The home studio is becoming more and more of an ubiquitous setting these days for aspiring music producers; believe it or not, the tough economy that we are facing has touched even the music industry, and the way things operated once upon a time will no longer fly, being that the recording budgets of today, can’t even halfway compare to the astronomical budgets of years ago.
Audio professionals are being forced to become a little more resourceful and smarter with their recording efforts, but it doesn’t matter, because there are so many different options that one could choose to create their own productions from their own home. Major studio settings are no longer necessary to make quality productions, you can get it done with nothing more than a laptop and some headphones.
But the good thing about it is, that for those who are attempting to make hip hop beats, the opportunities are even greater than ever before. Hey, we have always been able to persevere through them hard times, those of us within the hip hop culture that is; so dealing with next to nothing budgets and facing adversity is pretty much second nature to us. Hip hop producers are known for making something out of nothing!
The availability of Pro Tools and similar music production software to the average consumer has leveled the playing field whereas anyone with a few hundred dollars available can now record and create professional quality audio productions that would rival any major studio production, with the knowledge of how to do so that is. Once you get your hands on the necessary equipment, and read up on some topics customary to producing hip hop music such as sampling, cutting and scratching records, playing keys, and audio engineering, you too will be well on your way to producing with the likes of 9th Wonder or Chase N Cashe; so without further adieu, let me share with you how you too can make hip hop beats from the comfort of your own home.
You’re Gonna Need A Good Computer
And not the one that’s been sitting in the corner of your living room for the past three years. Sadly enough, even the computers that are gonna be on sale this weekend will be obsolete by next weekend, especially if you’re talking about Windows operating systems.
Your computer will be the hub, the brains of your operation, so you will want the best computer that you can possibly afford. These days, a quad core processor with 4 gigs of ram is the bare minimum that you would want to go with to operate your system efficiently; most soft synths and audio recording software will have these very specs listed on their boxes as the minimum requirements to ensure a smooth user experience.
The argument as to whether or not you should choose a Mac or a PC and which is better for audio production is an argument that has been going on for YEARS within the audio recording industry; with no immediate ending to that argument in sight any time soon. My take on the argument is that if you can afford a Mac, go with one, because Macs are class compliant with the majority of all audio recording peripherals on the market today, meaning that you can just plug the devices into your USB port on your Mac, and they will work without any further installations, purchases, or tweaks.
With recording on a PC, you can almost guarantee that you will have to search for drivers and make difficult tweaks within your operating system to get your software to work correctly, not to mention having to turn off Wi-Fi settings and adding anti-virus software so that you can fight off the thousands of viruses out there waiting to attack your system whenever you do need to get online. These annoyances are just non-factors with Apple computers, so for the best user experience and the lack of having to buy stock in Excedrine Migraine pills, I chose to go with Mac computers for my home and mobile recording setups. I couldn’t be happier, and i’ll never buy a PC for recording.
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t use a PC for your recording needs, you need to use whatever you can afford. Just try your best to stick to the aforementioned specs, and be prepared to do some research. You and Google are about to become great friends as you prepare to install your software applications. The bright side to this is, a comparable PC to a Mac system with similar specs will more than likely be $500-600 cheaper. So take those things into consideration, and make a choice as to what would be best for your situation.
Choose an Audio/Midi Sequencing Application, aka DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
You have Logic Studio(Mac Only), Pro Tools, Propellerheads Reason, Cubase, Sonar (PC Only), Ableton Live, and MOTU Digital Performer (Mac Only). These are all digital audio workstations, which would be the house that you would be building upon the foundation that you chose within your computer. Ultimately, whichever computer platform you choose could ultimately drive which software choice you are to choose, so think on this one.
Many hip hop producers tend to lean towards Propellerheads Reason, Pro Tools, Logic Studio, or Ableton Live for their recording and production setups. Also one that I did not mention, FL Studio, is very popular amongst hip hop producers. Myself, I use Reason almost exclusively, as Reason is now complete with audio recording and mixing, where with all of the other applications, you could already record audio. Reason was pretty much a studio rack in software form, complete with synths, drum machines, sequencing, and audio effects like reverbs, delays and compressors. With Reason, I don’t need anything else.
I have Pro Tools, Logic Studio, and Ableton Live as well within my personal studio setup, and I use them whenever I get the urge. But it’s not necessary, as Reason is complete with everything that I need to produce complete hip hop productions. You can download the demo for Reason and all of the other DAW’s that I mentioned by going to their respective websites, from there see which one will be the right fir for you and your needs and your workflow.
A MIDI Keyboard Will Be Next
You will need a MIDI keyboard to control your softsynths. A softsynth is a software version of a keyboard synthesizer, MIDI is the musical instrument digital interface in which control commands are sent to the musical instrument/softsynth to tell it which notes are being played, how hard or how soft, and how long each note is being held. Without a MIDI keyboard, you might have a hard time trying to play chords with ASDF computer keys! So get yourself a nice lil’ MIDI keyboard, 49 keys at least. Any brand will do the trick, so you can’t really go wrong here.
Get Yourself Some Good Headphones and Skip the Confusion
A good set of headphones will be detrimental to your audio production efforts, because as a bedroom music producer, more than likely your room does not have the correct and accurate acoustics to accurately mix audio projects with overcompensating for something in your mix. And soundproofing your room and trying to add Auralex foam will become expensive and time consuming, so just skip all that and buy some good headphones for audio mixing. You want a pair of headphones that will give you a flat response and the best possible representation of the full audio spectrum as possible, the Beyer Dynamic DT 770s are great choices for good audio headphones. You get crystal clear highs and deep lows, with a tight midrange unlike anything I have ever heard before in a pair of headphones. Ultimately you should choose the best that you can afford, but since I have the space to make a recommendation, I think that you will be pleased with the DT 770’s.
Once you have the computer, your DAW, MIDI Keyboard, and some headphones, you’re ready to get it. Those are the bare necessity tools that every hip hop producer will need to compete in the industry and make the type of beats that you hear on the radio, there is no right or wrong choice here, because ultimately, it will be your talent and your drive that will propel you to the top of the game.
Reading up on and studying hip hop producers, learning piano scales and melodies, reading books on mixing audio, and collecting records and samples are all things that you will need to do as well to help yourself become a more complete and efficient music producer. If you can collaborate with other beatmakers or producers in your area, and find a music mentor even if possible. Having someone who has already done or can do what you’re trying to get into will help to cut your learning curve in half literally.
I hope that I have given you some insight on what will be necessary to create hip hop music, and i’ll be back giving you more info on the topic of creating beats and producing music as well; I love doing this! Hip hop is what I do, and soon it will be what you do too. It’s in you, I already see that you’re winning… Better Beats Ahead.