the most used audio interfaces is the Focusrite. It sounds good, it works and it's affordable.
Starting at about a $120 bucks. Of Course they do go up in price if you want more ins and outs, so basically determining on how many inputs and outputs the device has, it can go up in price.
Audio interfaces usually come with Thunderbolt and USB-C type of connectors.
What headphones do you need for music production?
What about listening to those sounds coming through your audio interface? The first thing i'd recommend if you're on a budget, is to get some good quality studio headphones.
The Beyerdynamic DT770 are a great pair to start off with. Another great choice might be the Sennheiser 288 HD Pro, which are pretty industry standard and can be find in a lot of studios. This pair is available for about a $100 bucks.
Whatever you go for, make sure to get yourself a good pair of studio headphones. Because they allow you to hear the sounds coming from your DAW pretty thorough and accurate.
Be careful though, because when you're working with headphones on all day, your ears can not only get fatigued you also risk getting tinnitus. Always make sure to keep the volume and a reasonable level.
What studio monitors should you get?
If you don't want to put your ears at that much risk, you should consider getting studio monitors.
Now keep in mind, studio monitors are much pricier than studio headphones. One of the best pairs to start off with are the Kali Audio LP5. They're about a $150 a piece so about $300 in total, which will be the standard for most studio models.
The popular KRK Rokits are also good to get started, while lower end Yamaha's, or Mackie's will also get the job done.
I would suggest if you're starting out, go with some 5'' inch studio monitors. The brand will always be subjective so the best thing you can do is look up user reviews on online before buying. If you can possibly hear them yourself that will always be best way.
Studio monitors are great for music production because they give you a flat response. Most regular speakers out there like home theater systems have built in effects to make the music sound good.
Studio monitors are not designed to make them sound good, but are designed for accuracy, meaning flat response. With that being said, you'll be able to make EQ adjustments, add reverb and filters to make your music sound good. If it sounds good coming out of studio monitors, it will sound good anywhere.
Optionally, you will also need a nicely acoustically treated room. You can read more about how to treat your room here.
What MIDI controller should you get?
If you want to control the sounds and virtual instruments that come with your DAW, you'll need to get a MIDI controller. A MIDI keyboard allows you to play instruments and plugins inside your DAW.
Of Course you can also use your computer keyboard with musical typing, but a MIDI keyboard is a much more effective way of playing your instruments.
A MIDI controller is easily connected via USB. They're also quite cheap with some models starting at $75 to a $100 bucks.
The AKAI MPK Mini is one of the more affordable MIDI keyboards you can find, while also offering good quality and durability. It also comes with drum pads. Other good brands are Arturia, Novation and M-Audio.
There are different types of MIDI controllers. It all depends on what you would like to use for creating music. If you're into programming drum patterns, a Novation launchkey will get the job done.
If you want to actually play piano inside your DAW, you'll be better off with something like the M-Audio Keystation.
Do keep in mind that a MIDI keyboard or controller doesn't actually come with any sounds. It can only be used to control the sounds that are inside your DAW such as plugins and samples.
Picking a microphone for recording vocals
Additionally, if you're gonna be recording yourself or other artists inside your studio you should look into getting a decent microphone as well. A microphone is a way to get your audio into your DAW and computer.
There are plenty of microphones out there ranging from $50 all the way up to $3000. Usually, the higher the price, the better the quality.
Your microphone can be easily plugged in to your audio interface using a XLR cable. Normal microphones are usually good to go with just that.
Condenser microphones however, do need phantom power to work. So you have to make sure your audio interface has phantom power which nowadays, most interfaces come with.
One final note
Hopefully that gets you guys started off in the right direction. If you're getting started, all you need is a nice computer, a DAW, a nice audio interface, some speakers or headphones and optionally a MIDI controller and microphone and you should be able to start making some great music!
Always make sure to stay in your price range and only buy things based on what you need instead of what you want. You have to start somewhere so if you have to start cheaper, that's no big deal. With that being said, if you've read all the way through this article, you should be set to start creating.