Rhythm Creation - Music Production and Sound Reocording

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This is a question I have been asking myself recently, mainly due to me releasing some of my own music independently without a label behind me and also because there seems to still be a high percentage of musicians and bands that still want to be signed even though there are some great facilities in place which effectively make record companies obsolete by providing services to independent musicians.

I constantly see more articles on the internet that deal with getting a record deal rather than trying to go it alone. Articles such as preparing your demo, getting A&R people to notice you are flooding the internet etc. I also see musicians on message boards saying things like “if I ever get signed blah blah blah” and yet they’ve never attempted or even thought about going independent.

What Are The Benefits of Being Signed?
Obviously this answer varies a lot from label to label and depends on the contract that is signed but the main benefits are as follows…
  • Distribution: Labels will have the ability to mass manufacture CDs and distribute your music in all the big stores.
  • Promotion: Labels will have employees who are experts at promoting bands, these experts will have numerous contacts which can get you into magazines, web sites and also radio or television broadcasting time amongst other promotion tools.
  • Financing: Lots of money behind them, they can pay for the manufacturing of CDs and promotion as well as possibly paying you up front.
  • Tour Booking: They have the contacts and name behind them to get you gigs in the top venues.
  • Help & Support: They will help you to develop your skills and provide knowledgeable people who can help to record and produce your music.
All sounds rather nice, doesn’t it. I mean who wouldn’t like to have all that done for them by the nice record company who wants to help you with your music. I believe that these points are what that high percentage of musicians who want to get signed see.

Back Down To Earth With A Bump
The reality of it… (Obviously depending on the sort of contract signed, this is a worse case scenario).
  • Distribution: The label owns your recordings and takes a huge percentage of any profits, oh yes you will see your CD on sale in all the big stores but won’t see many royalties for your work. They will own any new music you write too.
  • Promotion: To promote effectively they may require you to fit in. They could even make you change the style of your music to get you to fit into a genre they want you in and be marketable to a larger proportion of customers. They may require you to do things you wouldn’t normally do, all in the aim of selling more CDs to make the record company more money. They may even require you if you are in a band to drop members who don’t fit into their visions.
  • Financing: Yes it’s their money therefore they are wanting good returns for their investment. They might pay you upfront but should your band in their eyes fail, you may actually end up owing the recording company money for all the promotion and the thousands of drinks coasters they produced if your music isn’t a hit.
  • Tour Booking: They may also want a cut of any profits here for getting you the gig and owning the music your playing. More contracts are having this written into them. They may want you to play venues you don’t want to or too often with tours lasting months and playing every night.
  • Help & Support: Will you get this if it all goes wrong, No. Who will they blame, You. You could end up no longer owning your music or any music you make in the future. You could end up owing the record company money and paying it off yourself. Where’s the help and support now?
As you can see not all is so sweet. Note to everyone thinking of signing on the dotted line: Record companies are mainly interested in you making them money, they are just like any other business and want to see returns for their money.

