Knowing where to find free or low cost resources can save you thousands of dollars, which is why we’ve compiled fire tips to save your hard-earned cash and get you creating.
Picking an Audio Workstation
Let’s start with the most essential piece of any producer setup - the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Choosing what DAW is right for you can seem like an impossible task. Depending on what products you’re looking at, a DAW can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000. Let’s be honest - that’s a pretty steep asking price for someone who’s just starting out. Luckily, there’s a variety of free DAWs and demos available that you can download right now to get you started!
Downloading Free DAWs
So, what are the best free DAWs out there? There are tons of them, but some of the most popular options we recommend for new producers are Pro Tools First, Akai MPC Beats, Waveform, and even GarageBand for Mac users. These options include many of the powerful features found in some of the most expensive DAWs. If you’re just getting started, these DAWs provide all of the essentials that you’ll need to start making great beats.
These free software options are user-friendly and developed by some of the most innovative music technology companies in the world. Through experimenting with these free programs, you can learn the fundamentals of music production and gain a basic understanding of drum patterns, melodies, and structuring. Remember, they’re all free! Don’t settle and explore all the different options to find out which program is right for you.
Utilizing Free demos
For a producer who is just starting to make beats, spending hundreds of dollars on a DAW may not be a viable option. We recommend taking advantage of the free demos that are available for all of these programs. FL Studio, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, and Logic Pro all offer free demos so you can experiment with the program before they make a big purchase. The functionality of these demos are limited, but they give you an idea of what to expect when you eventually decide to upgrade your DAW. Take the time to explore each demo and find out which program is right for you. You don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars when you don’t know the first thing about making beats.
Selecting a DAW is a significant decision for any music producer, so make sure you make a smart and educated decision before emptying your wallet first.
Cut Out Expensive MIDI Controllers
If you’ve seen any of your favorite producer’s set-ups, you’ve probably noticed that the room is littered with flashy drum machines and giant MIDI keyboards. The truth of the matter is, you don’t need any of that to start making great beats! All you need is a DAW you feel comfortable with and a creative idea. Expensive drum machines and MIDI controllers don’t make great beats - it’s the producer!
Make Great Beats Without MIDI Controllers
When you’re just starting, don’t feel like you have to spend thousands of dollars on hardware to start making quality beats. Those tools can help in the future, but it’s much more important to spend your time and money honing your skills.
Most of the hardware that producers use just controls functions on your DAW. All of the things that a drum machine or a MIDI keyboard can do, you can do yourself by simply clicking. Buying expensive hardware may make you look like a good producer, but your skills and style are what will really help you stand out from the rest.
The Affordable MIDI Controller Options
Even though hardware is not a necessity, you may feel the need to buy a set of keys or a drum pad to help your creative process at some point. Brands like AKAI Professional offer great beginner MIDI keyboards like the LPK25 and the MPK Mini that you can get for as little as $70. They may not be the most advanced MIDI keyboards on the market, but they offer enough functionality to help you get familiar with using a MIDI controller.
Expensive Monitors ≠ Better Beats
You’re a musician, and you need a quality way to listen to the music you create. Having the right sound image is key to knowing what you’re working with.
When you're starting, it can seem like you need the latest and greatest audio equipment to hear and critique what you're creating. It can be intimidating seeing some of your favorite producers using the newest KRK Rockets or Yamaha HS5's that can cost upwards of $500 a pair. The truth is, you don't need expensive studio monitors to create amazing music!
No Monitors, No Problem
There’s an ever-flowing number of affordable ways you can hear your audio in high quality. Yeah, a big pair of studio monitors on your desk may look great, but there are better ways to listen to your music for a much more reasonable price. There's nothing wrong with using headphones instead of going out and getting an audio interface and a pair of monitors. Most of the time, you can get a clean mix by just using headphones!
When it comes to which headphones you should buy, there are so many options out there that we couldn’t even begin to list them here. A good brand to start with for budget-friendly headphones is Audio Technica. Audio Technica offers a plethora of headphones that are great for beginners.
Audio Technica’s ATH-M40x model is less than $100 and offers reliable sound for whatever kind of beats you’re creating. If you're not looking to spend that much on headphones, it’s never a bad idea to start with what you have. Even just using the basic headphones that come with your cell phone can be suitable for hearing your beats in higher fidelity.
If you don’t like how your beats sound in headphones, purchasing a more affordable pair of studio monitors is never a bad idea! Investing in a pair of budget monitors like the Mackie CR Series will help you hear your music in better quality without being weighed down by headphones. They’re cheap, reliable, and you can get the pair for under $100.
See for Yourself
Check out what BeatStars producer Pat Ryan can do with minimal equipment. He’s a great example of not needing expensive hardware to make dope beats.