Making beats has become an establish form of art that dates back to hip-hop’s earliest. World-class producer Q-Tip started off by recording “pause tapes,” going through drum loops and copying them from vinyl records. These would last a few seconds and he had to put together numerous strands to have a full song. The beat-making tools of the good ol’ days – like Roland’s SP samplers or MPC Series by Akai – aren’t totally obsolete. However, even the most standard software of these days exceed those in capabilities by leaps and bounds. Technology has improved our standard of living so much that with just a few necessary pieces of year, you can be creating smash hits in no time.
If you love beats and any music that makes you tap your feet subconsciously against the ground and considering making some by yourself, you’ve arrived at the right place.
Who says you need an entire studio setup to make beats? Turns out, you can make them just as well from your laptop; with the help of few equipment, of course.
If you’re an aspiring musician or composer and are tired of asking yourself, “What do I need to make beats on my laptop?” this is where you get all the help you need. We are going to run down the 8 factors to making beats on a laptop. Keep in mind that we didn’t say all 8 of them are essential, but they will definitely give you a head start.
Prerequisite: A Comfortable Studio
Don’t worry, we will be talking about “What do I need to make beats on my laptop” in a few seconds, but we thought it was important to include this section (because we care for your health).
No one can deny that making beats is addictive. You won’t even notice the hours go by ad you sit in your studio, working through the sections and loops to make a masterpiece. Since you will be sitting for almost the entirety of the time, it’s important to consider comfort levels.
Consider investing in a wide table and a comfortable chair.
A nicely padded swivel desk chair equipped with casters will offer adequate lower back support alongside saving you the hassle of constantly getting up or stretching to reach things.
A comfy chair or table doesn’t need to be too pricey, but spend a bit more to get high-quality ones. Don’t pay for your passion with your health.
Also remember to take breaks from time to time. Your body tends to cramp us when you sit and work for too long without breaks. Before you know it, the fatigue sets in, taking away all motivation to work. Maintain a good sitting position to prevent back pains and other injuries.
You can also read: How to Record Two Mics at Once
List of Equipment You Require to Make Beats On Your Laptop
1. DAW or Digital Audio Workstation
DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, serves as your personal music software. All you need to do is install it on your laptop. This is an essential on the list as you need a DAW to record and edit the beats.
Some of the most popular examples include Protools, Ableton Live Logic, and Reasons and Sonar. Garageband is good if you’re on a budget. It comes included with a Mac computer, or you can download a decent version of FL Studio on your laptop for free.
Although all of these work essentially the same (apart from the learning curves), we do recommend the final two for newbies as they’re the easiest to work with.
Now, the answer to “What do I need to make beats on my laptop?” can vary from one OS to another, especially in the DAW section.
Ableton Live for Windows
The first version of Ableton was released in 2001 and instantly broke all traditional expectations of a DAW and established itself as a service that transcended beyond the borders of a simple recording program. It became a performance instrument.
Live 11 takes everything up multiple notches, including many much-requested features like the support of MPE and a sophisticated comping system. There are new devices as well, plus updates for the existing ones.
With that said, some of the changes may require a bit time for the veterans to get used to. Ableton has managed to improve Live’s efficiency without adding baggage to its renowned streamlined workflow – one of the main reasons we love this one for Windows users.
- Creative and fast workflow
- Stellar in-built devices
- Three versions
GarageBand for Mac users
Apple seldom disappoints with their built-in machines. Eve novice users can become a pro with a few hours of use. Mac computers have something for the aspiring music producers – GarageBand.
The free beat making software is only iOS and OS X device compatible and comes pre-installed in every Mac computer. This is why many music producers who owned a Mac in their earliest days started their work from GarageBand because they had all the tools they needed to start.
In the manufacturing company, Apple’s words, they term GarageBand as a fully equipped music making studio inside your Mac.
Top features include:
- A huge library of instruments
- Presets for guitar, drums, and many more percussion sounds as well as voices.
You can definitely get a better, more upgraded DAW. However, considering reaping all the benefits of this free software before investing in a DAW with more developed features.
2. Audio Interface
The audio interface connects the sound source or audio to the laptop/computer. The sound source could be a microphone or instrument (we’ll get into that later). This also another must have if you’re going to make beats on your laptop. Expect to spend anywhere from $99 to a few hundred on this. Keep in mind that a few audio interfaces feature music production software.
