The Ultimate Guide To Beat Making Software And Equipment For Hip Hop Production

So you want to start making your own beats and you’re wondering what kind of music production equipment you should get as well as the best software to make beats?

No problem. Not only does a professional studio setup take a fraction of what it used to cost, but our equipment can do much more and is actually a lot more flexible these days.

When I first got into music, I had no means to pay thousands of dollars for a synthesizer and a sequencer. But now? You could produce songs with damn great quality for less than a thousand dollars, and if you only have a few hundred to spend you can have a bare bones setup that includes one of the best beat making programs out there, which comes bundled in with excellent sounds samples.

Because choosing the right equipment and software for making beats is the first important decision you have to make when you want to make your own beats, I figured it’d be appropriate to list down the things you need (and might want) to invest in when you’re serious about making music.

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Dubturbo Review: 4 Reasons Why I DON’T Recommend It For Aspiring Beatmakers

Important Info
The owner of Dubturbo has responded to this review (which you can read at the bottom of the comments by clicking here) — which in my opinion is a very fair and level-headed response, and worth reading before you form any rash opinions about the makers of the software.
Seriously now?

Seriously now? We don’t believe you, you need more people!

Occasionally, I review software and pieces of gear here at Make Beats 101 if I find them useful for producers and other musicians.

Because there’s already way too many things being advertised to us, I try to only review things that are beneficial to our goal of making great quality music.

Since I want to maintain my sense of integrity, I don’t bother writing about and recommending crappy equipment and software.

And that’s precisely the reason why I CAN’T give beatmaking programs like Dubturbo and Sonic Producer a good review.

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2018 Guide to the Top Piano Headphones

As your passion for music constantly grows, it’s time to explore everything new to this topic. If you just purchased a digital piano, you are surely eager to discover its every feature. When it comes to headphones jack, you should know that there have been a lot of improvements here, too. So be curious and try to find the right pair of headphones to match the jack and, of course, your preferences.

Piano practice time will take place quietly if you purchase the right piano headphones. However, finding the best products can be a hard task to accomplish. To find out which are the best digital piano headphones you have to do your research very well, think of a budget and of the features they should have. In what follows, we will offer a few tips and tricks on how to choose the best pair.

Digital Piano Headphones Buying Guide

Before purchasing any pair of headphones, you should answer these questions.

-Where is your digital piano located?
-Do you live alone or with other people?
-Does your apartment have thin walls?
-Do you want to monitor your piano playing progress?

These will help you understand that headphones are really a priority if you do not have a studio where you can practice without disturbing others. Since the digital piano has a headphone jack, you will be able to practice whenever you want, irrespective of what time it is.

When talking about digital piano headphones, try to consider the idea of “soundstage”. This has to do with the way you perceive the distance between the music you listen to and yourself. The design of your headphones will help figure out everything about soundstage.

Types of Headphones

You will find two different types of headphones – closed back and open back. Generally, for open back headphones, the ear cups’ back is open while closed-back headphones have the ear cups’ back closed. The open back headphones bring a great advantage. They trigger a spacious sound. Therefore, it will make it sound more natural.

However, most buyers indicate that these headphones’ greatest drawback is that they allow too much environmental noise in. However, they offer a better and bigger soundstage. When it comes to close back headphones, they have a better bass response. Their biggest advantage is that the music is contained within the earcups. Therefore, anything you will be playing through your headphones will not leak out.

Furthermore, closed back headphones are excellent when it comes to blocking out the external noise. This will help you concentrate a lot better. Nevertheless, its drawback is that the music may sound compressed.

A Useful Suggestion

One suggestion would be to purchase an affordable pair of digital piano headphones, namely the Samson SAHP10. This is for piano players who are just getting started, helping them develop their skills. This closed back headphones will not only work with your digital piano but also your mp3 player or other similar devices. It features a 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch adapter.

The headphones have an incredible frequency range and are quite inexpensive. Nevertheless, if you want to wear them for longer periods of time, they may become uncomfortable.

