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How To Make Beats Without A Computer (Beginner’s Guide)

By Matthew Vultaggio

November 13, 2020

Whether you are making music for the first time or if you simply want to make music without having to stare at a computer monitor for hours on end, I am going to show you how to make beats without a computer.

There are 3 ways to make beats without a computer: using a completely DAWless setup, a hybrid setup, or a tablet-based setup. A DAWless setup uses absolutely no computers, a hybrid setup only uses the computer to process sounds and/or record your jams, and a tablet-based setup uses an iPad or Android tablet in place of a computer.

In this article, I will break down these 3 methods in detail to show you the pros and cons of each, so that you can ultimately find the method that is best for you.

If you are ready to ditch the computer (either completely or partially), then let’s dive right into the goods, my friend. 🙂

The Top 3 Ways To Make Music Without A Computer

As previously mentioned, there are 3 ways that you can accomplish your goal of making music without a computer.

Each method has different degrees of “computer-escapism” depending on how much you want to distance yourself from the computer or if you simply want to distance yourself from the computer’s screen.

To kick things off, let us look at the method #1 which completely and absolutely removes the computer from the equation.

#1 DAWless music creation

First off…

What does DAWless mean?

Great question!

DAWless means to make music without a computer’s Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). To elaborate further, a DAW is simply a computer program or software that you can install on your computer to make music.

Examples of popular DAWs include:

Because you need a computer to run this kind of application, making DAWless music means to make music without a computer.

If you are wondering how to go DAWless, there are essentially 3 main things that you need:

  1. A hardware synthesizer to handle bass lines, pads, and leads.
  2. A hardware sampler to handle sampled voices, instruments, and other sounds.
  3. A hardware drum machine to handle the rhythm and drums.

A DAWless setup can have more or fewer items depending on if you want your computer-free set up to be completely portable, more flexible, or have the ability to record.

For a complete guide on making DAWless music, check out my complete guide: How To Go DAWless (The 3 Things You Need)

#2 The hybrid set up

If going DAWless means to 100% ditch the computer, then the hybrid set up would mean ditching the computer by 50% to 75%.

There are 2 ways that you can create a hybrid set up that relies less on the computer to make music:

  1. Use the computer to record your DAWless jams.
  2. Use an advanced MIDI controller to control your computer’s DAW without you having to look a the computer’s screen.

One of the biggest issues that DAWless musicians will inevitably face is recording their DAWless jams.

It can be quite simple to get a simple stereo track of a DAWless jam. However, multi-tracking a DAWless jam so that you can fine-tune each track for mixing and mastering is much more difficult.

This is where a computer and audio interface can be awesome since you can use the DAW to simply record your DAWless jams. The actual music-making is still done without the computer.

So technically you are still making beats without a computer, you are just using a computer to record those beats.

For more info on recording DAWless jams, check out my article: How To Choose A Mixer For Your DAWless Setup.

The 2nd way to use a hybrid setup is to use an advanced MIDI controller to control your computer’s DAW without you having to look a the computer’s screen.

One of the main reasons that musicians look to ditch the computer is mainly due to wanting to stop staring at the computer screen.

Using an advanced MIDI controller like the Ableton Push 2, allows you to control your DAW using knobs, pads, and buttons instead of a mouse, keyboard, and computer screen.

For more info on making music with a hybrid set up like this, check out my article Is Ableton Push 2 Worth It (spoiler alert: it is totally worth it).

#3 The tablet-based setup

The 3rd way that you can make beats without a computer is by using a tablet-based setup.

Obviously, a tablet could be considered a computer. But at the same time, a DAWless hardware sampler like the Elektron Digitakt could truly be looked at as a computer as well.

This method basically relies on using 1 of the 100s of apps for music production that are available for iPad and Android tablets today.

Some great apps for music production include:

  • GarageBand for iOS
  • Samplr
  • Koala Sampler
  • Roland Zenbeats

You can even combine tablet-based music production apps with DAWless gear to create another form of a hybrid set up.

Here is a video of me actually rocking a hybrid tablet and DAWless set up in the great outdoors:

Best Friends Club (aka ME hehe) jamming on an budget DAWless setup.

Gear List:

  • Sequencer + Drum Machine + Synthesizer: Novation Circuit
  • Sampler: iPad with the Samplr app

How Much It Costs To Make Music Without A Computer

The beautiful thing about making music today is that you really don’t need a lot to get going on creating really great tracks.

Depending on your ambitions, your budget, and what you ultimately hope to achieve, the costs to make music without a computer can vary quite a bit.

By far the simplest way to make music without a computer would be to invest in a groove box.

A groove box is simply an all-in-one hardware device that allows you to create electronic music right from the box. These usually cost between $500 and $1000.

With that said, here are a few lists of items that you may want to consider purchasing to make music without a computer:

Groove boxes

All-in-one devices that have sequencing, synthesizers, drum machines, effects, and more built-in.

ProductPrice Range
Novation Circuit$200 – $300
Korg Electribe$300 – $400
MPC One$500 – $600

Studio Essentials

You may already have ways to playback your music, but if not, this is how much studio essentials can set you back.

ProductPrice Range
Headphones$50 – $150
Studio Speakers$300 – $800
Mixers$50 – $500

Synthesizers & Drum Machines

Synthesizers and drum machines are a great way to create sound sources for your DAWless setup or add more playable instruments to your studio set up.

ProductPrice Range
Novation Mono Station$300 – $400
IK Uno Synth$200 – $300
Teenage Engineering PO-12$50 – $60

For a great selection of drum machines, check out the 5 Best Drum Machines For Techno and other forms of underground dance music.

Tablets & Apps

If you want to go the tablet-based approach, you can actually do this for free if you already have an iPad and want to try out the free GarageBand app. Otherwise, there are a few costs you may want to be aware of.

ProductPrice Range
iPads$200 – $300
Android Tablets$300 – $400
Samplr App$20 – $30
Koala Sampler$5 – $10
GaragaBand$0

How To Make Music Without A Computer: Step-By-Step Guide

So how can you actually figure out how to make music without a computer?

I’ve outlined a step-by-step process that you can take to get started:

  1. Evaluate how much you want to remove the computer.
    • Do you want to go completely DAWless?
    • Is it okay if you use the computer to record or as a sound source?
    • Does the tablet-based approach make sense for you?
  2. Evaluate your financial situation.
    • Do you have enough money saved up for any purchases?
    • Do you have a plan to save up for any purchases?
  3. Research some products.
    • Look up product reviews on Amazon.
    • Look at what people are saying on YouTube.
    • Look at what people are saying on Reddit and other forums.

And there you have it!

Hopefully, this article provided you all the information you need to enter the world of computer-less music-making.

Good luck and have fun making some sweet music, my friend. 🙂

Related Questions

Good portable ways to make beats without a laptop?

Great question! The best portable way to make music without a laptop is to use battery-powered groove boxes like the Novation Circuit, Teenage Engineering OP-1 or MPC Live 2.

What do you need to make beats without a DAW?

Another great question! The main 3 things you need to make music without a DAW is a synthesizer, sequencer/sampler, and drum machine.

How to produce music without a computer?

Wowee! Another great question! There are 3 ways to produce music without a computer: using a completely DAWless setup (no computers at all), a hybrid setup (computers for sound or recording only), or a tablet-based setup (iPad or Android).

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