You know you should be making beats.
Because everything else bores you to sleep.
So what’s stopping you?
Maybe you’re wondering what equipment you need, and agonizing about whether you can come up with the required budget.
Or maybe you’re just over-analyzing things.
So I have paused my own beats to break it all down to 5 essentials you need to start making your own beats.
All for a total spend of around $300!
You Don’t Need The Best Equipment To Make The Best Beats?
Starting out with the best equipment money can buy is an advantage. That fact is undeniable.
But the truth is, you don’t need high-tech equipment to get started, or even to make the best beats.
What you need is the skill and passion for making beats. That's number 1.
Those two will take you farther than any fancy equipment can.
Often people with talent are discouraged from making beats because they think the equipment they need will to be too expensive. You will be surprised it actually isn’t.
There is enough inexpensive equipment and software to build your own home or, need I say, mobile studio, and start following your passion today.
You can upgrade when you start making money from your music.
A Comfortable Studio Setup is Important for Your Health
Making beats is an addicting.
You are going to be spending a lot of time in the studio, mostly in a sitting position.
You will need to invest in a comfortable chair and wide table.
A well padded swivel desk chair with casters will give you sufficient lower back support while saving you from having to stretch and constantly get up to reach things.
A comfortable chair and table can’t be too expensive, but they are necessary if your health isn’t going to be the price you pay for indulging your passion.
5 Things You Need to Start Making Beats
Don’t be discouraged by the fancy equipment you see celebrity beatmasters and producers to the stars like Calvin Harris and Dr. Dre using. They didn’t need that stuff when they got started.
Actually, you will be embarrassed to know how inferior the equipment they started with is to what you may already have in your possession.
Calvin Harris started making beats using an 8-bit Amiga 500 Plus. The Amiga was actually a hand-me-down from his older brother.
So stop thinking you need a Mac Book Pro with an i7 processor. That 64-bit Windows PC you have is good enough.
And, while multi-colored lights and other fancy trims are cool, the experience of using a piece of equipment shouldn’t cloud your judgement on what is more important - the quality of the end product.
OK, enough stalling. Let’s get to the meat of the matter:
1. The Computer
You are probably wondering where in the $300 budget can a decent computer be accommodated.
Well, the assumption is you probably already have a computer you use.
Whatever you have currently - a PC or Mac, or any decent Windows desktop computer - will do just fine.
If you have the budget to invest in a new laptop, remember to choose one with a larger screen. It can get uncomfortable using some beat making software on small screens.
For more guidance, we have a more thorough resource on the best computer for making beats here.
2. The Beat Making Software: DAW (digital audio workstation)
A good way to look at your DAW is to imagine it as a digital table with all the tools you need to make beats.
It has tools and features for recording vocals and instruments, tracking, mixing, and all the other tricks you use to manipulate sounds.
With a DAW, you get all the functionality of an analog studio setup, plus more.
Being digital, your DAW lives in your laptop, or even your phone, which makes it infinitely portable.
You can also undo an action, which allows you to restore work you may have accidentally deleted. There are also ways to copy, cut, and paste, all great conveniences that will save you a lot of time.
An important point to note with DAWs, and the reason we have different recommendations for PC and Mac users is some will only work with OS X, and others with Windows computers.
Magix Music Maker - For PC Users
If you own a PC, this free trial of the Magix Music Maker is a great introduction to beat making software. This is a full version that’s recently been made free to download.
For a limited time, Magix Music Maker is also being offered with premium features you would normally get with the paid editions only.
Magix Music Maker has all you need to start making your own beats today, without spending a dime on software.
Among its cool features and benefits are:
- 425 loops and sounds
- 3 virtual instruments
- 8 track samples, with 8 different effects to play around with
- 1 Soundpool, which is a large collection of sounds and loops from different music genres
If you exhaust the beat presets in the software, there are many websites and producers who offer free kits that you can download.
Or, if you have the budget, you can upgrade to Magix’s premium editions.
Logic Pro X - For Mac Users
Apple makes super reliable machines that even novice users can pick up and use with ease. For aspiring music producers, Mac computers have another attraction in GarageBand.
GarageBand is a free beat making software that works only with iOS and OS X devices and comes pre-installed in all Mac computers.
Many owners of Macs looking to start making beats will find GarageBand has all the tools they need to get started.
In Apple’s own words:
GarageBand is a fully equipped music creation studio right inside your Mac.
The software has an expansive library of instruments, as well as presets for voice, guitar, drums, and other different percussion sounds.
Many will persist with it for a while before they even think of moving to a DAW with more pro features.
Logic Pro X Presents a Seamless Upgrade on GarageBand
Logic Pro X brings powerfully more complex tools for creating, mixing, editing, recording, and delivering your beats to a worldwide audience.
The software’s intuitive interface allows you to render plugin effects in single and multiple audio files. It simplifies the most challenging music production tasks.
Even after migration, it will still allow you access to the projects you worked on in GarageBand. This is in addition to the shiny new and advanced features that you won’t find in GarageBand.
Other Logic Pro X features and benefits include:
- Remote control access from your iPhone or iPad with Logic Remote
- Ability to play touch instruments and access other key commands
- iPhone Logic Remote control means you literally have your studio session in your hands
Next you will need:
3. MIDI Keyboard (MIDI Controller)
A MIDI keyboard helps you to control the virtual instruments on your DAW.
