As I started to brainstorm ideas for the top 10 accessories for music producers, I reflected on many of the sessions that I’ve been involved with from both sides of the microphones. I wanted to include items that you can easily fit into your gig bag and take with you to any session, but there are some items that are important enough to include that don’t fall into that category.
Always remember – Gear is important, but one of the key concepts of music production is building and expanding your knowledge base. It’s important not to put too much emphasis on things, but to focus on honing your craft skillset.
Music Production Computer
Since the traditional studio format is almost extinct, as a producer it’s common to find yourself in all sorts of recording environments. What you don’t want to do is leave a session up to chance. Will they have the DAW and plug-ins you’re familiar with? Obviously, there are hardware considerations with the studio interface being compatible with your machine to keep in mind, but having your own music production computer you can take with you everywhere can help minimize some of the unknowns.
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Long hours in the studio these days means long hours spent in front of a computer. You’ll want to have an ergonomic mouse that reduces strain but doesn’t impede workflow. Selection here is very much up to personal taste/needs, but luckily there are a wide variety of options on the market. Trackball models are very popular with music professionals of all types.
Buy the Kensington Expert Trackball Mouse:
A good pair of headphones is an invaluable tool. Closed-back designs are great for tracking, as they reduce bleed. But an open or semi-open back design can be better can give you a better sonic image for mixing – if you have to mix on headphones. Just as important is having plenty of 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapters for use with different types of gear.
External Hard Drive
Even if you’re not traveling between recording locations (or working out of a bedroom studio), and redundancy (pun intended!) is intentional here – hard drives are the lifeblood of your sessions. A really durable model that you can take with you wherever you go is a necessity. SSD hard drives are far less fragile than mechanical drives, but still need some TLC. Flash drives are ideal, but often don’t offer enough available space. It’s not only useful for storage, as you can even run some plug-ins off of it without having to necessarily install them on the studio’s computer. Some DAWs (like Reaper) can be run from a hard drive without having to install locally, so you can fire up your software of choice anywhere.
A good MIDI controller goes a long way. You can control virtual instruments, write automation, and more. The more keys the better, and 88 is ideal. But depending on what you’ll be using it for you might only need a few octaves. It’s also best to get a model with weighted keys. This will come in handy if talent wants to play it and they are used to the feel and response of these kinds of keys. If you want to take it a step further, some keyboards offer a host of quality onboard sounds and can act as a MIDI controller as well. Many are compact enough for you to travel with from session to session.
Frequency analyzers are one of the most critical tools or accessories for music producers. Aside from providing a visual representation of what is happening across the equalization range of your mix, they also provide readouts of volume levels and phase correlation. There are plug-ins, hardware units, even phone apps (that are surprisingly accurate!) that are all great. SPAN from Voxengo is an amazing application that is totally free.
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Definitely one of the more esoteric accessories for music producers, this can be a love it/hate it item. While they do introduce some of the tactile elements back into the workflow, they can be clunky and glitchy. Obviously this is more of an individual preference than any slight to manufacturers. If the idea works for you and is properly integrated into your system it can be a tremendous time saver and headache reducer.
Headphone Extension Cable
Any studio you’re working in should have multiples of these, but it’s a good idea to have your own. It is great to add additional length if you’re tracking, or for freeing you up at the workstation or console.
Cabling issues can kill the momentum of a session very quickly. In the heat of the red light, you don’t have time to bust out the multi-meter to troubleshoot cables. A cable tester is a great, easy, and fast way to narrow down issues. And some can even check the efficacy of vacuum tubes as well.
Of all of the accessories for music producers, this might be the most overlooked. We all know how much time is spent in the studio, so you want to make sure you have a great chair, as it might be the most used piece of equipment. Wheels are a must regardless of size of your space, and one with removable arms is a guitarist’s best friend. Last but definitely not least- it will help your posture. Any office chair can work, but there are certainly models that are made just for the recording studio. Remember, comfort equals concentration!