On the Road: Tips for Making Music on the Go

We put together a list of travel essentials to help you take your work outdoors.

Summer anthems hit differently this year.

With the world reopening, songs about open-air parties and carefree beach days just take on a whole new meaning. If the sound of thumping bass soaring through the air used to bring to mind images of dance-fuelled debauchery, now it’s a reminder that freedom is heading our way.

Summer anthems feel, in a way, more cathartic than ever before. They speak to our collective desire to go somewhere, anywhere and do something, anything outdoors. Music production is no exception.

After a year of lockdowns, more and more musicians have hit the road and produced from their makeshift studio. With the growing roster of products designed specifically for audio nomads, there’s no better time to gear up and get outside. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite tools from software to hardware that can help you get your work done while soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors.

For the Escapist: MIDI Controller

For solo travellers looking for alone time with your music, it’s time to upgrade from the piano roll on your laptop’s keyboard. With a MIDI controller, you can just zone out and let your fingers do the work.

Any small keyboard that has keys, pads, and knobs will do. For the most compact, go for Akai’s MPK mini mk3 or MPK25 for those looking for more buttons.

However, if you can do without the pads, we recommend Komplete Kontrol M32 from Native Instruments. Its playability and control functionality makes it a standout. Not only are there more keys, but the touch strip mod and pitch wheel are also super handy. Plus, its integration with instruments and softwares is also sharper than any other keyboards we’ve tried.

For the Social Butterfly: Online Collaborative Studio

For busy, in-demand musicians who prefer to team up with other artists while on vacation rather than switching off, a cloud-based collaborative studio is a perfect solution.

Soundation lets your team mates drop stems into a shared project online – which you can access from a browser and add your parts from wherever you are without having to even log into your mailbox. No more dealing with work emails while you’re digging for the right emails from your team mates. It’s just you and your music.

For the Planner: Portable Hard Drive 

External hard drives are great for bringing sample libraries with you on a trip, making backups of projects in case your laptop falls into the water and taking with you files from sessions when you visit studios. 

One of the most robust and durable options out there is a LaCie Rugged portable hard drive. Thanks to its sturdy rubber sleeve and internal bumper, their Rugged line is known for being very resistant to water and dust, making it a producers’ favorite. For those who like to plan things in advance and go on a trip with a checklist of tracks to finish, a 1TB one is enough to get you through the trip.

For the Adventurer: Mic and Audio Interface

Whether the ambient sounds of the freezing Arctic or the bustling urban metropolis is your thing, a handheld recorder is a travel essential if you want to dabble into field recordings.

Zoom has recorders at various price points and specs for the curious hunter of sounds out there. But if we have to pick, we recommend the Zoom H5. It’s a great easy-to-carry audio recorder that also doubles as an audio interface if you connect it to your computer. It has a built-in microphone, but also mic and line inputs if you want to record an electric guitar or synth.

For those who already have a mic but are looking for a cheap and compact audio interface that’s ideal for low latency recordings, we say go for Komplete Audio 2 by Native Instruments. It has all the bells and whistles you need, including 2 XLR/Tele inputs, phantom power, direct monitoring and VU-meters recording at 192kHz in 24 bit.

For the Camper: Portable Speakers

Definitely something to impress your camping neighbors. If there’s space in your bag and you want to go the extra yard, that is.

The iLoud Micro Monitors from IK Multimedia are without doubt the best portable speakers for music production in the market right now. It’s easy to set up and offers a decently accurate listening experience. You can aux it straight to your computer or audio interface or opt for the bluetooth option.

For the Thrill Seeker: Backpack

For trekkers or those who like to go to the edge of the world for the perfect outdoor studio setup, a backpack from Analog Cases will be your new best friend.

They have a wide range of bags and backpacks customized for specific pieces of gear. Our favorite model is the Sustain Mobile Producer one. What makes it better than a regular backpack is that the interior is lined with a dense foam padding and the exterior has plastic panels what will keep your gear safe from the bumps and bruises of traveling.

Plus, it’s spacious and everything we mentioned above will fit into this bag quite comfortably.

For the Festival Hopper: Ear Plugs

Killnoise ear plugs are not the typical foam ear plugs you can get for $1 at a concert. Designed especially for DJs and rock stars, they promise to reduce the noise but still enable hearing.

Hearing loss is far more common than you might think. So, protect your ears and wear ear plugs in noisy environments – don’t be stupid.

No matter where you end up this summer, happy traveling!

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