Examples of the Best Digital Piano Headphones

Yamaha HPH-50B

This pair can make your time of practice a delight. They were specially created for beginners. The compact model gives a modern look and the swivel mechanism allows to turn them at 90° so as to have a perfect fit. Furthermore, every sound produced by this pair is professional-grade and the bass is carefully-balanced.

LyxPro HAS-10 Over-Ear Headphones

If you want one of the most qualitative sounds, choose this model. The balance of the sound is made with 45mm neodymium magnet drivers. The speakers are covered in foam and leather for a maximum comfort. Even if you are at the start of your road in music or you are far away, these headphones will fulfill the need of a peaceful environment for training.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Over-ear Headphones

This set of headphones was created for piano lovers that like to train for hours. A lot of music engineers choose this model for an effective outstanding sound accuracy. In order to have a pleased family and neighbors, the earcups provide an amazing sound isolation. The comfortable fit is given by the sturdy construction.

Digital piano headphones will help you isolate yourself from the rest of the world and focus on your playing. Furthermore, they provide a better sound range and they help to practice quietly. This way, you will never hear the neighbors complaining about the noise. Before purchasing a pair, make sure to check all their features and test them. You could buy a pair of foldable ones and use them for your mp3 player as well. The most important aspect is to provide good sound quality and also to be comfortable.

Arturia Minilab MKII Review

As you’re beginning to develop your own workflow, you may find yourself stuck in a rut of tinkering with things for too long so they can sound a certain way. When I began using Ableton, I would get frustrated with trying to modulate the different parameters of a sound because I had no idea what I was doing but I had the idea in my head.

I needed something to help execute my creative ideas while learning new things hands on, so that’s when I began to hunt for my first MIDI Keyboard.

I was looking for a keyboard small enough to fit on my desk, but also had the ability to offer unique sounds and use multiple controller functions. I knew that I would eventually use this setup to jam with my friends so I also wanted a keyboard/controller that I could take anywhere with me.

At first, I was indecisive of what MIDI Keyboard to get because there are so many great options, but there were very few controllers that provided built in software that I could experiment with.

That’s why I thought the Arturia Minilab MKII was my best bet.

Learn More About The Arturia Minilab MKII

Key Features

I’ve seen several Arturia products in my search, and I quickly became interested in the company because they offer functionality and affordability. Since their start in 1999, Arturia has grown and developed their software synths to emulate sounds from popular synthesizers and keyboards like the Roland Jupiter – 8, Sequential Prophet – 5, and many more.

This is something that I truly valued because I believe creating affordable software is essential for those who want to learn more about synthesis and can help discover their true sound.

The Pads

Since the Arturia Minilab MKII is the second build of it’s kind, you can tell the quality has improved from it’s previous model. The new color-backlit pads are velocity sensitive and can help you map certain sounds to a specific color to help with your workflow.

Although there are only 8 pads, the shift button allows you to switch between two banks, which brings the total number of pad assignments to 16. The velocity pressure can be adjusted in the MIDI control center, but they already feel responsive with good key velocity out of the box.

Personally, I enjoy using a 2 row by 4 column pad layout because it feels more natural compared to a single row with 8 pads, although this may not be an issue because sometimes programming drums with the pads then moving to your DAW is more suitable to the production.

The Keys

When it comes to small MIDI keyboards you will find that they are mostly synth action keys, which is something that I like to use when producing electronic music. On the Arturia MiniLab MkII, the velocity curve can be adjusted to your liking, but Arturia does a great job at deciding a common factory setting for the keyboards velocity.

However, one feature I thought needed reworked was the touch control mod wheels. I personally had trouble using them because their response was a bit slow and if you’re someone who likes using pitch bend in your playing, this might be a tricky function to use properly.

Overall, the keys are incredibly fun to play on because they have a bouncy feel to them.

