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Microphone Sound Editing

13 ESSENTIAL STUDIO TOOLS EVERY MUSICIAN NEEDS

A practical guide with “good-better-best” options for career musicians. 

BY MICHAEL SHERMAN
1. COMPUTER

THE FOCAL POINT OF A GOOD STUDIO

EVERY MUSICIAN NEEDS A SOLID CENTRAL COMMAND STATION

I use both Mac and PC for various jobs. But as a musician and a creative, owning a Mac is an essential tool. If you learn from my workflows, you will find that there is no faster way get your job done than on a Mac. I've tried to do it on a PC, and I can't finish the job as fast, no matter how hard I try!

My goal is to remove all of the barriers that inhibit you from getting your job done FAST. In order to do that, you need a Mac. The good news, if you already have a mac that is less than 5 years old, you should be in good shape! If you're looking to invest into a new machine because you're ready to dive into creative work that is going to grow your audience and brand, the three examples below will set you up for success. 

Good

MacBook Air with M1 - $1259 

  • Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU, 7‑core GPU

  • 8GB memory 

  • 1TB SSD storage 

  • Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports 

Better

MacBook Pro 14" or 16" - $2299 

 

  • Apple M1 PRO chip

  • 10‑core CPU

  • 16‑core GPU

  • 16GB memory

  • 1TB SSD storage 

Best

MacBook Pro 14" or 16" - $3199
 

  • Apple M1 MAX chip

  • 10‑core CPU

  • 24‑core GPU

  • 32GB memory 

  • 2TB SSD storage 

2. STORAGE

FOR EDITING AUDIO/VIDEO/PHOTO PROJECTS

FINDING A BALANCE BETWEEN SIZE, SPEED, AND COST

With storage, you need three things:

 

1. Working drive, SSD (Fast, small capacity, expensive)

Only keep projects you are currently working on here. A SSD (solid-state drive) is going to give you the speed you will need to edit your media projects without giving you a massive headache. Because they are expensive, it's recommended that you get a small one and keep your project work lean. Alternatively, if you have a Mac with at least 1TB of internal storage, you can use your internal drive as your working drive! (I absolutely recommend getting at least 1TB)

2. Backup drive, HD (Slower, large capacity, cheaper)

This is where you store all of your media files that you are not actively working on. This drive doesn't need to be fast, it just needs to have enough room to store all of your projects. 

3. Cloud backup (Off-site)

Having a cloud backup is an essential part of the storage setup. I cannot tell you how many times I have hear of people losing everything they have on their computer because the HD died and they didn't have a backup. 

Good

Working Drive: $75

SanDisk 500GB

SSD.

550MB/s 

 

Backup Drive: $62

Seagate 2TB

HDD 

100MB/s

Better

Working Drive: $179

SanDisk 1TB

SSD.

1050MB/s 

 

Backup Drive: $144 

Seagate 8TB

HDD 

100MB/s

Best

(Opting for 1TB when you order a new mac!)

Working Drive: $399

Glyph Atom Pro 1TB

NVME

2800MB/s

 

 

 

 

 

Backup Drive:$1299

Pegasus R4 12TB

HDD

1000MB/s

Cloud

Best for Students

Google Drive -

Free unlimited for many universities. Even if you're not a student and have to pay, Drive is a fantastic option.

Best for convenience 

iCloud Drive -

200GB for $2.99 per month

Best Paid/Pro Users 

Wasabi -

$6 per TB, per month

3. COMPUTER MONITOR

FOR EXTRA SCREEN REAL ESTATE

FINDING A BALANCE BETWEEN SIZE, RESOLUTION, AND COST

Factors that make a monitor great for musicians: 

  1. Resolution (Higher the better) 

  2. Size (A single wide-curved monitor is best for video/audio editing, scoring, and music notation) 

  3. Color Profile - It's helpful to have the most accurate display you can find 

 

Good

27" LG 4K:  $449

LED

USB-C

Better

38" LG 4K Curved: $896

Recommended for video production and music notation. 

Best

49" LG 5K Curved: $1494

Recommended for all creative media projects. 

