Home Studio Guide
Building a home studio is one of the most essential investments any beat maker needs to make. In this guide we take a comprehensive look at my studio and all the gear I use with descriptions and links to all products.
Table of Contents
- MIDI Keyboard
- Audio Interface
- Studio Monitors (Speakers)
- Condenser Microphone
- MIDI Drum Controller
- Acoustic Treatment
- Software & Plugins
Music in the 21st century is mainly made using a computer thus is one of the first things to consider when putting together your home studio.
My studio is currently built around my MacBook Air mid-2012 1.7GHz i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB HD laptop. You would have seen this in my videos, a tiny but powerful machine capable of running all my professional software such as Logic Pro X. This machine is great for beginners and those on a small budget being Apples second cheapest machine. Load too many instruments or run too many plugins however and you’ll soon run into trouble!
I’m planning to upgrade soon and a computer dedicated to making beats should have at least 8GBs of RAM with a processor of at least 2GHz or above. This will allow you to run full size projects and provide longevity. A dedicated GPU will go a long way when running Logic Pro X on a Retina Display. From experience I would recommend a Macintosh computer due to reliability and low cost professional software Logic Pro X which is only compatible with Macintosh computers. However if you already have a computer capable of making music, maybe invest in the other essentials first.
MIDI keyboards create an easy way to play music into your music software. They are used to control and program the sounds within your software. They come in different styles and sizes but all essentially do the same thing. However some from experience are better than others. I use the AKAI MPK Mini. See below.
AKAI MPK Mini
I have a few keyboards but I feel this one is the only one worth mentioning – the AKAI MPK Mini . My version has been discontinued but the updated version is now out “MKII”. This is a great small portable 25-key keyboard with assignable drum pads, knobs and a pitch/modulation wheel. Perfect for a small home studio or travel studio. You can see me using this keyboard in many of my videos.
AKAI is a huge music tech company that has been around for many years, one you can trust to make quality products. Famous for their MPCs; their MIDI keyboards I can truly vouch for. 25 Keys too small? Take a look at some of their other keyboards here.
View other MIDI keyboards to fit your budget here.
You need an Audio Interface if you want to begin recording vocals, other instruments and use a good pair of monitors (speakers) in your home studio. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 lets you do just that with two inputs for microphones and instruments and two TRS/Line outputs for left and right speakers.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
I’ve used a lot of different interfaces over the years and I must say this is my favourite. Its build quality is the best I’ve come across yet it still remains small and sleek. It is simple to use and very easy to setup with its plug and play feature (no power supply needed). The sound quality is amazing and produces silky smooth vocal recordings. I use my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 to record vocals, guitars, basses and keyboards. It was the perfect choice for my home studio.
Studio Monitors (Speakers)
Studio monitors are speakers however they’re not like standard speakers. Normal computer speakers, stereos and other consumer speakers are designed to enhance the music played through them often with added more bass and treble. Studio monitors for the most part are what is referred to as “flat”. Meaning they do not attempt to enhance or alter the sound played through them. This is so beat makers, mixing engineers etc. can understand how the track truly sounds.
I’ve had my Mackie MR5s in my home studio for over 6 years now and they are still going strong. They produce an amazing clear sound that is true allowing you to create great mixes of your beats and songs. The are well made, solidly built and takes both XLR and TRS/Line cables. (Check what output connects your audio interface has). The Mark 3 versions of these speakers are the ones currently out now but still hold their 5 star rating.
If you want to record pro quality vocals you’ll need a condenser microphone. I’ve been using the same one for 7 years. It’s that good.
Rode NT1-a (Bundle)
Dubbed the world’s quietest microphone the Rode NT1-a is a microphone that produces world class performances every time. It is a swiss army knife that can record vocals, drums, guitars, percussion… pretty much anything. For this reason it is a great first microphone which will allow you to record in any situation. I highly recommend this condenser microphone and have been for over 7 years now. Rode do a great bundle pack which includes a shock mount and pop shield great for achieving pro quality vocal recordings.
