10 reasons to start making music on a laptop

Controllers such as Korg's forthcoming nanoSeries devices are making the studio more portable than ever.
Controllers such as Korg's forthcoming nanoSeries devices are making the studio more portable than ever.

Whether you're an electronica artist who needs to work away from the studio, a guitarist who wants to be able to create every tone imaginable or a DJ who fancies carrying all their music with them wherever they perform, a laptop is the perfect solution.

In fact, MusicRadar would go as far as to say that a PC or Mac portable should now be on every musician's shopping list, and we've got ten reasons why…

1. Great hardware and software
Everyone's been talking about the forthcoming Korg nanoSeries controllers, but these aren't the only products that have been designed with laptop users in mind. Kenton's Killamix Mini is perfect for Ableton Live users who want to start performing, while the Presonus FaderPort and Frontier Design Group AlphaTrack are excellent portable DAW controllers. On the software side, if you don't fancy Live, Propellerhead's Reason 4 remains a fantastic option for anyone who requires a self-contained, end-to-end production solution.

2. It's a high-quality sound module
If you're a keyboard player in a band and want the highest-quality sounds available, a laptop is where it's at. Load it up with a few choice bits of software and you'll have all the acoustic and synthetic patches you could ever want. The only other thing you need is a decent MIDI controller keyboard to play them on - Fatar's new Numa, for example.

3. It's a virtual guitar amp
Traditionalists will scoff at the notion of using a laptop for guitar tone creation purposes, but the fact is that today's software simulators are amazingly flexible. What's more, if you go for IK Multimedia's StompIO or Native Instruments' Guitar Rig 3 Kontrol Edition, you've also got a hardware foot controller that's perfect for stage use.

4. It will change the way you make music
Having a studio full of gear is great, but perversely, having too many options can sometimes be restrictive. If you're working with a slimmed-down laptop setup, you'll have to adapt your workflow and learn to get the best out of the tools that you do have at your disposal. This in turn could lead to you making a different, possibly better kind of music.

5. The world becomes your studio
An obvious one, this, but it can't be said too many times that if you've got a laptop, you can make music anywhere. The dream of creating a chillout opus while you're lying on the beach can become a beautiful reality - just make sure you don't get sand in your keyboard.

6. You can make more of your time
Many of us spend half our lives commuting to and from work on trains, and it's all too easy to waste that time reading free newspapers that don't really tell us anything. If you're got a laptop, though, these lost hours can be turned into creative music-making time - who knows, you might just be able to produce an entire album during journeys to and from the office?

7. You can save space
We'd all love to live in six-bedroom houses, but if you've got a shoebox-sized flat or you're sharing a place with friends, space is going to be at a premium and you're not going to have much room for recording gear. Do everything in a laptop, though, and you can pack your studio away whenever you're not using it, and when you are, you won't need much space at all.

8. You can start DJing
Most of us have now got huge collections of music files sitting on our hard disks, but once these have been transferred to our iPods, they don't serve a great deal of purpose. If you've got laptop, though, you can easily transform yourself into a play-anywhere DJ - just download a bit of free mixing software such as Native Instruments Beatport Sync and you're away.

9. It aids collaboration
Exchanging project files is all well and good, but if you want to make music with someone else, nothing beats being in the same room with them. Of course, it's possible for two people to work together on the same computer, but laptop jamming - an activity that involves two or more people linking up their laptops and making music together in real time - is becoming increasingly popular.

10. It makes you look cool
Although they might not admit it, one of the reasons that many people buy a laptop for music is because they think it'll make them look good. Nothing wrong with that, we say - if people are impressed at the sight of you making a tune in Live in the local coffee shop, so be it. It's certainly going to be a conversation starter, and might even help you to form some beautiful friendships.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.