Firstly, good music production doesn’t stand or fall with good gear, but having suitable tools for your creativity, certainly help you.
How do you decide on what gear to get from your bedroom music studio?
If you’re a professional there’s really is no limit – you can always depend on the wonders of technology, man. And maybe you ought to go with the best products on the market. Just remember that the very best things today, may not be the best tomorrow.
Here’s an announcement: I’m not a professional musician, I’m not even trying to become one. However, I am interested in making good sounding tracks. And I’m kinda ambitious too. I wish that as many people as possible would listen to my shit, but I’m not making it to please anyone but myself. And I’ve no interest in entering the game, no I’m making my money elsewhere. But you should know this, so you can see the context.
I’ve heard fantastic results made with really low budget, lo-fi equipment. This goes for electronic music as well. For example, take the somewhat paradox genre of glitch. Some glitch scores are the most beautiful composition of sounds, made of malfunctioned sonic artifacts and abused audio signals. When every tiny noise, every single sine wave is modeled to fit right in, the production value can truly be awesome.
And sometimes, unique sound production, like Burial, is better off not sounding like everything else. I wouldn’t want El-P to sound like Dr. Dre – I like ‘em both the way they are. (RZA is another example of someone with a recognizable production style, sort of lo-fi but very good.)
When it comes to music, some might argue that it’s in the songwriting. But I would suggest that some of the best electronic music is constituted of good sounds, rather than quirky chord progressions. What a good sound is, is of course utterly subjective. At the same time, an electronic musician might say that it’s all about how loud the music plays. A misfortunate result of that discourse is heard in a lot of over-compressed, non-dynamic dubstep these days.
“A good song is a good song” – now that’s just bullshit. Setting and performance are everything. Nothing sounds great everywhere. Still, what you need is a few good ideas and a first class execution, and that’s about it.
So what gear should you get?
Well, I personally don’t need stuff to record a whole band or a combo. I want to be able to record some vocals and occasionally, my old analog synth. There rest is kept digitally in-house, so to speak. So if you’re, first and foremost, into electronic music like me, you need a fast enough computer, which is able to run a DAW of your liking.
You need to be able to hear what’s going on, so a key is a set of flat monitor speakers, and maybe some nice headphones to switch between. Also a keyboard (or a controller) helps out a ton. It’s not necessary, but I realized that just playing around with a sound on a keyboard, often inspire you in a stronger way than, the same sound, would being statically repeated in a sequenced loop. (What an insight!) You may want a mic and some instruments, but that’s optional, really. You’ve already come a long way with a controller, a sampler and some fat software synths.
When it comes to prices, you could reason like this: shit should get work done, but it shouldn’t be too expensive. But this can really be tough to balance. Although cheaper gadgets tend to sound bad, you should avoid paying too much. An expensive device could have features that you don’t need or use, and those features could be the reason for the high price tag.
To get the most out of your limited gear is really a huge part of the DIY home studio idea, isn’t it? So, if you choose between two models, you might as well get with the cheaper alternative, squeeze the shit outta it, and when that’s not enough, sell it on eBay and get an upgrade.