For an absolute beginner - what software and hardware would be recommended for ambient, down tempo minimalist music production? I've been recommended AKAI midi keyboards, and either Reason or Logic Pro.
On the Logic Pro vs Reason front... they they both offer a similar level of functionality, or is one geared towards a different approach?
Thanks in advance for any advice.
Currently Listening To:Tycho, BOC, Gary Numan, Stelladrone...
I would go with logic and if you can effort get a virus ti and you'll be happy
There are also plenty of awesome soft synths that are geared toward ambient sounds...Camel Audio Alchemy, NI Absynth (all around amazing sound design tool)...Omnisphere...Green Oak Crystal (free!).
Actually if you invest in Logic it has some good synths to get you started if you are a total beginning on sound design. I'd also look into purchasing a field recorder to gather you own samples and ambiance. A lot of great pads can be made from stretching, maybe reversing audio samples and adding FX
I wouldn't recommend Reason. Not that it's bad but it won't teach you much about using other apps...its very different from anything else
Def go with Logic if you're a macfag
Speaking from my experience, that's how it worked for me. I started with Reason 4 and found the rack emulation cool looking but too confusing. By the time I got to Reason 6, I hadn't connected with the program at all and would go months without touching it. I picked up Live and made more progress in a month than I had in 1.5 years off and on with Reason. Ambient is my primary interest and so far I've been able to start creating the sounds the I wanted with the stock tools. Just now (four months in) looking at plug ins. If you go Live or Logic, it's worth the $25/mo. For a subscription to MacPro Video. Very good video tutorials IMO. Maybe even watch a few of the level 101 for each of the software you are considering. If one program tutorials make more sense to you that the others, that might be an indicator of which product to go and grab the trial for.
As for hardware, I'd consider the following:
1. An inexpensive 25 key MIDI keyboard. Something like an M-Audio Oxygen25 will run like $60.
2. An entry level sound card. I've been very happy with my Fastrack Pro. Keep around the $150 range and you should be able to get a good 4x4 audio interface that will last you years or until you are ready to graduate to more serious gear.
3. A decent set of headphones for playback/mixing. People will adamantly tell you that you shouldn't use headphones for this, but for a beginner on a budget, this is much less expensive than monitors and a less expensive way to test the waters of music production. I'm using a set of AKG 701s, which are pricey, but neutral. I'm sure others could recommend something effective but more affordable.
I'd personally say Ableton Live... just the way it's laid out with the session/arrangement view gives great flow to building songs/ideas... you'll be able to hear how different combinations of clips sound combined sound so simple and you'll come across things you wouldn't have imagined before sounding great. It's a very easy to use program, but you can still do anything you want with it.
I second the headphones for mixing when cash is tight. I started this way and honestly going back later to these mixing, they were pretty damn good. Then it is always a plus to have them when you do get monitors for cross-reference on your mix.