Fruity Loops, Cakewalk Deluxe 8 and a Casio MIDI controller were my first music production tools back when I started making beats. I was using Soundfont technology for my instrument sounds and drum samples that I bought from Ebay. I was running a Pentium 3 PC with Windows XP installed. As you can imagine I ran into many performance issues on this system and eventually got very frustrated.
My first solution to this issue was quite simple, I moved to a hardware based setup. Hardware instruments dominated the music production landscape at that time and all of the major Hip Hop and R&B records were being produced using hardware. I made a hefty investment in to my craft in order to solve my performance issues in the studio. I found a greater level of confidence with hardware instruments because I knew the limitations of the hardware from the specifications sheets and manuals. My keyboard had “64-voice polyphony” and “16-Part Multi-Timbral” listed as primary specifications and features. My groovebox had 32-MIDI channels, 64-tracks, and 32MB of sampling RAM, these were hardware limitations. There were never any surprises with this setup and I could easily work under the constraints and limitations of my hardware instruments.
Years later when I decided to move back into a software instruments setup, I ran into problems once again. I had a new computer by this time, however I still hit performance walls in my productions. I was running an Apple Powerbook at the time, which worked fine for recording audio, but not as well with virtual instruments. The inconsistency that I experienced in the studio was frustrating. Sometimes I could get a track done with this setup, other times I would have move out of my creative zone and go into a troubleshooting mode to free up system resources.
Over the years I’ve dedicated a lot of time to finding solutions for optimizing performance in my studio. One of the keys is to make sure that you have a computer that is up to the task of music production. Pay close attention to the manufacturer’s recommended system specifications for all software that you plan to run on your studio computer. Remember that minimum system requirements will provide you with the bare minimum performance. You want to make sure your computer is closer to the recommend system specifications when listed.
Also be cautious with the plugins you commit to purchase for your studio. Download demos of software instrument products and check their CPU usage on your computer thoroughly before you commit to a purchase. You’ll want to check more than just the sounds and presets during your trial. Try your best to push the plugin to the limit and see what it takes to max out your CPU. This due diligence will save you a lot of time in the studio and will help to keep you from being frustrated while you work.