Record Labels/Companies Are Obsolete
There are loads of products and services available that can help you to achieve becoming an independent musicians or band. There’s one major difference - You are employing them to work for you not the other way round. I don’t want to make out that going independent is the solution to all the problems, I just want to point out that all the jobs a record label does can be achieved yourself and may be a better option for you and your music.
  • Distribution: You can use companies like TuneCore to distribute your tracks to all the major digital stores such as iTunes and Napster official site, anyone around the world will be able to buy your music in digital format and you’ll receive all the royalties. You can also manufacture CDs yourself and sell them around the world via your own web site or in on-line stores which have facilities in place to sell independent music. You may not be able to get your tracks into the major stores on the high street, but you can certainly distribute them to your local smaller record stores and you can sell CDs after any live performances you do. There are distribution companies which will distribute for you to the larger stores, but many of these stores won’t stock you on if they don’t believe your album will sell, but realistically this method of selling music is starting to slow down as more people are going for MP3 files. The main benefits of independent distribution are that firstly you keep ownership of all your music and secondly you will get to keep all or most of your royalties, distributing your music has never been easier than it is today.
  • Promotion: This I believe is the hardest part of going independent as you won’t have the necessary contacts or the upfront financing to promote like a record label can. But you do have some very good tools at your disposal. The internet can be a great tool to do things like set up your own site, use social networks like MySpace, get radio play on independent on-line radio stations and in podcasts or get your music reviewed by on-line magazines and music review blogs. The internet is a world wide tool that you can use for promotion and a lot of the time it can be free promotion too. To promote yourself in the real world can be a lot harder, your main way will be through getting gigs at venues.
  • Financing: This will depend on your or your bands current financial situations and yes you will need some sort of financing to get started. You started music because you enjoyed doing it? So enjoy doing it and put any money earned through any gigs or other income sources from your music back in as investments for the first 6 months or however long it takes until you have earned enough to pay for services yourself. Today it is cheaper than ever to get started as basic home recording equipment is cheaper and a lot of these services available like digital distribution can be extremely cheap. You may not earn much money straight away but at least you won’t owe a record label money.
  • Tour Booking: Concentrate on building a local fan base up. Once you have done this you can begin to play larger and larger venues as you can guarantee better that you will can fill the venue. You may not be playing at a well known festival straight away but it is possible to build up to that.
  • Help & Support: The feeling you will get when you achieve things yourself such as seeing your music available in on-line stores will give you a great sense of achievement. If you feel you need the support of say a sound engineer to help you record your music then go and hire one, there are loads out there who may not be famous but certainly know their stuff and are looking for work.
So Why Are Musicians Still Wanting To Get Signed
Even though you can do all these things yourself or hire people to do them for you, why are musicians still chasing that elusive signing deal?
  • Musicians are good at music and the realisation that they may have to learn to be good good at more than just music such as business skills can be a major psychological barrier.
  • They lack the knowledge that they can do it themselves due to all of these articles and info dealing with getting signed and not explaining all the alternatives of going independent.
  • Musicians believe that music listeners don’t want to listen to unsigned bands and that these listeners want to be told by TV and radio what to listen to. The reality is that these listeners just don’t know about your music yet.
  • The current music industry in place makes it hard for unsigned bands to make it. For example radio stations will only play signed artists.
Hopefully this article has given you a bit of a insight into how it is possible to achieve going it alone and why record labels are starting to become obsolete. In the not so distant future I believe that we will start to see more and more services and promotional tools start to become available to musicians wishing to go the independent route, I think we will start to see bands becoming little businesses in their own right.

Why did you start writing and producing music? because it was fun and exciting? Going independent is fun and exciting too, doing work for a record label is like any other job, your working to line someone else’s pockets who believes you can make money for them. If your music is good enough and you’ve got the determination, why not line your own pockets?

Article written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation

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Sine, Square, Triangle and Sawtooth are the basic waveforms (a graphical representation of a sound) used in most popular synthesizers. Most oscillators (The part of a synthesizer which generates the basic waveform) can produce all four of these basic waveforms. All are very different sounding and have their own characteristics which can greatly affect the mood of the sound synthesized.

I believe that by learning what each of these basic waveforms sounds and looks like can be a great way for anyone starting out using synthesizers to be able to start learning to hear a synthesized sound and then go on to reproduce that sound on their own.

Below are images of these four basic waveforms as well as audio examples for each.

Sine Wave
The wave that most of use will visually imagine when we hear the word wave. Can be great for producing very low bass sounds that sound smooth.

Sine Waveform

Download a mp3 of this waveform.

As the name suggest the waveform looks square and this creates a unique sound compared to the other four waveforms.

Square Waveform

Download a mp3 of this waveform.

A triangle wave is a very basic waveform where the pattern rises and then falls by the same gradient creating a triangle shape.

Triangle Waveform

Download a mp3 of this waveform.

