Getting Started – Equipment

Step 1 was just getting getting off of my butt and getting started.  That was surprisingly hard.  It is a lot easier to think about being a success than it is to actually be one.

There were two parts to getting started – I had to start writing (of course), and I had to start recording.  This blog is about getting my equipment set up.  You may not need this – you can compose on paper just like everyone did before computers. But as a songwriter you will eventually need to make demos of your material if you want to get your music heard.  That means either getting your own recording equipment, or access to someone else’s.  I decided to set up my own.

I am primarily a keyboard player, and I had some recording equipment from ‘the old days’ so I had to set up a place to write and record.  My original setup looked like this:

  • A PC (nope, not a Mac) with a single monitor, a medium sized hard drive, and decent specs for memory and CPU speed – Not a powerful machine at all.  Eventually I upgraded my computer, but more on that later.  I was able to get start with a pretty low end machine.  A modern laptop would probably work.
  • Pro Tools Professional for doing my recording and mixing.  Just the basic package at first, and no extra plugins.  Like my machine, I eventually started adding plugins, but I got by for a good while on just basic Pro Tools.
  • A keyboard.  I had an old Matrix 6 from the 80’s, and I pulled that bad boy out of storage.  I used the sounds that came with Pro Tools rather than the dated sounds from my keyboard.  I eventually upgraded to a keyboard with weighted keys, and have been learning to play simple rhythm guitar, but I got started with what I had.
  • A microphone.  I had some old mics from my band days, but I didn’t like the sound so this was the first thing I upgraded.  A nice mic really helped the quality of my early demos (a nice voice would have helped even more, but hey, I wasn’t blessed with one of those).
  • A sound card interface, so I could plug the synth and mic into the computer.  This was the main thing I had to purchase.  I went for an M-Audio 610 interface (
  • Studio Monitors (speaker).  I had some old speakers and an ancient power amp that I pulled out of storage.  I am still using them, though they really aren’t accurate.  This is the next thing I will upgrade, and I will likely go with powered monitors instead of a separate amp.  and if I was starting fresh, the mic and monitors is where I would put most of my budget.  They really matter.
  • Cables, a mic stand, a keyboard stand, monitor stands, headphones, a chair and a ‘desk’.  It’s surprising how many peripherals you need to make all of this stuff work together.  It took more of my budget than I was hoping it would, but luckily these things rarely need replacing.  I built my own ‘desk’ out of my monitor stand and a 4’x 12″ x 1/2″ piece of wood.
  • A place to work.  Right now I am set up in the corner of my bedroom, taking up a total of about 4′ x 6′ of floor space.  It is very compact, but works just fine.

I will post some pictures, along with my budget and current setup in the next blog.



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