So I'm writing this entry because i recently went through this same transition. I had been having a lot of fun producing songs with free programs, and they were turning out decent, but at some point, you start to wonder if you can make your own stuff sound like what you hear from your favourite DJs and producers. For the purposes of this guide, I am assuming you have already spent a year or so making your own tracks, but you want to upgrade to a more professional set-up. I can show you how to do just this in 5 easy steps.
Step 1: Upgrade Your Software
I realize this may seem obvious, but it is true, no professional DJ or producer uses Garageband to make their original tracks. When i was trying to take this jump for myself, I had a really tough time understanding which program to get. The reason for this is that there are A LOT of audio engineering programs out there, and honestly, it's confusing. Maybe another time I'll give you guys a run-down of different programs, but this guide I'm going to tell you about Logic 9. Logic 9 is the latest version of the popular Apple software, and this program is the real deal. I've heard pros in the Dubstep, Trance, and Drum and Bass world all say that they have used some form of Logic Studio at some point in their career. If you're at all familiar with Garageband, this program will come as a breeze for you. If you're not, don't worry, as Apple supplies many tutorials, and youtube is full of similar resources. But assuming you've seen your way through a few tracks, Logic 9 should be a good step forward. Seeing how this is professional software, it does not come cheap. The price for the full version of Logic 9 now runs for $500. If you can't afford this, I've heard there might be ways to possibly download this program from certain... Less than honourable websites. (Nudge nudge wink wink)
Step 2: Get Some Studio Monitors
If your gonna be a profession producer now, your gonna need to hear your music in a wide variety of ways. This will include through your laptop speakers, through your headphones, through your DJ rig, and most importantly, through a pair of professional studio monitors. These are simply really nice speakers that you are going to put up in your studio so you can hear every detail of the sounds you're making. Like software, good audio equipment isn't cheap. But believe me, this isn't a step you want to skimp out on. These monitors are an investment, and you will appreciate them for much more than just their professional applications. Of course, when buying any sort of amplification, there are going to be powered and passive models. I'm going to assume you know the difference, and if not, you may want to refer to my article on DJ gear. For this guide, I'm going to show you a pair of powered monitors that will cost about $200 each. This is actually a fairly reasonable price, that will give you studio-quality listening.
Step 3: Look Into a MIDI Keyboard
This step isn't absolutely necessary, although it will help greatly when making your tracks. A MIDI keyboard is basically a small piano keyboard that plugs into your computer, that you can play on while making your songs. This means you can record directly from it, and program it with any sound under the sun, including synths and textures you have made for yourself. Not everyone feels they need this, as all these functions can be duplicated on your computer itself, but if you want a solid professional setup, this is a great option. MIDI keyboards run in a large range of prices, but for this guide, you can pick up an introductory model for only $100. If you find you would like, and need, a more upscale model, these can run anywhere into a few thousand dollars.
Step 4: Buy An Analog Synth Or Two
In truth, these work very similarly to a MIDI keyboard and some audio software. Really, an analog synth is just a program dedicated to making certain sounds. This is almost like you took the 'virtual instruments' section out of Garageband and made it amazing. You can shop around for these, but one that was recommended to me by various sources, including the producer behind the E-Z Rollers, is the Native Instruments - Massive synth. This program isn't cheap, but many world-class producers have used this in engineering some of their best audio. you can pick this little program up for $200.
Step 5: Make Production A Priority
This one may not cost any money, but it's one of the hardest steps for many people. If you want a serious shot at becoming a professional producer, you're going to have to drop your other hobbies, stop caring so much about your girlfriend/boyfriend, and spend every free moment you have either in your studio making beats and synths, or listening to your heroes, and analyzing every single technique they use. No one said it would be easy, but this is what it takes to make the jump from average joe to legit producer.
So there you have it, a nice little laundry list of the things you should be doing to turn into a respected producer. Of course, everyone comes about this process different ways, and this guide is just here to point you in the right direction. No one said this would be cheap, but if you have $1200 to drop on your passion, this might just be a guide you can use. As always, if you have any more questions about this process, or anything else audio-related, you can drop a comment on this post, or email me at email@example.com,with the subject line "Audio: your topic here", and I'll make an effort to get back to you soon. Writing this entry has inspired me, and hopefully once my studio is up and running again, I'll have a new track coming for you guys soon.