The dirtiest sounding of the four basic waves, it is named sawtooth because it looks like the teeth of a saw. You can also get a reverse sawtooth waveform where the slow gradient and steep fall are swapped around.

Sawtooth Waveform

Download a mp3 of this waveform.

Hopefully this article has allowed you to see and hear the basic waveforms so you can begin to identify them when you hear sounds that have been created using these waveforms as a starting point.

All images of the waveforms are made using Audacity Article written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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In part 1 I talked about the equipment you will be needing to start music production and in part 2 I talked about the software needed. In this section we are going to bring together both our equipment and room together to set up our working area up for good all round performance. There are two main aims here:
  1. Get great sound quality from our equipment and work area.
  2. Create a great working area which is comfortable and productive.
In this part of our beginners series I don’t want to get too technical, I more want to point out common mistakes that beginners will make with setting up your equipment and room. You shouldn’t have to spend any money with the tips I’m going to give here, just some hard work moving some of your stuff around and getting your area to an “advisable” way to have it, allowing you to make much better use of the tools you have available.

Your Room
For a home music production studio you are more than likely looking to transform an existing room or area such as a bedroom or study into your personal studio. Whilst this is not an ideal solution for a studio, we have to make best with the area that we have got. If you are lucky enough to have a choice of rooms available to set-up in then your first thing to do is choose which one your going to use. Here are a few things you should think about when choosing a room:
  • Your Neighbours - If your studio is going to placed where your neighbours can hear you then you will end up annoying them or not being able to work with much volume. The further away from any neighbours the better for both of you. When making your tracks the neighbours are going to hear the same track being played over and over as you change things and this will drive them crazy.
  • Unwanted Noise - The room should have no or as little unwanted noise as possible especially if you are going to be recording using microphone. Unwanted noise could be for example traffic, neighbours, pets, heating, air conditioning etc. Remove the unwanted noise or choose a room away from this noise.
  • The Shape and Size of The Room - Your room should ideally not be square as square rooms will have certain frequencies which will resonate more than rectangular rooms have. With very small rooms the sound will bounce more around the room, so maybe choose the bigger room if you have the choice.
Guitar Strings - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:elussichIf you are going for a more recording based setup you might want to think about having a completely separate recording room to your equipment/mixing room if this is possible. This means that your microphones will be away from any noise created for example by the computer or if you play music as a band, the musician and instrument being recorded can be away from the rest of you. This is not a requirement and is not suitable for everyone and you may also need to buy extension cables and thread them through your wall, so you can plug in your microphones in quickly and easily without wires going all through your house.

The Sound Of Your Room
The sound of your room needs to be good for recording and mixing too, basically we want to be hearing the sound of your music directly from the speakers, and not the sound the has bounced off the walls of the room. If you have ever removed all items from a room when decorating you will know how the room changes in sound. The less furnishings that are in the room the more reverberation can be heard. Some people like some sort of room reverberation on their recordings but most of the time you won’t want any at all. Reverberation can be added later on in your mix via the software (or hardware), this gives us more control over the final sound. Some reverberation in the room is fine, we just don’t want too much.

You can test what the room sounds like by clapping your hands. If you can hear the resonance just after you clap, you may want to add some more soft furnishings such as curtains, rugs or cushions which will all help to soak up these reverberations (dampen the sound).

Reverberations tend to happen more with sounds with higher frequencies, the problem you will have with lower frequencies is vibration from objects around your room. To solve this once all your equipment is set up, turn it on and turn it up very loud. Set up your MIDI controller to control a very low bassy sound or anything else that is capable of creating a big bass sound such as a bass guitar. Now go up each of the notes from the lowest you can hear and listen for objects that vibrate around the room. You need to locate these objects and remove them completely from the room or if you can’t do that then you need to stop them from vibrating somehow. These vibrations are adding unwanted noise to the sound of your room.

