13 ESSENTIAL STUDIO TOOLS EVERY MUSICIAN NEEDS
A practical guide with “good-better-best” options for career musicians.
BY MICHAEL SHERMAN
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.
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.
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
$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:
Resolution (Higher the better)
Size (A single wide-curved monitor is best for video/audio editing, scoring, and music notation)
Color Profile - It's helpful to have the most accurate display you can find
FOR CONNECTING DEVICES
Factors that make a Dock great for musicians:
Many types of ports for various audio devices
Speed of file transfers
Added features such as storage or added battery power
FOR INTERNET CONNECTION
FINDING THE SPEED YOU NEED
Factors that make a Router great for musicians:
Hardwire with Proper Cables
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:
You get what you pay for. The more expensive the interface, the better it sounds
Stick to major companies. Listed below.
Don't use dongles. Don't buy a TB2 interface for a TB3 machine, or vice/versa.
7. STUDIO MONITORS
Good speakers are essential for mixing and playback.
See my suggestions below!
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:
$379 - Bose 700
$219 - Apple AirPods Pro
$280 - Bose Earbuds
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.
FOR CAPTURING VIDEO
FINDING THE BEST VIEW
As a musician, there are only two options that I would consider:
Using your phone - Use the newest iPhone/Samsung you can get with largest storage capacity. If you're upgrading, get minimum of 256gb storage.
Professional video camera- The better choice if you will be filming a lot of content. See recommendations below.
11. IPAD PRO
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.
SO PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU
FINDING YOUR BEST LIGHT
Factors that make a lighting kit great for musicians:
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.