4. DOCK

FOR CONNECTING DEVICES

Factors that make a Dock great for musicians: 

  1. Many types of ports for various audio devices 

  2. Speed of file transfers

  3. Added features such as storage or added battery power

Good

Saferell Macbook Pro Dock: $65

 

Better

CalDigit USB-C Pro Dock: $199

Best

Linedock: $350

You can get the Linedock with internal 256 or itb SSD, a great choice for working storage.

5. ROUTER

FOR INTERNET CONNECTION

FINDING THE SPEED YOU NEED

Factors that make a Router great for musicians: 

  1. Speed

  2. Range

  3. Hardwire with Proper Cables

Good

TP-Link AC1750 Smart WiFi Router Up to 300mbps: $59

 

Ethernet Cable - *AVOID* Cat5 or Cat5a up to 100mbps

Better

TP-Link AC4000 Smart Wifi Router Up to 1000mbps: $185

 

Ethernet Cable - Cat6 up to 1000mbps

Best

NETGEAR Nighthawk AX5400 Dual-Band WiFi Router Up to 5400mbps: $285

Ethernet Cable - Cat6a up to 10,000mbps

6. AUDIO INTERFACE

HOW THE MUSIC YOU MAKE GETS PUT INTO YOUR COMPUTER

An Audio Interface is one of the most important pieces of gear that you can invest in. I have tested dozens of audio interfaces and these factors seem​ to hold true:

  1. You get what you pay for. The more expensive the interface, the better it sounds

  2. Stick to major companies. Listed below.

  3. Don't use dongles. Don't buy a TB2 interface for a TB3 machine, or vice/versa.

BUDGET

Zoom H4, H5, H6 Recorder

Only if you already have one and need something in a pinch.

Good

 

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

$159

Better

Universal Audio Apollo Solo

$499

Best

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKll

$799

7. STUDIO MONITORS

FOR LISTENING

Good speakers are essential for mixing and playback.

See my suggestions below!

Good

$299 - JBL305

Better

$800 - Focal Alpha 65

Best

$1000 - Adam Audio Ax5

8. HEADPHONES

FOR HEARING

FINDING A COMBINATION OF QUALITY AND COMFORT

A good headphone​ and raise the production process to the next level. Also included are these options for daily use:

  1. $379 - Bose 700

  2. $219 - Apple AirPods Pro

  3. $280 - Bose Earbuds

Good

Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphone (new model): $99

Better

Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80 Ohm Over-Ear Studio Headphones: $155

Best

Sennheiser HD650PRO Headphone (new model): $399

9. MICROPHONES

FOR PICKING UP SOUND

GETTING YOUR BEST SOUND

 

I've written a separate article about this that provides "good-better-best" options by musical instrument. You can view it here.

Musician's Guide for Video Conferencing

10. CAMERA

FOR CAPTURING VIDEO

FINDING THE BEST VIEW

As a musician, there are only two options that I would consider:

  1. Using your phone - Use the newest iPhone/Samsung you can get with largest storage capacity. If you're upgrading, get minimum of 256gb storage.

  2. Professional video camera- The better choice if you will be filming a lot of content. See recommendations below.

ONLY option to consider

Panasonic GH5 with 12-60 mm lens

 

$1880

Prime interview/ portrait lens

Sigma 30 mm 1.4

$295

11. IPAD PRO

WITH PENCIL

GET YOUR TOOLS TO WORK FOR YOU

 

The iPad Pro has so many applications for musicians! It has become an indispensable tool for ​performers, composers, and notetakers alike.

Good

 

 

iPad 10.2" - $329

Better

 

 

iPad Air 10.9​" - $599

Best

 

 

iPad Pro 12.9" - $999

12. LIGHTING

SO PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU

FINDING YOUR BEST LIGHT

Factors that make a lighting kit great for musicians:

  1. Color options

  2. Dimming options

  3. Portability

Good

 

 

$69 - MOUNTDOG Softbox Lighting Kit

Better

 

 

$219 - LED Video Lighting Kit dimmable, bi-color

Best

 

 

$296 - GVM 560AS Bi-Color LED 3-Panel Kit

13. CHAIR

FOR YOUR HEALTH, HAPPINESS, AND POSTURE 

It's easy to sit for too long in an uncomfortable chair. Don't ignore it!

$200-$400 Used - Herman Miller Aeron

Check Craigslist, FB Marketplace, or your local furniture stores.

Good luck!

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