Making music doesn't always call for a ton of gear and gadgets – one can make music using everything from just their body to roomfuls of musical instruments and gear. But there are a few gadgets that can make creating music easier – and improve its quality. Here are five essential tools every musician should have.
Even if you're a singer, a tuner can still be an enormous help in the studio and rehearsal space. A digital tuner – or a smartphone app for tuning, like DaTuner or DaTuner Lite – will tune every instrument you own and help you place every note correct if you're struggling with a particular passage with lots of accidentals or chromaticism (and this is applicable to both instrumentalists and vocalists). Some musicians prefer a physical tuner, but tuning apps are just as capable and accurate as a standalone model.
A metronome helps musicians find and maintain consistent rhythm – and while this sounds like basic musicianship, it can be harder than one might assume. If you're performing a piece that doesn't change its BPM too frequently, a metronome can be enormously helpful, especially with large bands. You can purchase a physical metronome from a music shop or online, and in addition, lots of metronome apps for smartphones – like Andronome – are available cheap or free. Some smartphone metrophones are more adaptable than others, such as odd-numbered BPMs, subdivision options, and more, so look for one that best suits your needs.
A basic digital audio workstation is another absolute must for anyone creating music. With a DAW, you can record everything from rehearsal sessions to full-blown symphonic works. Having a DAW can also help you develop audio production skills over time, especially if you read regularly about the industry and best practices. ProTools, Logic, Cubase, and Acid Pro are some of the best known, but a load of freeware options exist, like Acid Pro Express, Giada, GarageBand, and Rosegarden.
If you're a gigging musician, a mini toolkit is a great thing to have around. You might have to fix an instrument or setup equipment on the fly, especially if you're on tour. Suggested options for a musician's mini toolkit are an assortment of miniature screwdrivers, wire cutters, a drum key, and a multitool like a Swiss knife or a similar tool.
Even for those who don't use sheet music regularly, music stands can come in handy. A music stand can hold cue sheets, lead sheets, drum sticks, and set lists – anything you may need to be able to see easily throughout a show and get to quickly. Portable music stands are very easy to come by, and are often very cheap – sometimes, you can even get lucky at a thrift or secondhand store.
From rock bands to classical outfits, each of these tools will help you in your day to day practice as a musician – and at shows and rehearsal sessions.