In this installment of our 2015 holiday gift guide we take a look at some of the best tools to help you create, capture, and share your music. For this list we are less concerned with price and more with products that deliver consistently good results. This list is for those who want to learn how to record audio, shoot videos, and market their music for the entire world to enjoy. (Each of the products and services included here can be substituted with a comparable item from another brand.)
1. Roland – OCTAPAD SPD-30 ($699): This digital percussion pad comes equipped with hundreds of sounds, including fifty drumkits with percussion sounds from all over the world, thirty types of effects, expansion capabilities, and one of the best Phrase Loop functions we’ve seen. You can create layers of textures and sounds in a live setting, which can be utilized for solo performances and band settings.
2. Roland – SPD-SX ($799): This sampling percussion pad has become an industry standard. It comes with a 2GB internal memory, and you can load up to 360 minutes of your own sounds (in mono). The device comes with nine velocity-sensitive rubber pads, two external dual-trigger inputs, onboard effects, and control knobs. It’s a powerhouse unit that is utilized by many touring musicians all over the world.
3. Auralex Studiofoam Wedgies ($89 for a box of 24): Before we get into gifts to capture music, we have to look at creating an environment that is conducive for recording. Even one box of high-quality foam Wedgies is great for spot treating a room. They help cut unwanted frequencies, eliminate flutter echo, and ultimately give more control to the person recording.
4. Zoom – R24 Digital Multitrack Recorder ($499): Many people would argue that a dedicated recording interface for your computer is the best way to go. However units like the R24 make mobile recording much easier, while also providing the same connectivity options to your computer. The unit provides twenty-four-track playback and eight-track simultaneous recording to SD cards up to 32 GB. The R24 is equipped with eight min/line/instrument inputs, all of which have phantom power. The R24 can be powered by two AA batteries.
5. Shure – PGADRUMKIT7 Seven-Piece Drum Microphone Kit ($499): This new release from Shure offers everything you’d need to record a five-piece drumset, including two overhead microphones, as well mics for kick, snare, and three toms. The kit includes rim mounts for the three toms mics, a standard clip for the snare mic, and seven XLR cables.
6. Ultimate Ears Pro – UE 11 Pro In-Ear Monitors ($1,150): These in-ear monitors are specifically designed for people that need a little extra bass response, and they accomplish this with two balanced armatures dedicated to the lower frequencies, as well as an integrated three-way crossover that turns on a sub driver when needed. The UE 11s provide -26 dB of noise reduction and come with a personalized carrying case and cleaning tool. They are available in a number of designs, colors, and finishes.
7. Avid – Pro Tools 12 ($599): This digital audio workstation has been the industry standard in recording for many years. The newest release provides a flexible recording, editing, and mixing environment, as well as powerful 64-bit AAX plug-ins and tons of creative tools. Another great alternative for Mac users is Logic Pro X, which has a user-friendly interface as well as powerful editing options.
8. Canon – EOS 70D DSLR with 18-135mm STM Lens ($1,199): There are so many options when it comes to recording video, so why chose a DSLR camera? For starters, it serves double-duty for taking pictures and shooting video. But more importantly, the quality of the final image is outstanding. This newer release from Canon provides excellent autofocus capabilities with face detection, a touch screen, many manual controls, a great zoom range, wifi, and more. A more affordable option is the Canon T3i, which has also become a favorite among music video creators.
9. Adobe – Creative Cloud ($10-$50/month): With the purchase of a nice camera and some recording equipment comes the need for editing photos and videos and creating marketing materials. Adobe offers a monthly subscription service that gives the user unlimited access to one or all of its world-class programs, like Photoshop, Lightroom, Premier Pro, After Effects, and Illustrator. Discounts are available for students, and each option comes with unlimited upgrades. Another video editing program to consider for Mac users is Final Cut Pro X. Its user interface is elegant and easy to use, and the features are very powerful.
10. Squarespace – Personal Website ($96/year): WordPress has become a powerful and highly utilized platform for creating free websites for many people. However, sometimes musicians are so busy writing and recording music and shooting videos that learning how to properly maintain a website is just too demanding. Squarespace offers a great alternative that’s safe, well designed, and very powerful. With the basic Personal option, you’ll be able to utilize an existing template with up to twenty pages, galleries, and blogs, with unlimited bandwidth and storage. The website will be optimized for mobile devices as well, and provides the ability to sell one item and accept donations.