Hip Hop is one of the most popular music genres globally, and we thought we’d help newcomers through the necessities required to start producing beats and recording bars. Starting a journey in producing and recording music can be daunting for anyone. There are a whole set of rules to learn and eventually break, you gain a love/hate relationship with the physics of sound and go through the giant pit of despair before you reach enlightenment, but I digress. In this video we break down what you need to get started on this Hip Hop journey:
Here are the essentials:
- Audio Interface
- MIDI Controller
- Headphones or Studio Monitors (or both if budget and acoustics allow for it)
The brains of the operation, where you control everything via software like a DAW (digital audio workstation) and plugins! It’s important to get a computer with decent processing power and hard drive space as having a slow processor will severely limit your ability to create rich and full productions. Having a small hard drive will limit the amount of software, samples and projects you can store. Certain software bundles (such as NI Komplete 14) run into the 100s of gigabytes, so you have to make sure you’ve got the space and computing power to handle all of this.
Allows you to send professional quality audio in and out of your computer. Effectively, record external audio via microphones and instruments into your computer at a professional level and monitor your mixes and tracks. This is where your headphones and studio monitors plug into. Most audio interfaces also come with software bundles that are incredibly handy for people just starting out, these bundles will almost always contain a DAW such as Ableton Live, Cubase, and Studio One to name a few – remember the DAW is the most crucial piece of software in your studio!
This is the creative physical and hardware device that helps you create; play and perform your music. Computer mice and keyboards were not made as creative musical tools! MIDI controllers come in all shapes and sizes from classic piano keyboard configurations to a grid of pads (such as the Native Instruments Maschine Mikro featured in our video). MIDI controllers are designed to be an intuitive and easy way to produce, and much like audio interfaces they often come with bundled software, with some including high-quality sounds and samples to get you started.
If you want to record the audio of your voice; rapping, singing or acoustic instruments, you’ll need a microphone. This plugs into the interface and the interface converts the analog signal from the microphone into a digital signal. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones are the best suited for recording vocals, they capture more detail and nuance from a performance over a dynamic microphone.
When using headphones you can listen back to your mix and record the vocals without having the music bleed into your recordings. If you’re just getting started the chances are that you’ll be doing this out of your bedroom. Bedrooms are usually not fantastic spaces acoustically speaking and will heavily influence how your mix sounds through your monitors. For this reason, it’s good to start out with a solid set of studio headphones to mix through as they will give you a better idea of your mix than monitors in an untreated room. Headphones are also essential for recording vocals as you need your artist (or yourself) to be able to hear the music and themselves without getting bleed in the recording or feedback which is inevitable if you try to record something through a microphone with monitors turned up. It is also important to note that once you do invest in some studio monitors make sure you use balanced cables to run audio from the interface to them. Balanced cables not only negate any interference, but they also double the signal volume so you won’t need to drive your interface or speaker volume as much to get to an appropriate monitoring level.
Once all these elements are combined into a single set-up, you’ll be producing and recording songs in no time. Take your time to find the different bits of kit that work the best for your purpose.
Here’s the affordable gear we used in this video: