Jump to content

Starting from scratch - basic recommendations?


Recommended Posts

Hey everyone, I used to pop in here a lot, mostly to talk about cassette tapes and stuff like that but also share any tidbits I gleaned from incessant but ultimately unused research I'd do myself.  

Embarrassingly I sort of overthought and waffled on ever actually making music. Years and years have gone by and now I'm in a position where I have a strong itch to do it but no idea where to start.

I do have basic and focused ideas on what I want to do and use thankfully, so my questions are more about hardware and software recs. I'll list my basic questions:

A good affordable audio interface. I have Tascam US-122L but it's in use with my tape dubbing setup. Ideally I'd be feeding in a MIDI instrument, the tape decks I will be sampling, and potentially my microphone for an acoustic guitar I would sample and stretch out. That's it, I have multiple decks but they will be handled with a Realistic tape selector box so I don't have to swap cables. I also have a stereo graphic EQ to run these through. Doing 44.1khz or whatever, no need for something crazier sample rate wise.

Free or cheap DAW - something like Garageband or even Audacity which I personally have used the most. I think Reaper is a contender. The other alternative is Reason 3.0 - I saw a copy at a thrift store for $20 and it's tempting, esp. since I used to play around with Rebirth RB-338 a lot. 

Solid monitor speakers. I have good headphones, I have a pair of AudioTechnicas I like and use often. 

Would be nice but maybe not essential...

A "digital drum machine" or some other sequencer - part of my plan is to sample and loop drums, breakbeats, percussion and other elements from my obscure cassettes. A way to sequence and loop them would be nice. This is partly why that copy of Reason seems appealing but a good VST alternative would be nice.

Reliable and recommended free effects and syth VSTs - I used to have a short list of some but any y'all think are essential and flexible are fine. Like offhand the "TAL Noisemaker" comes to mind. Anything with delay reverb or either eccojams and or dubby AF stuff is ideal. I don't plan to use synths much yet. 

MIDI Controller -  I have an Alesis MIDI keyboard that still works but no MPC style pad or anything like that. I think it will do though, I will try to bang out stuff and fix it as needed in a piano roll. 

Lastly - what the hell is the bare minimum computing requirements to run all of this? I have two old computers that would probably work but I don't mind getting a used laptop or PC for cheap. Knowing a good RAM and hard processor cutoff would be helpful. 

Thanks! And let me know if you have any questions. Maybe to give a better idea of what I intend to make stuff like VHS Head, 1991, early BoC, early 0PN, and stuff like that all come to mind. That and more broadly leftfield "beat music" kind of stuff. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

All free (except Reaper, but it has a completely unrestricted trial, so you can use it free as long as you want - I registered after about 3 years of using it almost daily)

 

All of this is free:

https://www.reaper.fm/

https://www.kvraudio.com/product/orilriver-by-denis-tihanov

https://valhalladsp.com/shop/reverb/valhalla-supermassive/

https://valhalladsp.com/shop/modulation/valhalla-space-modulator/

https://valhalladsp.com/shop/delay/valhalla-freq-echo/

https://www.meldaproduction.com/MFreeFXBundle

https://www.tokyodawn.net/tokyo-dawn-labs/ - the free versions are all more than good enough, if you register only one I'd go with Nova

https://www.bluecataudio.com/Products/Bundle_FreewarePack/

https://analogobsession.com/

 

https://www.airwindows.com/ - Tons of really good (and free, open source) stuff but a lot of it is kind of inaccessible and I wouldn't necessarily start here.   

But definitely grab this reverb: https://www.airwindows.com/mv/

 

I don't use VSTi synths that much but I've tried almost everything on the first page of KVR's popularity-sorted results, and between that and their reputations I think any of them could work for you:

https://www.kvraudio.com/plugins/best-free-instrument-plugins

 

I haven't tried this, but it could be interesting: https://www.izmar.nl/index.php

Probably only makes sense if you already know thebhardware workflow, though.

 

Really, just go on KVR, show only free plugins, sort by popularity and then start trying stuff, the first few pages are full of good stuff.

Edited by TubularCorporation
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess it depends what sort of music you want to make.... but a DAW can get you started on anything.

I bought a copy of FL Studio a VERY long time ago when it was super cheap (and possibly still called Fruity Loops) and I have enjoyed the free upgrades for life ever since. It is very flexible and powerful but probably costs a fair bit more nowadays.

I'm currently going down the hardware route, but only buying 2nd hand / lo-fi / broken stuff, and I have a strict one-in, one-out policy on kit.  This ethos has served me well for nearly 2 years. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

It's not the cheapest and you'd have to wai, but if you're get to the point where you're thinking about buying commercial plugins, keep an eye out for Reaktor sales.  It's marked down to $100USD for a lot of the typical sale days (black Friday, December holidays) and at that price even if you don't use any of its low-level editing stuff you still have access to 20 years of user patches and instruments.  You can treat it like a big plugin bundle, never make your own patches at all, and it's still a really good bargain for the sale price. A bit of a CPU hog, though.

