by Anders Johanson March 29, 2020 7 min read
In the 21st century, it might seem like anyone with a laptop can be a producer. Even just an iPad or iPhone can do the trick these days. But what really are the differences between “professional” producers in studios and the DIY artists hunkering over their MacBooks at home that we call "Bedroom Producers?" Well, simply put, bedroom producers are independent artists working in their own home studios, often with minimal equipment and a penchant for beat-focused productions. Typically, they are multi-talented and might play multiple instruments, as well as tackle the mixing and mastering of their own music. The reason the word bedroom is so essential to describe this type of artist is because they are not working in big, expensive professional studios.
Traditionally, a producer was someone who booked the studios, hired the musicians, and oversaw the creation of a record. Nowadays, that definition has changed drastically to include a wide range of roles a producer can play, and the bedroom producer is becoming more and more prominent in the age of the internet. A big reason why is because the tools needed to create quality production-based music are so readily available to the average person. You don’t need to book an expensive studio. You don’t need state-of-the-art Hi-Fi gear, either. You don’t even need to hire musicians. All it takes to be a bedroom producer is passion, creativity, vision, a bit of talent, and a few simple tools that most people already have in their home.
All one really needs is a computer of sorts, whether it be a laptop, tablet, or phone. In most cases, a laptop will work best and offer the most versatility. But whatever device you have will usually equip you with enough tools to produce. For this article, let’s assume you have a laptop.From there, the first thing you will want to do is download a DAW, which stands for Digital Audio Workstation. A DAW is anelectronic device or application software used for producing, editing, and recording music or audio. Your DAW will be the place you go to create your music, whether you’re recording yourself playing guitar or sampling a break beat or writing MIDI bass lines. In essence, your DAW is your canvas, and each DAW has different colors, but many are the same with small differences.
In the world of bedroom producers, Ableton is usually the DAW of choice for many reasons. It’s arguably the most popular DAW for electronic music, and bedroom producers typically produce electronic music. It has a wide variety of tools to create, and has great capabilities for sampling. But it’s also an excellent instrument for performing live. Famous producers like Flume, Diplo, Skrillex, and others use Ableton.
Then, of course, there is FL Studio, which most people know as Fruity Loops. It has been around for ages, and is a tried and true DAW for producers such as Martin Garrix, Porter Robinson, Afrojack, and more. Another popular DAW is Logic, which is exclusive to Apple. Producers like James Blake, Disclosure, Calvin Harris, Jamie xx, and more use Logic. It’s an excellent program for producing and tracking, plus it’s on the more affordable scale if you have Apple. Also in the popular category is Cubase, which is used by Stimming, Breach, Sharooz, Noisia, Zedd, etc.
Each DAW has pros and cons and will depend greatly on your needs as a producer, as well as your budget. There are less popular, low-tech DAWs that will get the job done. For example, Burial uses Sound Forge, which is looked at as an afterthought as far as DAWs go. Clams Casino uses Sony Acid Pro and has been producing hits for years. You don’t need the fanciest, most expensive DAW to be a successful bedroom producer. However, you get what you pay for, and there’s a reason why Ableton is expensive—most would say it’s worth it.
To start, you will want to secure a solid pair of headphones and monitors. You don’t need to break the bank, but having reliable music production headphones and speakers will be essential for creating quality music. A classic starting pair of headphones is the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro. Another popular pair in a similar price range is the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x. There are cheaper pairs, but these two are great investments to get you started producing from home. As for speakers, the KRK RP5 Rokit G4 Studio Monitor is a classic for bedroom producers. Chances are you’ve seen their unmistakable black and yellow shape in many pictures and videos of bedroom producers showing off their setup.
Once you have your headphones, monitors, and DAW, you’re pretty much ready to go. But there are a few tools that can make your life infinitely easier and your music better. For starters, a MIDI keyboard is an essential tool for any bedroom producer. Without a proper keyboard, you are limited to the literal keyboard in your computer, which spans about an octave, and is very awkward to play. Of course, you can rely on samples, but having an actual keyboard to write melodies, bass lines, harmonies, chord progressions, etc. is key. The Nektar Impact Gx61 is an effective and affordable MIDI keyboard to get you started, but depending on space, you might want something smaller. However, the larger range keyboard you have, the more creative options you have for writing. And just because it’s a keyboard doesn’t mean you have to use it to play piano; you can load any MIDI instrument you’d like, from harps to alien synths.
In addition to a MIDI keyboard, having a drum pad is crucial for beat makers. AKAI is the industry standard for MPDs, which allow you to trigger samples live with your fingers, as well as adjust and automate effects in real time. The Akai MPD218 is very popular for its price and effectiveness. While you can always sample drum beats and draw in drum patterns, having a drum pad helps to give your music a human feel to it. The rhythm you tap out will never be perfectly quantized, which gives it a more natural element. If you’re drawing in all of your beats digitally and leave them quantized, they can sound and feel robotic. Drum pads also allow you to control velocity, like how hard you hit each drum. That adds to the dynamics of your beat.
Lastly and most importantly, you need a good desk. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. Just a good old IKEA desk will do, but you’ll want to set things up in a way that’s conducive to your creativity. Workflow depends on efficiency, and having a cluttered setup will hinder your creative abilities. Set up your desk so everything is in front of you and easily accessible. And don’t forget to organize your cables. If your setup is just one giant mess, it will not only make it harder to create music, but you’ll be less inspired to work because of the headache it causes you to get into the process. Setup your desk efficiently and keep it that way. Your music will thank you for it.
All of this talk about being a bedroom producer probably has you asking, “What about my neighbors? Roommates?” Unless you have the luxury of living alone with no neighbors, you will want to soundproof your room. And even if you live alone, some sound treatment is necessary to get a good mix reference. There are several ways to do this without shelling out loads of cash. First, use curtains and window treatments. Hanging thick curtains helps keep unwanted sound from the outside getting in, plus it dampens the room. You might also consider sealing the cracks in your windows with caulk or a cheap adhesive foam. Another essential is the use of rugs to soundproof. Just like curtains, the bigger the better, and the thicker the more effective. Bonus points, add a pad under the rug for additional sound masking.
If you can, add as much furniture to your room as you can without things getting too cluttered. Furniture, especially upholstered furniture, helps absorb sound, and the more of it, the less room sound has to travel. You may also want to consider hanging acoustic panels which will further absorb sound and treat the room. There is also cheaper soundproofing foam that can achieve similar things. All in all, using things like curtains, furniture, and acoustic treatments all help to reduce outside sound from getting into your room and inside sound from getting out. It might not be 100% soundproof, but it will hopefully be enough to keep your neighbors from calling the cops.
The term super producer often refers to a producer who can wear multiple hats. They don’t just produce; they mix, master, track, record, etc. This type of producer goes beyond the normal role of a producer and tackles nearly every aspect of song creation. This is a common feat of bedroom producers, too, because when you’re not working in a studio with multiple other artists, you’re left alone to fill the gaps. This is why bedroom producers often create every piece of music you hear in their creations, mixing and mastering, too.
Of course, even bedroom producers can collaborate, though. You can send your music to professional mixing and mastering engineers, and you can send files back and forth with other artists. Just because you work alone doesn’t mean your music has to be a solo effort. Being a successful bedroom producer is a journey, one best shared with others, even from the comfort of your own room.
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.
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