Speaker - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:therysma Speaker Locations
Your speakers need to be placed well for you to get the most out of them. They want to be facing towards you at ear level with some distance between the left and right speakers and some distance between you and the speakers creating a triangle shape. It may specify optimum distances in the manual that came with your speakers or monitors and you should use these specified distances. If not I would go for something like 1.5 metres apart from each other and 1 metre away from you, use your ears and set them up what you feel comfortable with.

The speakers should not be placed in corners of the room as this will accentuate the bass and there should be as little surfaces and objects between you and the speakers as possible as reflections (called early reflections) will bounce from the speaker on these surfaces to your ear.

The Rest Of Your Equipment
Your equipment needs to be set-up to give you a comfortable and productive environment. Everything needs to be within easy reach, you want to place your MIDI controller somewhere so you can still see your screen and play at the same time. Getting up and going across the room to play your music in is not what you want to be doing.

If your computer or equipment makes any noise from fans, make sure you put it as far from recording microphones as possible. If you have a uni-directional microphone (a microphone that picks up what is in front of it and not much from behind it) make sure that you place the computer behind it so that it will not be picked up as much. Placing your computer on the floor may also reduce the noise recorded too.

Microphone - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:maphler Other Stuff To Do In Your New Studio
  • Keep Your Studio Tidy - A room which is tidy will not only make you feel better, it will make your music better because you will enjoy being in your room and you will also be able to find things when you need them.
  • Reduce Hum - Other electrical items can create hum in your equipment and cables such as microphone or guitar cable. So remove these from the room. Dimmer light switches are particularly bad for this.
  • Remove phones and distractions - Especially if your going to be recording a lot. You might be coming to the end of the your greatest take ever when suddenly someone rings you.
  • Get a Comfortable Chair - One that doesn’t squeak :-), If you are comfortable you will spend more quality time on your music and your music will benefit from it.
Part 3 Conclusion
Hopefully this section of our beginners guide has given you a bit of an insight into creating a room for recording and mixing your music. This isn’t everything you can do to improve the sound of your room, this is just the basics that don’t cost much. Obviously there is loads more acoustic treatment which can be done but this costs money and can be unnecessary for a beginner. Following the examples set out in this part of the guide will eliminate any common beginners mistakes when setting up your room and equipment and give you a good start to work from. The benefits will be heard in your music especially in the mix down, your music will sound better on a wider variety of players as you won’t be compensating for problems in the room so much and will hear the music from the speakers and not from the room.

Written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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In part 1 I talked about the basic equipment you will need to get started producing your own music and in part 2 I am going to talk about the next important decision your going to need to make which is choosing your software. This is a very important decision and one that as a beginner you should spend a good amount of time thinking about before rushing into any purchases.

I shall mention some software packages in this section but I must point out that every musician is different and whilst some musicians will swear by a piece of software as an essential piece of kit, others will find it to be completely wrong in every way for what they require out of their software. The trick here is to try out demos for each piece of software you come across before buying and research well to make sure it is the right piece of software for the music you want to create. Ask other musicians who create a similar style of music what they use, read the many reviews on the net and try not to be sucked in by any adverts from the software companies (that piece of software might not be the perfect solution that they want you to believe). Also check to make sure that there are not any free alternatives that may be sufficient for what you require.

So what I’m going to do in this section of our beginners guide is to point out the different types of software available, talk about some of the features and give a few examples of software packages for each type. I am not going to choose the software for you or suggest a piece of software as required for your music, that is your job. The best piece of advise I can give you when choosing your software is to choose a package which you think you will enjoy using. If you find that making music becomes a bit of a chore and not fun you will end up either giving up completely or your music and inspiration for the creative process of writing music will suffer.

The Different Types of Software
These following categories are how I would categorize the different types of recording software available today. Some software could be classed in two of these categories, have features like that of other categories or be classed into a subcategory of that category, but these are the top level categories.

