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What Do I Need to Get Started

Thinking of taking a class? Read about what you will need (and what you won't)

by Beat Kitchen School

So it's time to finally do it. You are going to take a class in music production. If you are joining us at Beat Kitchen, let's talk about what you are going to want to have in your kit.

 

Obviously, you need to bring yourself and your desire to take chances, make something new, and to be engaged. It's not just hyperbole. The primary ingredient in this recipe is you. We believe that firmly. But as for equipment, the requirements are also pretty modest — at least at first. Most everything we teach, can be demonstrated (at a very high level) with just a computer and a DAW like Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools, or FL Studio.

This isn’t to say you aren’t going to probably want some other stuff down the road, but we’d rather get to know you and recommend something that’s just right for you. Bear in mind, your needs may change as you learn. For the full program, there isn’t anything that you can’t live without for the first class or two.

But we know you are excited, so with that in mind, here are a few inexpensive starters that we also don’t think you’ll outgrow.

Headphones

 

We don’t recommend that you mix in headphones if you can avoid it, but for classes and everyday use, you’ll find a good pair of ‘cans’ super-useful. There is nothing wrong with the ear-buds that go with your phone, but they aren’t manufactured to be balanced in the way you will want for making beats and mixing. Furthermore, if they are wireless, there is likely to be a slight delay that will eventually frustrate you.

With that in mind, I like to recommend the AKG K240. These aren’t the latest or the greatest, but they’ve been around forever. They have been a studio staple as long as we can remember which means that if you ever need to replace them, you will probably be able to. The cable detaches with a standardized (although unusual) mini-xlr connector. This is the part that usually breaks on headphones so fixing them is no big deal. They are comfortable for extended wear (a must) and have a semi-open design. This means that if you use them for walking around town, you’ll still be able to hear what’s going on and will be less likely to get hit by a bus. This does make them more prone to ‘leakage’, which means if you are recording vocals, some of the sound from the headphones may make its way into the mic. And if you care, you may feel ridiculous walking around town with them on due to their design (remember, they are built for comfort). They don’t compress or pack down very well either, but for well under $100 you really can’t go wrong. Oh yeah, they also sound great.

Keep it in the family and buy them from our partners at Patchwerks:

https://patchwerks.com/collections/tools-for-podcasting/products/akg-k240-studio-semi-open-headphones

Controller Keyboard

 

You can get by without this for a while, but you’ll want something to plink out chords, melodies and drumbeats. This one is pretty subjective because the keyboard that an accomplished pianist wants may not be the same as the one a hunt-and-peck loop maker favors. With that in mind, we usually tell people to get something inexpensive in the short term and we can help you choose down the road. Therefore, we suggest getting something very small and portable as well. That way it will always serve as a second instrument for travel and if you lose it or it breaks, you won’t be heartbroken.

I like this one because it is small, very inexpensive, has little keys, and mostly because it has more notes — another half an octave — than the typical 25 key controllers. This makes it more useful for building larger chords and wider ranging melodies which can be challenging on smaller keyboards.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VHKMK64/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1

Interface (optional)

 

Not necessary for day-one, but in order to use a conventional microphone and for better recording and listening quality, an interface is probably in your future. An interface will give you a more robust input/output system for your computer. Typically the kind we will recommend to our incoming class members will consist of both a microphone pre-amplifier as well as a “converter” to digitize audio signals going into your computer as well as to convert the digital signal back to analog audio so you can hear it.

But doesn’t your computer already do that? Yes, it does. Which is why you can get away without one of these for a bit. But A good interface will do it a lot better than what your computer has built-in. And your computer won’t handle the signal from a professional microphone at all.

Interfaces start getting fancy pretty quickly and extra bells and whistles include systems that can host their own effects, multiple connection types, and more. We suggest getting something (eventually) that has more than one input so that you can try stereo recording if you choose to. But many of our students stay ‘in the box’ and don’t record anything at all. So buying something inexpensive like the Focusrite Scarlett below, is a good bet. If you decide to wait, that’s okay too.

Keep it in the family and buy them from our partners at Patchwerks:

https://patchwerks.com/collections/recording-effects/products/focusrite-scarlett-2i2-audio-interface

Microphone (optional)

 

We cover microphones in our Hardware and Recording Primer. There is lots to learn about microphones, but if you just want something to get started, I recommend something versatile like a cardioid condenser microphone. Keep in mind that this type of mic will require phantom power and a microphone preamp. The interface mentioned above will provide both.

You can literally spend as much money as you want on a microphone. You can easily spend under $100 and well over $20,000 on one. There are lots of mics to choose from and producers approach this topic with tribal loyalty. But in our opinion, there is a point of diminishing returns as mics get increasingly expensive.

This one is a reasonable place to start.

Keep it in the family and buy them from our partners at Patchwerks:

https://patchwerks.com/collections/microphones/products/audio-technica-at2020usb-pk-microphone-and-studio-pack

Don’t forget you will need something to put it on. See “mic stand” below.

Mic stand

 

If you get a mic like the one above, even if it comes with a podcasting style boom arm, you are probably going to end up wanting a proper mic stand so you don’t have to hold the mic in your hand, particularly standing up.

We recommend also getting a stand with a boom arm. This will make recording instruments easier when and if you choose to do so. It also just gives you a bit more flexibility.

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Tripod-Boom-Microphone-Stand/dp/B019NY2PKG/ref=sr_1_6?crid=24GP2I1UICWI&keywords=mic+stand+with+boom&qid=1648163066&s=musical-instruments&sprefix=mic+stand+with+boom%2Cmi%2C152&sr=1–6

Pop filter

 

Now we are at the point where it’s time to dial back the feeding/purchase frenzy and get back to creating music. Do you need a pop filter? Maybe… but probably not today.

If you really want to get one, or just want to know what the heck we are talking about, look below:

https://www.amazon.com/CODN-Recording-Microphone-Isolation-Absorbent/dp/B08ZS23J26/ref=sr_1_12?crid=LHXL4AATMTEK&keywords=pop+filter&qid=1648162676&s=musical-instruments&sprefix=pop+filte%2Cmi%2C172&sr=1–12