Tutorials How to Make Beats – Part 2: Your Setup


The Beat Strangler
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* This is part 2 of an 8-part series of articles on how to make beats. Mostly aimed at beginners, even experience beat makers can benefit from these articles.

Part 2: Your Setup

What Kind of Setup Should You Have?

Most of today's studio setups are computer-based. If you're just starting out or have been making beats for a while and want to change things up, I recommend that you keep it super simple.

Get yourself some software and a controller.

That's it.

There are plenty of programs that you can use to make beats and I've compiled a list here.

Some of the more popular ones are Ableton Live, Reason, and FL Studio.

I suggest that you try a few of them and decide for yourself which one you like the most and stick with it. I've used many programs over the years and each one has pros and cons, but I've always favored one program and mastered it.

There are always demos of these programs that you can try first before you decide on buying one.

Of course, none of this will work unless you have a sound card. If you're using a laptop, you could use the built-in sound card but it's not always ideal. The same applies for desktop computers too, so what you need then is an audio interface (sound card) that you can plug into your computer via USB.

One of the most popular ones is the Focusrite Scarlet.

What About Hardware?

If you're going with mainly software then you should invest in some sort of controller. This can be tricky because it comes down to what software program you choose.

For example, if you're using Ableton, there are controllers out there designed specifically to work with Ableton. You could do that or just get a regular MIDI keyboard controller. This way it will work with any software you use. Of course, it won't have specific controls on it that are designed to trigger certain parameters in the software, but those aren't always needed.

As for other types of hardware (if you want to go "old school") there are plenty of options.

Right now there's a new line of Akai MPCs out there as well as new gear from Pioneer and a few other manufacturers.

If you really want to go down the dedicated hardware route, that's a huge task to take on (if you don't have any experience) and it would take a while to explain.

My advice is that you should do your research about hardware gear and figure out what you need to start making beats.

To keep it simple, you could always buy used gear like the Akai MPC and focus on that, then slowly build out from there by adding effects racks, mixers, etc.

The basics of what you would need are:
  • Multitrack mixer
  • Speakers
  • Something to make beats with (MPC)
The Essentials and Extras

Even if you're making beats with just software, it's good to have a decent multi-track mixer and speakers to add to your setup. You may not think you need it (you don't really), but there may come a time when you might want to add something to your setup as you're developing your sound. Most people just stick with the inputs/outputs of their audio interface, but most of those only have a few inputs and outputs.

Speakers aren't too hard to figure out because you just need to find something that has a good, flat response. What that means is that they're giving you a "true" sound as opposed to adding its own "color" to your mix, which is bad news. Learn more about studio monitors.

When you're making beats and mixing, you want to hear back what you're putting into it. If you're using regular home stereo speakers, they will most likely be "bassy" and you definitely don't want that. So a flat response is ideal with solid, powered speakers.

For mixers, you can get away with a small one like a 4-track, but 8 would be better (again, depending on your setup). You don't really need anything past that unless you plan on having lots of gear.

Headphones are also a must in any studio. There will be times when you can't use your speakers (if you have neighbors) or if you need to listen to a part of your mix up-close. This is when a good pair of headphones come in handy.

It's the same as speakers in that you want something that will give you a flat response rather than add bass to it. This is especially a problem with headphones because a lot of manufacturers add bass frequencies to them, thinking that's what people want.

This may be true for someone listening to music on their phone, but for studio use, you need something much better.

Go for closed headphones.

Oh Wait, What About Cables?

It's interesting how not many people talk about the types of cables to get! You might need RCA, ¼", ⅛", MIDI, or anything in between.

Whatever it is you need, just look for a good manufacturer. You don't need anything fancy or expensive, but just remember that the longer the cable (and I mean LONG), then there's more of a chance there could be signal degradation or noise.

Further Reading About Beat Making
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