The Software/Knobs

The Arturia Minilab MKII comes with the Analog Lab Lite which is packed with 500 preset patches of tasty sounds that you can modulate with the 16 rotary knobs. I didn’t have to mess with digging for sounds and effects because the Analog Lab Lite allowed me to find new sounds and modulate each parameter with the built in knobs. Two of these knobs are clickable so you have the option to map “record”, “play”, or “stop” buttons since the Minilab doesn’t have those transport keys included on the controller.

If you’re really enjoying the sounds that the Analog Lab Lite provides, Arturia gives you the option to upgrade to the full version that has over 6000 unique sounds to choose from. My favorite feature of the Minilab is that it’s plug and play, which has allowed me to quickly hop into my DAW, pick a sound, and experiment with the different parameters as I create a beat on the fly.

Learn More About The Arturia Minilab MKII

How Does it Compare?

As you’re deciding on the proper keyboard to add to your studio, there are several factors to think about before your purchase. Depending on the functionality you prefer, the Arturia MiniLab MkII can provide the ability to experiment with unique sounds and use the different controller functions for both production and performance.

Since it’s one of the few 25-key MIDI controllers that comes with an additional soundbank, it’s hard to pass up if you’re looking to stay within budget. Although there are several controllers that can get the job done, the diversity of each sound within Analog Lab Lite is a great addition to enhance your sound selection.

Arturia Keystep

If the knobs and pads aren’t suitable for your needs, the next best option is the Arturia Keystep. It’s a 32 key MIDI controller that is still very portable and functional as a studio keyboard.

A unique quality that the Keystep provides is the ability to implement the polyphonic step sequence: chord and arpeggiator modes on each of the presets. The chord step function allows you to play a chord and then trigger it with a single key across the keyboard.

Aside from this, there are also transport keys included on the Keystep to “record”, “play”, and “stop”. Although the Keystep has slightly bigger keys than the Keylab (see below), they are still slimmer than most MIDI keyboards on the market.

If you find yourself mostly playing keys with very limited use of knobs and pads, this is a great alternative that stays within the Arturia name.

Learn More About The Arturia Keystep

Arturia Keylab

If you’re someone who is looking to use a controller with built in sounds, the Arturia Keylab comes with 5000 preloaded sounds from the Analog Lab software that are modeled after classic synthesizers and keyboards.

The great thing about this keyboard is that it come in different sizes ranging from 25, 49, 61, and 88 keys. This is more suitable for someone that is interested in using the Keylab as a piece of studio equipment for more serious piano playing.

It’s a bit more expensive than the MiniLab, as the 25 key model of the KeyLab starts at $199. However, this controller comes with 9 Sliders, a preset navigation menu, and a proper mod/pitch wheel setup which is more suitable for someone who is well verse in their piano playing.

Learn More About The Arturia Keylab

Akai MPK Mini MK2

The Akai is another great runner up if you want more dedicated transport controls, but still have the ability to use knobs and pads with your production.

The Akai MPK Mini MK2 comes with a unique pitch/mod wheel that is similar to an analog stick. This feature functions much better than the Arturia MiniLabs touch bar pitch/mod wheels. I think that they layout of the Akai is useful for drum sequencing because they Pads are in a 2 row by 4 column configuration. However, the Akai MPK does not have nearly as many knobs to modulate and assign functions to.

This controller is a great starting point for at home production and performing in Ableton Live, but you will need to expand your sound library on your own since it does not include software with added presets.

Learn More About The Akai MPK Mini MK2

Novation Launchkey Mini

The Novation Launchkey Mini is great if you’re someone who likes programming drums with velocity sensitive pads.

I think the layout of the Launchkey is much more intuitive for playing drums and live performances because you can program drums and use the pads to trigger individual clips and multiple scenes within Ableton. This controller includes software features like the Novation Bass Station, a 4-gig library of session ready samples, and a copy of Ableton Live Lite.

