The best software and equipment to get started in Dubstep, Dance, Trance, D&B, and other EDM
Use what the pros are using without breaking the bank. The following items will give you a complete toolset to start producing like the pros, of course there is always a matter of taste and what seems like millions of other plugins you can always add for your paticular sound. This is a well rounded package that includes a ton of instrument options and tweakability to give you an almost infinite amount of combinations to get your unique style flowing.
We cover all of the hardware and software needed assuming you have a competent desktop or laptop. If you have an older computer and want to be on the safe side you might want to upgrade to at least a quad-core CPU and 4gb of ram minimum. You might get by with with a dual-core processor and 2gb of ram, but you will be waiting for processes that can take the fun out of production.
Step #1 Choose your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
This is the core of your studio, where everything comes together. We chose the pro’s favorite and the most popular choices among users. This is a personal piece to the setup in that it depends on how you like to work, and what jives with your thought processes when creating music. These are what we believe to be time tested and well reviewed digital audio workstations.
This is the go-to DAW for most pros. It is compatible with so many virtual instruments and external hardware that the sky is the limit on creativity. It has arguably the most flexibility of any DAW, made to create in the studio and then switch easily switch over to doing live shows with unmatched tools for improvisation and on the fly changes during live sets. It’s pretty safe to say a lot your favorite producers are probably using this software in production. Works on Mac or PC at about $400.
A lower cost option, FL studio has been the most popular DAW for years and for good reason. It is easy to jump in and start creating some great tracks right away, without costing a lot. Although it does lack some of the polish of Ableton it keeps things a little simpler, albeit with plenty of power to do the big stuff too. This is a great starter for someone a little more budget minded that still wants to jump into producing with a DAW that can get the job done. PC only, at about $184.
Step #2 Choose a MIDI controller keyboard
You will need a MIDI keyboard if you are serious about composition, and with MIDI you can connect your keyboard to your computer to play any of the virtual instruments you load or create on your DAW. If you want synthesized voices it is nice to have a Vocoder as well.
This one has been around since about 2002 and is still in it’s glory days to rave reviews. It allows you to create your own sounds onboard or play your instruments from your DAW and includes a vocoder for synthesized voices. 37 keys is perfect for not adjusting octaves constantly while keeping a managable size for your desk and hitting the road. Runs about $400.
If you want a back-to-basics keyboard without the all of the frills in a compact package that looks great (especially with a Mac), then this is your keyboard. If you are going to rely on DAW instruments mostly, and are on a budget, this is going to work well for you at about $100.
Step #4 Your virtual instruments
We like combos that give you everything you need to go big. Native Instruments has been at the forefront for years, and Komplete 10 is their best package yet bundling 39 of their products.
With over 130GB of samples and over 12,000 sounds from 39 instrument types, you will be able to find your niche sound. It works across multiple DAW and has the best of audio engines for flawless sound. Komplete 10 is serious business, and it cost about $500.
Note: Some people can get by with just Native Instruments Massive ($200) synths software for their genre (dubstep is one example), but it does limit you somewhat. Massive is included in Komplete 10 with so much more and is a value over a-la-carte software bundling.
A showcasing of some real world applications for Komplete on an Electro track
Step #5 Get Your Studio Monitors
While you may have a good set of speakers that you will use as studio monitors or a good set of flat response headphones, we included these for a good starter set of monitors to hear what you music sounds like without being colored too much by your equipment. Another option like the Beyer Dynamic DT 880’s will work for for those that prefer a great flat response studio headphones, but we are going to go with desktop monitors for this setup. You can spend literally thousands on professional monitors, so we picked a set that will get the job done under our price range, and that others have had a great experience with. If you want to splurge more on monitors then by all means go ahead. These self-powered KRKs came in at about $300 for the pair, to rave reviews.
Step #6 Get Your Microphone
This can be an optional piece of equipment, but it is nice to have a mic when you do want to record a live sample or you want to do vocals in your tracks. So we included this USB mic into the lineup for its high ratings, excellent sound quality, and plug-and-play ease of use. It’s a Blue, and anyone in the industry knows that they’ve made mics used by the top industry professionals for decades, with some of their mics costing thousands of dollars. We like the Tri-Capsule array that includes 3 condenser capsules that can record almost any situation, along with the multiple pattern selection with options for cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional & stereo recording. Microphones are definitely a matter of taste, but this highly accurate mic with a slew of custom settings and ranges will probably fill your need to get a great recording. A pop filter is a good idea to limit the “t” “p” and “s” sounds, something like the Blue Yeti Pop Filter by Auphonix. You can spend more and get something that requires a pre-amp and shock mount down the road, but this will get you up and going with phenomenal quality, and PC/Mac plug-and-playability, at about $120.
Optional – Get a Controller
This is not necessary for studio creation, and is just a suggestion, but you can add it as an option to our list and still come in under $2000. For live shows and help with some studio production you may want the versatility of a controller to pull in and adjust your sounds at will, get your drums down, tweak your sounds, etc. This one is usb powered, and is the proven go-to controller made in conjunction with Ableton’s team, and it requires no mapping so you can get up and going quickly. There are other controllers that cost more and are still not as good. While there may be better pads for drums other specialty controllers this is the all around and proven controller for the price, and it hits the sweet spot price wise. It will work with other DAW’s besides Ableton and comes in at about $200.
Ableton Live 9 with Akai Pro APC40 on a live set
Optional – Get Some Studio Software Training
You might have all of the gear, but then what do you do to get started? Lynda.com is the first choice for media professionals when they need to get a handle on new software. You can train on Lynda to get your Ableton Live 9 skills up from knowing nothing about the system, to knowing exactly what you are doing, and at your own pace. We can say first hand that the tutorials that are taught by industry professionals are the best we’ve seen. They even have exercise files you can download to follow along on a project with the exact materials used for the course, so the learning is hands on. Free trial to start, then $25 per month.