by Anders Johanson December 13, 2019 7 min read
Let's start with that question. The answer is yes, you can make music with just a laptop! There are many essentials when it comes to music production, but the absolute number one tool you will want in your arsenal is a high quality laptop. It will be the engine for your music, through and through. There are of courseDAW-less setups, but having a computer makes producing music much more accessible. Plus, it also makes acquiring and creating samples much more efficient. From our perspective, it is necessary to have a computer if you want to produce music, especially if you want to translate that music onto a live stage. Laptops are very portable, and the newer models are quite powerful with a little less of a strain on your wallet.
The first step in choosing a laptop will ultimately boil down to two main options:Mac or PC. This is of course up to your personal preference and the better choice will depend on what software you will be using. With that being said, we believe that Mac computers are superior. They’re incredibly powerful, they support most software, and they’re less susceptible to malware. They also stand up to the test of time much better than the typical PC, which makes your investment worthwhile, and the ability to resell them quite valuable once you’re ready to upgrade to the newest technology available. Mac is really the industry standard when it comes to music production. If you picture all of the electronic producers you have seen live over the years or watched videos of their home studios, you will almost never miss that glowing Apple icon. It’s for a reason, too. Mac computers are designed for high performance creativity, such as running and supporting a D.A.W. with multiple audio files and plug-ins.
This boils down to your computer's central processing unit (CPU) capacity, which simply means how quickly it can process and load files. One scenario that producers with less CPU will experience is their DAW freezing on them mid-song because their computer cannot process all of the data it is trying to load. This can be especially problematic for producers that use plug-ins, which are known to eat up CPU. Look for a computer with clock speeds above the 2.0 GHz range in order to be sure your computer can handle your workload. A sure way to lose inspiration while working on a song is to have your computer start to freeze up, making you unable to continue to work on your track. Don’t let your music suffer because your computer can’t process quickly enough.
This essentially refers to the amount of space on your laptop. We recommend at least 500GB worth of storage in order to fully load all of your DAWS, samples, audio files, plug-ins, etc. While 500GB might seem like a lot, after a few years of producing, you will be surprised how quickly it can fill up. You can always back things up on an external hard drive (and you should back up regularly), but there’s no sense in getting a computer with minimal storage just to constantly use your external. Having enough space on your laptop is essential for any producer.
Making sure your computer has enough RAM to memory properly run your DAW, plug-ins, tracks, and effects is integral. We recommend 8 GB of RAM, though more is always welcome. If you can opt for 16 GB, we encourage you to do so, but 8 GB will suffice. If you can only work with 4 GB, that can work, too, but it will reduce your computer’s ability to run.
When it comes to technology in 2020, laptops seem to be getting smaller and smaller. Companies are trying to sell convenience, and the bigger your laptop is, the harder it is to lug around. Portability is key for many laptop users, but for producers, a bigger screen can go a long way. That doesn’t mean you need a giant desktop computer by any means, but we recommend something between 13 - 15 inches for your monitor. It will make working easier on your eyes, and the larger layout can help with your workflow. Of course, if you’re planning on gigging often, you may be tempted to opt for something smaller like a MacBook Air, but they usually aren’t as powerful as their larger counterpart MacBook Pro.
At Samplified, our choice for the best laptop for music production is theMacBook Pro Retina. Here are our top three reasons why:
Apple computers have always been geared towards creative people. They are more-or-less considered the artist’s computer. But, like all machines, there are always a few notable drawbacks. So, while MacBooks are our laptop of choice, here are three negatives to consider before making your purchase:
While we wholeheartedly recommend investing in a MacBook Pro for your production needs, we have to give credit where credit is due and level with you that there are many reliable alternatives. Here are five that we recommend:
At the end of the day, the computer you choose is based on your personal preferences, and you should gear your purchase towards what best suits your needs and budget. And for some producers, building your own laptop will be the best way forward, depending on how handy you are with technology. Other producers may prefer a desktop computer, especially long-time Apple users who are less happy with the newer MacBook models. There are benefits to a desktop computer: more customization, higher performance abilities, and a larger monitor. However, most DIY producers consider their computer their lifeline, and that often means producing at home and performing live, which is why having a laptop is ideal. You can hunker down with it in the bedroom and perform all over the world with it on tour.
If money is no issue, we would ultimately recommend having a home studio with a desktop computer and a separate laptop for touring. However, that is only in a perfect world where money is not an option. Choosing the right laptop can be tricky if you’ve never bought your own, but it’s important to remember that for music production, there is no greater investment than your laptop. If you purchase a cheap laptop and later decide to shell out cash for an expensive DAW and expensive plug-ins, none of it will matter if your computer can’t handle the workload. On the other hand, a high quality computer will be able to handle any software, plugins, etc. Make the investment in the laptop that best suits you.
Writer and musician based in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Hannah. Extensive career as both a writer and a musician previously working with brands such as Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, and Sports Illustrated. As a musician, Anders has played in several bands throughout the last decade, and has experience in touring, booking, band management, engineering, producing, mixing, and composing. Anders has recently composed music for short films and media presentations in universities, and has launched a podcast focusing on giving musicians and artists a place to talk about their work and the process behind their creation.