However, the Launchkey lacks the pitch/mod wheel controls and has fewer knobs compared to the Arturia MiniLab. If you’re not worried about having limited options for different sound patches, and will be using this controller to trigger clips/scenes, the Novation Launchkey Mini integrates well with Ableton and is a great option for bedroom producers.

Learn More About The Novation Launchkey Mini

Conclusion

Although the Arturia MiniLab MkII might be small for some producers, this is a great setup to play your own melodies, program your own drums, and perform as an overall workstation.

As you start messing with this controller you will discover new features the Arturia MiniLab includes, like the ability to easily map and customize the controller’s MIDI function and store 8 presets on the device that can be swapped on-the-fly and saved after unplugging the controller.

As someone who loves being able to experiment with sounds but hasn’t quite learned the technical side to sound design, the Arturia Minilab MKII is a great starting point for both the studio and something you can take on the road. This not only functions as a learning tool, but it gives you the ability to play around with live performance and find new ways to implement your own sounds.

The Best 25-Key MIDI Controllers For Musicians On A Budget This 2018

So you want to start making some music.

Maybe you’re an aspiring beatmaker. You’ve already downloaded the programs you need, you’ve watched a few tutorials, and you’re ready to start producing some super hot fire. Or maybe you’re in a band, and you want to take advantage of some VST instruments to add more layers of music to your songs.

Whichever you are, you’ve probably quickly realized that trying to make music by clicking in melodies with your mouse is difficult, and simply speaking… Not a lot of fun. You want to be able to actually play your music with your fingers and be able to experiment with different notes to figure out the right melodies for your music.

Alas, what you need is a MIDI controller. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you want to make beats, this is probably one of the most important pieces of equipment that you’ll invest in.

The problem? There’s a lot of them out today… Too many, as a matter of fact. So the question is: with all the models out there today, how do you know which MIDI keyboard is the right one for you?

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Nektar Impact LX25+ Review

I was in for a rough surprise when I first decided to start making beats. At first, I thought it was going to be easy — just torrent some cracked software, get yourself some sounds, click some melodies in and voila — you’ll be making hot banging beats in no time!

Turns out it wasn’t going to be that easy. As someone with zero musical training, I had absolutely no idea how to compose melodies that sound good. It’s not just a matter of hitting random keys and something good comes out of your speakers — it takes a lot of trial and error to find out the right keys that sound good when played together.

And as someone who has never played an instrument and zero knowledge about music theory, trust me when I say that it’s borderline impossible to do that while clicking on random notes on the piano roll with your mouse.

That’s why I almost always recommend aspiring producers to invest in a MIDI keyboard controller. The ability to easily play different notes using your fingers will make it much, much quicker (and easier) to figure out the right notes that make a good melody.

I started out with a cheap, $60 compact MIDI keyboard since I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to make beats when I started (I’ve upgraded my equpiment since then). As soon as I started using it, the quality of my beats instantly got better. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t producing hits overnight; but thanks to being able to easily experiment with different melodies my beats actually started sounding like something someone would actually want to rap on.

If you’re wanting to buy a MIDI keyboard yourself, it’s pretty easy to get confused on which model you should buy. There are a lot of MIDI controllers out there, and chances are you don’t know what makes each one special — and of course, you want to make sure that you’re buying the right keyboard for you.

And in my personal opinion, the Nektar Impact LX25+ is one of the best choices you have when choosing a MIDI keyboard. I would recommend this for most producers out there, and this review will tell you why.

Let’s get on with the review!

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M-Audio Oxygen 25 MKIV Review – 25-Key MIDI Controller For Your Home Studio

Getting a MIDI controller is probably one of the most crucial pieces of equipment you need to add to your home studio if you’re planning to make your own beats if you’re a complete beginner.

When I was starting out as a starry-eyed newbie, I spent months dicking around random programs and wondering why I was making nothing but hot garbage. I almost gave up on the idea of producing beats… That is, until I decided to buy a cheap mini MIDI keyboard for $50 (the cheapest model they had available at the store).

