• Register
  • Help
Results 1 to 8 of 8

Topic: What is best HOME setup for composition?

  1. #1

    Question What is best HOME setup for composition?

    I am a new member here and was hoping that I could find some help with an issue that has been bothering me lately...

    What do I need for a home/portable studio in order to have a legit composition studio for recording my demos?

    I have read several different methods on what is required but another question I had is: Will recommended equipment from three years ago be a significant change to a setup that can be achieved today?

    I am looking for a studio setup with a budget of $10,000...any suggestions?

    Thanks You!

  2. #2

    Re: What is best HOME setup for composition?

    Hi, may I be the first to welcome you to Northern Sounds.
    So, WELCOME!
    Provided your compositions are classical in nature, I would suggest the following... Naturally, some of these things are products that I personally use and like, but there are many different products to choose from and ways to accomplish the same thing.

    A Mac Pro computer,

    Two Samsung monitors or equivalent

    Digital Performer 7

    MOTU Traveler Firewire audio interface (sometimes called a soundcard)
    this device connects to the Mac computer and provides all the necessary connections that you will need in your home studio or on location recording.
    It provides midi in and out for the midi keyboard, four balanced XLR mic inputs with phantom power for condenser mics, as well as four more analog line level inputs, 16 channels of digital input and output via ADAT lightpipe (fiber optic) as well as ADAT sync and WORD clock.

    A keyboard of some kind if you play piano. If your compositions have a lot of piano, you will want to buy something with 88 weighted keys. A smaller more inexpensive 61 note NON or semi weighted keyboard for playing everything except piano. Non weighted keys are more ideal for playing things like timpani and oboe lines etc. etc.

    For sounds... getting your compositions and ideas into an audible form, I would go with GPO4. It is a sample library collection of virtually every orchestral instrument one would ever need. GPO4 is a very easy and affective tool for this purpose.

    Every studio should have a classic Steinway grand piano that is tuned and ready to play. The Garritan Steinway is what I love.

    If you are familiar with notation, I would recommend either Finale or Sibelius as being the two best available, but probably favoring Finale since there are so many users here at this forum who are eager and willing to help.

    LASS which is a sampled strings library is really nice.
    For woodwinds and brass there are a number of different library developers that make some really nice sounding libraries with the "round robin" feature. This means that if you play a line with the same note repeated numerous times, a different sample will play instead of the same sample playing over and over and over. This round robin feature eliminates the dreaded "MACHINE GUN EFFECT".

    VSL has some very nice percussion and brass sounds. VSL is very very expensive though.

    The ultimate plugin (in my opinion) is Altiverb made by the folks at Audio Ease. This will make your instruments sound as though they were in a real concert hall, or just about any other acoustical environment that you can think of.

    Some studio monitors are also a critical part of your mixing. A really good pair of headphones are just as critical.

    Of course you would need some type of nice furniture to house this equipment, but one thing is for sure, ten grand will get you a fantastic setup, and being here is a great step in the right direction.

    Additionally, you will need some sound diffusion panels and bass traps depending on the room this will be in. And of course, miscellaneous things like audio patch cords, midi cable or two, headphone amp etc. but those are small things.

  3. #3

    Talking Re: What is best HOME setup for composition?

    Thank you so much DPDAN, you really helped put everything into perspective for me. I can't wait to get my whole settup going so I can really get a start on my compositions.

    To anyone else reading this post, please feel free to list your studio settups as well.

    I am very interested in seeing what everyone runs with.

    Thanks again DPDAN

  4. #4

    Re: What is best HOME setup for composition?


    There are alternatives, there's always alternatives... (Although Dan is a master in what he does and you CAN'T go wrong with his suggestions).

    I'd break down things in the same way, but divide things slightly different:

    You need:

    1. A computer. Yes, it can be a Mac, but I've been using a PC, with great success so far and little trouble. You won't be able to use certain programs with either computer, pretty much, and you might get slightly less stable system with a Mac (at least I've been told, cause I have no issues with my PC), but with a PC you'll get to save a lot of money.

    An example in Greek prices: For an i7, 6 GB of RAM, 2 TB of hard drive, 2 screens I spent around 1,800$.

    So Mac or PC. Mostly price depending AND on what programs you will use.

    2. A sequencer.

    Sonar is only PC
    Cubase, Amplitude, Reaper are both
    Logic/DP and Pro tools are only Mac.