CD - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:elcombri Pre-Recorded Loop Based Mixing Software
This sort of software is the most basic type of music software available and so are great for beginners and those not looking for anything too difficult to start with. They are very cheap to buy but are also very limited. They basically work by using pre-created loops and samples usually supplied by the same company in the software or as add-on packs. You can then use mix together these samples and loops to create a track. They are great for young people or those who have no experience with music but if you want to create your own sounds or plan on recording instruments and vocals, this category of software is not for you. This is what I would call music gaming software (yes, some of them are available for Playstation).

Examples of this type of software: eJay

Sample/Synth/Loop Based Sequencers
Software in this category is the real fun stuff, these have nice easy to use sequencers and are more geared towards creating your own sounds using the software synthesizers included in the software (These synthesizers can make a wide variety of good quality sounds and most can easily compete with the hardware synths in sound quality). They also are very sound sample based with extremely good sample manipulation abilities and loads of great effects that can be placed on your sounds. You will need to collect or make your own samples, import them into the software where you’ll be able to use a MIDI controller to play, edit and create some great sounding pieces of music within them.

Keyboard - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:elcombri Some have the facilities to use VST plugins and instruments (Extra effects and virtual instruments) and can also be hooked up to other sequencer software (See below) using a technology called ReWire to create a full blown recording studio environment. This is the category you should look at very closely if it is dance/electronica or sample based music that you will be creating. If your looking to recording instruments only, you may want to skip this category completely. They have a wide range of users as they can be very good for beginners to music production as well as more than capable for producing professional tracks.

Check each piece of software in this category as they can vary a lot. Reason for example emulates a hardware environment extremely well with some amazing instruments, FruityLoops is more loop/sample based but with VSTi support can be expanded in many different ways, where as Ableton Live has been designed with Live Performance in mind and includes multi-track recording.

Choose carefully from this category and try before you buy to make sure that it is right for you. Check to make sure that any included synths can make the sounds you want to produce by listening to examples, synth presets on any demos or other peoples music you know has been created with that software. I must point out that you will find that if you are going to choose to buy software from this category that you may also need to use a piece of Audio File Recording and Editing Software (See below). This is so you can record your own samples as well as clean up or edit any samples you may get from other place such as from sample web sites.

Examples of this type of software: Reason, FruityLoops, Ableton Live

Recording/Instrument Sequencers with Plugin/Extendable Features
This is the category you should be looking at if your music is going to be more recording based. They have great recording facilities and emulate a professional recording studio in a software environment. They can also be extended to allow plugins such as VST plugins and intruments, these are effects and instruments (synthesizers, drum machines etc) that can be added on. There are loads of these available from a wide range of different companies.

These sequencers can usually allow the software from the previous category (Sample/Synth/Loop Based Sequencers) to be integrated into them via the use of a Technology called ReWire (A kind of virtual cable between the different software packages) allowing you to get the best of both worlds. They all offer MIDI support too and with the VST Instruments can achieve the same as the sample/synth/loop based sequencers can, but the enviroments could be considered to be less fun and user friendly. Plus you may have to fork out extra money for the plug ins to get the sound you want.

These pieces of software can range drastically in price and features, so make sure you get the right version as you will sometimes find there are cheaper “Lite Versions” and more expensive “Ultimate Versions”. Think about whether you really need the extra features of the more advanced versions, you may not need them now but in the future may require them so investigate all versions of any piece of software fully.

Examples of this type of software: Cubase, Sonar, Logic

Recording Sequencers with Hardware Interface Options Software in this category is very similar to the category above in that they emulate a professional recording studio but they also have the options to have specially designed hardware interfaces very similar to a classic mixing desk. These link into the software directly creating a very hands on approach. If you go into professional recording studios today this is the system that you will see set up.

The hardware options can be very expensive in this category and so if you are a beginner I would not advise that you go for this type of software/hardware.