3. External Hard Drive
Even though it’s not mandatory, we strongly recommend purchasing an external hard drive before you start working on the beats. An external hard drive will be the unsung hero of your musical journey.
Make a mental note to get one when you’re creating list for “What do I need to make beats on my laptop.” It’s of utmost importance to back up all the files properly. Sadly, a ton of musicians can claim that they have lost music from time to time due to being sloppy when it comes to saving.
Plus, this gives the laptop an extra efficiency boost if you record straight into the external instead of the internal hard drive. An external hard drive is capable of storing up to terabytes of information and you can get them for pretty reasonable prices.
4. MIDI Controller
Thanks to a MIDI controller, you can record and play sounds into your laptop. Usually, it comes in a keyboard form and is powered through cable connections to make beats into the device. You either need MIDI or USB cables to establish said connections.
After that, press the keys to create beats using a variety of sounds as well as virtual instruments available on DAW. The best thing about MIDI controllers is their compact size. You can stash one into your laptop bag even and have a recording studio on the road.
Fortunately, you can get one of these for a super cheap price. In fact, they’re available in pawn shops. Any keyboard including a MIDI will do the trick, even if it’s under $100.
Some people like headphones to monitor everything being recorded, and others prefer using speakers. Computers are fitted with a pro here as they usually come with speakers. But you don’t get that advantage with laptops, so you have to buy studio monitors.
Alternatively, you can tell yourself you don’t need that and get headphones that properly cover the ears so it shuts out the background noise when you record and mix.
A good producer knows they have to pay attention to every nuances, no matter how subtle it is; every little change and discrepancy here and there. This is why you need a good quality headphone set that will serve you well for a while.
Depending on your needs, you can choose from a few different styles of headphones. We will be briefly discussing two such kinds that relate to the art of making beats.
- Open back design: Thanks to the meshing on the covers of the open back headphones, sound passes through the designs. This provides an overall more “airy” and natural listening experience.
You’ll be able to clearly differentiate between the different voices and percussions. However, these headphones also allow outside noise to seep in, which is why they wouldn’t be the best for use in anything except quiet personal spaces.
- Closed back design: Like the name suggest, closed-back headphones have been created to isolate you from the outer environment, shutting out as much noise as possible.
If you’re on the go, sharing a space with someone else, or don’t like hearing any background noise while working, these will be headphones for you. However, there’s the factor of overheating to consider in this case.
Since these headphones don’t allow any air circulation (no meshing), heat builds up when worn for prolonged periods. This might be uncomfortable for some and nothing of concern to others, so consider your priorities in this case.
A high-quality microphone makes all the difference when recording vocals. We swear by condenser mics while run on phantom power supplied by the audio interface through the 48v button.
But, feel free to use a dynamic mic which doesn’t require phantom power to function. You can get a great mic for under $100 which is ideal for beginners who don’t wish to burn a hole in their pocket for one equipment.
If we had to name one equipment to answer your question, “What do I need to make beats on my laptop?” we would definitely mention the drum sampler. However, make sure the drum sampler can function without a computer.
Some of the newer models are equipped with integrated software which restricts beat making outside the bounds of a computer. For beginners, it’s best to get something cheap but comes with a bunch of in-built sounds. You can find good ones within your budget at your local electronics store or also on Amazon.
Usually, a record player with paired with a drum sampler since it plays the sample vinyl records. It’s safe to say that it one of the oldest, purest dorms of Hip-Hop. With that said, almost any kind of media is applicable for sampling these days.
Interestingly enough, you might not have to buy a brand new one as they are commonly available in pawn shops, Goodwill, yard sales, or you might find some in a corner of your grandma’s house. All that’s left now is to gather records and begin sampling.
Additional Requirement: Creativity and Skills
The pre-requisite of being a great musician might not be creativity at its rawest form, as some people harness the talent through years of practice and dedication. But if you were a creative individual with original ideas in this sector that would definitely be a huge plus for you.
These top-of-the-line studio and line equipment can make even the most boring, horrible beats sound fun. Of course, there’s that. But using your creativity will give you a different experience all together. You can make stellar beats effortlessly from your home office while others struggle to put together notes in a million-dollar studio.
Time to make your wishlist based on “What do I need to make beats on my laptop?” and our suggestions. In the end, the only way to get better at making beats is practice and dedication. So, put in the hours and be enthusiastic about music!