The Beatles formed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, gradually adding one cultural icon after another until it finally resolved into a lineup of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr – three of which are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as solo artists.
Okay, so maybe you don’t have that kind of luck with band mates. But that doesn’t mean you have to be limited by your less-than-active social life: you can still record and perform like a one-man show.
Doing so requires a good amount of technical knowledge and musical skill, so let’s start with the basics.
Why it’s important to learn piano: if you’re going to record songs like a one-man band, then you need to learn how to use a keyboard like a champion. That means understanding the piano and how to play chords and melodies. These days, just about any musical instrument can be synthetically reproduced through a keyboard and a nice music production software program, so knowing your way around a keyboard can allow you to essentially play all types of instruments at the same time.
If you don’t have much of a background in music, learning the piano will also give you a good fundamental understanding of key concepts like harmonies, melodies, timing, rhythm, and chord progressions. It may not be as sexy as playing the guitar, but you’ll get a lot more versatility out of mastering the piano. Failing that, a basic knowledge of a musical keyboard is a must-have.
Okay. So you’re all set with – at the very least – some rudimentary music knowledge. So where do you start for equipment?
Having the right equipment is key: You don’t have to have the fanciest electric guitar in the world to reproduce an electric guitar sound, so let’s focus on having the right equipment so that you can spend as little money as possible when putting together your one-man production effort.
- MIDI Keyboard – An electronic keyboard known as a MIDI keyboard capitalizes on the first tip we gave you: it allows you to feed information into a computer program and hear different instrument sounds reproduced. You can also record what you play on a MIDI keyboard if it’s linked up with the right kind of software program. A basic MIDI keyboard, without a lot of options or even a wide range of keys (like the one we link to here), will only set you back some $50 or so.
- Music production software – There are a lot of music production programs out there, but something simple like Fruity Loops can produce sophisticated sounds while incorporating your own recorded music. A free trial version is available if you want to get the hang of it before buying the full product.
- Sweet headphones – Okay, so it’s not totally necessary to have the best headphones on earth, but you’ll hear the quality of your own production better if you check out headphones like Beats by Dre
- A nice microphone. Expect to shell out at least $50 or so for a quality microphone that captures your voice with as little interference as possible.
If you get creative enough, you can use all of the equipment above to create a “band”-like effect. Setting up music on your MySpace page, you might be surprised to see exactly how close you can look to a live, functioning band all by yourself.
Why be your own band? Why not? If you don’t enjoy working with others on your music, there’s no reason you should have to. Your own private “band,” or even your own private musical “brand,” can be entirely under your control if you want it to be.