People that are passionate about music and have an interest in starting to produce their own beats may find themselves a bit confused about what kind of equipment they should get their hands on.
Lucky for them, it’s a fact that making beats it’s far simpler (and cheaper) than it used to be back in the day, and you can basically do the same stuff with half of the material and pay half the price too. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that every software and equipment out there is worth a shot.
People looking to start off in this world can also come across one thing that initially can be seen as an advantage, but can also cause a lot of headaches: the amount of equipment and tools available.
Beginners may be full of ideas that they would love to put on their beats as soon as they can, but the process of choosing the right equipment is crucial and should not be underestimated.
Having that in mind, we thought it would be a cool idea to organize a selection of everything you’ll need in terms of equipment and software to get things going in the beat-making department. We’re also going to provide specific product recommendations, to make sure you make a buy that’s worth your money and can definitely help you make quality beats.
Let’s get to it then.
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How Do I Start Making My Own Beats?
First things first.
To start making beats, it would be recommendable that you have a powerful will to learn. To make beats from scratch and evolve to being a quality beat maker is no easy task.
Listening to a lot of music can be a great start, and another good choice would be to check out some YouTube tutorials or E-books that can help you on the matter, providing you the basics on beat making, in order for you to get things started.
After a certain theoretical knowledge is obtained – which is a part of the process you can totally skip if you feel like it – then you just go on and practice. And I mean practice a lot.
Don’t get upset if your beats don’t sound like something that Kendrick Lamar would rap over in the beginning. Evolution is a slow process, and the truth is that your beats are probably going to sound pretty dull at first. But as time goes by and you learn new stuff, things will get into a better rhythm, and witnessing your own evolution will give you a significant boost too.
What Do You Need to Start Making Music Beats?
1) A Capable Computer
The computer is basically where everything goes through in order to originate quality beats. So it’s really important that you have a good one.
Macs are often the way to go once you’re a consolidated music producer with a good cash flow going on, however, since we’re focusing on rising talent here, we’re going to recommend some good ol’ Windows PC specs.
Keep in mind that having a PC with a more heightened capacity in some functions is really important for the beat-making process to run smoothly and to produce quality material, so don’t underestimate the following advice!
It’s recommended you have a processor that is at least i5, although the i7 would be the ideal one, if you can get your hands on one of those. For making music, you should be looking for at least 6 cores, which will help you use the software you’ll need without your computer freezing every 20 seconds.
You should go with at least 8GB of RAM in the beginning. But, again, the ideal thing, especially after you evolve your game as a beatmaker, would be 16GB of RAM.
That depends on the amount of music that you intend to make in the beginning. Beginners don’t tend to work on many complex projects at a time, so you’d probably be good with just a reasonable amount of memory space.
You also have the option of acquiring an external HD if you feel like your storage space is about to run out. It’s important to remember that it’s always best to keep your computer with a fairly sized amount of free space.
2) Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
The DAW is the software that will enable you to produce beats.
This kind of digital workstation has all the necessary tools and features required for you to execute essential activities such as voice and instrument recording, tracking, mixing, mastering, editing, and more.
Ableton Live (Windows and Mac)
Ableton is seen by many as an ideal DAW for EDM producers, however, it can easily be used to achieve high-quality production in other music genres too.
The software’s interface may be a bit overwhelming for beginners since it’s not particularly intuitive and quite different from more traditional interfaces. However, once you get the gist of it, you should be able to play around with a big variety of sounds, wisely putting to use the many features and tools available.
Ableton receives a lot of compliments from users regarding specifically the sound capturing feature, the number of quality sounds available, and synth power.
The latest version of the software also comes with a feature called MPE (Midi Polyphonic Expressions) that enables producers to have more control over the expressiveness of notes.
Free trial: Available (30 days)
Price: Starts at U$99
FL Studio (Windows and Mac)
The preferred beatmaker by many music producers out there, FL Studio, has an attractive combination of intuitive interface plus multiple interesting sound features.
In this DAW, you work with workflows that are organized tightly, which makes the lives of beginner producers a lot easier. You also have a considerable number of plugins and complex effects to experiment with, as well as great equalization, automation, sidechain control, and plugin delay compensation features.
