In this write-up, I am going to cover with you the required music equipment to make beats. If want to see my own personal music production equipment, then view my LEARN YOUR GEAR page!
Answer this Question..
“What inspired you to make beats?”
You may ask.. why does this question matter?
It matters because it may determine what music equipment you want to buy. If you were introduced to original compositions, then you will probably want a MIDI Keyboard. But.. if you were introduced to sampling, then you may want a drum pad!
For me, I was at a friends house one night, and he introduced to me to FL Studio and he had a MIDI Keyboard, so when I started up, I initially wanted to buy a MIDI Keyboard to make my own melodies!
Moral of the story…
How you were introduced to making beats can dictate what type of beats you’ll want to create!
Since my friend was producing original compositions (and not sampling), I was encouraged to create original compositions.
But if your friend was into authentic hip-hop which includes sampling vinyl, you may have a different approach; an MPC or Maschine Studio could be your main tool for production!
What You Will Learn
- Gear Nowadays vs. Studios Back in the Day
- Making Beats vs. Recording Songs
- What Gear is Actually Needed to Make Beats?
- Mind Over Materials, Purchasing Wisely
- The Hardware I Personally Use
Gear Nowadays vs. Studios Back in the Day
It’s crazy.. Technology has made music production affordable to almost anyone! A studio that cost $100,000+ back in the day, is now obtainable for about $1000 bucks!
Can you believe that?
The hardware required to run a professional studio is now bundled inside your DAW, and you have an unlimited amount of reusable tools like EQ’s, compressors, and effects like delays/reverbs.
There’s no need for a real hardware mixer and audio cables, which QUICKLY jack up the price.
The digital world of making music SIGNIFICANTLY outweighs the old analog world, as we can now save and undo/redo the effect, or just dial it back a bit if we want..
So long story short, the industry has changed. Just because making music on a computer is now affordable, doesn’t mean you are making low quality music.
Making Beats vs. Recording Songs
There is a difference between making beats and recording songs.
Let’s start with recording songs:
Recording songs requires more equipment like microphones.. but also more skill, as you actually NEED to know to play the instrument or sing well. Since you are recording, you need to capture that skill perfectly. (Your recording environment also matters a lot, otherwise your recording can be echoy!)
Also.. if you have poor recording equipment, you can be faced with noise, buzzing, or unwanted noise from the environment.. in other words, recording requires some extra money, time, effort, and skill. It’s really easy to create a good song from an awesome recording, but hard to turn a poor recording into an awesome song.
But when making beats, we tend to use digital tools!
These digital tools typically use MIDI, and allow for the HIGHEST QUALITY of audio, EVERY TIME! (Listen to How Easy MIDI Makes It).
In the digital world, you as the music producer are in full control. It’s more affordable, easier to make high-quality music, and by far the best approach if you want to learn how to make beats.
What Gear is Needed to Make Beats?
With that said, I’ll break this down into two categories; recording songs and making beats.
I’m going to start with making beats. To make beats, you’ll need at least the following tools:
- Your Computer (Obviously!!!)
- Music Program (DAW – FL Studio)
- Sounds Kits / Virtual Instruments (VSTS)
- MIDI Keyboard
The most important part of your computer for audio production is your CPU.
Definitely checkout the two articles below if you are wanting to build a custom music production computer. But you can easily get away with pre-built computer, while focusing on computer components for a music production computer.
- Read: The Best Computer for Music Production
- Read FL Studio’s: What computer should I get for music creation?
Regardless if your making beats or recording songs, a music program is required to make music.
We call these music programs DAWs (digital audio workstations), and I personally recommend FL Studio..
Want to know why FL Studio is one of the best DAWs in this industry? They provide lifetime free updates, have an awesome support team, and their forums are an AMAZING place to go for knowledge and ask questions (the developers are the admins!)
Sound Kits / Virtual Instruments (VSTs)
High quality sounds are absolutely essential to create high quality beats.
When I first started, I downloaded some freebies, then decided to purchase some sound kits.
It was hard to find REALLY good sound kits.. I went through a lot of poor quality sound kits, even when purchasing them!
These are by far my favorite drum kits I’ve found in the industry so far:
Now, as I talk about in my SAFE SPOTS Book (which teaches you how to make drum loops), you do not need MILLIONS of sounds, but VARIETY and QUALITY!
VARIETY means you have versatility as a producer.. you have bongos, shakers, and different styles of kick drums.
QUALITY means your sounds are PRISTINE! They are recorded well, and hit hard!
What about Instruments?
So those drum samples are what we use to make drum loops, they are called one-shot drum samples.
To use instruments like pianos, basslines, or other instruments like guitars, we use VSTi’s (Virtual Instruments).
VSTi’s are by far the BEST way to make beats as the quality is unmatched to recording music! (You can see my favorite Virtual Instruments).
Now, some VSTi’s allow you to simply select a preset, and you’re on your way, which is what I recommend.
After you understand the basics, you can then look into sound design to create your own sounds, and find your OWN sound.