Examples of this type of software: Pro Tools

Audio Recording Software
Software in this category is usually seen as an addition to the above categories, as they are used to record and edit samples or individual channels of sound by editing the waveform. They come with effects and processing that can be applied to the sound (although usually not in real-time like the software sequencers above). They can also be used to apply effects and processing to your tracks as a whole when you have completed the track and exported it from other software. (Mastering)

Some software in this category can be used similar to a multi-track recorder, but cannot do nearly as much as a proper sequencer. If you are just looking for something to record a couple of tracks for example just some vocals and a guitar, you may find that a piece of software from this category is all your looking for. I’ve not advised a specific piece of software in this guide but I have to here. Please give Audacity a go as it is Free and is a very capable piece of software and may be perfect for your needs if your exploring this type of software.

Examples of this type of software: Audacity, Audition, Wavelab

Part 2 Conclusion
Hopefully this part of the guide has given you a insight into the different types of music production software available. As I said before make sure you explore all the different alternatives in each category and pick the software that matches what you require. Software is an important choice and a choice you will have to live with, so give it the time it deserves.

Beginners Guide To Music Production - Part 3 - Setting Up Your Studio

Written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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Over the next few days Rhythm Creation is going to go way back down to basics by writing some beginners guides. There are loads of people out there that want to start creating and producing their own music and need a little help to get started. I was a music beginner once too and these beginners guides are hopefully going to grow into a huge guide that I would have loved to of had to hand when I first started.

I am an electronic musician and so you may find at times throughout this guide that it is more aimed at musicians who are looking to producing electronic based music, I shall cover all genres and styles of producing as best as I can. You may also find at times that you may disagree with me as some of the things that I will talk about will be my opinion only and there may well be other methods and different ways of doing things, if you do disagree with me write it in the comments of the post and I shall bring your ideas and thoughts up from the comments and into the main articles.

Part 1 - Equipment.
To start producing your own tracks the first thing your going to need to think about is the equipment your going to need. Each musician is going to have a different set of equipment that they use, obviously a guitar player is going to have his guitar, amplifier and cables for example (which are not on this list). But this equipment list below is what I think is a minimum for anyone wanting to start to record and write music at home, no matter what instrument you play or genre of music you are going to be creating. You may find that you already own some of these items (for example the computer as you must be using one to read this) and you may be surprised at how small the list actually is to get started.

Hardware and Software
Piano with Laptop - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:Leslier Music can be produced using both hardware and software. At one time music was produced solely using hardware but due to advancements in computer speeds, all music production tasks can now be achieved using software. Hardware is still used a lot in music production (Music producers love their mixing desks, hardware effects units and especially their hardware synthesizers) but as computer software can now compete extremely well with hardware and because you are new to music production I would suggest you stick mainly with software for the moment. You will find that at a later stage you can advance to using both software and hardware together and because most software is actually based on their hardware counterparts there will be no need to relearn anything you have learnt, should you want to go the hardware route at a later date.

Even though we are going to go the software route you are still going to need some hardware equipment to run the software as well as be able to record both instrument and note information (MIDI Data - We will go into this later) into the software enviroment.

This is obvious, but yes your going to need a computer and obviously you are using one to read this, but is your computer going to be fast enough to run any music software your going to be using.

Basically the faster the computer you have the better experience you are going to have producing your music. Music software can take up a lot of system resources due to it’s complexity and whilst it may be written on the software box or web site that the recommended requirements are low, you may find that once you start using the software and have lots of different channels all playing together that the computer just isn’t going to cope with it. A fast processor and lots of RAM are needed to allow your computer to cope better.

You are also going to need lots of hard drive space as music files and recordings can take up lots of gigabytes. Hard drives are cheap these days so this shouldn’t be the problem it once was. You will also want a DVD/CD writer so you can hand out CDs of you produced tracks and also back up your work.

If you need to buy a new computer you may want to build the computer yourself (It’s not as hard as you think). I did this myself for mine and you will find there are some benefits to doing this as you can choose the components yourself to create a better computer that’s specifically designed with music in mind. For example you can find cooling systems without fans, quieter cases, quieter hard drives and graphics cards without cooling fans on. All aimed at reducing the sound that the computer makes in your audio enviroment.

