Tools for the modern musician (in order of priority):

  1. Computer
    MacBook Pro or iMac or Mac Pro (if going with Pro Tools HD).  Plastic computers are not professional tools for media editing, and Windows machines are for corporate offices or casual consumer use only.
  2. iPhone
    Vital for staying up to date on social media and keeping fans engaged, especially when on the road.  Also great for recording song ideas and staying organized.
  3. Headphones or in-ear monitors
    Good in-ears work great in the studio (and are very portable), but studio headphones do not work on stage so choose wisely.  I like mid to high-end Ultimate Ears or Shure for in-ears, and Sennheiser HD-280 or Sony MDR-V6 for studio headphones.  But demo them at the store to find the ones that suit you the most in both audio quality and fit.  Make sure they are not “open back” headphones since they will bleed into studio mics.  
  4. Software
    1. Pro Tools - Logic is nice but all professional studios use Pro Tools, so using it makes it easier to send sessions to others for overdubs or mixing.
    2. MasterWriter - great songwriting tool
    3. iMovie or Final Cut - for editing video shot on your iPhone or video camera for your website and social media updates to help keep fans engaged (Flips are not worth the money in my opinion).
    4. iPhoto or Lightroom - to manage photos taken on you iPhone or real camera for your website and social media 
    5. Pixelmator or Photoshop - to edit photos and make them smaller for the web (so your web pages load faster)
  5. External Firewire Hard Drive
    Pro Tools works best when you record to an external hard drive so the operating system drive is dedicated to just runing the software and OS.  Firewire is much more reliable and faster than USB 2.0. Click HERE for a document that explains why.
  6. Audio Interface
    A portable interface like the M-Box that comes bundled with Pro Tools is ideal for the touring musician.  The Apogee Duet is a fantastic sounding higher end portable two channel interface.
  7. Microphone + mic stand + pop filter + cable
    The Shure KSM 44 is a really good all-around condenser mic, and the Shure SM7 is a surprisingly verstile dynamic mic good for everything from vocals to electric guitar.  And don't skimp on the mic stand.  Good mics are heavy and you don't want yours to fall over and break.
  8. Midi Controller
    A must for keyboard players and sequencing.  M-Audio has lots of affordable choices.
  9. Studio monitors
    You really get what you pay for, so I recommend Adams, Dynaudio or Focal.  JBL makes good cheaper speakers.
    Update: Twice in one day friends F. Reid Shippen and Jack Conte recommended the $150 KRK Rockit 5s - which are what Jacquire King used to mix Kings of Leon.

Yes, it is expensive to really get into making music.  But any craft requires professional tools.  So start saving up as soon as you can, and build your business one tool at a time.

I will be posting follow-up posts for each point above, so stay tuned.  Up first:  why I choose Macs over Windows machines.

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