Today I’ll be talking about my production setup in the studio. Many of you know that most successful DJs not only spin records, but they produce their own music as well. This is essential! And while there are many different ways of doing this, it’s becoming easier and easier to produce great music from your bedroom, bathroom, garage—wherever the mood strikes.
Something to consider, again, is that not all the pieces of gear I’m listing here are necessarily what you have to use; it’s just what I use. There are plenty of other alternatives that may fit your budget, platform, or personality better. That said…
DAW: The centerpiece of any music production setup is a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), which is what you will record into, edit with, and mix and master your music on. (If you’re way ahead of this, stay with me; I just want to get everyone on board.)
I mainly use Ableton Live (I am simply in love with Ableton), but I use Logic to record all my vocals, as I feel there is a cleaner digital sound, Pro Tools when I’m with my band… So you see, it really depends on what exactly I’m doing in the studio. To be truthful, I have every amazing plugin know to man/woman; you just need a Mac to run it. Speaking of which…
Computer: This really should have been up there before DAWs, but in my book it’s got to be a Mac. I’m sorry, but there’s just no comparison to working on a Mac. They’re designed for this stuff. I went “Sparta” when it comes to this… Mac, Mac, Mac.
Controllers: While you can program each note individually in the MIDI hyper editors, I hugely prefer to bang out parts with my fingers on a MIDI controller. This is just a keyboard that sends notes through your computer to your DAW so you can record and play virtual software synths. I still use my old ones… use M-Audio’s Keysation 49. It’s simple, straightforward, and plug and play. I’ve also got a Yamaha Motif that is always standing by, should I want any of the sounds out of that, and I’ve also got it hooked up so I can use the weighted keys to play piano parts. As long as there is an after-touch and a mod wheel, you’re good to go—this does not have to be expensive!
Audio Interface: Your audio interface is what you’ll plug your monitor speakers into and record acoustic instruments through. Right now, I’m using an M-Audio FireWire 410. I have used this for 10 years! It’s a great little portable box with tons of inputs and outputs. The analog/digital conversion quality is fantastic on these, as well.
Mic: For a microphone, I’ll plug a Blu Mic direct into my 410. (Man, you know Blu sponsors me, but they rock… truly!) Great mic. Great headphones.
Plugins: The most important part of my setup really boils down to the plugins and “toys” you have. There are so many fantastic ones, I could write a chapter on this alone. But let’s start with my favorite: Native Instruments. Why are they the best? Because you can make an entire record with this alone.
Reaktor itself should be classified as an entire suite of its own, encompassing more power in one plugin than in all of Reason combined. The quality of the sound that comes out of Reaktor is unreal, and that’s just a starting point. From there, you have Massive, which is just that—a massive synth with unlimited capacity for creating diverse sounds. Perfect for dubstep and D&B. Then there is FM8, Sylenth, Elektrik Piano, Akoustik Piano, Guitar Rig (which is awesome for so many things other than guitar), Battery (OMG, fantastic sampling for percussion and other sounds, with a fantastic library to match). Ok, I will stop having a technical wank. Go find out for yourself. It really is the shit.
So, that’s the basis of my production setup. I will get into all the other goodies I use very soon—I can’t give all my secrets away in one post! Next time, I’ll let you in on my techniques to mixing, as well as production in the studio.