The most important component of your computer if you’re a musician. The main thing to watch out for is going to be latency which needs to be as low as possible. A high latency will make your computer unusable for recording music, as everything you record or play in will be behind everything else in your track. ASIO Support (Audio Stream Input/Output) is a must if you are going to be using Windows and a nice amount of audio inputs (with low noise). Read reviews of soundcards in magazines and on other review type web sites to make sure the soundcard you choose to buy is going to be the right one for you.

You may find you can use your current soundcard and if you do have latency issues you may find you can solve your latency issues by searching the web for better drivers. The KX Project drivers for example works with EMU10K1 and EMU10K2-based sound cards such as the Soundblaster Live and virtually eliminates latency issues.

Speaker - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:bury-osiol If you are serious about music production you should spend a good amount of money on some near-field studio monitors as your tracks will benefit a great deal in sound quality and should sound great no matter where they are played. Near-field monitors are different to normal speakers/stereo systems as they are designed to show you exactly what your music really sounds like without affecting the sound in anyway. They are also designed to be listened to with you closer to them than conventional listening speakers. Active monitors will already have a power amplifier, passive monitors need an external power amp.

If you can’t afford a decent set of monitors or don’t want to invest just yet, you can still use a decent normal speaker and amp or stereo system setup. But make sure you turn off any enhancements that the stereo or amplifier creates usually called something like Bass Enhancement or Rock/Jazz/Dance settings and turn any EQ (possibly called Bass and Treble) to their central positions. With a standard pair of speakers you are going to need to do a lot of listening on different systems such as car stereos, headphones, friend’s systems etc to get better mixes that sound good where ever they are played.

Never use those small computer speakers, it won’t be worth the time trying to get your tracks sounding right and use a good cable to connect the soundcard to the system/amplifier.

MIDI Controller
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a data system that is used between different instruments (and your computer) to send note and time information. No audio recording (sound) is contained within MIDI, it is only computer bits and bytes (digital data). A MIDI controller is typically a musical keyboard with other various controls such as faders and pads that are used to play notes into your tracks. If you are only going to be recording traditional instruments with microphones such as guitars and drums then you may not need one, but they aren’t expensive and owning one will open many new avenues for your music. If you are going to be producing electronic based music then a MIDI controller is an essential piece of kit.

There are tons of different MIDI controllers available on the market today, some with musical keyboard layouts, some with pads and faders, there are even guitars and drum kits which act as MIDI controllers. But I’m specifically talking about a keyboard layout one with at least 2 octaves of keys and one that also has some faders on to control certain sound aspects as you play. Always make sure the keys have touch sensitivity and aftertouch, these features change the sound played depending on how hard the note is being pressed (These are typically a standard feature, but check to make sure if your buying a cheaper or older second hand one).

You are also going to need a MIDI cable if one doesn’t come with your MIDI controller to connect your MIDI controller to your soundcard (The input may be called a joystick input on your soundcard).

A Microphone - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:Wazina If you plan on recording full drum kits then you are going to need quite a few microphones to get a studio produced sound. If you are going to be using drum samples then you shouldn’t need to have as many, in fact you may get by with only having one. Even if you are producing synthesizer and sample based only music, I can’t stress enough how you should still have a good basic microphone to hand for recording your own samples.

There are many good microphones on the market, but for the beginner music producer I would advise getting a Shure SM57 (A bright sounding vocal and instrument microphone) or a Shure SM58 (Go for this one if you are doing lots of vocals). You can’t go wrong with these microphones, they are classics, built to last, can take very loud sounds and don’t need an external power source. They are also very well priced and will give you very good quality sound for your money.

Part 1 Conclusion
This list is to help people get started, obviously there is loads more kit a musician could own, but hopefully this has given you an insight into the basic equipment needed for you to start producing your own tracks. This list will change slightly for each person, but once you have all the equipment above you shouldn’t need much more apart from the software and any instruments you might play to get started.

Beginners Guide To Music Production - Part 2 - Choosing Your Software

Written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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