Do you want to follow your passion for producing music but you don’t know what gear you should buy? Check out this list of the best professional music production equipment for beginners and get the best bang for your buck!
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Do you feel that you have something to say to the world with your music? Or maybe you just want to make music for your own creative needs? Whatever it may be, Music production is an amazing career or hobby, not only will you have your own music, but you can see how your music affects others and makes them feel. If you are excited about starting, then read about the best way to learn music production.
What kind of music production gear do you need to get started? You can lose days and maybe even weeks browsing for the best microphones and MIDI keyboards. There is just so much out there.
If you want to save time and money, then check out the music gear that I recommend in the music production equipment list below.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
Audio-Technica AT2020 Bundle
To be honest you don’t need much hardware or software in the beginning. But you do need the right music production hardware for beginners. Because why waste $200 on a set of cables if you can get them for $30? In general, for production what you will need is:
USB Audio Interface
If you want to work with sound on your computer then you will need a USB audio interface. It connects your microphones, instruments, and speakers to your computer and changes the sound from analog to digital, and back. It with your computer and your audio software to record and play sound with high quality and low latency. In general, you will want to have multiple different inputs for example: XLR, 1/4Jack, Mini-Jack and optionally MIDI in and out. If your interface has MIDI ports it means that you can connect all kinds of MIDI devices that can communicate and control each other.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 4th Gen
The audio interfaces of Focusrite don’t need any introduction. I would not be surprised if more than 50% of all home studios have one. And this is for a reason. The quality and price are extremely difficult to beat.
M-Audio M-Track Solo
The M-Audio M-Track solo is by far one of the cheapest options out there. So if you want to start recording music but are not ready to make a bigger investment this audio interface will be perfect for you to test the waters.
What is the benefit of using headphones for mixing and producing music? Headphones are good for music production and mixing music because they allow you to hear every detail of your sound without being affected by the acoustics of your room or any other noises from your surroundings. Also, they also give you a more focused, intimate and immersive listening experience. This can help you to make better creative and technical decisions. But please don’t forget that, headphones are not enough to produce and mix music professionally. Why is this you ask? That’s because you need to check your sound on different speakers and devices to make sure that your mix or production translates well across different platforms. Such as telephones, different Hi-Fi speakers, car systems etc.
There are open-back and closed-back headphones, which ones are better? The difference between open-back and closed-back headphones is mainly the design of the ear cups. Open-back headphones are as the name suggests partially opened on the backside. The ear cups are perforated or vented and this allows some sound to escape and some ambient noise to enter. As a result, this creates a more natural and spacious soundstage. The downside however is that it also reduces the isolation of your listening. Closed-back headphones have ear cups that are sealed, which blocks most of the sound from leaking in and out. This creates a more isolated sound but it also makes it more likely to have distortion and get listening fatigue over time.
So in general, there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of headphones. Open-back headphones are better for mixing music, because of their accuracy and realistic sound. While closed-back headphones are better for recording music because they prevent the sound from bleeding into your microphone.
Affordable, comfortable, great imaging and sound quality for the price. Quite difficult to beat in this price range.
AKG Pro Audio K702 Open-Back
These headphones are light as a feather and have a studio-worthy frequency response. The treble is not exaggerated.
Sennheiser HD 280 PRO
Durable and delivers on quality. The HD 280 are quite natural in the mids and can be used for revealing elements in your mix.
One of the best choices for recording and listening. Comfortable, durable and comes with 3 detachable cables.
MIDI Keyboard for Music Production
Why do you need a MIDI keyboard as a music producer? With a MIDI controller, you can play and record musical notes using computer software or a hardware synthesizer. You will want a MIDI controller if you want to have more control over, and more expression in your melodies, chords, and rhythms. Because you can play melodies, chords and samples live it can also help you improve your musical skills and creativity.
Probably you have seen the difference already, but there are MIDI keyboards with and without pads, sliders, and knobs. Pads are small rubber buttons that you can use to trigger drum sounds, samples, or loops. They are very useful for creating beats, adding effects, or performing live. Sliders and knobs are controllers that you can use to adjust parameters such as volume, pitch, expression, filters, or modulation. They are useful for shaping your sound, adding dynamics, or automating other changes.
So in general one with pads, sliders, and knobs will offer you more options and flexibility for making music because you can access more functions and features without using your mouse or keyboard. This makes creating new music and staying in the flow without being interrupted easy.
Most Premium 25 Key
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 – 25 Key
AKAI this brand does not need an introduction. The MPK Mini has enough keys, pads and controls for any producer.
Cheapest 32 Key
M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3
M-Audio is probably one of the most famous MIDI keyboard and interface brands. This no-thrills controller has 32 keys.
Most Value 49 Key
M-Audio Oxygen 49 (MKV) – 49 Key
If you want to play more elaborate piano/synth parts you will need 49 keys. The added pads and controls are perfect.
Cheapest 49 key
M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3
Don’t need pads and want to go cheap but still have 49 keys for you to play your parts? Then the Keystation is for you.
