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Home Music Production - A Beginners Guide

Home Music Production - A Beginners Guide

Equipment advice for newcomers to music production

by Friday 21 October 2011 23:50

With the advances in modern day computing, getting started in music production has never been easier. Gone are the days of large studios, mixing desks, and racks upon racks of synths. Now you can achieve the same professional quality on your own laptop or PC, on a much tighter budget. So these are my tips for getting started in music production.

First things first, the computer. It doesn't matter if you're an Apple fan boy or not, you need to select the platform you are most comfortable with, be that Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X. If you're going down the Windows route, avoid Windows Vista like the plague. For the best performance invest in Windows 7 64 bit. A good 64 bit operating system (Mac OS X Snow Leopard is Apple's first true 64 bit operating system), will allow you to use over 3.5 Gigabyte of RAM also known as memory, and the more RAM you can chuck at a production computer, the better. My advice, start with 4 GB of RAM and go from there.

Next, do you want a PC or a Laptop? Personally I prefer PC's as they are cheaper and easier to upgrade, but that being said, if you advance in music production and want to start doing live sets, a laptop would be a better choice. Processor wise choose Intel Core 2 Duo, or the newer and more powerful i5 and i7 processors. Apple wise, all their current range of Macbook Pro's use Intel based processors, and as a bonus if you don't get on with Apple's OS X, you can simply dual boot the laptop with Windows 7. I do :)

As for audio devices, you really can't go wrong with M-Audio. There are many other makes out there, but after setting up 11 broadcast studios over the last 8 years using M-Audio products, I wouldn't recommend anything else. Coupled with a pair of active monitor speakers and you're good to go.

But if you're in an environment where you can't use monitor speakers due to neighbours, or you're out on the road working from a coffee shop or on the train, then noise cancelling headphones is a good option, such as these good value ones from Noise cancelling headphones do just that, cancelling out all the background noise, so you can focus on the audio you're producing.

And finally we come to software. There are many different options here, and depending on who you talk to, recommendations can vary. These are my tips as used by experienced, and successful producers and friends in dance music.

Ableton Live (PC/Mac) is a great starting point, and unlike other software I will recommend, Ableton can also be used on the road to add that extra punch to a DJ set. Often used by renowned technical DJ/Producers such as the mighty James Zabiela, Ableton is flexible and easy get started with, allowing you to get up and running relatively quickly.

For the more advanced user Steinberg's Cubase (PC/Mac) is the best choice. Favoured by many producers in the studio, Cubase allows you to integrate a whole host of plug-ins, expanding the potential of your studio setup, and the sounds you can achieve.

And lastly, for those who are feeling brave and want only the very best software that the professionals use, then it has to be the daddy, Apple's Logic Pro. And yes, since version 6 it is now only available on Apple OS X. Logic Pro is not a for the fate hearted, but it is as powerful and professional as they come. Used by professional producers in the big recording studios throughout the industry, it has become the industry standard for professional music production, and second to none.

All these software packages support midi controllers and keyboards, which unlike in the past when you had to use a proper midi cable, these days you simply use USB. But that's not all, tablet devices such as the iPad also supports midi via Wi-Fi, allowing DJs to get closer to the crowd during sets. Midi controllers such as those from Akai, Novation and Korg, allow you to interact with the software in a more user friendly way, and can often be much easier to use than the mouse.

I hope these tips have given you the basics to setup your own studio, and start you on the path of music production. Got a question, or a tip of you own, then please leave a comment below.

Good luck!

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