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PICKING EQUIPMENT FOR A HOME STUDIO
midichords // almost 3 years ago //

If you want to compose music you'll first need to create a proper environment for this. Granted, anyone with a simple computer can create sounds using a DAW, but if you're serious and you have been flirting with the idea to make serious music, it makes sense to spend a few bucks on some essential equipment. This does not have to be overly expensive and complicated though. Most people start off with a fairly basic home studio and work their way up from there.

The first thing you will need would be a computer, mac or windows. Either way, you should try to get a machine with the best possible specs for your budget. But most cases, a machine with an i5 processor, with 8 GB ram and 500 GB 7200 rpm hard drive (SSD preferred for OS and other software) would do just fine. Another thing you should be considering would be getting two monitors, as they will come in handy when you’ll get familiar with the music software you will be using. Most software out there support an external monitor and it could turn out to be quite handy when using the mixer view and the arrangement view at the same time. Also, it’s a good way to separate your vst’s (virtual studio instruments) from the mixing area. We will talk more about vst’s in another tutorial, as this is beyond the scope of this post.

The second thing you should focus on is picking up an external sound card. Choosing between a firewire card (mostly for Mac) or an usb one should be easy. Basically, they are very much alike, with the remark that the firewire can run on higher speeds. Therefore it’s believed it can run more channels at higher speeds. Another factor that should influence your choice would be the number of channels you intend to record at the same time. If you only intend to run a single microphone trough it, a solo interface should do just fine. A couple of recommended sound cards would be iTrack Solo from Focusrite, Presonus AudioBox 22VSL, M-Track from M-audio or RME babyface. You should bear in mind (rule of thumb) that the higher the price, the better the quality of the preamps would be.

Focusrite Scalett Solo RME Babyface

Next item you will need would be a studio microphone, also known as a condenser microphone. Condenser mics need a 48V power supply which is provided by most modern soundcards. The best way to pick up your mic would be testing it at a local store and see which goes best for your voice. Again, the more bucks you have to spend on it, the higher the quality of the output would be. A good place to get you started would be a mic from Rode, such as Rode NT-1A, a versatile mic that you can get on a low buget, but with great results. Other good choices would be MXL, OktavaMod or Studio Projects mics. You get a pretty good quality out of them at a decent price. If you're up to it and your budget is not limited, you can always start with some of the best out there as Neumann u67, Rode Ntk, K2 or AKG mics. It all comes down to how much you're willing to spend on it and testing the mic on your vocals.

Rode – NT1A MXL 990 Neumann U87

Another thing you will need would be a midi controller and/or a synthesizer to help you out with the instrumentals. The majority of the new controllers run on usb and don’t need much for the installation process. Most of them are plug and play, but they could also require a driver, which is provided by the supplier. If you have any musical background, you should consider getting a keyboard with at least 61 keys, assuming that you have a good knowledge of it and you will use most of the keys provided. In case you don’t have a rich musical knowledge, you should consider getting a smaller keyboard as it will save you a couple of bucks. Also, it makes it a bit easier for you to understand the way it works. Also, a good choice would be picking up a drum machine like midi controller, as they could turn out to be quite handy for a newcomer. A good choice would be an Akai Mpd, Apc or Mpk, as they are all great tools recommended for music production. If you want some more advanced controllers you could go for a Push controller made by Ableton in collaboration with Akai, a really powerful tool for music production. You could also go for the competition of Push, Maschine, a rival made by Native Instruments. Both controllers are similar in what they effectively do, with the remark that they use different native software to control. At the same time, you could use any of them to control the DAW (digital audio workstation) of your choice.

Maschine Studio Akai MPD 26

You still need to hear what you’ll be doing so you will obviously need a pair of speakers, also called reference monitors, as well as a pair of headphones - if you plan on recording vocals at some point along the way.

But let’s focus on what monitors you will need. The first thing that will help you to make your choice is the room in which you will set up everything. Most cases you could use any kind from 5 inch to 8 inch speakers, but keep in mind that the 8 inch ones might be a bit too much in most cases. A couple of brands to get you started would be Yamaha, KRK, M-audio, Reloop or Eve audio. It will all come down (once again) to how much you are willing to spend for this. Another thing to take in consideration is: what would you like your speakers for? For example, Yamaha HS series would be a great choice if you are looking for a flat sound. You might ask yourselves “why would I want that?” and here’s why: Once you’ll have a finished song you’ll want to mix and master it, so that it sounds good on any kind of speakers. Since this is not a cheap process you will have to learn how to do that yourself. And this is where the speakers have a big word to say. KRK Rokit series will give you a really nice sound but with a minor remark. Their sound is not as flat as the HS’s and will have their low end a little bumped up, which could be great for producers that make hip-hop or electronic music, but they could give you a hard time when it comes to mixing.

KRK Rokit 8 Yamaha HS 80

If you plan on recording vocals, you will also need a pair of headphones. Some good examples would be AKG, Audio-technica, KRK or Akai. First thing you should take in consideration is how well they isolate what you’re hearing from what the microphone can catch up. Basically, any of them would do just fine, but keep in mind that the more money you’ll spend on them, the better the quality of what you’ll get will be.

Now that you have all the necessary hardware, you’ll need to pick some music software to work with, also known as a DAW (digital audio workstation). You can make a little research on the web and see which one suits you best. A couple of great places to get you started would be FL Studio, Ableton LIVE, Cubase, Pro Tools or Logic. Since this will take too long to get into for now, we will talk about daw's and vst's (virtual studio instruments) in another tutorial.

All what's left now is to setup your studio and get ready to make some great tunes!

 

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