View the following links for information on Virtual Instruments and Sound Design:
A MIDI Keyboard is a tricky tool to get your head wrapped around, but it’s VERY important that you understand a MIDI Keyboard has no sounds in it, it is just a controller for the sounds you have inside your music program!
You may think.. why buy a $200 keyboard with no sounds in it?
As I mentioned already, it’s a controller.
It plays the VSTi’s we talked about above, as well as controls your DAW (music program) with its transport buttons (play stop, record, etc).
I want to warn you about MIDI Keyboards though.. Companies tend to jam-pack features which you do not need, but are sure to increase the price! There are certain qualities which I recommend in a MIDI Keyboard in my write-up:
Making Beats Recap
So that is the gear you’d need minimum to make beats. Notice I haven’t even suggested speakers yet. This is because when you are first starting, you should do things in order.
That first step would be learning your DAW before getting into gear.
After learning your DAW, and learning a bit about mixing..
So then what other gear would you need for recording music?
Recording Songs – Additional Gear
So in addition to:
- Your Computer
- Music Program (DAW)
To record songs, you will also need:
Real Instruments / Vocals
As I already said.. Knowing how to actually play an instrument or sing is crucial to make good music. And as a beatmaker using MIDI, we don’t need to know how to play piano amazingly, as we can edit our notes with MIDI!
That’s why I say recording a song takes more skill than making a beat. There is way more room for error, and you have to know how to mask/hide these mistakes with effects like EQ and compression.
To record yourself, you will obviously need some type of microphone to get your recording into the computer.
There’s different types of microphones out there, which can be confusing at first.. My favorite microphone write-up will guide you through that, though!
Depending on how serious you want to get with your recording, you have two options with microphones.
- USB Microphones
- XLR Microphones
USB Microphones are really easy to use. You simply buy the microphone, plug it in, adjust your volume on your computer, and you’re good to go!
If you’re not super serious about recording, I’d say go this route. However, it doesn’t offer the flexibility of XLR connected microphones..
XLR microphones are when you start getting into professional equipment.
The XLR connection is an industry standard, and will allow you to work with tons of different microphones over your years.
- Read: My Favorite Microphones
But how do you plug in an XLR microphone?
For just making beats, an audio interface isn’t totally necessary. You’d only need an audio interface if you wanted to plug in reference monitor speakers, which I recommend if you want to take your craft seriously.
If recording with an XLR microphone, you will also need an audio interface, otherwise you can’t connect the microphone into the computer!
So just what is an audio interface?:
An audio interface is an external sound card that we plug in with a USB cable (there are other connection types like firewire and thunderbolt).
It allows us to record with high quality microphones, and boost the signal with low-noise depending on the quality of the preamps inside the audio interface itself.
Audio interfaces have what is known as AD/DA conversion. This means Analog to Digital + Digital to Analog conversion.
In simple terms:
When you record your audio, that is analog. Your audio interface has to take this analog signal (your voice), and then crunch a bunch of numbers to make it digital inside your computer. But in order to listen to that recorded signal back, it has to take the digital signal, and convert it to analog which is played through your speakers or headphones!
Audio interfaces typically have ASIO drivers as well. These allow us to get low latency out of the the audio interface for optimal recording performance.
Microphones and Instrument Cables
Microphone, instrument, and speaker cables can get a bit confusing.
Microphones typically plug in with an XLR connector.
One side is female (this plugs into the microphone), the other end is male (which plugs into your audio interface.)
Most speakers allow for XLR cables, but also 1/4″ TRS cables as well!
They both do the same thing, but are just a different type of connector.
TRS stands for: Tip, Ring, Sleeve.
Instrument cables are typically TS cables. (Tip, Sleeve).
They usually don’t make these cables long because of the noise that can be introduced to them.
(TRS has a noise cancelling feature, whereas TS does not! – That’s why TS cables are typically short!)
Microphone Stand + Pop Filter
A microphone stand is important so no noise is introduced other than the actual recording.
If you tap a microphone during a recording, the recording typically is a write-off!
Mic stands are usually really affordable.
I’d also like to quickly talk about a pop filter.
This is the round mesh circle you see in front of microphones.
We use this to prevent plosives, which are words that push out extra air than others, which are really dangerous to our recorded signal!
- Read: What’s a Popfilter?
Equipment to Record a Song – Recap
So as a beat maker, you can really get away without spending much money.
You just need your computer, music program, and some sounds.
But for recording a song, you need that audio interface if you’re using XLR microphones.
Mind Over Materials, Purchasing Wisely
This music industry is just a constant business trying to sell, sell, sell. Don’t forget that! It’s so easy to see all these products available, and get consumed!
You will need to buy this gear mentioned to move forward with your productions, there’s no doubt! But wouldn’t it be nice if you only bought the gear you needed, and not have to learn the hard way?
I’ve been here before! This is why I’m writing this for you!
The Hardware I Personally Use
To see my own music equipment, view my LEARN YOUR GEAR page.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is multiple computer monitors. This is one thing that has significantly improved my workflow.
Hopefully this write-up prepares you for effective purchases which save you money and give you results!