    Each one has its advantages and dissadvantages and it's hard to make a perfect choice. I've been using Cubase for ever and can't really change it. Never liked Logic or a Mac, no matter how long I spent in front of one. Logic is very cheap for what it offers. Cubase has awful customer support in Europe at least, Sonar keeps some bugs in the last few years, reaper is rather new and considered smaller (but it's not really), Pro tools has somewhat bad midi (although better than other older versions), etc...

    3. Sounds/samples

    Get GAST! It's stunning! Get GPO4, it's a steal and you will get to use whatever you want in there!

    I have LASS and it's stunning. VSL also. EW stuff are very loud, but very useful as well some times... Symphobia (ProjectSAM) is more film oriented...

    4. Notation. Notion, finale, Sibelius. Finale comes with GPO sounds and works a treat with GPO. I use Finale and ADORE it. Other people swear on the other side. Depends really...

    For monitors you will have to just have a listen and consider your room acoustics as well. But, then again, if you're classically oriented and don't plan on making your final products with a computer, you don't need fancy samples, nor fancy monitors and stuff. You just need to be able to write a 'perfect' score and be able to listen to it for ease of composing, that's all.

    So Dan is right and I pretty much said the same thing, except for the computer issue. 10 grand will get you tons of stuff!

  5. #5

    Re: What is best HOME setup for composition?

    I pretty much agree with the things people mentioned, but I would recommend a different approach...

    1) pick a good space, something that is either acoustically neutral or can be treated to resolve acoustical problems. The room should be comfortable, have enough space for whatever gear you use, and have ample light and climate control.

    1) (no, that's not a typo) Decide now between stereo and surround, speaker selection and placement, as well as the arrangement of everything else in the room depends on this. You can design for both, and I'd lean that way, but at the very least consider it now.

    2) put an isolated power feed in the room for all audio equipment. Provide enough outlets for all the gear you think you'll need and then some<G>! Make sure that ground is clean.

    3) Select a sequencer first, then select the machine and operating system to run it. Unless you work entirely in notation the sequencer will be the tool you use the most. It really is a great place to start gear-geeking!

    4) Now get the computer. As a rule, the bleeding edge hardware is expensive, but just below that point there is usually a price/performance level that approaches optimal. There are lots of here that can help with that choice.

    5) Consider cooling and noise now, not later. Either build a "silent" PC or plan to purchase an enclosure for it, or find a spot outside the room where you can hide it.

    6) Even if it seems silly, you'll want two screens, so make sure that the computer provides two display outputs.

    7) Get the brightest, sharpest displays you can afford. Size matters, but if you have to trade an inch or two of diagonal size for clarity your eyes will thank you.

    8) Audition LOTS of loudspeakers. They all sound different, and almost all of them can get tiring after lots of listening. This is a very personal choice, your ears are the only arbiter!

    You'll also need to choose between what is incorrectly called "near field" and "far field" monitors. Ignore the marketing hype, but consider that a set of loudspeakers designed to be used nearby will minimize many room problems. Unless you are spending a great deal on room design this is usually a wise compromise.

    9) Get a big, neutral amplifier to drive the loudspeakers. Get something slightly larger than you think you need.

    10) If you plan to use a MIDI input device (keyboard, guitar, drums, winds, whatever) now is the time to figure that out. If you are a pianist you'll want an 88 note keyboard that at least tries to feel like a weighted wooden action. There are many, so you'll want to play a few.

    11) If you plan to record 'live' sources now would be a good time to pick a microphone or two and a preamplifier. That's way to deep, and controversial a topic for a single post!

    12) Do NOT skimp on the Analog to Digital and Digital to Analog conversion piece of the puzzle. Figure out how many inputs and outputs you'll need simultaneous access to. There are a lot of folks that use Firewire to get audio into and out of their computers. There are also some that use USB. I use neither, but since I'm in the minority I'll leave advice on converters and interfaces to others. The only recommendation I'll make is to keep analog audio out of the computer case. It isn't nearly as bad as it once was, but a computer is still no place for analog audio.

    13) Furniture and miscellaneous stuff - it might seem odd to put this here, but in reality you've pretty much wrapped up the physical stuff now. So get furniture that will hold all your stuff, and is comfortable, and hey, make it nice looking. Buy quality cables and connectors for everything (but don't invest in snake oil!)

    And here comes the fun part... software! You've already identified you sequencer, and by extension your computer platform. Now it's time to go sound shopping.

    Everything you'll need falls into three categories:
    A) Sounds - this includes sample libraries (and the attendant sample player), synthesizers, and even sound effects. Decide what it is you want to compose (folk tunes, symphonies, film music, game music, whatever) and then ask around here about what works.