On top of all this, the software is constantly receiving new updates that you don’t have to pay extra for. These new additions offer you a lot more to play around with, as well as improvements on the layout that seeks to improve overall usability.
Free trial: Unlimited for the Trial Version
Price: Starts at U$99
This Mac-exclusive music software is completely free. Although a bit limited when it comes to certain producing tools and options, the program’s still completely capable of satisfying the needs of an upcoming beatmaker.
Garageband has a very intuitive and simple interface, that was definitely built aiming at producers with little to no experience. You’d probably feel a lot of creative freedom using the software since the actual editing/cutting of music is quite easy to accomplish and the mixing and mastering tools that go along with it are simple, yet efficient.
There are more than 100 hip hop and EDM synth sound options available, as well as all the basic instrument sounds usually needed by producers.
Once you significantly evolve your producing skills and feel the need to have more mixing and mastering options available, it’s recommended you go for a more advanced DAW than GB.
Logic Pro X (Mac)
Logic Pro X is another Mac-exclusive DAW, however, it is seen by many as the most advanced music producing software available.
Although it doesn’t have an interface as simple as GarageBand’s, this program compensates for that with a ton of extra options of interesting features and tools. It also allows you to build music from scratch, with the help of numerous drum plugins that can also be customized.
Also, mixing and mastering sounds is a lot simpler and more effective. You can create hundreds of MIDI tracks and simple tracks and add up to 15 insert effects and 8 sends per channel. The software is also updated quite often, with no need to pay extra for the upgrades.
Logic Pro has a bit spicier price and could be a bit overwhelming for a first-time producer to mess around with, but nothing that a longer period of practice wouldn’t be able to solve.
Free trial: Available (90 days)
Studio One 5 Professional (Windows and Mac)
Studio One is another option of advanced DAW, this time compatible with both Windows and Mac systems and coming in with a simple interface.
The software has amazing options of features, tools, and sound plugins. Here, you’ll work with a music session in which you can drag anything, from presets and virtual instruments to audio loops and effects.
It has a chord detection system that detects chords in the audio or MIDI tracks and removes them, while also determining possible chord progressions. You can also take advantage of the Melodyne 5, a pitch-correction plugin that enables you to tune the track’s vocals.
Other cool features such as real-time loop-stretching, beat quantization, choke groups, and integration with patterns are also present.
Free trial: Available (14 days)
3) MIDI Controller Keyboard
The MIDI controller is the device that will enable you to sequence music and communicate with the virtual instruments available on your DAW. The controllers often come in a keyboard form, and this type of MIDI will be the one we’ll talk about.
You can use it as a regular keyboard (while connected to your computer) or assign different sections and keys to control different instruments and/or sound effects. It’s up to you, really, ‘cause essentially everything will be open to customization with the assistance of a proper DAW, and you’ll be able to choose to use the MIDI as you see fit.
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
This AKIK MIDI Controller has 25 keys, 8 beat pads, 8 360° knobs, and a 4-way thumbstick for pitch and modulation control. It’s worth mentioning the very cool-looking all-black design with red details.
The 360° knobs offer great options for mixing and synth controls, and both the keys and beat pads on this are velocity-sensitive, avoiding unwanted delays.
The beat pads can be assisted by function buttons like Note Repeat and Full Level to program drums, trigger samples, and control the virtual synthesizer.
You can also find a built-in adjustable arpeggiator that provides synthesis options for sounds.
To beginners especially, interesting tools from the MIDI’s Music Production Starter Kit can be appreciated, such as 6 virtual instruments, MPC beats, and 2GB worth of sound content.
On a constructive note, the feeling of the keys could be better against the fingers.
Arturia Mini Lab
On this one, we have 25 keys, 16 limitless and assignable knobs, 8 beat pads, and 21 keyboard instruments and synthesizers.
The keys feel pretty smooth against the fingers and the response time it’s really solid, making it a comfortable and stress-free experience to play it.
AnalogLab software that comes along with the MIDI leaves the learning process a whole lot more funner, with many fun sounds to play around with.
