Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Getting started with home production

It’s easy to look at this as being a mysterious field that is massively complicated and hugely expensive. The fact is that isn’t true. The chances are you already have some of the basic kit necessary to be making music with and with a couple of additions to your set-up you will potentially have enough technology to write pretty much any style of music. The rest is down to you, putting in practice and research, attending talks and courses, as well as reading voraciously on the subject. Because of the rate computer technology is advancing it’s a really exciting time for you to be getting into this field.  Also if you are worried about not currently having musical ability...it’s not a problem! You aren’t playing an instrument so there is no need to develop hand-eye coordination here. Learning a small amount of music theory, such as scales and harmonies goes a loooooong way in the computer realm, what’s great is that all this information is available free on the internet! So if you are committed, patient and enthusiastic towards music, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from learning how to make it yourself. I speak from experience because I started out in just this way, I had no real musical knowledge and was pretty bad with computers, but I’m now making music that is being played by DJ’s in clubs and on the radio and being sold online. Trust me it’s easily possible. If I can do it, you can too.
You will need a few bits of equipment to get you going. Here’s what’s required:
  • Computer- To start with, your home PC is probably more than capable of running most software to an adequate level. Standard computers are running factory fitted dual core processors and often come with huge amounts of memory compared to the days when 512mb was all you got! So with a bit of tweaking your home laptop / desktop is your main centre for production.
  • Software – There are loads of different types of software out there, but they essentially all do the same thing: Record, edit & sequence sound. So don’t get too caught up in this, your creativity is what’s important. However Reason 5 by Propellerheads is probably the best thing you can get if you’re learning. It’s easy to install and run, it doesn’t demand much of your computer, there is lots of support to learn it, but most importantly it’s really fun to use!
  • Audio Interface/Soundcard- Initially you don’t need a specialist soundcard, the one that comes with your computer is good enough. Once you have got the basics of production down you may want to upgrade, for around £50 you can get to a better quality one with some more input/output options.
  • Monitors/Speakers/headphones – Again you don’t need top end stuff to start with, your home hi-fi is usable as long as it has an aux in. However I would say investing a little bit on some headphones is a very good idea. For much less than speakers you can get a very accurate sound. Brands like AKG, Senheiser or Beyerdynamic are good places to start as they specialise in headphones.  £100 will get you some awesome sounding headphones. Read lots of reviews and make an informed decision.
  • Sample library – This is so much fun! I literally love collecting samples and sounds! I have a huge library now which I absolutely treasure. Ranging from specialist packs which I’ve brought, to sounds I recorded whilst travelling in the jungles of Borneo. There are a variety of samples I can draw on to make my music with. There are loads of packs available free online, so initially you won’t have to pay a penny. But if you speak to any artist their library is what makes them unique.  So get collecting!
  • Time- Ideally you want to invest as much time into this as you can as the equation below will demonstrate. 8 hours a week is good. But 15 hours is more like it.

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