: write down your lyrics wherever you are, as long as you have a smart phone. As we mentioned in the How To Write Rap Lyrics
post , being able to write down lyrics when you think of them is crucial, and this tools is free. No excuse!
Rhymezone: free online rhyming dictionary. Ice Cube doesn’t approve, but it can be really helpful if you’re stuck. The “near rhyme” section is dope and can come up with some cool suggestions to make your raps unique. They have an app too, but it costs a buck or two.
Life experiences: you need some of these to write good lyrics. You don’t need to get shot like 50 Cent, but you do need to get off the couch.
Recording vocals and instruments
Future producers: a great forum to learn how to produce your own music, record vocals, record instruments, etc. Their section on recording vocals and creating a home studio on the cheap is really helpful. The community is really tight and willing to help if you ask questions, since everyone was a beginner at one point.
Microphones: nice vocal mics are expensive, but you can get a great sound from a mic that costs $200-$300 with the right setup. Apogee makes a small mic that plugs directly into the USB port in your computer and sounds good right out of the box. Blue also makes inexpensive USB mics that sounds good with little setup. Once you have a decent mic, check out YouTube or future producers for tips on how to set up your room to make the vocals sound good.
: great resource to find legitimate (not paid) reviews of all things music related. Like Future Producers, the community is great and very willing to help. If you’re considering buying a microphone, MIDI controller, or guitar pedal, the forums are for you.
Digital audio workstation (DAW): an absolute essential piece of your toolkit. Every producer has one that they prefer, but they’re all pretty similar. Check out YouTube videos on a couple before buying one, because they’re expensive.
MIDI controller: a small keyboard that allows you to play any digital instrument. Make any sound from a guitar or violin to a dog fart. You don’t need to be an expert at piano to get one of these things sounding tight, but you should have a little background. There are so many videos on YouTube that can help anyone from absolute beginners to total pros. You can pick up a decent one on craigslist for under $100 or get a good deal on a new one when Guitar Center has one of their huge sales. If you can get one with pads on top, you can map MIDI files to them and record a custom drum pattern easily.
A USB record player: not a cutting edge piece of equipment, but you can get some killer samples from old records using one of these. Sampled horn stabs or vocals can turn a B+ track into an A.
Studio monitors and headphones: if you make a beat on a laptop using laptop speakers or iPhone ear buds, it won’t be mixed well. It’s important to not only mix the vocals to the track, but the levels of the instruments within the track, and this can’t be done with $10 headphones. I’m not saying that you need to buy $1000 headphones, but you do need entry level pro audio equipment to mix it well. Rocket KRKs are a good set of studio monitors, and they’re only $150 each. Alternately, you could go to a studio to get your track mixed by a pro on the cheap. Either way, it pays to get a good mix and you’ll be happy you did when your friends say “this track slaps!”