Music producers are often as talented as the artists they work with. They’re great at building and maintaining relationships; this might be through coaching and supporting the artists to ensure they are focused and motivated and can produce their best performances. Sometimes they need to be a diplomat as they try to keep both artist and record label happy when their creative visions conflict. If you’re an aspiring music producer wanting to turn your dream into a reality, you need to make sure you’ve got the right technology. Building a home recording studio doesn’t need to cost the earth; in fact, it’s often best to start with the essential items and expand/upgrade it up over time.
Here’s the list of everything you’ll need to get started.
The computer is the hub of your recording studio. It’s possible to use pretty much any desktop or laptop computer, but the processing speed should be as high as you can afford so it can cope with the production software you’re using. If portability of your studio is important to you, then a laptop may be best, although desktops tend to have higher processing power, which means you can record and listen to more tracks simultaneously. Whether you choose to use a Mac or a PC will come down to personal preference, but there is a lot of debate on the issue!
Digital Audio Workstation or DAW
Your DAW is the software you use to do the recording, editing, and mixing. The good news for complete novices is that there are free DAWs out there. Generally, they’re not recommended for long-term professional use, but they give you the chance to try them out before choosing which to spend your money on.
The audio interface unit sends the music into the computer when you’re recording and out of the computer when playing it back. You’ll need to make sure the interface you choose is compatible with your DAW and has enough processing power for what you’ll be recording. The simplest models will have 1 or 2 connecting ports while professional models can have 20 or more. It’s best to connect the audio interface to your computer with either USB or Firewire connectors. USBs are the cheaper option, but the Firewire delivers a faster transfer.
At the most basic level, there are two main types of headphones to choose from and each offer different benefits:
- Closed back headphones deliver the best isolation but a lesser sound quality which makes them better for tracking.
- Open back headphones deliver the best sound quality but with less isolation which makes them better for mixing.
However, there are a lot of headphones on the market, and not all are created equal when it comes to sound quality. To make your decision a little more straightforward you can use a comparison website like Choosist to narrow down your headphone options based on the most critical factors like budget, style, and suitability for music production.
Microphone with Stand
There are various types of microphone to choose from including:
A Condenser microphone works better on high-frequency instruments like an acoustic guitar or piano, while a Dynamic microphone is better on low-mid frequency instruments like drums or electric guitars. This is a very simple differentiation, but for a beginner, it’s best to choose a microphone suited to the type of instruments you’ll be recording.
Studio monitors are speakers that have a particularly accurate response; this means that they don’t ‘color’ or distort the sound as much as consumer level speakers would. A pair of studio monitors give a cleaner sound so you can mix tracks with as much clarity as possible.
When you’re just starting, you’ll probably only need a long XLR cable for your microphone and a couple of shorter cables for your monitors.
The pop filter isn’t essential for a starter studio, but it’s not expensive either, so many aspiring music producers include it in their setup. It’s the mesh which covers the microphone to minimize vocal ‘popping’ of ‘Ps’ and ‘Bs.’