Made to mimic a piano, a MIDI keyboard gives you the feel of playing a physical instrument when it is in fact just the physical interface of the instruments in your DAW.
The keyboard does not produce any sound itself. Rather it sends signals from the keys you tap to the software running on your computer so the right instrument samples or voices can be played.
The realism a MIDI keyboard provides helps you to feel your beats as you make them.
With the weighted and pressure sensitive keys, you will feel like you are actually playing a real instrument as opposed to a virtual one.
Here is our top MIDI keyboard choice and recommendation:
Akai Professional MPK Mini MIDI Keyboard
This Akai is a compact size 25 keys, which you can stick into a backpack with your laptop so you can be ready to make a beat wherever inspiration hits you.
The keyboard uses a USB to connect to your computer and is chock-full with features for playing and editing beats.
Spotting controls for dynamic pitch and modulation control, a full-size sustain pedal input jack, and a slender build, this Akai Professional MPK Mini combines great portability with plug-and-play connectivity for convenience and the ultimate beat making experience.
Other features and benefits include:
- Free-to-download MKII MIDI Editor to customize your setup
- Is powered directly from the computer
- Is a weightless 1.6 pounds, which makes it very portable
- May have only 25 keys but has dedicated buttons for changing octaves
4. Audio Interface
Your audio interface is the device you use to control your audio input and output.
It is an absolute necessity if you are going to be recording vocals and live instruments.
This little box is where all your efforts are translated into the beats you hear. It connects monitors and headphones from the back, and instruments and microphones from the front.
But perhaps an audio interface’s greatest utility is its ability to cut sound latency, which is that sound delay you often notice between audio input and output. It uses a sound card, to ensure a flatter and consistent sound.
You would thus not need to buy a soundcard for your computer to do the same task.
Our pick and recommendation for audio interfaces is:
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Don’t let its small build size fool you, this audio interface is made to last.
It is wrapped in a rugged metal case and will take the most punishing road journeys in its stride.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a wonderfully efficient device for digitizing your live instruments into your beats.
At just 2 pounds, this audio interface is light and compact enough to throw into your carry bag.
It has a large dial that controls the volume in your speakers, halo indicators that show recording signal strength, as well as the award winning mic preamps.
Other features and benefits of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 include:
- A direct monitor switch that allows you to listen to your beats without wiring them through the computer first
- A robust anodized aluminium unibody chassis that will guarantee years of melodious service
- Easy to setup - you will be jamming within minutes of taking it out of the box
5. Studio Headphones
Finally, you need a way to sample your beats.
And, for that, studio quality headphones are an absolute necessity.
After all the effort and investment you have put in so far, you would not want to spoil it all by buying crappy headphones.
The sound coming from these headphones needs to be crisp and clean, without any alteration or distortion.
If I were to give a recommendation, I would vouch for the...
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
For their sound quality and fit, these headphones are a steal at their retail price.
Engineered from high grade materials for superior audio clarity and sound isolation, the headphones are specially made for studio beat mixing.
The sound coming from the headphones is clear and smooth, right across the octave range. You can pick every little nuance as you equalize, mix, and master your beats.
These Audio-Technica ATH-M30x headphones are super light for added comfort, with contoured earcups that ensure a tight fit for maximum sound isolation so you can sample your beats in their purest form.
You literally can’t hear anything else.
Here are a few other benefits you will enjoy with these headphones:
- A soft carry pouch, which protects them from scratches when not in use
- Fully adjustable for a custom, solid fit
- A single left side cable exit with a snap on adapter
- Collapsible design, which makes the headphones easy to pack and store away
- A long cable for extra reach
Bonus - Studio Monitors
Unless you have the budget, you won’t need studio monitors right away. The studio headphones will work just fine for now.
Also, if you have noticed, the theme so far has leaned towards a fully portable studio setup.
But as you take your beats to the next level, and perhaps turn professional, you are going to need a set of solid quality studio monitors/speakers.
If it were up to me, you would settle for the...
Tannoy Reveal 502
These monitors don’t just look swank, their sound quality is as good as you will get, even with the more expensive options considered.
Tannoy itself is an old and trusted brand. This Tannoy Reveal 502 model, in particular, has many loyal fans in professional music production.
It has a strong build quality. But at 12 pounds, you will accept why these 5” size Tannoy Reveal 502 monitors are perhaps best confined to your studio.
Clearly not built to be portable, but their sound will blow you away.
Other features and benefits include:
- A perfectly amplified sound output that removes the need for any external amplifier
- A mini jack cable connection so you can link the monitor with your favorite music player while you work
- Fantastic sound isolation across different music genres
Clearly Not As Expensive As You May Think...
If you already have a computer and take up the Magix Music Maker free trial, or the free-to-download GarageBand, your total budget will come to roughly $300.
Not too bad at all.
Yes, there are tons of supposedly superior alternatives available. But you likely never need those more than you need to just get started.
With these 5 essentials, you pretty much have all your ducks in a row.
Hopefully, I have set you off on a wonderful beat making journey, from which you never look back.
Let the beats play already!