With school started back, a few of my students just came off of summer jobs. Now the holidays are rolling around and this means they have a little chunk of money (hopefully). Ignoring the fact that they could save it, donate it, invest it, or even gamble it (thank you Hannibul Buress), some of them have asked me what are some good ways to put that money back into the things they enjoy doing musically. I'm sure everyone will have their own ideas and I'd love to hear them, but here is a short list of what I came up with of some useful musical tools that you can purchase if you're starting out and have a few hundred bucks.
There's nothing too extravagant here; I tried to focus on some items that have multiple uses or that, as you acquire one item at a time, will add up to a larger picture and give a lot of flexibility. Please note, the clearer the idea you have in your head, the farther your money is going to go. If you want to make an album, let that inform your decision making.
Books, Sheet Music
There are always so many good written resources, it may be hard to sift through them all. You can check out my recommended reading page or take a look at any of these:
- The Jazz Piano Book
- The Jazz Language
- Hal Crook's How To Improvise
- Jerry Bergonzi's 5 Volume Book Series
This should be obvious, but...
- Please listen to music.
- Please pay for, in some way, the music you listen to.
- Please support the artists that make the music you enjoy listening to, which means paying for music...
- Just because something IS available on YouTube, doesn't mean it should be consumed FROM YouTube. i.e. Please pay for, in some way, the music you listen to.
My only qualm with this is the method by which subscription services pay musicians. Excellent article here.
Decent to Good Instrument Mic
This is going to differ, as it always does, for what type of application a mic is being used. You can examine getting a mic for live shows, recording, or typically both. There are tried-and-true options that are only going to cost around $100-$200. Here are my recommendations:
Shure SM57 (industry standard, for live playing or recording)
Shure Beta98H/C (clip on mic that is wired. All you need is phantom power from the board or interface. This is typically the mic I use and it's in my case pretty much at all times)
Some Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone - I would only go this route if you're trying to get a microphone solely for in-home recording. Although, this doesn't rule out using a nice mic for live shows (I DO NOT RECOMMEND TAKING A NICE MIC TO LIVE SHOWS ;-)).
Decent to Very Good Field Recorder
Easy: Get a Zoom recorder.
There's a ton of options with Zoom. I wouldn't get a combo video and audio recorder currently. Zoom is GREAT with audio, but they don't have the video figured out yet. Just about every vlogger, burgeoning indie videographer, etc. uses or has used something equivalent to this. This is awesome for recording yourself when you practice WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD DO, recording your band for passable audio to put on a demo. AND, depending on which one you purchase, it can also be used as a 2-4 input audio interface.
Decent to Good Audio Interface
As I said, a Zoom recorder can kill two birds with one stone, but there are some other options as well. Just keep in mind that it seems like the new trend is releasing devices and after a few years, the manufacturer no longer keeps up with firmware updates. This means that your O.K. audio interface may have a shelf life. Check out KMI's K-Mix, Focusrite, Presonus, Etc. Sometimes you can also get a 2-4 channel mixer that has USB capability (like the K-Mix) so it doubles as a mixer for live shows or band practice as well as an interface.
Some Version of a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
I mention this AFTER audio interfaces for the simple fact that when you purchase an interface, they usually come with some version of a DAW (usually "lite"). But, that "lite" version is pretty much all you'll need to start putting your ideas down and a lot can be done with them.
Decent Camera (possibly DSLR to double for video) - although, honestly, most people's phones can probably do the job. One option: Canon T6i, The video doesn't have to be spectacular, the sound does:
- iReal Pro ($20)
- Drum Genius plus some loops (Free-$100)
- Video or Photography Software ($10-$30 subscription)
One item to keep in mind: many of these things listed can be purchased used. Some of them I wouldn't recommend doing simply because you may end up with an ebay mishap and be out the money. In fact, the more expensive or 'complicated' stuff I would try to purchase new, especially since you may not know how your new item works and this will ensure anything going wrong is really just inexperience and not purchasing a dud over the internet. However, don't necessarily rule out "Store Demos" or used items "available from these sellers".