MIDI Drum Controller
Like MIDI keyboards, MIDI drum controllers are used to control the sound inside of your music software however they’re designed especially for drums and sampling.
Maschine Mikro MK2
The Maschine Mikro MK2 is the only MIDI drum controller I’ve owned but I don’t see myself getting a new or different one any time soon. Perfection. It comes with it’s own software Maschine used by many industry professionals. Maschine can also be integrated into Logic Pro or other DAWs as a plug-in.
1200x300m Fibre Glass Acoustic Panels
I left acoustic treatment to last because it’s the last thing you should. Along the walls of my studio you’ll find nine 1200x300mm fibre glass acoustic panels. This helps absorb the sound reflections in my studio. This is great for mixing and also more importantly great for when I’m recording vocals or acoustic guitar. The panels eliminate a lot of the “room” sound allowing me to add my own EQ and reverb at a latter stage. Unfortunately where I bought them no longer stock them.
Under my monitors you’ll find two Auralex MoPads isolating my speakers from my my table removing any sound colouring produced by my table through vibration.
Software & Plugins
I run my studio with a digital audio workstation called Logic Pro X. The following software listed all integrate with Logic Pro X. Other DAWs like Cubase, Pro Tools, Studio One and Ableton Live also work.
Komplete 10 combines a HUGE library of professional software sounds and audio mixing plugins. If you want to greatly expand your sound pallet in one purchase Komplete 10 is the way to go. Used by the professionals and amazing value for money. The sounds on Logic Pro X are ok but like me you may quickly find you need more. Komplete 10 comes with 39 products, 12,000 sounds, over 130 GB of instruments and effects. You won’t really have to buy anything else after this. This is THE perfect bundle for any home studio or professional studio. I had Komplete 9 and now I have komplete 10, I rate it that highly.
Waves is an audio company that create industry standard audio plug-ins for DAWs, i.e. Logic, Pro Tools etc. Waves Gold is a suite of some of the best and most commonly used mixing plugins by Waves. These are some of the same tools that are used to mix and master the very songs you hear on the radio and this is why Waves Gold is in my arsenal of home studio software. Learn More.
Melodyne 4 Essentials
Melodyne is industry standard pitch correction. You’ve probably heard of auto tune, well this is what I like to call “manual tune”. Dig deep into each note sung by your vocalist and bend it to your will! Want pitch perfect vocals like on Glee? This is the tool to do it! Learn More.
Antares Auto Tune EFX3
If you’ve ever heard of T-Pain or Cher then you know what auto tune is! Although you have a lot less control than you do with Melodyne over the pitching of vocals this plug-in is extremely intelligent and does a great job of correcting vocals. By adjusting the amount of auto tune applied you can achieve loads of different results. From lightly correcting vocals to add that industry standard gloss or turning the auto tune to full blast and using it as an effect. Learn More.
Below is a list of small extras you may need in your studio to connect it all up and running smoothly.
External Hard Drive
It’s good to keep all of your sounds and samples on an external hard drive to prevent storage issues and help keep your computer running fast. I use two 500GB and two 1TB USB 3 external hard drives. They are also used to back my work up. A wise man once told me, “data doesn’t exist, unless it exists in two places.” Truer words have never been spoken. Take heed and buy an external hard drive here.
USB 3 Hub
If like me you use a laptop as your studio computer you’ll quickly run out of USB ports. This can be a real pain but to ease that pain I’d recommend you to get a USB Hub. USB 3 is the new standard with most external hard drives now being USB 3. You’ll want your hub to match to get the best speed performance out of hard drives. Check out these hubs.
XLR Cables are use to connect microphones and some studio monitors. Get what you need for your current set up and if you can afford get one more spare. You can pick some up here.
1/4″ Jack Cables
1/4″ jack cables are used to connect instruments (guitars, synths) and some studio monitors to your audio interface. Get your jacks.
That’s pretty much it, you’ve made it to the end. You legend! Remember buying studio gear is an investment. Don’t be afraid to spend money. You have to spend money to make money and beat making is a great way to make money. Find out how to make money with beats here. Happy Beat Making!