So, You Want to Make Some Music?
Technology has made it possible for more people than ever before to do what they love– and that’s especially true for those of us who want to get into the music game. There’s no denying it’s competitive, but increasingly inexpensive beginner hardware and support from intuitive software interfaces makes it easy to jump in and experiment.
This is not a guide for music-making experts– this a crash course in the tools you need to get off the ground making music. In this article, we’ll cover all of the basics. That includes:
- An introduction to the digital support you never knew you needed
- A checklist of the recording hardware every musician needs
- Software for producing music with or without live instruments
Cloud Storage is Every Musician’s Secret Weapon
Before you get started producing your music, you need to make sure you have somewhere to store it. If you’re tech-savvy, you know that music can eat up space on your laptop or desktop computer pretty quickly, which is why it’s important to find a cloud storage solution.
Cloud storage is important because it’s:
Cloud Storage is Scalable
Most cloud storage providers can offer you more storage as you need it, which means you can keep adding files until your heart’s content.
Cloud Storage is Secure
Nobody wants to lose their data, especially when that data is music they’ve put their blood, sweat, and tears (not to mention countless hours of production) into. For cloud storage providers, security is the name of the game, which means you can shop around and find one that offers truly unbeatable file safety features.
Cloud Storage is Social
Okay, so it’s not social quite the same way your Facebook feed is, but cloud storage does make it easy for you to get your music to other people. Whether you’re looking for feedback or a simple and effective way to deliver your finished product, cloud storage is a great way to share your work with other people. Plus, many have commenting and other tools built right into the platform, which makes collaborating a breeze.
Hardware Every Musician Needs to Get Started
Ask a bunch of musicians how they would recommend building your first studio setup, and you’ll get a bunch of different answers. When it really comes down to it, the secret to a successful beginner recording studio setup is making sure you don’t attempt too much too soon. You want good quality equipment, but you also don’t need to sink your entire life savings into it. It’s all about striking a balance.
When you’re putting together your first recording setup, make sure to include these essentials:
- DAW/Audio Interface Combo
- Studio Monitors
- Microphones and Mic Stands
- Pop Filter
If you already have a pretty nice computer, you can probably get away with skipping this purchase. However for most beginning producers, this is by far the biggest ticket item on your shopping list. Ideally, you want to get your hands on the fastest computer with the most processing power you can afford. This can set you back a couple of grand, but it’s absolutely essential.
DAW/ Audio Interface Combo
Your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is the software you use to record, edit, and mix music on your powerful new computer. The Audio Interface, on the other hand, is the hardware component of the setup that allows you to connect your computer to the rest of your gear. You can usually buy these two components together, which helps save you money and ensures the two products are compatible with each other.
These are not your ordinary, commercial speakers. Commercial speakers are enhanced to make whatever music you play through them sound awesome, but studio monitors don’t have any of these thrills. They deliver a flatter frequency response, which delivers a more neutral sound. This helps you hear what your music actually sounds like so that you can adjust and perfect your sound as necessary.
Microphones/ Mic Stand
If you keep up with recording music, you’ll eventually accumulate a pretty big collection of microphones, but for now, you only need 1 or 2. The microphone(s) you want to start out with depends entirely on what instruments you plan to record. Take some time to research the best mic for your instrument– whether it’s vocals, high-frequency instruments, or low-frequency instruments.
There are different kinds of headphones that can be used for different things, but when it comes to your first recording studio setup, a good pair of closed back headphones are an absolute necessity. Closed back headphones sacrifice sound quality compared to their open back counterparts, but they offer superior isolation, which is why you need ‘em.
Once again, cables are another piece of hardware that you will accumulate over time. To get started, you only need a couple of XLR cables:
- 1 long (25 ft) XLR cable for your mic
- 2 short (6ft) XLR cables for your studio monitors
Have you ever been to an event where a presenter is speaking into a presumably pretty nice microphone, but every “p” or “b” sound they make creates this awful, almost static-y noise? That is called popping, and that’s exactly the vocal effect a pop filter is designed to eliminate. They’re pretty cheap, which makes them a great way to up the quality of your vocal recordings without breaking the bank.
Music Production Software to Fit Every Budget
Whether producing your own music is a hobby or you have every intention of headlining a music festival next summer, there are plenty of software options out there that will fit your budget. For music production beginners, we recommend starting out with the free versions of popular softwares.
And if you’re not ready to commit to a full setup, don’t worry– there are still plenty of software options out there that can help you produce music sans instruments.
Maybe the hardware isn’t in your budget right now, or maybe you’re still working on honing your mad guitar skills. Either way, if you aren’t ready to set up your first studio, there is still software that will allow you create your own music.
Here are a few options that will give beginners a wide variety of tools to work with:
- GarageBand (Mac)
- Audacity (Mac, Windows, Linux)
- LMMS (Mac, Windows, Linux)
- Ableton Live 9 Lite (Mac, Windows)
- Darkwave Studio (Windows)
There you have it– everything a beginner needs to start piecing together their own music production setup. Whether you’re ready to put together a full studio or you just plan to tinker with some software, we’d love to hear about what’s working for you. Drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter to let us know your favorite tools for beginners.
This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are my own.