Hey all you aspiring producers out there! Welcome back to Learning The Bassics!! Today I am going to talk to you primarily about what equipment I have found necessary in setting up an at-home studio. I originally scheduled this post to be “My Current Studio Setup”, but I felt that a setup tutorial for an at-home studio would be much more beneficial to all of you (note that this post will be divided into two parts since it’s pretty lengthy, and part one will have all of the equipment and information you need as an absolute beginner, and part two will have add-ons to your studio you should invest in after acquiring some basic production skills, that I will teach in new posts soon) because the truth is that I have a lot of expensive equipment that isn’t essential to a studio setup for a beginner. Anyways, let’s dive into the important stuff!
There are plenty of blog posts out there that will tell you that you need to spend hundreds of dollars to set up a small studio in your workspace at home. Some will even humor you by telling you that you can do it “for only $300”, but even that is a stretch in my opinion. I’m no expert yet, but I have managed to gather all of the necessary equipment to make a full decent song and I’ve hardly spent any money at all. Here’s what I purchased to start building my home studio, and what equipment I’ve found truly necessary.
My current studio setup takes up only a single corner of my bedroom. It started with an acoustic guitar that I got for my birthday, but you absolutely do not need to learn a new instrument or need to know how to play any instrument at all to be able to write a song. In fact, I wrote the melody for my recent song (“Misinterpretation”) using just 9 keys on my computer’s keyboard. In other words, the first essential piece of equipment you will need is some kind of computer or laptop.
1. Download a DAW
You cannot create a song without using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Some popular examples of DAW’s are Garage Band, Audacity, Ableton Live, Cubase, and Logic Pro, but the list goes on. Some like Garage Band and Audacity are free, while some require some sort of subscription. So great! Let’s just download a free DAW right? Yes! Except Garage Band and Logic Pro are only accessible on Apple products, although I’m not entirely sure about some of the other software as I am only familiar with Logic and Garage Band. But my point is, that regardless of what brand of computer and software you use, you should be able to access some sort of free DAW. Sure, some are better than others, especially the ones you pay for, but it doesn’t really matter if you’re just starting out. Learning on a semi-decent DAW is without a doubt better than not attempting to learn at all! Also, I think it is important to mention that some are also accessible on mobile devices; Garage Band for sure is a free download on iPhones, and is just as easy to navigate as it is on the computer.
I have an hp Windows laptop that I have Audacity downloaded on, but I don’t like Audacity much so I use Garage Band on my dad’s old mac mini that he gave me. However, I have some pretty successful friends that use Audacity to make beats and have no problems with it.
Here is what a typical DAW looks like:
2. Find a Decent Pair of Headphones
If you can’t afford a new pair of headphones, you can probably get away with a nice set of earbuds, although headphones help you to hear heavy bass sounds and similar synths and loops on your DAW. I found an awesome pair on Amazon that have excellent sound quality, great reviews, and were also inexpensive (not to mention they look really cool!). HERE is the link to this product.
These headphones are light and comfortable and so far, I have been able to hear every little sound crisply and clearly. They are only $18 and I’ve honestly spent much more than that on less essential equipment.
And in case you’re interested, when it comes to listening to music on my mobile devices, I have a pair of Apple’s standard earbuds, and also a pair of Haylou’s Bluetooth buds, which I personally think have better sound quality than AirPods, and seem like they’re a million times cheaper. So, if you’re interested in checking those out, you can do so HERE.
3. Purchase a Microphone
Professionals will tell you that you need to spend a lot of money on a professional microphone and Audio Interface, which is confusing little box that looks like this:
However, because I am working off of a mac mini, I found a clever way around this expensive option.
The main function of an audio interface for beginning producers is to adjust the volume of your sound going into a mic before you actually record something, whether it be an instrument or yourself. It also gives you a place to plug in your microphone, but as I said, I found a clever way around this.
A microphone is not essential if you only plan on producing beats and songs made out of loops, but if you plan on recording and singing, you might want to consider purchasing a microphone, because chances are that your PC’s built-in mic won’t do the trick. For my computer, I was forced to purchase a USB mic (I’ll link the mic I purchased below).
I made sure I purchased a mic that was good for recording and not just audio calls and let me tell you, the sound quality is outstanding for the immensely small price I had to pay (just $32.99)! Also, I found that with USB mics there is a virtual audio interface, so you can adjust your volume before recording right in your DAW or system settings. This probably isn’t the most professional option out there, but it was cheap and it works well enough for me. You can also improve the sound quality of your recordings in this cheap next step:
4. Buy a Pop Filter!
A Pop Filter is that strange mesh circle that you often see set up in between the mic and the singer at professional studios. Also known as Pop Shields and Pop Screens, its purpose is to add extra noise protection and filter out popping sounds like p’s and b’s (aka plosives). They are really inexpensive and make the quality of your recordings sound so much more professional, so there’s really no excuse not to invest in one of these if you know you’re going to be singing your own songs. Even most podcasters purchase one of these to complement their mic for better recordings. I can’t find the exact filter I purchased, but here is an image with a corresponding link to one that looks very similar. Click HERE for the link to this product.
Monitors are also considered a very important aspect of any production studio. These are the large speakers that go on either side of your workstation that allow you to track your progress without having to wear your headphones. It also allows other people to hear what’s going on at the same time without having to awkwardly press their heads up against one of your earphones. While not necessary for beginners, it still seems really cool to have these speakers to be able to listen to your tunes through. While not really the same thing and with fewer perks, I am purchasing two of the same waterproof Bluetooth speakers I found on Amazon. They are designed to sync up and I plan to place them on either side of my production setup and use them for the same purpose. They’re also obviously portable so I can take them with me and use them elsewhere. I’m killing two birds with one cheap stone!
Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/30y0QJA
Definitely the most expensive piece of equipment so far at $36.99 (and double that if you plan on buying two for the purpose discussed), but it has a great rating and good reviews. I can’t personally comment yet as mine isn’t arriving until tomorrow, but I will update you then and post a quick product review and let you know if I plan on returning it or keeping it and buying another. They also come in different colors (but note that some colors like black are slightly more expensive than others), and of course, me being me, I decided to go with black and silver to make it match the rest of my equipment. Even my guitar is black (lol)!
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is not at all my entire haul of production and sound equipment. I will be posting an unplanned part two in the coming days providing a link to more optional and experimental equipment. I do believe however that this is all you need to start. I started just a couple of months ago and I have managed to create several beats while using my computer keyboard as a midi keyboard (even though I own an actual keyboard), and as previously mentioned, I also wrote the melody to my first song. DAW’s come with so many built-in features- even the free ones. There is so much to learn and take advantage of before you go and buy a ton of unnecessary supplies. DAW’s also come with hundreds of synths and audio loops, so you do not need to know how to play an instrument to learn how to produce. I don’t know how to play the piano yet but memorizing each of the notes and basic chords on my keyboard have allowed me to make many loops of my own. And of course, I will be posting tutorials on all of that as well, so stay tuned. At the end of my part two, I will also add up all of the money I spent so you can see how easy it was to create an at-home studio setup of my own that isn’t necessarily fancy, but definitely efficient.
Thanks for reading, and look out for tomorrow’s post, “Interview with ColourBlue Leland”.
Y’all get home safely!
(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)