The Best Gifts for Musicians, According to Real Music Makers

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From sound engineers and screenwriters to celebrity makeup artists and stylists, Variety’s new series “Ask an Insider” will ask the entertainment industry’s top pros to share their must-have essentials, for work…and for play. this episode, four savvy producers, musicians, and sound engineers — who’ve worked with Kendrick Lamar, Dua Lipa, G-Eazy, and Kanye West — share the studio essentials they use almost every day.

Providing professional musicians can be a challenge: like any expert in their field, they know what equipment best suits their needs and can be wary of trendy products that aren’t worth the money. Meanwhile, you might not even know what a plug-in is or the difference between a dynamic mic and a condenser mic.

To help you, we’ve collected recordings from four well-known producers, musicians and sound engineers: from multiple Grammy-nominated Sam Barsh, whose credits include Kanye West’s ‘Donda’ and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ , to Grammy-nominated Kellen Pomeranz for her work on John Legend’s “Conversations in the Dark.”

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom speakers

Courtesy of Amazon

“These have exceptional sound quality for the size, portability and price. The audio response is very clear and you can turn the two speakers into a stereo pair. Another cool feature is that you can pair multiple Ultimate Ears speakers together and place them in PartyUp mode, allowing you to spread your music to a wider area. Since they are also waterproof, they perfectly complement your beach bag and allow you to listen to your music in the shower.

– Simone Torres (sound engineer, vocal producer and Grammy-nominated singer)


Ultimate Ears Wonderboom speakers



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Microphone Shure Sm7b

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Courtesy of Sweetwater

“I love this mic. I use it on almost all of my records. What I like the most is its affordability and durability compared to other industry standard microphones. It sounds great natural, and I can just throw it in my backpack when I’m on the go and still capture high-quality vocals.

Plus, since it’s a dynamic mic, the performer can hold it in their hand in the studio and move around with it while tracking. By doing vocals this way, you’re able to capture those spontaneous moments in the studio much more easily than when you bring them into a sterile vocal booth where they may feel less comfortable.

– Kelly Pomeranz (Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter)

Headphones Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

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Courtesy of Amazon

“Both models of these Audio Technica headphones are ubiquitous among record producers working in the business, and with their affordable prices, they’re an obvious buy. The M50x, the more expensive of the two, delivers more powerful bass, while that the M40x offers a slightly more balanced sound Personally, I use the M40x, as the bass is still very present, and I feel that they offer a precise sound for the mix that translates well on different highs -speakers and sound systems.

Both models feature a foldable design that makes them easy to store in a backpack or travel bag, and comfortable padded ear cups that swivel, for those who like to record with just one ear. They also come with detachable cables, so if you run them around too often with your office chair, you can replace the cables without having to buy a whole new pair of headphones.

– Sam Barsh (Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter)


Headphones Audio-Technica M40x

$139.00
$359


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Yamaha HS8 and HS5 studio monitors

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Courtesy of Sweetwater

“The Yamaha HS range of powered studio monitors are a winner in quality, value and aesthetics. The HS8s, the largest of the bunch, deliver detailed sound and enough bass to not require a subwoofer in the small to medium sized production rooms.

The HS5s sound similar in quality to the discontinued classic Yamaha NS10s but, unlike the NS10s, they are powered so they don’t require a separate power amp. Although they don’t produce lower bass frequencies, the HS5s are great for fine-tuning mixes and can be paired with a subwoofer if more bass is needed. The absence of sub-bass also makesperfect for home studios, as low frequencies are more likely to penetrate walls (and disturb spouses, roommates or neighbors).

All HS Series monitors are available in white and black; the white versions are particularly chic and (unlike many light-colored gear) are very easy to clean, while the black versions have more of a classic studio vibe. Yamaha also offers the 7-inch HS7s, but they don’t have enough bass to work well without a subwoofer, so I’d recommend spending a bit more on the HS8s, or going with the HS5s and adding a subwoofer if you want the extra low-end bump. If you need to mount the speakers to a wall or ceiling, the HS8i and HS5i come with mounting points on four surfaces for a slightly higher price.

– Sam Barsh (Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter)


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$374.99

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Casio SA-46 Portable Keyboard

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Courtesy of Amazon

“It’s shocking how many uses I find for this thing. I constantly use it as a pitch reference during vocal tracking sessions, vocal tuning, quick chord ideas for sessions songwriting, and I’ve even run it through a bunch of guitar pedals to find some cool sounds for recordings. It’s cheap, available, and may be as useful for my three-year-old as it is for me- even in a professional environment.Any music creator can find a use for this little keyboard.

– Matt Dyson (sound engineer and mixer)


Casio SA-46 Portable Keyboard

$49.99

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Electro-Voice Handheld Microphone

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Courtesy of Amazon

“Anyone doing home recording needs microphone options and this is an often overlooked and underappreciated mic. It’s inexpensive, readily available, but is very rare as an omnidirectional dynamic mic. I find constantly new creative uses for it.Whether on drums, vocals or acoustic guitar (my favorite), this mic always offers something cool and perhaps unexpected.

– Matt Dyson (sound engineer and mixer)


Electro-Voice 635A Handheld Interview Microphone

$139.00

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splice adhesion

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Courtesy of spice

“Splice is one of the places to find royalty-free samples and get your creative juices flowing, and it’s great for beginners and advanced alike. Personally, I like to use Splice when writing to give me a base to work on and Auto-Tune to help improve my vocal creativity.

– Simone Torres (sound engineer, vocal producer and Grammy-nominated singer)


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$7.99/month

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