There are multiple types of microphones, but the ones that are most useful to beginner musicians, producers and songwriters are:
- Dynamic microphones
- Large diaphragm condenser microphones
- Small diaphragm condenser microphones
So do you need a recording microphone? What’s the difference and what do you use them for? A dynamic microphone converts sound waves into electrical signals by using a magnet and a coil. A condenser microphone uses a thin metal plate and an electrically charged backplate to convert sound waves into electrical signals. Something that is a real characteristic of a dynamic microphone is that it is more durable and resistant to high volumes. The downside is that it is less sensitive and accurate than a condenser microphone.
A small diaphragm condenser microphone has a consistent polar pattern and a natural sound, while a large diaphragm condenser microphone has a less consistent polar pattern and a more coloured sound. In general dynamic microphones are best used for loud instrument recordings and live performances. You can use them on vocals, drums, guitars, and other loud or harsh sources. A small diaphragm condenser microphone is best suited for acoustic instruments, overheads, room mics, and other detailed or spacious sources. And lastly, a large diaphragm condenser microphone is best suited for vocals, bass drums, brass instruments, and other warm or rich sources.
Most Versatile Mic
Audio-Technica AT2020 Condenser Studio Microphone
From the trusted brand Audio Technica you cannot go wrong with the AT2020. It is perfect for recording music, voice-overs and podcasts.
Most Durable Mic
Shure SM57 Dynamic Instrument Microphone
You will find the SM57 in every studio and every venue. Perfect for recording electric guitar, snare drum, bass cabinets you name it.
Best Small Condenser
AKG Perception 170 Professional Microphone
These P170 mics are a steal. They give beautiful and detailed recordings. When bought in 2 they are perfect for stereo recordings.
Studio Monitors (speakers)
If you have a good set of headphones, why do you still need studio monitors to check your sound? Studio speaker monitors are used for mixing music because they are designed to deliver a flat and accurate sound that represents the true quality of your music. This is a big difference compared to consumer speakers and headphones. These often have a boost or cut in certain frequencies to make the sound more pleasing or exciting. Studio monitors are designed to reveal the flaws and strengths of your mix, so you can make the correct adjustments. So you could say that studio monitors are essential for producing professional-sounding music that can translate well to different playback systems and devices.
The price range of studio monitors varies a lot. Larger and more powerful speakers can produce louder and deeper sounds. The downside is that they also require more space and a lot more acoustic treatment in your studio.
So what’s the difference between the expensive and the cheap ones? It seems stupid to say, but higher quality speakers offer more clarity, detail, and accuracy, but of course, they also ask for more precision and skill in your mixing. What affects the price of studio monitors are the type of drivers (such as woofer, tweeter, or coaxial), the type and material of the cabinet (such as ported, sealed, or curved), what kind of input and output options (such as XLR, TRS, RCA), and lastly the digital signal processing (DSP) capabilities such as room correction, EQ, or crossover.
PreSonus Eris 3.5 Gen 2 — 3.5-inch Powered Speakers
Absolutely perfect for any novice, musician or music lover looking to upgrade their speaker setup for the first time for cheap.
Best Low Budget
Mackie CR-X Series, 5-Inch Monitor speakers
Finding a quality pair of speakers under $200 is quite a challenge. These Mackie speakers will live up to the challenge.
Best Overall Value
ADAM Audio T5V 5-Inch Powered Studio Monitor Bundle
Whoever thought that ADAM speakers were out of their price range think again. These T5V are affordable and high quality.
Most Accurate Sound
Kali Audio LP-6 V2 6.5 Professional Studio Monitor
Kali Audio is a relatively new name on the scene but these speakers will leave a lasting impact. These LP-6 are for those who go pro.
Music samples and audio loops are short audio clips that you can use to create or enhance your music. They could literally be anything. They can be melodies, chords, drums, vocals, effects, or any other sound that you can imagine. To work without samples is unthinkable for many producers nowadays. The benefits of using them are for example:
- You are saving time and effort: You don’t have to record or make every sound from scratch. You can use ready-made samples and loops that suit your style and genre. After importing them you can still edit, manipulate, and combine them to create your own version.
- You can expand your creativity: You can explore new sounds and styles that you may not be familiar with. Normally if you are not familiar with a style or genre it is difficult to make something good.
- You will improve your skills: If you use high-end samples like from Loopmasters then you can learn from the professionals who created the samples and loops.
It is important to know how to use music samples and loops in your music because they are not meant to replace your own musical style, input or expression. They are meant to enhance it. If you want to be able to use them easily in any project without having to search for ages I recommend you check out Loopcloud.
We have left the realm of music production hardware and now will start exploring some software that you will need over time to improve your game. Your DAW of choice, plugins, VSTs, virtual instruments and other music software are essential for music production. This is because they help you to create, edit, process and enhance your audio in a professional way. Plugins are software components that add specific features or effects to a host application, such as a digital audio workstation (DAW). VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology, which is a standard format for plugins that can be used in various DAWs. Music software refers to any program that can help you with music creation, such as synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, audio editors, etc.
I prefer to buy plugins when they are on discount or when you can get them as a bundle. It’s just a lot cheaper that way and also buying a bundle often makes more sense than just buying one at a time. It’s all about bang for your buck!
Practically all 3rd party plugins that I bought came from Plugin Boutique. Check their website for the best deals, instruments and bundles. Turn your home recording into a professional one.
Plugin recommendations for Studio Recording Quality
Here are some plugins that I practically use on every project.