So this is all that you will need if you want to create beats. All tools mentioned are not all “needs” but they will help you excel tremendously.
Watch the video above for easy understanding!
Also check out the Tutorials to get ideas also!
You can also click on the titles to bring you to the pages!
- A DAW (Fruity Loops)
- Reference Monitor Speakers
- Audio Interface
- Speaker Cables
- A Midi Keyboard
- A Drum Machine
And if you want to record vocals, well obviously a microphone :P. So I will explain how I started for you to get ideas for yourself!
So Who Am I?
My name is Riley Weller, but most people on the internet know me as GratuiTous.
I live for the Lord, and strive to let Him be known through my actions and especially my music.
I also have a few videos of me making a beat on youtube you can check out here.
So first of all, in order to actually create the music, you need a DAW. A DAW is a program that is made to create music. So a couple examples of DAWs are FL Studio (which used to be Fruity Loops), Ableton, Protools, Cubase, Reason. Just google them and check them out. The only DAWs I have tried are Ableton, Cubase, and of course, FL Studio. Out of all the DAWs I have tried, I continued with FL Studio.
Out of all your equipment you’re going to get, your DAW is going to be your most useful/powerful tool by far. It doesn’t matter what DAW you get, what matters is how well you know how to use your DAW.
Also, most DAWs come with stock effects such as reverb, delay, chorus etc. You can add these onto your instruments/sounds to make them sound cooler.
So at first, I just was using my Logitech computer speakers. Just 2 speakers and a 6″ sub or something like that. But I kept reading about these reference monitor speakers that produce more “accurate” results. So the more and more I kept looking into them, the more real they seemed to be — as in that they actually help you rather than just some kinda scam.
You will want to buy Active reference monitor speakers. Meaning it has an amp built into them — In other words, it has enough power inside it when you plug it into the wall, that you’re good to go, rather than buying Passive Monitors that you will have to buy a separate amp to power them! The Bx5a’s are bi-amplified, meaning that it has 1 amp to power the tweeter itself and another amp to power the mid-woofer.
So what Reference Monitor Speakers actually do is help you hear your music as it actually is. They do not add any extra to your speakers, so like they don’t try and make the song better than it is by adding more bass etc. This is so you can hear your music more accurate and mix clearer. Another word for the speakers “not adding any extra to your sound” is called Flat Response. This is so you can hear your music clear and be able to hear it properly so your mixes turn out nice. I would recommend getting them after you start learning your program for a bit.
So the audio interface ties into the Reference Monitor Speakers because without an audio interface, you aren’t really able to use your speakers because they use special cords!
So what is an audio interface? It’s just a sound card that you plug in USB to your computer. Another name for it is an External Sound card, or an Audio Interface. So what is an audio interface and why do you really need one? Well once again it comes down to those accurate results. When it comes time to mix your music, you want to be able to pick apart your music. Plus! You are now able to plug high quality microphones into your computer using an XLR cable and plugging it into the audio interface!
How Does an audio interface work?
Instead of the audio going through your on-board sound card that your computer just comes by itself with, it goes through this audio interface through a USB cord it comes with (See video for a better idea). It provides better sound quality, more accurate results, and takes a load off of your computer by allowing it to go through the audio interface rather than your computer. Here is a video on how an audio interface sets up with your computer
So in the video above you see an audio cable. It is called a TRS 1/4″ cable. You plug it into the audio interface and then into your speakers. You will read all these posts about balanced and unbalanced. All I did was just buy TRS 1/4″ cables and everything is perfect! lol So you can go from super expensive cables to really cheap cables. I got mine from http://www.monoprice.com for like $4 for a 6Ft. cord. The cables have been unreal for $4. One thing I would recommend, is always get longer than you need! I have moved around my set up a couple times and left me not being able to move because the cables were too short!
You can check out my review on the monoprice TRS 1/4″ cables!
So when I first started, I used my typing keyboard as a piano. Using QWERTY lol, the letters on your keyboard. This was awesome while I was learning the program and what everything in the program did. But then I wasn’t able to play those beautiful piano pieces cause I was limited to playing the letters on my keyboard! So I did a whole bunch of a research and got a MIDI keyboard. Another word for a MIDI Keyboard is a MIDI Controller.
**IMPORTANT — If you are going to be using a DAW, get a MIDI Keyboard!**
At first, I bought a Casio keyboard. It was good for the time being, but a wasted expense because a MIDI Keyboard is actually meant for DAWs being able to control them through the MIDI Controller’s knobs and slider, plus all the features they have.
A MIDI Keyboard has no sounds in it by itself. So when you turn on your MIDI Keyboard and try to play it and realize it has no sounds it’s ok cause when you load up your DAW (FL Studio, Reason, Pro tools etc.) you will be able to play sounds that are in the program. The way how you get new sounds is by using VSTs! Check out some VST reviews here. What is a VST? Read more here.
Now there are a lot of MIDI keyboards to choose from, and tons of features they come with. I got a very good MIDI keyboard with so many features that I am never going to use half of them. So something to keep in mind with your purchases! A Midi Keyboard with the play, stop, record buttons are essential, but everything after that may not suite your needs! For example, The Axiom 49 (2nd Gen) comes with pads, but I don’t use them, cause I have a drum pad, so do your research and save yourself some money by getting things that you really need!
Also another thing to keep in mind is since FL Studio does not take advantage of the direct link feature that many MIDI Keyboards come with, that is another feature I am not able to use. Most DAW’s do take advantage of this feature, but if you are just using FL Studio, you just need a simple MIDI Keyboard that allows you to play your keys!
So the drum pad that I have is called the Korg Padkontrol.
