Are you wondering what is the minimum equipment you need to make music?
I want to show you the most minimalist home studio you can ever have!
Hint: it fits in your pocket.
Yes, your smartphone.
You can make music for free with your smartphone. Even a full song.
Let’s see that in more details.
Watch the video:
What is a minimalist home studio?
A home studio is an ensemble of equipment that allows to create, record or produce, mix and master music from home.
A typical home studio include many pieces of equipment: instruments, audio interfaces, effect modules, computer, specialized software, studio monitors.
Plus extras such as a studio desk, audio treatment of the room, microphones, cables, microphone stands…
It goes from very simple and affordable to almost as complex and expensive as a professional recording studio. Actually, more than one professional musician have installed a full studio in their home.
But what is the minimum equipment you need? And can you do music for free?
The answer is yes you can do it for free. And you only need a single piece of equipment that you very probably have. Maybe right now in your hand to read this article.
Yes, your smartphone.
That’s all you need.
It is not free you will say, but you don’t need to buy some extra equipment to make music. And you would buy a phone anyway, right?
Surprising? Not so much actually.
Let me remind you what is the device you hold on your hand.
It is a highly portable computer, equipped with an audio output and speaker and an audio input (integrated microphone). Plus a communication interface (USB with a micro-USB or Lightning connector)
Which means that you can record sounds, plugin headphones, external instruments or audio interfaces.
And since it is a computer, you can install specialized software to create, record or produce, mix and master music from home. Or anywhere!
Sounds familiar? Yes, that was my definition of a home studio.
But how do you make music with it?
How do you make music on your smartphone?
Let’s be very minimalistic and say that you don’t want to use anything than your phone.
Than you only have to install a music app that act as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). This a software which allows you to record audio, create several tracks for different sounds or instruments. But also mix and generate a final audio file ready to export to your library or a platform such as SoundCloud.
On iOS, the most used and the recommended solution is Garageband. On Android, you have n-Track Studio for example.
I will focus here on Garageband because that’s what I am using to make music on my iPhone.
But the principles are the same with others. So don’t run away if you don’t have an iPhone. Music is for all!
I won’t make here a tutorial on how to make a song on a smartphone. I will do this in another article.
By the way, let me know in the comments if you are interested to get tutorials to help you make music with your smartphone.
So, to start you should create a track with some rhythm. You can use a virtual instrument, a beat sequencer or audio loops. On Garageband you can also use the Drummer which invites a virtual (good!) drummer in your iPhone.
Then, you want at least another instrument. So you should add a new track, select an instrument in your DAW, such as a synthesizer. Press record and start to play along with the rhythm.
You can also do only one track with one instrument. Or lots of tracks with different instruments. You have to check the max number of tracks and bars, but you should have enough to create some cool music.
You can also record your voice with the internal microphone if you want to sing.
How to make better music?
You can add extra software to generate other sounds.
But you can more interestingly plug external devices into your phone.
Here is what you can use for example:
- a USB microphone to improve the sound quality while keeping it simple
For example, I am using the Blue Snowball iCE for instruments and voice recordings for music but also for YouTube and my podcast.
- audio interface to record with studio microphones, electric guitar, bass.
You can use a simple but high quality one such as the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
- USB MIDI keyboard to play the piano or any instrument more easily than on a small screen
I am using a cheap and simple 32-key MIDI keyboard from M-Audio.
But you can use any keyboard. Just check if they need external power or a powered USB hub because your phone might not be able to power your keyboard.
Is it any good?
Finally, you might be a bit skeptical about the quality of the music you can create with a simple smartphone.
After all, it is a phone initially, not a room full of super expensive dedicated hardware.
Better than a long explanation, you can listen to this extract of a song I wrote only with my iPhone to be convinced:
Not too bad I think. I am talking about the sound quality, not the music!
But even more convincing maybe is this video:
Now you know that you can start to make music right now with your smartphone.
No excuses, you don’t need any other equipment to create, at least a draft.
Then for more options and quality, I recommend that you buy a MIDI keyboard and a USB microphone.
Check out our guide to create easily your first songs.
Go and create some awesome music!
What about your equipment, do you have a minimalist home studio? Let’s start the discussion below!