I'm confused about the "tools" I need and what all is done by the synthesizer workstation vs laptop software.

I will create percussion and rhythm tracks with a keyboard synthesizer, do quantization, then multi-track record midi instruments and audio lead/harmony vocals with USB mic, then mix and generate an audio file for upload to YouTube etc.

I have 10 songs ready to produce and have amateur experience recording and multi-tracking rock band genre back in the days of my good ol' Fostex 4-tracker, Roland drum machine, and Casio synth.

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    Does this answer your question? It doesn't address the mic, but there's some good advice there. In electronic music equipment and software, what are some good ways of cutting costs without sacrificing quality/effort? Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:23
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    My vague advice to these kinds of questions is "start simple, and when you realize you're lacking something, add it." You need nothing but a computer to start. You could even make demo-quality recordings with a laptop's internal microphone. The mic is probably the first place to upgrade; don't assume it has to be a USB model; instead, you might want an "interface" that plugs in via USB and accepts XLR, then you can choose a good starter studio mic. Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:26
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    But invest time and effort in accumulating hardware only after investing in musical quality and creativity. A crappy recording of great music is great; a great recording of crappy music is crappy. Don't let lack of gear keep you from getting started. Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:29
  • Look up some articles about how Billie Eillish and her brother Phineas created a Grammy winning album essentially in his bedroom. You don’t necessarily need anything. Maybe you want to find a producer to work with who both has some stuff and already knows how to use it. Commented May 13, 2023 at 16:24

1 Answer 1


This is really far too broad to cover in a few paragraphs, so let's just hit the basics…

Oh… one thing this is not going to be is rapid.
You are not going to learn this stuff in a week or even a month. It's like saying, "I want to be a pilot" & expecting to have your wings by next weekend.

The 'keyboard workstation' is out of vogue these days, since you can do it all with a single DAW [Digital Audio Workstation… what they used to call a sequencer] & a shed-load of plugins for soft synths [commonly called VSTi, whatever the plugin type actually is].
You will need a keyboard 'controller' - basically just something to generate the midi notes that the rest of your system will play back.

The first thing you'll need is a computer with a lot of 'grunt'. People do do this on laptops, but it's a bit like trying to get a double bed in a mini, when you really need a van or a truck.
[Opinions will vary on this, but to my mind the less powerful your computer, the more time you'll spend working around getting it to play everything all at once & more time on tweaking, bouncing & finagling the machine rather than getting on with the job.]

Whichever DAW you choose you'll find as many people hate it as love it - it's down to personal choice. Big hitters are Cubase* or Logic, with perhaps Ableton or Reaper following along behind.
These all tend to come with some fairly decent synths & effects plugins these days, so splash out on "the good stuff" only after you understand the "free stuff".

Synths - you can get almost anything you used to get in hardware, in software. Look at Arturia for a huge selection for starters, from an old Wurlitzer or Rhodes piano, Hammond B3, ARP 2600, DX7, Synclavier… you name it, they got it.
There are also a myriad [by more companies that anyone could list] which are not based on anything that ever existed in hardware.

No-one can choose a mic for you. No good buying one for podcasts to do 'proper' vocals. First you need to know what you want & why - see https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/studio-microphone-buying-guide/ for a guide then you need to hear some… https://www.sweetwater.com/feature/vocal-mic-shootout/

Same for audio interfaces - https://www.thomann.de/gb/usb_audio_interfaces.html - one for every budget.

Studio monitors - not even going to start on those.

You can see from this very brief intro that you need to research each aspect - no-one can simply point you at one of each & say "Go".

Once you start to accumulate your gear… then there's just the job of learning how to use it…
…you're really not going to do that in a weekend ;)

*Cubase comes in several variants, from 'beginner' to 'I earn my living doing this'. Logic has a baby brother, freeware Garage Band, but is Mac only. The others I don't know so well.

  • Ableton Live has definitely made inroads, and one could produce great electronic music using only the included synths, samples, and effects that come with Logic, Cubase, or Live. Not that I don’t own a lot of third party stuff, but maybe would suggest a beginner get up to speed on the included stuff before spending more money. Commented May 13, 2023 at 16:21
  • @ToddWilcox - yeah, but it's one of those things I looked at once & couldn't be bothered with; compared to that I've been using Cubase since the mid 80s. I also was forced to use Logic for several years through the 90s. The rest I don't really know at all. Call me an old stick-in-the-mud ;)) [I've already added 'learn the free stuff first'] repost for dumb typo ;))
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 16:30

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