It is a MIDI Controller, so once again, it has no sounds by itself! But when you load up the sounds in FL Studio or what ever DAW you use, then you will be able to use it to play sounds.
It’s very nice to have a drum pad cause it helps you be more creative rather than just clicking with your mouse all the time. (Although clicking with my mouse has brought my songs tons of creativity!).
The best way to use the Korg Padkontrol in Fruity Loops is with the FPC. Or at least I have found! Here is a video on how to set up your Korg PadKontrol with the FPC in Fruity Loops!
Sounds are a huge part of making beats. If you don’t have quality sounds, you’re going to have a heck of a time creating quality beats.
So where do I get quality sounds? What kind of sounds am I looking for? Are they expensive?
Ok so there are 2 different kind of sounds. There are your samples, meaning your kicks, claps, hats, snares. (Pretty much your drum set sounds, and weird SFX that you add in your drum loops).
Then there are synth and VST kind of sounds! These are your pianos, synths, guitars, bass lines, etc.
What About Free Sounds?
Free sounds is something you do want to be careful about. The reason being is many times the free kits are very low quality.
When you start off, it’s all good to download these kits to learn. But what happens is, when you go back and maybe start to delete the older, low quality kits, you will start to realize that you are missing a lot of sounds from older beats!
So that’s why it’s great to start off with high quality sounds from the start.
The Basics of Making Beats,
So with all that being said, that’s how you can have your own little basic studio.
Most importantly, you gotta learn your program, that’s the biggest learning curve right there. As I said, your DAW is your most powerful tool. If you know how to use all the features, all the effects that you have (delay, reverb, phaser), not even just the effects, but little tricks of routing audio, mixing techniques etc. Those are the things that make your music unique, and take you to the next level!
So other than your Midi keyboard, Drum pad, Speakers, DAW (Music Program), Audio interface, and cables.. There are a few more things if you want to take it to the next level.
Here’s a video on How to Connect A Subwoofer to Your Speakers!
When it comes to mixing, a subwoofer is really important. The reason being — so you can hear every area of your song precisely! With a subwoofer, you are able to hear the low end of your kicks so much better than just with speakers, hear the bass lines louder, and give you more of a feel what it will sound like in a car with a sub/nice system.
A subwoofer has helped me tons when it came to mixing being able to hear every area of my song clearer. After you get set up, learn your program, have your speakers, midi keyboard etc, I would highly suggest a subwoofer. It has helped me tons!
Here’s a review on the Audio Technica 2035.
Microphones were a big problem for me in the beginning and the reason being was because of my audio interface, not the microphones them self. The Fast Track Pro, which was my audio interface, was horrible for recording. The pre-amps in my fast track pro were very poor, so I wasn’t able to record as loud as I’d like. This left me having to buy an extra pre-amp like this one.
Here’s a review of the M-Audio Fast Track Pro:
A few things to keep in mind when buying a microphone are:
- What are you going to be using the microphone for?
- How much are you wanting to spend
- What’s the simplest way to plug in your mic for you to record!
I would recommending getting an audio interface (not the m-audio fast track pro), a condenser microphone with an XLR input, and a recording program. You can record into every DAW, but if you don’t have a DAW, you can check out Audacity, that one is free for recording!
Another thing to keep in mind is condenser microphone verse dynamic microphone. A condenser picks things up much easier and are much more sensitive than dynamic microphones, which is why I often use my Audio Technica 2035. My first microphone was the Shure SM58 which caused a lot of headaches cause a dynamic microphone takes more power to push it to the level you want your vocals at, and since I was having troubles with my fast track pro, it barely had enough power to push the dynamic to where I wanted it to be!
So for singing and vocals if you are just starting up, I would recommend a condenser microphone. I’ve found it picks up my voice more naturally, and it’s easier to adjust the levels. (Also I’d recommend a pop filter, you can check out my home made one here).
This is really handy so you have your mic positioned rather than holding it! If you hold it, it will definitely pick up your hand movement on the microphone. So a microphone stand is a must when it comes time to record high quality vocals!
I have Samson’s Zoom H4N Handy Recorder. The reason I got one is to create my own sounds, rather than always having to pay for new sound packs. And many times you pay for sound packs and don’t get quality! So this is the main reason I got a sound recorder, to make my songs as unique as possible, and in the long run, save money by not having to buy clap sound packs etc. Plus, it’s a portable microphone you can bring where ever. Sometimes it’s hard to bring your microphone to places when it’s attached by a cord.
Here’s a video to give you some insight on How to Make Your Own Sound Packs and what’s all involved!
These are to give your studio some style and also to put the tweeters on your speaker at ear level. This is so you can hear your music at more accurate results. Your tweeters are the small speakers that provide the high’s of your music. I would recommend creating your own cause speaker stands because they are very expensive! Here’s a video on my homemade speaker stands!
So the reason you would want a turntable while making beats,for the most part, is for sampling purposes. You take the song, chop it up how you want it, and create your own song out of their song. Another reason is to get that scratching sound effect.
There are two types of turntables. Direct Drive, and Belt Drive. For those wanting to scratch, make sure you get a Direct Drive turntable. If you are wanting a turntable for sampling purposes, you definitely do not need a high quality turntable. Get the lowest price turntable for sampling. But if you want to scratch a bit, well then get a half decent one.
Last Minute Thinkers
- Learn your program first, download the demo of FL Studio and see if you like it
- Use what you have at first until you learn your program a little bit
- Do your research, ask around, read reviews, don’t let your eyes buy for you
- Practice Practice Practice
I hope this helps you out and leads you in the right direction.