Want to start music production? Welcome to the game. You are a newbie right? Well, I was once like you. I wanted to make beats and produce good sounding music like the well-known music producers. Like you, I turned to the internet for help. Thanks to the Internet especially YouTube and the numerous pro audio sites and forums, these days you can learn stuffs all by yourself just like I did. Believe me when I tell you that you can make a number one hit with a combination of a budget setup. You do not have to own expensive fancy equipment to do that nowadays. You can always upgrade your equipment along the way as you grow in knowledge and experience. To start with, below is a breakdown of the basic equipment you will need to start music production right from the comfort of your home :
Nowadays unlike the olden analog days, the computer stands at the heart of a music production setup. It is simply the brain box that processes all that goes on while making music. It stores all needed data as well. You don’t have to own a supercomputer before delving into music making. In fact, a normal consumer grade laptop with at least 2gigs of RAM, 2GHz computer speed, 256gigs HDD or SSD memory and runs on Windows 7 or a latest windows OS will do. If you are going the Mac OS way, any of their contemporary laptops and desktops will work.
DAW ( Digital Audio Workstation )
To simply put, a DAW is a music production software inside which the whole music making process is done on a computer. The whole process of composing, recording, arranging, mixing and mastering of a song into final product can be wholly done in contemporary DAWs. Like every other product, DAWs are made by different brands and each brand has its own appeal and followership. Though they implore slightly varying methods in doing it, they all do the same thing at the end of the day. They are used to make music!.
I can’t name all the DAWs here, but you can get started with Image Line’s FL Studio for its intuitive newbie friendly workflow. It is recommended in this case for its fool-proof step sequencer and piano roll. With these two functions, you can make music as a newbie without owning a midi keyboard. Another reccomended one is Cockos REAPER for its awesomeness at a very budget friendly price. The bang for your buck among all oter DAWs.
A sound card /Audio interface
A sound card or audio interface as implied by its names, is simply an interface between sound generating sources ( microphones, guitars, keyboards, virtual instruments e.t.c ) and the computer. It serves as an audio input and output portal by converting sound inputs from these analog sources into digital state for the computer to store and process into the final music. The outputs also enable playback of sounds through speakers,headphones or other media.
There are two types of audio interfaces : the inbuilt and outboard sound cards. Every computer comes with an inbuilt sound card which is absolutely good enough to work with for starters. But an alternative industry standard audio interface driver named ASIO4All is available for free download on the Internet. It also often comes bundled with most DAWs during installation.
Outboard audio interfaces on the other hand give room for extension and further efficiency. They come with inbuilt microphone preamps and the high end ones have faster audio conversion speed. There are 4 common types of interface connection modes available; USB, FireWire, PCI, and thunderbolt. USB interfaces are the most popular in the home studio circle. There are uncountable brands out there but for a beginner on a budget I’d recommend Focusrite 2i2/2i4 MKII, presonus AudioBox 22, M-audio M-track quad, Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 FireWire.
A pair of headphones / Monitors speakers
You will need a very good output source to playback your sound while making music so as to hear an accurate reproduction of what your music actually sounds like. You can either use a pair of headphones for starters or a pair of monitor speakers if you can afford them, or simply get both. For professional headphones for newbies on a budget I recommend Sony MDR-V6, Sony MDR-7506, Senheiser HD 280 Pro, and Audio-Technica ATH-M50. While Monitors speakers for newbies on a budget: Yamaha HS 5/7/8, mk3 versions of KRK Rokit 5/6/8, Event 20 20, and Behringer truth series.
A microphone is an another essential equipment in music production. You will be needing this if you plan on recording vocals or other music instruments. If you make use of your computer’s inbuilt sound card or ASIO4all, you will need a USB mic to plug directly into your computer. If you have an outboard audio interface, you can use a mic with either a XLR or TRS type of connection. For budget mics I recommend: Samson C01, AT-2020,M-audio Nova, Behringer B1/B2/C1 , Shure SM 57/58/7b . Almost all brands mentioned here have a USB version but for the latter ones.
Other minor essential things you might necessarily need to get are microphone cables. Whether you will be getting a XLR or TRS cable types will depend on your products specifications. In this same sense, you might have to buy USB, firewire or thunderbolt cables to hook things up as well. Oftentimes these come packed with the aforementioned gadgets. A microphone stand and a pop filter for the microphone will be inevitably needed too.
There you have them!. The pieces of equipment discussed above are really the basic ones you need to get started making music. With the above setup and good skill set, a very good sounding music can be made. You only have to get the additional equipment needed for a home studio if you consider taking music making more serious as a profession. So get your gears right away and start doing what you love to do. Music is life.