As soon as I was able to jam and play out melodies with my hands instead of trying to click them in with my mouse, learning how to make beats just became a whole of a lot easier, and the music I created instantly became a hell of a lot better.

But if you’re reading this right now, then you don’t need any convincing that you need a MIDI controller — you’re simply trying to find out which one is the right model for you.

And if you take a look at all the available options, it’s easy to get confused on which keyboard you should buy. One of the most popular ones for many aspiring producers is the M-Audio Oxygen 25 MKIV. It’s a small, 25 key MIDI controller with several nifty features and connects to your computer through USB.

Is this the right model for you to buy for your music-making journey, or should you take a look at other keyboards instead? We’ll dive deep into this keyboard in this review, so you can make the right decision.

Let’s do this!

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Alesis V25 Review: A Full-Sized 25-Key MIDI Keyboard With Drum Pads

For aspiring and beginner producers, one of the most important pieces of equipment for your home studio is no doubt a MIDI keyboard controller that you can use to play out your melodies and compose beats with. The problem? It’s easy to get lost in confusion when deciding which model to buy.

When I was looking around for the latest 25-key MIDI controllers that have been released recently, I came across the Alesis V25. Despite the fact that it doesn’t get as much attention as other brands like M-Audio, Akai, or Novation does, all of its available features actually looked pretty solid on paper.

The price point was very attractive too, and it’s probably one of the cheapest 25-key MIDI keyboards I’ve seen on the market right now. So of course, I HAD to take a closer look at this keyboard and determine if it would be the right MIDI controller you’re looking for.

Let’s get into it!

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Akai MPK Mini MK2 Review – A Great Budget Mini 25-Key MIDI Controller

Unless you happen to be gifted enough to be able to play music by ear, there’s no doubt about it: getting a MIDI keyboard controller is probably one of the best investments you’ll ever make when building your home studio for making beats.

If you’ve read my guide on must-have equipment for music production, then this isn’t anything new to you. It wasn’t until I invested in a small MIDI keyboard that the beats I was making slowly started to improve — there’s nothing quite like messing around with the keys and discovering melodies with your fingers as opposed to trying to click things in the piano roll with your mouse.

But if you look at all the options you have, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the best MIDI keyboard controller for your needs. One of the current best sellers right now is the Akai MPK Mini MK2 — a compact, portable MIDI controller designed for bedroom producers today.

Is this MIDI keyboard the right one for you to invest in, or should you go with another model? That’s exactly what this review will answer for you today.

Let’s get on with it!

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The Beginner’s Guide On How To Make A Basic Beat

Consider this post to be a continuation of my post on that details all the beat making equipment you need to get started as a producer.

At the end of that post, there’s a crucial lesson that I want to hammer home before starting this post:

It’s not the tools you have, it’s knowing how to use it.

Like I said, I spent thousands of dollars buying gear and programs that I thought would help me make better beats.

Luckily, I was able to sell most of them, but I still have some crap gathering dust in my closet, like this…

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The 3 Commandments Every New Producer Needs To Follow

Congratulations for taking the first step in the wonderful world of beatmaking and music production!

Nothing tops the feeling of banging out a beat that sounds dope to your ears and everyone else’s. Maybe you’re here because you want a career in music production and make a living selling beats to artists. Maybe you’re a rapper who wants to stop relying on other producers and make your own beats for you to rap on. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever your goals are, this email course will get you started along that path and make sure that you’ll have the right foundations to get to where you want to be.

Before anything, we need to discuss a few basic rules so you can maximize your learning from me. Consider this to be your orientation. Let’s get started.

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Reason Essentials Review: The $69 Studio-In-A-Box For Making Beats On A Budget

Let me start off today’s post with a simple question: how does wasting years of your time and spending hundreds of dollars on beatmaking programs that you’ll never end up using appeal to you?

If you’re a normal human being, then it prooooooobably doesn’t sound like something you’d want to do.

