Old vs New - Tips for Upgrading Your Beatmaking Setup

  1. Fade

    Fade

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    I recently saw a video featuring the Beatminerz where they reminisce about how they put together some of their most famous beats - everything with the Boot Camp Clik and even how they worked with Eminem back in the day. What I noticed though was what they had in their home.

    They have lots of old school gear!

    I began to notice that stepping into their home is like taking a time machine back to the golden age of Hip Hop, back when beats were made with a combination of vinyl records, hardware samplers, and skill.



    Then I noticed how they still make beats - with an MPC2000! Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that but it’s also worth noting that Evil Dee was in another video piecing together a beat with the more modern MPC Renaissance and a computer.

    This all got me thinking - when is it time to upgrade? When is it time to ditch the old stuff and embrace the new?

    Let’s take a look…


    Stick With What You Know

    This is something I’ve been preaching for years. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is something that a lot of beatmakers, producers, rappers, and especially the recording equipment companies need to live by.

    For example, when Native Instruments came out with Maschine Studio, many people thought that by having the Studio it would help them step their game up, when in fact the Studio controller is not necessary if you already have the MK2. Now, it’s not to say that the Studio is worthless, of course not, but what many fail to realize is that it’s a controller that controllers software.

    maschinestudio.jpg

    That same software controls the Maschine Studio, MK1, MK2, Mikro, and now the Maschine Jam. So do you really need the latest and greatest new piece of shiny hardware or software? Nope.

    For me, there are only a few things that are absolutely necessary for me to make beats. Maschine, Cakewalk Sonar (both requiring my computer, of course), and my trust Sony MDR-7506 headphones. This is what I use to help me make beats and I could literally get by with just that for years to come.

    Sometimes It’s Good To Upgrade

    There are times though when it’s necessary that you upgrade. It could be your computer needs a boost or the DAW you’re using is so ancient that it has trouble loading modern VSTs. In that case, it’s time to go shopping.

    mpk225.jpg

    One of the most essential pieces for any studio is a controller. It could be a small 25-key keyboard like the Akai MPK225, but just something that will help you make beats much more easily.

    Look at the specifications of the MPK225:
    • 8 RGB-illuminated MPC-style pads each with 4 banks for 32 pads.
    • 12 assignable Q-Link controllers include 8 control knobs and 4 backlit buttons.
    • iOS compatibility using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit.
    • USB-MIDI with 5-pin MIDI input & output.
    • Comprehensive transport and parameter controls for hands-on DAW integration.
    • 1 assignable footswitch jack and 1 expression jack.
    You can see that this thing can have you banging out beats in no time. I think it’s pretty good that you can play the keys and also hit the pads all from one unit. It’s not for everyone, but for those on a small budget or for those that don’t have a lot of room in their setup, the MPK225 looks great.

    One of the main issues with upgrading your studio is that it could easily change your workflow. I think that’s why guys like the Beatminerz have stuck with a lot of the same equipment over the years, because IT JUST WORKS!

    Sure, they could rush out and get the newest version of FL Studio or Propellerheads Reason, but they choose not to.

    Now, FL Studio (which I think they should have kept as “Fruity Loops”) is a beast. I first used it back in 2000 because I just need to be able to create drum patterns that I could then import into my DAW, but now it’s a completely different program. I’ve seen tons of YouTube videos about making beats with FL Studio and it’s great to see how far it’s come.

    If you’re looking to upgrade your software, I don’t think you can go wrong with FL Studio because it really has everything you need to make beats.

    Everyone remembers years ago when 9th Wonder became popular and it turned out that he was just using Fruity Loops. I thought that was hilarious because he was gaining so much popularity at the time and artists wanted to work with him, yet here he was with software and a mouse.

    Talk about ironic.

    However, if you’re an Ableton Live user then you might want to look into the Novation controller. First of all, when it’s lit up it looks like you’re playing a game of Tetris, which is cool, but it also just gets the job done.

    novation.jpg

    • Integrate immediately and seamlessly with Ableton Live, without any setup whatsoever
    • 64 RGB pads light up to match the color of your clips in Live; see at a glance what's loaded, playing, and recording
    • Bright, colorful pads make the unit stand out just from USB power - when you're on stage or creating an exciting Launchpad light show video for YouTube
    • Use the grid to play drums and samples with pads pre-mapped to Ableton Lives drum rack
    • Start and stop loops, arm tracks, and control volumes, pans and sends
    Right there, the first line: “Integrate immediately and seamlessly with Ableton Live, without any setup whatsoever”, is great. One thing I hate is having to set up software and hardware. I bought it to make beats so I just want to plug it in and start creating masterpieces that would make Dr. Dre jealous (I wish), so I love the fact that Novation has made it simple to get started.

    It Always Come Down To Skill

    Back when we first started the Beat This! Competition in 2003, there was a member here by the name of afriquedeluxe. He was only 14 years old at the time but he was winning a bunch of the competitions and beating out other members that were much older and had more gear!

    Oh, I forgot to mention that he was only using an old computer to make beats. This is his actual computer at the time:

    afriquedeluxe2.jpg

    It’s a tiny picture, but you get the idea.

    We all started making beats with something pretty basic like an old Casio keyboard and a 4-track tape recorder, or a cracked version of Garage Band. But you were able to make beats, right? Of course, they were wack but at least you learned and eventually developed enough skills about beatmaking and music production that now you can make beats with much more advanced studio equipment.

    In Closing

    So when it comes to beatmaking, you can easily upgrade to the latest and greatest, but it depends on if you really need to or not. What I’ve shown you are some hardware and software that I think will always get the job done no matter what style of beats you make.

    But remember, without skills, it won’t matter what you have in your studio.

    More Information About Beat Making
     
  2. wizard

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    Love this and i Remember afriquedeluxe he was killing it!
    Great post and thanx for sharing!
     
  3. Pug

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    I'm using Maschine MK1, and the left screen is shot, so I can barely see anything, and the knobs are fucked up, so they sometimes jack up what ever function they are tied to without me touching them. Still, I am making beats with it regardless, shit still works, just got some personality. haha
     
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  4. Fade

    Fade

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    Dude, that's so gutter!
     
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