When I first began on this journey of making music, I always saw in music forums that people got in heated debates on hardware versus software. The hardware lovers would look down upon the Fruity Loops users ( FL Studio), saying things like it’s for kids, it’s not for serious producers, blah, blah, and so on.
Still, today software is somewhat looked down upon even though successful producers such as 9th Wonder (who has produced for Jay Z, my favorite rap group Little Brother and Destiny’s Child ) who proudly admits to using FL Studio.
Other big producers have jumped on board with using software such as Reason. DJ Khalil, who has produced for Jay Z and 50 Cent, uses Reason, and in the link provided, he talks about how software has changed his whole beat-making process. Other producers such as DJ Troop and DJ Babu and countless others have used the Reason music software.
Even with these producers getting major placements, software alone is looked down upon.
4 Reasons Why I like Hardware
- No Audio Latency – This is what bugs me most about software. The delay of sound. This is when you push a key and there isn’t an instant sound. It takes a few milliseconds, or more, but it’s enough to drive me nuts. It makes playing keyboard complicated. There are tips on ways to fix these problems, but it’s never really accurate like a piece of hardware. Hardware doesn’t give you this problem. If you have a keyboard or MPC, the sound comes out instantly with no delay because it’s built for that purpose.
- Creativity - Sometimes my flow has been better working with a Motif keyboard. I pick a track, sound and play — no mouse clicking and sorting through folders for sounds. It’s faster sometimes and easier, which allows me to focus on the music alone and not an entire computer setup. Also, physically banging on some MPC pads allows me to feel the beat out, and get in the groove of making drum patterns.
- Less Options – When you have an MPC or keyboard, you know exactly what it is capable of. You can focus on those features and do your thing. You don’t have to pick out of 20 different softwares what to use. Too many options can be distracting.
- Something Physical – I’m not a fan of all the clicking you have to do with a mouse. I sit in front a computer for most of the day, and don’t want to come home and make music on my computer. That keyboard or MPC was built to do music and have a majority of the necessities to do what it needs to do. MPC pads or keyboard keys feel better than the clicking you do with a mouse. Because you feel it out, cause you’re actually playing it out.
8 Reason to pick software over hardware
- Portability - A laptop and a midi keyboard can be your entire set up. You can have thousands of sounds and a variety of software. You can take it with you anywhere and not be restricted to one place.
- Time and Convenience – When using software like Reason, you will have almost every instrument right in that one setup up. I’m not sure if you have had a set up like me, where I have a Yamaha Triton, plus an Akai MPC. I would load the drums into the MPC. I would have to set both devices to track #1 for example, find the sound on the keyboard, set the MPC to midi input and record. The process would repeat. After the track was done, I would save both instruments to their different storage devices. Sometimes both wouldn’t save right. But if it did, eventually when I recorded the beat into the computer, it would come out differently. It was a pain.
Software is more contained and gives you almost everything you want in one program, which makes it easy to edit and save.
- Easy to Edit - With midi you adjust every note you play from length, velocity and more. You can edit everything very easily. This can all be done with a click of the mouse and a big viewable computer screen.
Editing Samples is just as easy. You see wave forms and edit and chop up sounds in a number of ways. Add hundreds of effects. The possibilities are almost endless.
- No Tracking - Tracking is the process of recording the beat you made on a piece of hardware into the computer. This was always a pain. Because you have to record every track individually, so this could take a decent amount of time. Plus for me, it would never come out the way it sounded on the piece of equipment. With software, you pretty much just export your tracks to a wave form and mix the tracks down.
- Free Resources – If you follow my site, you will see that there are plenty of sites online that offer hundreds of free VSTs instruments, effects and other sound collections. In fact some of these VSTs are modeled after vintage hardware and carry the exact same sounds. They may even sound better.
- Share Ability - A lot of music software is now being built with some form of collaboration software in it. In FL Studio, you can export your beat as a zip file that will include every sample you used in the beat. Then you can send that to someone and they can continue right where you left off. Reason and Protools both have very similar features.
- Affordability - When dealing with music equipment, you really can’t buy just one thing. If you buy a key board, which can cost you up to a grand, you will also need a sound card in your computer to record your keyboard, maybe also a mixer, plus the audio cables and maybe some midi cables. And when hardware comes out, the time for software updates on the piece of equipment is limited. You may get a few updates, but the main focus most companies is that next piece of hardware, and some of the hardware can be pretty expensive. So it may not be easy to just upgrade often.
For software, almost every household has a computer. All you would need is some music software, a midi keyboard (not required) that you can get off Craiglist for cheap and some decent music speakers to hear your music. Free resources are always being put online, and your sound collection will continue to grow.
- Space- I’m not sure how much space you have available just for your music equipment. But it can take up a lot of space. When I only had one room to myself, I had my bed, dresser, TV, keyboard, computer and other necessities all in one room. It was pretty cramped for me. Plus, I had a lot of down time when I wasn’t making music and that equipment was taking up space.
But with software you can pretty much have everything on your one computer. Get a midi keyboard and you’re pretty much set.
Software is the future. If you don’t catch up, you will be left behind. I agree that hardware has its own characteristics that cannot be replicated by software. But software saves me time, money and closet space. You would be a fool to try and not take advantage of all the free resources out there, such as VSTs and sound fonts that can easily boost your sound collection up to a thousand quality sounds with out paying $1,500 for a keyboard. In addition, you can buy midi hardware that is pretty close to that physical item that you may be attached too.
Overall, it’s not about the equipment you have. It’s about the music you make with it. You can have a big studio and suck, or have FL Studio and rock! It’s up to you.