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Updated by Frontrunner Magazine on Nov 19, 2017
Headline for What You Need to Start Making Beats on Your Laptop
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What You Need to Start Making Beats on Your Laptop

Making beats is now an established art form all its own that dates back to the earliest days of hip-hop. Legendary producer Q-Tip got his start by recording "pause tapes," painstakingly copying drum loops from vinyl records for just a few seconds at a time until he had a full song's worth. The beat-making tools of yesterday — like Akai's MPC series or Roland's SP samplers — are not completely obsolete, but the music software that comes standard on just about any off-the-shelf laptop far exceeds their capabilities. With just a few pieces of essential gear, you can be tapping out boom-bap hits in no time.

If you love beat-based music and have considered making some of your own, here's a quick guide to get your home studio up and running.

1

Pick up an Audio Interface

Pick up an Audio Interface

This is the device that processes your sound and delivers the signal you hear, so it's one of the most important pieces in your setup. If you intend to use microphones to record audio, be sure to choose an audio interface with enough microphone inputs to handle your needs. Focusrite's Scarlett series are often recommended as a first audio interface for their combination of quality and ease of use.

2

Add Monitors and Headphones

Add Monitors and Headphones

There are many factors that contribute to the sound you'll hear when you play music in your home studio — such as the shape of your room and placement of your monitors — but no matter what your situation is, you'll need a set of high-quality monitors and headphones to accurately mix your tracks. Yamaha's HS series is an affordable option that offers even clarity across the frequency spectrum.

3

Choose Your MIDI Controller

Choose Your MIDI Controller

Your MIDI controller will be the real-world instrument you use to play virtual instruments on your computer. Most MIDI controllers are presented as either a keyboard, a grid of drum pads, or a combination of both. Some MIDI controllers are designed to be tightly integrated with a particular brand of software, so you may want to wait to pick up a controller until you know how you want to use it.

4

Select a DAW

Select a DAW

DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and refers to the software music producers use to create their tracks. In general, all DAWs offer the same functionality — no matter which you choose, you'll be able to play virtual instruments, add effects to channels or groups of channels, and arrange your track into a full song. FL Studio is a great option for beginners because of its simplified interface, while Ableton Live offers a unique Session Mode that allows for quick sketching of song ideas via looping clips.

5

Make It Your Own

Make It Your Own

What makes a home studio special is the personal touch every producer adds to their setup. Consider purchasing a few unique effect or instrument plugins to add to your DAW's library, or add external hardware to bring real-world texture to your sound pallet. The possibilities are endless, and as long as you stay true to the music you really want to make, you'll find new and interesting ways to evolve your creative environment into a place that's truly your own.