Being able to make high quality beats anytime and anywhere (and get paid) is certainly the ultimate dream, but sooner or later everybody’s gotta step their game up and setup their very own beat studio. Sounds pretty simple but there’s a lot more to consider than you think and it’s pretty easy for someone new to get swallowed up by all the different variables at play. Never fear! Today we’re gonna talk about the basic components that make up a basic beat studio and in a follow up post, we’ll take a look at more advanced techniques to take it to the next level and turn it into a full on home recording studio. For now, let’s guide you safely through the swamp and show you what it takes to make your very own beat studio.
However, first a bit of theory
Flow of Audio
There are many organic and technological elements that could affect the quality of your end product. It’s not just about the gear you use and how well it performs but how well you perform, not just as a producer, but a buyer too. To understand this completely let’s take a brief look at the flow of audio and the various routes it could take in and out of your computer. It’s all about Input, Process and Output. Like this:
- MIDI Controller
- Audio Interface
Let’s break it down with an example of this. Let’s call it: A day in the life of producer/rapper, MC Air-Knee-Body (or MC AKB for short). MC AKB has his microphone setup and plugged into his audio interface which leads directly into his computer via USB. He also has a MIDI Controller plugged into a second USB slot that he used earlier on when he was composing his beat but today he is going to record a verse for his track.
Once MC AKB presses record and begins rapping into the mic, the audio travels down the cable and into the interface, which should have it’s own built in mic preamp. Microphone signal on its own is very weak and needs to be amplified before being transmitted elsewhere. From there it travels through the USB cable into your computer where the audio is instantaneously converted from an analog to a digital signal and added to the track.
Any signal from the MIDI Controller would go directly into his computer. Here’s where the fun begins for him as he edits and mixes his tracks (probably using the four basics we talked about in this post here) to get it all sounding great. The audio then travels out into the world through his headphones or speakers so that he can hear the end result loud and clear.
Level 1 (The Basic Plan)
To get a quality beat studio going, like MC AKB, you need just four components. Right now you’re probably satisfied just being able to pump out those sweet electric sounds and you wanna do it as effectively and as cheaply as you can. For this you would need only 4 things
#1 – Computer
The bottom line is: Audio is a RAM killer and it’s even deadlier when recording or adding too many effects. So to avoid latency, and keep everything seamless, you better be looking at something higher than 8GB but 4 will do on any 32-bit operating system. Get as much hard-drive space as you can too. Anything less than a 1TB will have you leaping for an external hard-drive within a year (you know, if you’re committed).
Now when it comes to your operating system, I have to throw my weight behind Mac. They’re fast becoming the industry standard and it’s not surprising since their drivers are suited more to audio than PC. They can be seen in studios around the world and you could get away with using just a MacBook pro instead of a desktop computer, even though they lack a bit in terms of hard-drive space.
#2 – Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
You know this term right? If you haven’t, DAW is the fancy term for the software used to record and make music and it’s the next step in building a bangin’ beat studio. If you’re just getting in the game and have 0 experience whatsoever then I’d highly recommend Magix Music Maker as your first choice. Anybody, whether young or old, can jump in without hassle and start producing bangers from day one. Check out my full review on Magix Music Maker here.
For something with a little bit of a learning curve to it, I’d recommend either Cubase, Reason or Ableton Live or even my childhood favourite, FL Studio. Don’t be afraid to get the trial versions that are available for all these great Softwares if you need a little more convincing before you buy. Chances are, the two of you will be together for a very long time.
#3 – Monitors & Headphones
Don’t be alarmed! Monitors are just another fancy industry term for speakers (learn it, know it…believe it (0.0)) and they go hand in hand with your headphones. “But Ryan, why would I need both?” Well, I’m glad you asked, my young Padawan. If you’re like me, and you live with other people, you can’t always have your speakers thumping while you work your magic so that’s where they would come in handy, so I guess that’s that.
The truth is a lot simpler, though. You see, these are the two most vaguely common ways that your music will be digested, either Publicly (in a car or at a club or party) or Privately (directly from their device). All you need really is a complete stereo image with one speaker for the left and another for the right with 3-5 inch subwoofers in each. Your headphones shouldn’t slack either.
Make sure they get you the best possible representation of what your audience will hear to make sure that absolutely everybody is pleased by your sound.
#4 – MIDI Controller
Now the final piece to make your beat studio legit is a MIDI Controller. These can come with as many as 61 or even 89 keys, but you’ll have all you need with as little as 49 keys or even 25. Besides being an all-purpose piano, many controllers have features that will allow you to effortlessly control your software with faders like the Novation LaunchKey Mini and some, like the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII, that come with their very own set of assignable drum pads to keep the beat-making process as fluid as possible. You may not need it with you from the get-go but it’s a tool that any producer should add to their arsenal.
So, to get your own beat studio off the ground you need the following:
- A computer
- Software (DAW)
- Monitors & Headphones
- MID Controller
Check out the next post to learn how to take your beat studio to the next level and make it great home recording studio in How To Make Your Own Beat Studio Part 2. Are you interested in learning how to make beats or buy software? Check out other related posts and feel free to leave your thoughts, comments and questions below!
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com
- So You Wanna Make Your Own Rap Beats?
- Hip-Hop of The 80’s: Enter The Golden Age
- How To Make A Rap Mixtape