Guide to Music Production
Understanding the process of music production is perhaps the most overwhelming experience for a person set on the path of becoming a music producer. But the good side to this is that the process itself is always unique to the artist involved. This guide is meant to help you in beginning your journey as a music producer by addressing certain key elements of production.
What is music production?
Ideally speaking music production is the process of overseeing, managing and guiding the process of recording a song or an entire album in a recording studio. These recording studios were accessible to a select few who had the financial resources either to rent or own them as putting up a studio was an expensive affair. With passing of time technology evolved and music production these days has become a lot more accessible.
Quality music can be made just with a standard laptop and inexpensive hardware. This paved way to the emergence of home studios and music producers what we like to call as home producers.
Putting together your first recording studio can be quite a daunting experience due to the endless pool of gear to choose from. But for a beginner the good news is that you don’t need to start out with the highest quality tools available.
While setting up a Home Recording Studio the first question that comes to your mind while setting up a home recording studio is the equipment needed. We have listed out the basic gear required to get you started on your journey as a music producer.
You would want to you use computer (desktop or laptop) at the heart of your setup. Initially you might want to do everything in the box, meaning on software instrument alone mostly running on Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
There will always be a debate about PC vs Mac, which at best should be avoided. Stick with the operating system of your preference , although bearing in mind that certain applications will run only on either of the platforms.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation):
This is the program on your computer which you will use in order to write, record, produce, mix and master your music.
There are plenty DAWs out there in the market but in the end it all boils down to matter of taste and the workflow you are comfortable with.
Keep in mind that the DAW you choose won’t be a deciding factor in you being a better or a worse songwriter.
Ableton Live Lite
Audio Interface / External Sound Card :
An Audio Interface is an indispensable piece of equipment in the home studio setup. It serves the purpose of : recording external instruments like guitar, vocals through a mic and to connect studio monitors or headphones to listen to what you are producing. They are connected via USB. Mac platform gives you the option to connect through Thunderbolt or FireWire connections.
For a beginner an Audio Interface with 2 inputs & 2 outputs is preferred due to their convenience at connectivity to the computer.
Scarlett Solo by Focusrite
Audiobox USB 96 by PreSonus
Komplete Audio 2 by Native Instruments
MIDI Controller :
MIDI stand for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.
A MIDI controller is a simple way to sequence music and play virtual instruments. It needs to be connected to the computer as it does not generate sounds of its own but rather is used to trigger sounds inside a DAW. Most of the modern controllers are connected via USB.
It is a quick, easy and a creative way to perform music in live situations. They are compatible with both the platforms PC as well as Mac.
MiniLab by Arturia
MPK Mini by Akai
Launchkey Mini by Novation
There has been a lot of confusion regarding studio monitors and stereo speakers. Stereo speakers are designed to boost or enhance audio levels where as studio monitors are designed to not enhance sound, there by keeping all the frequencies flat. In other words a studio monitors is a loudspeaker specifically designed for professional audio production.
The main choices of monitors in the market are near field monitors and far field. As a beginner it is best to go with near field monitors as they reduce the hassle getting a room acoustically treated and are light on the pocket.
Active Monitors and Passive monitors :
As with all the monitors, amplifiers are needed to produce sound. Active Monitors have built in amplifiers where as Passive Monitors need a separate amplifier for power.This makes them cost effective and the first choice amongst music producers.
HS5 by Yamaha
Eris E3.5 by PreSonus
CR3 by Mackie
Like studio monitors, studio headphones are also designed for accurate reproduction of audio. So during the process of recording, mixing and mastering problems can be easily heard and rectified instantly.
These headphones are designed by keeping the comfort factor in mind as the user is likely to use them for hours on end.
You don’t have to shell out huge sums of money while buying your first pair of headphones. There are many headphones out there that deliver quality sound without being heavy on the pocket at the same time getting the job done.
HD 206 by Senheiser
ATH M20X by Audio Technica
A microphone is a device that converts audio signal into an electrical format.They are an essential part of the studio setup to capture/record external sounds. Traditionally microphones needed to be connected to the Audio Interface through an XLR cable. With the rise in the number of podcasters, companies have started manufacturing podcast friendly microphones with USB connectivity gravely reducing the hassles associated with choosing and purchasing an Audio Interface.But this comes with a drawback of reduced quality of audio recording.
MICs can be broadly classified into 2 types dynamic microphones and condenser microphones.
While choosing a MIC it is necessary to be aware about the recording environment as dynamic microphones are preferred where there are a lot of ambient noises as they are less sensitive compared to condenser microphones which have a heightened sensitivity used especially to capture delicate & soft sounds. In short condenser microphones are well received in a studio environment, while recording a podcast or an acoustic guitar. On the other hand dynamic microphones are used for recording drum kit sounds or during a live performance.
SM 57 by Shure
AT 2020 by Audio Technica
Lyra by AKG