The amazing thing about all the advances in technology in recent times means that anyone with access to a computer (Mac or PC), and a pair of headphones or decent studio monitors can make outstanding electronic music with minimal financial outlay or a requirement for significant physical studio space. Read on for the 4 essential pieces of gear and learn how to start producing music in no time.
As far as preferences go, some music producers prefer to fork out and invest big into outboard gear or hardware (including synths and effects processors),or on the other end of the spectrum, you see people making amazing music with software only (soft synths etc.). There’s even a hybrid approach where you see a combination of hardware and software living and interacting side by side.
After years of making electronic music, and reading, testing and reviewing various pieces of gear both in the home studio and in a live environment, I can say that the following 4 items are the ‘essentials’ when considering an entry point into the world of producing digital music:
1. Laptop: preferably with the latest technology (it’s vital that it has a fast CPU, 2 to 4 cores, and at least 8gb of RAM to handle all the processes that you are demanding from it. An internal SSD hard drive will also help run sample heavy projects faster). The choice of Mac and Windows comes down to personal preference here, but MacBook Pro’s are the most commonly used.
2. Reference quality headphones: it’s vital that you are getting a true and accurate representation of the sounds you are making so that your mixdowns translate well on all sound systems, including club PA’s and home stereo systems). AKG k701 or 702 are highly recommended and often used by big name dance music producers.
3. Studio monitors: in the same vein as the headphones, you need to make sure your speakers/monitors are as accurate as possible. Depending on the size of your space you should look at a pair that have bass drivers between 5 to 8″ so that you can feel the low sub frequencies in your music. Yamaha and Dynaudio are 2 manufacturers that make high quality entry level monitors.
4. MIDI controller: as a human it’s not really optimal for creativity and workflow to be relying on a mouse to click around and input drum patterns and melodies into your projects. A MIDI controller will also allow you to automate elements of your tracks to produce variations and make them evolve over time to keep your listeners interested. If you’re not trained in playing piano or have a limited understanding of music theory – the Ableton Push device is a must have. This will stand as your main hub and control mechanism for everything in your studio.
So there you have it – 4 essential pieces of gear that will help you how to start producing music. Keep in mind these are the starting point, and are going to help you get the most out of a software or ‘in the box’ production environment.
Once you have your gear, your space setup and ready to start writing, you may need some ideas on how to make your own song. There are plenty of resources out there online, but just remember that it really does help to find an environment that makes you feel relaxed and inspired.
HOT TIP: if you have a limited budget or access to finance, you should keep an eye on second hand market places to buy your gear like eBay and Gumtree. You can opt for new or old on eBay, depending on what you can afford.