So I’ve been producing music for almost 9 years now and in those nine years I must have been asked this same question at least a hundred times.
Now the wording might be slightly different from person to person, but when you boil it down, it’s straightforward. What do I need to start making beats?
It’s funny because I can remember asking this exact same question back in October of 2006. The guy I asked was a local club DJ who also produced music and happened to live with a friend of mine. He wrote down a few essentials on the back of an envelope for me and the rest is history. He goes by the name of DJ Deville and he’s been one of my closest friends now for almost a decade.
For him to take the time to point me in the right direction absolutely changed my life and I’m hoping that I can be that person for some of you today through this video.
So there’s several different levels as far as where to start and it all depends on your budget, and what you’re looking to do. In this video I’m going to show you and explain my recommendations for anyone looking to start making beats at home with a budget of less than $300.
Now that $300 budget doesn’t include a computer, but with it being 2015 I assume that most of you have a computer and it doesn’t have to have crazy high end specs to get started making beats. In fact my first laptop was an old DELL with an 80GB hard drive and 256k of RAM so I promise your computer is better than what I started with.
Here’s What You Need To Start Making Beats
-Beat Making Software
-MIDI Keyboard (MIDI Controller)
So to start you’re going to need somewhere to set up shop. It can be a desk, a kitchen table, wherever you want. I had an old IKEA table in my garage that I’ll be using for this set up. You can pick one of these up for around $30 new at IKEA. Naturally you’ll need somewhere to sit. This folding chair cost me 8 bucks. If you’re a baller you can use an actual desk chair, but I wanted to show how cheaply this could be done.
For this video I’ll be using my MacBook Pro. It’s a 2011 Model running OSX Maverick and has 4GB of RAM. Nothing really new or beefed up. It doesn’t matter if you have a Mac or Windows computer. Either will work just fine.
BEAT MAKING SOFTWARE
Next you’ll need some sort of beat making software. If you’re using an Apple computer you’ll have an application called Garage Band that you can use and it comes preloaded so you don’t have to buy any additional software. If you’re on a Windows computer you can buy a basic version of Image Line FL Studio 12 Fruity Edition and get unlimited lifetime free updates to newer versions as they come out. There are also programs such as Logic Pro, Cubase, Ableton, and Reason that are great for making beats, but are a little higher in price. Some audio interface units come packaged with free software so check to see what you have before going out and buying anything.
Once you have the software you’ll need a way to control the different virtual sounds such as piano, drum kits, synths, pads, etc. so you’ll need a MIDI Keyboard. I’ll be using the Akai Professional SYNTHSTATION25 25-Key Keyboard Controller
that was actually made to work with an iPhone 4, but works fine via USB cable too. I got this off of eBay for $45.
I want to take a second to say that there’s nothing wrong with buying used audio equipment as long as it was well taken care of. So many new products come out every year and people are constantly upgrading so there are a lot of really great stuff on the used market for fractions of what they cost new. Don’t hesitate to buy last years model either especially if you’re on a budget.
With that being said, let’s move on to the audio interface. Now you could technically get away with not using an interface right now, but I’d highly recommend you get one to start and here’s why.
You’ll need an interface if you want to eventually record vocals or live instruments and when you’re ready to add studio monitors to your set-up the audio interface will be the magic box that allows you to connect the monitors to your computer. I picked up the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 2 In/2 Out USB Recording Audio Interface
for $150, but I’ll put a link to Amazon in the description box below where you can pick it up for around $120 (Here it is for $120: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 2 In/2 Out USB Recording Audio Interface
). For the price, this interface has a ton of amazing features such as two high quality mic preamps, 24Bit/96khz conversion, front panel headphone output with level knob, a suit of free plug-ins to use for making beats, and a free copy of Ableton Live Lite 8 which you could use as your beat making software of choice.
So now that you have the keyboard, the software, and the interface you’ll need a way to hear what you’re doing so instead of buying some cheap horrible sounding studio monitors I’d recommend buying some decent studio headphones first. I prefer closed back headphones and the ones I’ll be using for this set-up are the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
. I picked these up for under $40 brand new. A decent set of studio headphones will allow you to hear things that you wouldn’t be able to differentiate in a cheap pair of studio monitors.
I also recommend using some sort of surge protector just in case of a storm or power surge. It’s an inexpensive way to protect your equipment.
That’s really all you need to start making beats. This set up might be inexpensive, but it’s nothing to laugh at. I promise you that with this set up alone you could develop your talent to a point where you could start making money with your music.
Now if you have a little bit bigger budget and want to take it to the next level or have been using a set up like this for a while and are looking to add on, then I’d highly recommend picking up a pair of good studio monitors. A good pair of studio monitors will last you for years and give you the flexibility of being able to switch between your professional studio monitors and your headphones for an even better mixing process. A lot of people go with the KRK’s or the Yamaha’s, but in my opinion one of the best set of entry level studio monitors right now have to be the Tannoy Reveal 502
. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to various 5” monitors and the Tannoy Reveal 502
are amazing. They compete with other models that are two or three times their price. Not to mention they look really nice. To be honest I wasn’t really familiar with the Tannoy brand, but they’ve been around since 1947 and have been used in some of the most legendary studios around the world. In fact Tony Maserati prefers Tannoy’s and he’s mixed countless hit songs for everybody from Beyonce, Sting, Backstreet Boys, Jay-Z, Tupac, Alicia Keys, and that just naming a few off the top of my head. Anyway, these are what I would buy if I was starting over again.
This set up is simple, yet powerful. With this set up you can evolve into a beat making machine and someday be doing what you love for a living. That’s the dream. You have to start somewhere in order to make it a reality.
I hope this video helps answer some of your questions and points you in the right direction.