There are also “octave up” and “octave down” buttons that you can use to add dynamism to your production experience, experimenting with new versions of the same track.
On the negative side, some producers claim that the pads don’t feel as good to touch as the keys.
This Alesis option comes along with 25 keys, 8 beat pads, 4 assignable knobs, and 4 assignable function buttons.
Both keys and function buttons are pressure-sensitive, and there’s visual feedback through blue LED lights regarding the current control status of buttons and knobs.
Octave up and down buttons are also present and enable some range control over your beats. They’re right next to pitch and modulation control wheels, which are particularly good for voice tuning.
Premium software is included, with several instrument sound options, MPC beats, and even the Lite version of the DAW Ableton Live
Critiques towards this MIDI are commonly directed to the beat pads, which people claim have mediocre sensitivity and a weird feel to them.
M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3
This is a big boy. The M-Audio’s Keystation fits 49 keys, one volume fader, transport and directional controls (5 total), octave up and octave down buttons, one volume fader, and two control wheels – one for modulation and one for pitch.
All the 49 keys are velocity-sensitive, with the control wheels and the volume fader also running smoothly.
This particular MIDI is also compatible with iOS devices, as long as you acquire an Apple to USB adapter separately.
This one also comes with its own software, which offers a lot of cool features, such as MPC beats, Ableton Live Lite, XPand 2, Mini Grand, and Touch Loops.
This isn’t objectively a bad note on the product, however, the big number of keys and other types of control buttons can be a bit overwhelming, and beginner producers should keep that complexity in mind before buying this one.
This particular MIDI fits somewhere in the middle, with 32 keys, 2 transpose buttons, octave up and octave down buttons, one volume fader, and control wheels for pitch and modulation. It’s considerably less expensive than the other options on the list.
This one is also compatible with iOS, as long as you acquire the right adapter.
This is definitely the type of MIDI that can execute all the functions that a beginner beat maker usually tends to work with, but would not be so ideal if you’re managing to up your producing game.
There are some complaints regarding MIDIPLUS’ quality control. Reports can be found of people receiving MIDIs with defective cables or with drivers that are not recognized by computers.
4) Studio Monitors or Headphones
Both of these are supposed to serve the same purpose: to help you to perceive and monitor sound with a consistent result. That happens with the help of a flat frequency response produced by these devices, that allows you to mix your music in a clean and effective way, without any foreign equalization getting in the way.
Studio Monitors, A.K.A. Monitor Speakers, are more commonly used in… well, you guessed it: music studios. And while the headphones are the common choice among amateur producers, due to their practicality and lower price, there are also more basic options of studio monitors that can be easily used in an amateur setup at home.
So we decided that’d be interesting to show you a little bit of both of them. We’ll give a couple of suggestions for good headphones and a couple of suggestions for basic studio monitors, and you can choose for yourself which one would be best for your needs.
PreSonus Eris E3.5-3.5″ Near Field Studio Monitor
These PreSonus studio monitors come in a pair, and with the Studio One and Studio Magic music software included. You’d be saving serious money thanks to these free apps coming along.
In terms of practicality, we’re off to a good start. The stereo aux input, headphone jack, volume control knob, and power/off button are all located on the front panel of one of the monitors.
The bass response is powered by 3.5-inch oven composite drivers and high frequency is assured and balanced by the 1” silk-dome tweeters.
Very rare for monitors in this class, the PreSonus also has an acoustic tuning feature that enables you to get top sound quality in any type of environment.
KRK Classic 5 Professional Bi-Amp 5
This Classic 5 studio monitor model from KRK enables you to go from low to high in your frequency controls, adapting your sound according to the environment you’re in.
The low-resonance feature diminishes distortion considerably and the bass sounds are solidified by a glass-aramid composite woofer. The highs are also pretty smooth, going up to 35kHz, thanks to the soft-dome tweeter.
If you want to take the bass to another level, feel free to use the low-end extension that enables a boost of up to -2dB on bass sounds.
There’s also a feature that allows you to adjust to your flat frequency, making your mixing process more dynamic and also adaptable to different environments.
Mackie CR-X Series
These Mackie monitors also come in a pair, and have both a volume knob and a headphone jack in the front panel of one of the monitors.