Edited by TubularCorporation
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

i'd recommend a DAW and a decent midi controller. Something with keys and few knobs. Most any DAW is probably fine. I'm partial to Logic, which is extremely cheap for what it does if you own a mac already. Ableton is great as well and might have less of an initial learning curve. You can make albums and learn a lot just using the stock stuff. I would start there. Just put yourself in a bubble with whatever comes with the DAW and make stuff. You could easily do this for years without needing to look around for more. The trap is getting the feeling like you need more stuff so just avoid that and focus on getting better with what you have. That will take a long long long time.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

https://www.scan.co.uk/info/proaudio/presszone/dawbench
 

Dawbench is a good reference and older results will cover a wide range of setups if you have some older machines.  
 

as it runs on Reaper (and is a good suggestion for you to use as it’s free) you could test your existing machines and get an idea on whether you need an upgrade etc.

 

the good news is that finally we can get a cpu that allows 6480 voices of polyphony 😂 - might be a touch overkill.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 5/28/2022 at 4:47 PM, Soloman Tump said:

I bought a copy of FL Studio a VERY long time ago when it was super cheap (and possibly still called Fruity Loops) and I have enjoyed the free upgrades for life ever since. It is very flexible and powerful but probably costs a fair bit more nowadays.

Me too, I remember it was still FruityLoops over 20 years ago and I think I put 100 USD into it back then, but I've upgraded it first to the Producer Edition a long time ago, and to the All Plugins Edition some years ago. FL Studio is a bit cheaper than Ableton Live - the Ableton Suite is 599 €/$ 749, FL Studio All Plugins Edition 489 €/$ 499. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow wow hold on, the first thing you OBVIOUSLY need to do is set up a Soundcloud/Instagram/TikTok/YouTube presence with the right branding and a wicked project name.

Then step two is to find some cool filters and take lots of closeup pics of your cables and gear. Doesn't even have to be your cables/gear either, just find some pics.

Then and only then you are really ready to make some tracks. 

 

Now for some more serious advice, the posters above me have it all pretty much covered. I would just add that if you have headphones that are supported by SonarWorks Reference, then what you can do is get a trial version of that, sample the Impulse Response (lots of tutorials on that online) and then use ReaVerb or some other free IR player to basically cheat and get your headphones to have a flatter response curve.

This way you can improve your monitoring setup with 0 extra cost, and as you progress on making your stuff, you can buy better monitors on your own time, instead of having to worry about spending $$$ for good monitors.

The bare basics what you need are a good audio interface (for best sampling experience) and a laptop (for all the rest). Then it depends on how you prefer to work: whether it's playing MIDI keyboards and realtime recording/looping or more mouse point and click workflow. The best advice is just to get started with something and then follow your instincts on what you feel works for you and what does not.

Godspeed. 🙂

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 minutes ago, thawkins said:

Then and only then you are really ready to make some tracks. 

I would argue you don't even need to make the tracks.  Just find your shoebox full of forgotten tracks on cassette and upload them to soundcloud.

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you're using an older computer with windows make sure you're properly debloated.. Monitor your CPU reads, I've seen/repaired a bunch of laptops that ran Windows 10 with a 100% load on the CPU while idling.. Fiddling with registry edits fixed it. Saying it just in case. SSD upgrade might help too and isn't expensive at all. For audio interfaces go 2nd hand, I bought a Focusrite 18i20 for like 150$ years ago. I wouldn't go with cheap alternatives there.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, thawkins said:

Yeah the Focusrite Scarlett small red box that is in every youtube gear promo video ever seems like a solid starter interface.

Focusrite is solid, who took a shit in your cereals this morning? :sorcerer: Granted who needs just two inputs. A whole unit for one digitised stereo signal

Edited by chronical
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, chronical said:

Focusrite is solid, who took a shit in your cereals this morning? :sorcerer: Granted who needs just two inputs. A whole unit for one digitised stereo signal

I meant what I said in good faith. If I was starting out with nothing right now, I would go for the Focusrite red box for sure. 🙂 

Over time I have been through M-Audio small and big boxes, a MOTU big box, Focusrite Saffire FW, now Presonus Studiolive 24R. The Presonus is finally a solid interface, all the rest had weird quirks or problems constantly.

Well, maybe the Scarlett will also have weird quirks and problems because it's an entry level box, which usually means it is packing MIDI I/O, digital I/O, analog I/O, multiple sample rates.. which in the end usually means "jack of all trades, master of none" and that's maybe bad. This is what I would get Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen – Thomann International.

The "pro" version of a small box is probably the Apollo Twin, which also does a lot of things, but the price point means that it will do these things well. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo H B-Stock – Thomann International

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can get free demo versions for most DAWs and other audio software so I would just play around with them until I find something that suits me.

Anyway, Renoise has been really great. It costs only 75USD/68€ (free upgrades included) and it's basically a fully fledged DAW with a tracker interface and it's very very versatile. It also works well with a low-spec PC unless you load it up with hundreds of VST plug-ins, but even then you can render the instruments to samples (there's an automation to do this) or render whole tracks to samples and then use them through the sampler interface. But I have to say it probably has a pretty steep learning curve if you start from scratch.

I've gone 100% software so I don't even use audio or midi interface anymore. So don't know about that stuff. I just use Zoom H1 in case I want to record some audio.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I would recommend getting a free version of ableton lite. It comes with pretty much every new midi controller. It has all the basic effects, can use plugins, and has simpler and I believe drum rack. With those two things and effects, you could go forever.
 

Lots of great free plugins too. TAL stuff is all a must. Also the free Valhalla stuff. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.