    Here comes my only brand specific recommendation... get Garritan Personal Orchestra. It'll provide you with a pretty broad spectrum of sounds, and they are very easy to use in sequencers and in notation platforms. The larger libraries are more complex to use, but can provide even better results. But as a starting point it is, I believe, impossible to beat GPO. And a big part of the rational is that it is so easy to learn to use.

    B) Platforms - in addition to the sequencer you may wish to have notation capabilities. There are several well respected tools for scoring and working with standard notation. Again ask around, see who is using what, and how closely that meets your goals.

    Keep in mind that standard notation is an imperfect representation of music, and that a recording (MIDI or Audio) is never going to look pretty in standard notation without some serious tweaking. They really are two different tools.

    C) Utilities - don't overlook the software odds and ends! What you'll need depends on too many variables to even begin to guess, so we'll leave this for another time, after you've wrapped up the rest of this stuff.

    Oh, and remember to have fun!

    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise

  6. #6

    Re: What is best HOME setup for composition?

    With such a budget, GPO is a good start, but there is more. GPO offers fantastic value for money, but other libraries offer more, some much more, at (much) higher prices. Once you've got a decent set-up, you could look into the high-end contenders in this market, such as Sonic Implants or the Vienna Symphonic Library, or specialized libraries such as Project SAM. You will need lots of disk space and RAM to accommodate them, and even then they will only complement each other. There is no perfect library. E.g., VSL just released a sampled Bosendorf piano (55Gb! see this thread), and even that doesn't suit everyone's taste.

    But, if you listen to some of the demos here at the forum, you'll find that GPO can sound pretty good if you know how to use it. Sample libraries are like any musical instrument: you need to learn to master it. And of course, the bigger the library, the harder it is to learn all the ropes.

    Good luck with your setup, and keep us informed, and post a bit of your music!

  7. #7

    Re: What is best HOME setup for composition?

    Quote Originally Posted by Compotecht View Post
    What do I need for a home/portable studio in order to have a legit composition studio for recording my demos?
    Terrific answers so far. I think the most important variable at this point is:

    Demos of what?

    That being asked, I'll describe my humble setup (because you asked). I'm running Sonar 7 on a PC (haven't upgraded to 8 because of financial limitations). I run all GPO for my orchestral samples (although I wish I had purchased the Strad and Gofriller before they were discontinued). For notation I use Finale, and my workflow moves back and forth between the two for classical-style music (or, did, before I bought GPO4).

    The details: grew up on PCs, bought into Sonar because it's tops for PC as far as I'm concerned. By selective upgrading I got into the Producer version of Sonar for $350. If I was starting from scratch with your kind of budget, I would go for a Mac, probably running DP. I have no experience with Logic, and only great experience with DP (and Dan's videos sealed that deal).

    Instruments - are there better samples out there than GPO? Sure, but at nowhere near the price/performance ratio of GPO. You could easily blow the entire $10k on sample libraries and not even leave the VSL family. If you want to do more pop or jazz oriented productions, Big Fish First Call Brass, Kick-@ss Brass, or in your price range Broadway Big Band will fill the bill neatly. Check to make sure your sample library will play on all both platforms, though. Most do.

    Input - I use an M-Audio ProKeys 88, and certainly can not recommend it. I can't produce a velocity under 75 with it, and the on-board sounds don't hold up in a live setting. You get what you pay for. Like Dan said, a weighted keyboard or controller for piano entry, and an unweighted controller/synth for everything else. My unweighted controller is an old Roland A-50, which is no longer being made.

    Output - I don't know about audio inside a computer, it seems like a bad idea, but at the same time, PCI interfaces run circles around USB/Firewire interfaces. The MOTU interfaces that combine PCI with an external box seem like a really good idea. (Check, they may be MAC only). I'm using an M-Audio Fast Track USB, which for stereo in/out is just fine. Definitely look into decent monitors and headphones, and test as many as you can.

    So, what are you demoing?

  8. #8

    Re: What is best HOME setup for composition?

    This is great, thank you everyone for all of you're replies. I feel confident in knowing that members such as yourselves are glad to help some of the newer hardware users with any questions we may have.

    I have been playing for years but I never had an audible way to record my compositions in order to make expansions or adjustments to them with different sounds and/or effects.

    My demos I plan on recording will be used for my portfolio as soon as I get a foot in the door in the audio industry. I know that this will be difficult, long experience but I am still a student and I am completely drawn to my music.

    Thanks again to all previous posters, I look forward to checking out all profiles and getting inspired by your works (if you have any)

    To everyone else, please list your setups as well and keep creating that greater meaning to life!

Go Back to forum


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts