Are you a mobile musician? Taking time to travel can be a great way to gain inspiration for your beats and connect with other artists. However, packing up your full studio setup can be a hassle, to say the least.
Thankfully, we’ve put together a guide on everything you’ll need as a traveling music producer. This mobile musician gear guide can help you build a temporary creation station while you’re on the go or serve as an outline for a complete compact studio. We’ll also share a couple of extra tools you might want to have on the road with you for marketing your music. Let’s jump right in!
8 Essential Pieces of Gear For Any Mobile Musician
Without further ado, here are eight different types of gear every traveling musician will need. We’ll also share a couple of product suggestions within each category so that you can quickly pin down a top producer pick.
1. A Strong Laptop and Storage
A great laptop can make all of the difference in your production workflow. While this is a hefty investment, you are sure to get years of great music out of one computer if you take care of it properly.
You can cut back on CPU while on the go by remembering to print tracks, clear up storage space, and cut back on energy intensive-plugins. Remember that your DAW’s freeze function can help you cut back on CPU by allowing you to temporarily print the effect onto the track. If you need to make further adjustments, you can simply “unfreeze” to return the track to its original state with the plugin intact.
Don’t forget to invest in reliable, portable storage. Solid state drives are a lot more reliable than hard drives and can make it easy for you to pick up where you left off when shuttling your project from one system to another.
It’s also wise to invest in an extensive online sample library like BPM Create. This way, you’ll have access to all of your samples via the cloud. You won’t have to worry about lugging around tons of external drives since you can easily bookmark favorite sounds, access custom-curated packs, and re-download samples on the go.
Not every producer will want to make beats from their phone, but it’s certainly a convenient option worth considering if you haven’t already. There are plenty of free mobile DAWs along with paid versions of full-service DAWs like Cubasis which can connect to your desktop projects. Note that if you purchase an Apple computer, you’ll receive Garageband for free which acts as a powerful yet slimmed-down version of Logic Pro X.
Who knows? You might even make an entire song on your phone! With artists like Steve Lacy paving the way for mobile music marking, the sky is the limit:
While this isn’t the most exciting piece of gear you’ll come across, having multiple adapters is a necessity on the road. You’ll want to pick up a powered USB hub so that you can easily connect your instruments to your laptop. Having a powered hub instead of stock USB ports can help your laptop conserve power while using external devices like a MIDI controller or audio interface.
The company iRig makes a lot of mobile-friendly gear like portable amps to help you make music from virtually anywhere. Also, don’t forget to pack multiple XLR and instrument cables. You’ll never know when you’ll need one.
It can be particularly challenging to produce on the road since you don’t always have control of your sonic environment. Hence, it’s key to invest in wired, studio headphones reserved for producing and mixing.
You don’t want to use just any headphones – many consumer-facing headphones may have EQ boosts across the low or high end of the frequency spectrum that could easily distort your perception while building beats. Bluetooth headphones inherently have a bit of latency, so opt for a wired pair whenever you’re making music.
For a more comprehensive look at our favorite studio headphones, check out our gear guide here.
You might be lucky enough to be traveling to an area that has studio basics for getting your gear up and running. If not, you’ll need to find a portable microphone stand, interface, and sound treatment devices to complete your mobile setup. Here are a couple of items that can help turn any location into an instant studio.
Microphones are notoriously sensitive pieces of equipment, so you might not want to bring your most expensive piece of gear out with you on the road. However, you’ll still want to have a decent condenser or dynamic microphone kit with you to track down ideas when building tracks. Make sure you invest in a case that’s designed to protect your specific microphone model.
MIDI keyboards make it easy for you to play just about any virtual instrument with conviction. There are plenty of compact MIDI keyboards that you can stow away in your suitcase from one trip to the next.
That being said, remember that you can also map your laptop’s keyboard to set custom controls while on the go. In Ableton Live, you can select the “key” button in the top right corner to map your keyboard or “MIDI” to map MIDI controls:
Having remote collaboration tools while you’re away from your studio is essential. Luckily, there are plenty of plugins that allow you to stream audio directly to and from your DAW while conducting a video session.
In order to connect with fans, it’s essential to practice marketing your music and sharing your process via social media. This can be challenging while on the road, but with a couple of compact tools, you can easily cut back on the time it takes for you to create content. While these tools aren’t essential, you might want to consider including these extra pieces of gear in your travel kit.
A Clean Background
You want your fans to focus on the music, not your cluttered suitcase lingering in the background. You can easily pick up a clean sheet to hang up with command strips when traveling from one place to the next. If you have video editing software, pick up a green screen to take with you on the go.
Even if you don’t have a stellar background or camera, good lighting can make all of the difference. Thankfully, there are plenty of lighting/phone tripods available, giving you a quick compact fix to any low-light circumstances.
Luckily, you can get pretty decent video from your phone as long as you have good lighting. If you want to make things a little more interesting, you can pick up some affordable lenses for your phone. It’s also a good idea to have some sort of video editing software available so that you can create your own music teaser clips wherever you are.
And there you have it! Hopefully, this mobile gear guide provides you with everything you need to create while out and about. Enjoy building beats from afar!
About the Writer
Kate Brunotts is an audio engineer and music producer from New York City. When she’s not writing about music, producing music, or singing and songwriting, Kate helps others realize their unique sound, whether through a fresh mix, new instrumental approach, or total rework of a particular sound.