Music Production Buyers Guide for Software and Hardware

Whether you’re taking music production lessons with us at Sunburst, recording your band, making beats, or composing chart topping EDM there are a lot of directions music production can take you, but only one place to start!

Digital Audio Workstation


A digital audio workstation or DAW is software used to create, record and shape your music. There are quite a few DAWs to choose from, at Sunburst we teach primarily two.


With a large selection of software instruments, digital audio effects and easy-to-use interface GarageBand is a great place to start recording and composing your own music. Developed exclusively for MacOS, GarageBand can be downloaded for free onto any iMac or MacBook product from the App Store.

Ableton Live

Unmatched in how well it handles both digital and recorded music, Live is a program used by professionals but also a great tool for learning fundemental skills. All three versions of Live can downloaded for Mac or PC from Ableton’s website. We suggest you start with the ‘Intro’ version which costs $100 and gradually expand with plug-ins and upgrades as you learn.

MIDI Controllers


A MIDI controller is a piece of external hardware like a keyboard or drum-pad that allows you to create music in ‘real-time’. Musicians often prefer them because they allow for more spontaneity and intuitive decision making. The cost and quality vary greatly but around $100 is often a good price point for your first purchase.

We also teach a live DJ controller called DJ Serato that costs roughly $300 and a more fully interactive controller specifically designed for Live called Push that starts around $400.

Headphones & Speakers


Once you start shaping your sound it’s important to listen to your music through professional quality equipment. Hearing the full spectrum of high and low frequencies through a ‘neutral’ audio source allows you to give a depth and clarity to your sound that can’t be done with consumer grade equipment like ‘Beats by Dre’ or standard computer speakers.

Audio-Technica’s ATH-M30x
and Sony’s MDR‐V6
are all great studio quality headphones that cost around $70.

PreSonus’s Eris 5
M-Audio’s AV42
and Mackie’s MR524-5
are studio monitors (or speakers) that come highly recommended and cost between $100- 150.

Microphones & Pre-Amps


Microphones and pre-amps are used for capturing vocals and live instruments. A microphone will capture a signal and a pre-amp will process that signal into your DAW. Prices for microphones vary greatly and because there is such a large variety of them we recommend you consult our staff before making your purchase.

Most likely your first microphone, pre-amp and amenities like stands and cables will cost $150-250.

Where to Buy?


Though there are always exceptions most of the items cannot be purchased in a traditional music store and need to be ordered online. Amazon and eBay will often have what you need but we recommend you checking these websites for what are often the best deals.

Just Ask!

We’re here to help! Our staff has no personal stake in selling products, just in teaching you how to use them, so If you have any question please don’t hesitate to ask!

Instrument Rental

Want to start taking lessons but don't yet have an instrument? We have tons in the studio available for you to use or rent!


Sunburst School of Music

5843 Forbes Avenue, Suite 201

Pittsburgh, PA 15217