Jon Moreno - Managing Editor -
It used to be that the way for an artist to break into the music industry was to invest in studio time, which meant also investing in an engineer and ultimately costing the aspiring individual to go broke in hopes to get noticed by a record label A&R.
With technology as imperative as it’s ever been, this is no longer necessarily the case.
In this article, an up-and-coming musician will be given the essentials needed to get a kick-start in recording and creating their own music from the comfort of their home.
But despite less costly alternatives being readily available, some experts suggest to stay away from going the more economical route for every piece of equipment.
“One of the big things is to not skimp and buy the ‘cheapos,’” Brian Grossman, an Appalachian State University student who graduated with degrees in music performance and music industries studies. Grossman was a sales and training manager at Guitar Center for seven years before becoming a professional audio salesperson for Sam Ash Music. “No matter how good you play, it’ll sound as good as your cheapest component.”
Grossman said that the genre of music to be recorded plays a factor into figuring out the appropriate equipment. A 4-piece rock band is looking at higher prices than a hip-hop artist. A band would ideally need an 8-input interface to accommodate for instruments and vocals.
“If they wanted to start, the bare minimum you’re in for is at least a grand and that’s in the ultra cheap for a band,” he said.
A recommended condenser microphone for any starting musician is an Audio Technica 2020, which is only $100. Grossman said it gravitates towards vocals and some instruments such as an acoustic guitar.
Another factor is the space of the room that will become the studio. A quiet space is ideal, as a condenser microphone would easily pick up ambient noise such as cars driving past and therefore greatly affect the recordings overall quality. Acoustic foam for the recording space is just about required according to Grossman. A closet-sized studio booth would need about $150 worth of foam to surround the walls.
“It’s 100% recommended,” he said. “Imagine singing in a closeted room, the echoes would bounce off the walls and back into the microphone. Acoustic foam prevents that as it’s meant to absorb the sound.”
To save on costs, MIDI keyboards are a viable option. It allows the artist to compose instrumentals using virtual instruments. Using only a MIDI keyboard, the individual has the capability of using different sounds with only one piece of hardware.
Then there’s the great Mac vs. PC debate. Does the computer matter to the quality of the music?
“I grew up using a PC, so I do prefer it,” Tom Barto, an electronic musician from New Haven, said. “Macs are very nice machines and are very fluid and very compatible with music programs. It almost seems as if there is a bias towards making music programs for Macs though. I feel as if there were more programs created for PCs, the spectrum would open up a little bit.”
And while Macs are initially more expensive than a standard PC, it does come built in with GarageBand, a music editing/recording program, at no extra cost.
A commonly used program to make beats on a PC is Fruity Loops, which can range from $50-$300. And while it allows the artist to create instrumentals, it does not provide a way for the artist to record vocals on the tracks. An alternative program, such as Cool Edit Pro ($300) would be necessary.