You also have flexible inputs, one ¼”, one ⅛” and one RCA. The sound is powered by 50 watts, achieving clean cohesive sounds.
The hookup cables you need to get the monitors at full function are already all included in the purchase.
There is a minor but almost unanimous complaint about these monitors, though. There’s a hissing sound that seems to be present at all volumes. It’s not such an evident sound, however, it will likely be present in sound feedback at all times.
Some beatmakers claim that using different cables than the ones included in the package could solve this hissing problem.
beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
A bit more expensive than other products in its class, these beyerdynamic headphones justify the higher price with a top-quality sound experience.
There are closed over-ear headphones, essentially built for sound monitoring. You may have seen a lot of these in the heads of podcasters, ‘cause they’re used a lot not only for music but for voice/dialogue monitoring as well.
The sound quality here is extremely pure and clean, with great frequency response and amazing noise canceling. There’s no color of sound and everything sounds like it is; the highs are smooth and bass sounds are strong hitting and clear.
The earpads are replaceable and made of velour, extremely soft to the ears, meaning you can comfortably use the headphones in long beat-making sessions.
It comes in both black and gray color options.
Closing up our sound monitoring product list, we have these very affordable headphones from Audio-Technica, a brand well-known for its quality products in the sound niche.
These have 40mm drivers with earth magnets and wire voice coils made out of aluminum. The frequency response is flat and also adjustable if you want to improve performance on specific tracks.
Noise isolation is solid thanks to the circumaural contours around the ears, and the included neodymium magnet makes it great for tracking and mixing the tracks you produce.
A number of producers claim, however, that these headphones could be a little bit more comfortable. So it’s not particularly recommended for extremely long production sessions.
OneOdio Wired Over Ear Headphones
Coming in at a considerably lower price than the studio monitors on the list, these OneOdio headphones have a 3.5mm & ¼” jack, making them multi-compatible. You’ll be able to connect this to your computer, audio interface, or MIDI.
Unlike most headphones, these will be no problem to use for long beat-making sections. They’re built with soft padded ear cushions, designed both for comfort and noise canceling. The headband is also adjustable and stretchable, providing a perfect fit with your head.
The inside 50mm speakers are combined with neodymium magnets and are able to provide hard-hitting bass and clear and crisp vocals.
Made especially for producers and beatmakers, there’s a single-side monitoring function that allows you to swivel the earcups up to 90° in order to monitor sound from only one side.
5) Audio Interface
If you want extra assurance that your in-home beat-making experience it’s happening at full potential, then you surely must acquire an audio interface.
The audio interface comes in handy because your computer’s sound card is not up to the task of properly converting the sound signals from your microphone and instruments. In other words, it enables the recording and monitoring of sounds to happen in the best quality possible.
It may sound like an unnecessary luxury, but it’s the type of equipment that enables you to set up a learning environment where you have everything you’d need. And when it comes the time to seriously produce beats for a musician or potential client, you’ll have everything at hand to produce top-quality material and impress them.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
This Focusrite 3rd gen audio interface allows for high-fidelity sound monitoring, with great overall features coming along with it.
The pre-amps on this are high performance, adding crystal clear quality to your vocals and instruments sounds while recording. The Gain Halos feature also helps to provide pure sound, by eliminating unwanted clipping and distortion.
You’ll find two balanced outputs, both low-noise and able to provide clean and rich sound playback. A headphone jack is present on the frontal part of the device, so producers that monitor their beats through headphones shouldn’t worry.
The recording and mixing capacity is up to 24 bit/192kHz, so you definitely don’t have to worry about your beat losing quality during mixing. Your track should sound professional through the whole beat making process.
With amateur beat makers in mind, Focusrite provided an online tool they can access. Easy Start guides beginner producers through to the basics of monitoring and recording sound, saving you a whole lot of time that you could put into doing things the wrong way.
This audio interface has two class A mic pre-amps and two instrument inputs for instrument recording or plugging your MIDI through. Its chassis is made of steel and therefore extra resistant.
The recording and playback capacity goes up to 24bit/192kH and the mixer controls are especially built for sound monitoring, with zero latency.