After all, the whole point of this site is to teach you how to bang out a hot beat in as little time and with as little money as possible.

But when I started out, waste time and money is exactly what I did.

And plenty of aspiring producers fall into the same trap.

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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review: USB Interface For Home Recording

Quick Summary

    • Great preamps; Focusrite manufactures one of the best preamps in the business, and you can’t go wrong with this one
    • Allows you to record in 24-bit resolution and a sample rate of 96 kHz, so you can ensure the highest quality recordings
    • Very light on CPU resources even at low buffer sizes
    • Features direct monitoring that bypasses the computer so you can directly hear your vocals in real time
    • Excellent value for money
    • Powered through USB — could be problematic if your laptop only has one USB slot
    • No MIDI input or outputs
    • Not ideal for recording multiple vocals/instruments at the same time

    Learn More About The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

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Rode NT1A Review – Condenser Microphone For Home Recording

Quick Summary

    • Great price; one of the more affordable entry-level condesner microphones complete with a shock mount, pop filter, and cables
    • Bright recordings; this presence bump makes it an excellent microphone for acoustic guitars
    • Neutral response and doesn’t add much color which makes recordings easy to EQ
    • Also a great microphone for vocals as the brightness can make your vocals stand out
    • Not a USB microphone — needs an audio interface with preamps to work
    • Could potentially be too bright of a microphone for people with high pitched or extremely bassy voices
    • Presence bump could make vocal recordings too sibilant

    Learn More About The Rode NT1A

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KRK KNS 8400 Review – Budget Studio Headphones For The Home Studio

If you’re making music of any sorts from a home studio (whether just hip hop beats or complete songs with vocals on it) then I’m sure you already know the importance of having studio monitors for mixing your songs.

For the longest time, I didn’t have a pair of studio monitors. My only pair of speakers was a home theatre system and that was good enough for me to mix my music with.

It wasn’t a perfect process – once I get a good enough mix on the speakers, I would export the file to my phone and run down to my car to give it another test, which would often reveal a lot of flaws in my mix.

I would then go back up to my bedroom studio to make these corrections, and repeat the process on as many speakers as I could until everything’s just right.

I don’t know if you noticed but that’s a lot of running up and down!

Eventually, I decided enough was enough – I needed to invest in a pair of studio monitors. If I could cut down the amount of back and forths in half, then I consider that to be a good enough investment.

The problem? I didn’t have enough cash to pay for a decent pair of monitors. And because of that, I decided I needed a compromise.

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M-Audio Axiom 25 Review – A MIDI Keyboard For Space Efficiency

Quick Summary

    • Great quality keys — semi-weighted and feels like a “real” instrument
    • Adjustable velocity curves to make it fit how you play
    • Transport controls make it convenient to press record, stop,
      and play without reaching for the mouse
    • DirectLink, instrument mode, and the patch up and down allow you to change presets in VST instruments
    • Not the most compact MIDI keyboard and quite heavy
    • Pads are a little too stiff and isn’t the most pleasant to tap out rhythms with

    Learn More About The M-Audio Axiom 25

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Why Their Crappy Music Sells More Than Your Free Downloads (And What To Do About It)

Many independent musicians are whining about how difficult it is to promote their own music even if they’re giving it away for free.

In my opinion, this is simply a symptom of a much bigger problem. But my point would probably be much clearer if we get a few points out of the way first.

Here’s the thing: with today’s software and technology doing a lot more for much less, there’s probably never been a better time to be an independent musician.

A simple laptop can completely power an entire studio that you can carry with you on your backpack.

It doesn’t cost any more than a few hundred bucks to get a crystal clear condenser mic, a latency-free audio interface, and a powerful DAW like Logic.

No longer do you need to pay thousands of dollars for hardware synthesizers to make your own beats — nowadays, virtual instruments can provide you with almost any sound that you need.

And with websites such as Bandcamp, distribution is no longer a problem — anyone can buy our music at any time of the day anywhere in the world.

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