Music production is very subjective. What might sound good to one person may not sound great to another. However despite this, there always seems to be a general idea that there is a wrong way and right way to make music. This is just not true. There are so many tools at your disposal now that many can find it confusing to know where to begin. The two directions producers tend to go is either purely digital using a DAW and midi instruments or using analogue equipment along side a stand alone production centre like the Akai MPCX or Pioneer SP-16. Both have their Pro's and Con's so lets dive straight in.
Akai MPCX - £1,721.00
Stand alone production kits are generally a pretty decent size investment. Looking at upward of £1000 to begin with they can be out of the budget of some as it means spending a large amount of money as oppose to having the option to spread the cost by purchasing things bit by bit. The benefit of these units is they tend to come with a heap of software, instruments and effects pre-installed. This means not spending extra money buying VST instruments or sample packs. You can add your own samples to these devices however you are in much better position to get started when you have high quality samples already available to you.
The cost of a good DAW can cost a few hundred Pounds compared to over a thousand. The advantage of this is you can spend more of your money on specific items you actually need. Instead of having a bunch of instruments you may not use all the time, you can purchase sample packs and instruments which will suite you. DAW's such as Logic Pro also come with great effects and plug in's pre-installed so you would get the benefit of some industry plug ins that are used in pretty much all studios.
Pioneer SP-16 - £1,389.00
Work Flow and Learning Curve
The idea of Stand Alone production centres is to improve your workflow and help producers be more creative by making it easier to build a song from the ground up. The benefit of these units is that there is no going back and forth between different screens on your computer. No need to use a mouse to carefully tweak parameters. The SP-16 for example has built in effects which can be triggered and tweaked using the 4 assignable knobs on top of the unit. All of this can be done while recording and playing back in real time. So you can adjust the sounds without missing a beat. Each production centre have their own unique features and so there is a bit of a learning curve however they are designed to be as intuitive as possible so once learnt, it makes the approach seem very logical and simple. Each brand have their own features and tricks so each machine requires you to relearn a little.
DAW's will have a much bigger learning curve and can take much more time to master however once you have really learnt how to use one, chances are you can go into a studio and carry on where you left off. DAW's also will be be far more comprehensive in terms of features and the level of detail you can go into whereas the standalone will tend to have pre-set effects or parameters which are limited in terms of adjustments you can make. A DAW will also enable to you to utilize much more. This can include adding more effects and filters on each channel or the ability to record analogue instruments (assuming you are using a suitable Audio Interface)
Ableton Push 2 - £599.00
Beginner VS Expert?
Standalone Production centres are great tool for beginner producers. It gives them access to great sounds without needing lots of technical knowledge. The user interface is usually so much simpler and easier to make sense of to a complete novice. Though they can both look intimidating to a new user, standalone drum machines and sequencers tend to be easier to get the hang of. DAW's tend to require much more technical knowledge and knowledge of some music theory to really be able to take advantage of them. More advanced musicians and producers will tend to lean towards a DAW or a combination of both as a full DAW will open up your recording options such as recording vocals and analogue instruments. However if you just make music and don't record, something like the Ableton Push or Native Instruments Maschine Studio will enable you to produce an entire song from scratch and not have to worry too much about mixing and mastering down as they tend to include high quality mixed and mastered samples to begin with.
If you are looking to just make music and want a tool that will help push your creativity i highly recommend a standalone production centre such as the Akai MPCX or Native Instruments Maschine. These are great additions to any studio set up but also are great pieces of kit on their own. The best way to improve your workflow is to include a drum sampler. Even if its just a USB controller like the Maschine Mikro which is purely USB powered. It will speed up your process when used correctly.
The Pioneer SP-16, Akai MPCX and Ableton Push 2 are available to order online, amongst many others! Go online now to order at Djtechdirect.com