There’s a headphone output and balanced TRS outputs, and you can easily accommodate condenser microphones as well.
It’s a considerably cheaper option compared to other audio interfaces, yet it still comes with three different softwares included, which are Ableton Live, Studio One Artist and Studio Magic Plug-in Suite.
It works with both Windows and Linux systems.
BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UM2
This Behringer option has a sampling rate of up to 48 kHz and is compatible with all the main DAWs, while also having a quite small footprint to it.
You’ll find four MIDAS designed pre-amps to work with, amplifying your leveling options.
In the frontal panel, you’ll find one XLR mic entry, one headphone jack and one power/off button for the direct monitoring feature. And in the back, you have two outputs with extra-low latency, one USB entry, and a power/off button to the +48V powering option.
There’s also download options offered by Behringer to use with your audio interface, that include more than 150 than instrument and effect plug-ins available, and softwares for audio recording and editing.
It’s compatible with both Windows (XP or higher) and iOS.
M-Audio M-Track Solo
We had M-Audio before as a MIDI option, but they also have some really nice audio interfaces available. The M-Track Solo is one of them, coming in with a slightly bigger size than usual, but with great overall features.
This is a really well designed interface that will look great on your setup. Beauty aside, this baby also produces 48 kHz clean audio resolution, managing to be both a visual and practical delight for beat makers.
In the top section of the interface, you’ll find two pre-amps for input control and one pre-amp for output control, and right below them, in the bottom/front part, you have one XLR mic entry, one output for instruments, power/off button for the built-in phantom power and a 1/8” headphone jack.
The headphone and stereo RCA outputs give you total monitoring flexibility, which of course happens with little to no latency.
On top of that, there’s the MPC Beats software included. The software has 3 virtual instruments, more than 80 FX plugins, and 2GB of music content that includes different instrument sounds and tools.
On a negative note, a considerable number of buyers point out the mediocre quality of the plastic material from which the interface is made of. Best to keep it steady in a safe place and avoid accidentally dropping it as much as possible.
PreSonus Studio 24c
This black-and-blue designed audio interface from PreSonus comes at a higher price, but it compensates with a great amount of features and a top sound quality experience.
You’ll be working with a 2-in/2-out USB-C interface (with USB-C to C and USB-C to A cables already included), two XMAX-L mic preamps and two XLR mic entries, a 48V+ phantom power built-in and two instrument/line inputs to record your favorite instruments.
The headphone jack is placed right in the back of the interface, along with the input and output entries for your MIDI.
The converters on this allow for a sample rate of up to 24bit/96kHz in recording and playback of tracks. In the front panel, you have small LED lights in red, yellow and green colors to help you monitor input and main levels.
Also included are the Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite DAWs, plus the Studio Magic Plug-in Suite software, with several of plugins you can play around with and experiment into your beats.
Is Making Beats a Talent?
Certainly, but talent without practice is worthless.
As a beat maker/music producer, one for your jobs it’s see music in everything, not only in music itself. You’ll be looking at all the different sounds that surround you in a different way, and some of them could be worth a certain “musicalization”.
Not only acquiring a new perspective, you’ll also be able to reinvent the essence of good music tracks, by experimentation through samples with new beats and rhythms. You can take pieces of good music work and reappropriate them, creating a new track that has its own style and energy to it.
You can get to this particular stage by listening to a lot of good music and, of course, practicing beat making as hard as you can. You’ll eventually come up with great ideas that only your own creative vision would be capable of conceiving.
Once you assume authorship of a cool piece of music that’s truly your own, then there’s no denying that there’s talent involved in that.
How do I Make my Beats Sound Professional?
It’s basically a combination of good equipment and practice.
If you have great equipment but don’t have enough experience to back it up, then your beats will very likely sound bad. And the same happens the other way around.
It’s just a matter of evolving your equipment and beat making skills progressively and eventually have both great equipment and producing abilities, to produce nothing but great, professional-sounding beats.
Will has been a full-time content creator since 2014. He’s an audio, video, and tech hobbyist dedicated to reviewing products and giving you the best tips he knows to grow your audience.