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Buying a Mac for Music Production in 2020

Here's a to the point primer on buying a Mac for Music Production. This is the most up to date info, as of September 2020.

Given that I just went through the process I thought I'd share this with my readers so here goes. 

For making music some macs are good buys others not so much

First off let's start with the obvious first or most popular choice for DJs producers which is the Mac Book Pro.  Right now it's a good time to buy with the 13 inch sizes just getting refreshed with 10th generation Intel processors and I believe bigger hard drives.

To the me the 16inch is nice but I have very little needs as far as portability so it's not worth paying a premium for. 

What About Apples New ARM Based / Silicon Processors?

That's a fair question but it's still too early. 

1. They aren't out yet and are rumored to be this fall.  

2. Even with the release it will be with the latest OS and you don't want to be an early adopter in the music field with Apple's latest and greatest because music software is not instantly available, tested, and fully ready.

If you're making music you don't want to be an early adopter, you're asking for headaches. And this pertains to software, not hardware. Apple expects the shift to be fully on board with their new processors to take 2 years so if you really need a new mac as I did don't hold out.

My mid 2011 iMac is still going strong but I figured it was better to upgrade now and sell it for some $$ than to keep holding on until it won't run.  Besides the new Apple Credit card allows for interest free monthly payments. 

This aside stick to what's currently for sale, but everything for sale isn't worth buying for music production.  There's a bunch to rule out such as the cheapest and most expensive.

The Macbooks and Macbook Airs are fairly under powered. The iMac and Mac Pros are too damn $$, which basically leaves the iMac, Mac Mini, and Macbook Pro. 

Sticking with what's popular you can't go wrong and save money in the process getting a refurbished Mac Book Pro.

Apple Desktops for Music Production

Right here we have the iMac 27 that just got a reboot and is a great way to end the long running external design as well as the last hoorah with Intel processors. 

The iMac has a lot going for it:

  • 10th generation processors
  • User friendly memory upgrades
  • The Value of an all in one
  • Pretty strong GPU (Not that our graphics needs are intense making music)
  • Decent hard drive space

While I love the 21.5 inch model, not sure this will get a similar update.  The RAM is not easy to upgrade on your own, and it's out dated. This is not worth purchasing, you're better off getting the 27.

The 1 drawback of the iMac is the lack of Thunderbolt 3/USB-C Ports with only 2 of them. This doesn't seem very future proof but I'm sure it's workable. 

The Mac Mini 2018 - 2020 for Music Production

There isn't really a Mac Mini 2020 it's the same 2018 but with more hard drive so it's kind of a better deal however it still has the 8th generation Intel processors. 

This is the way I went. While I love my iMac, it's not worth buying the current 21.5.  The 27 is really too damn big, I don't need a 5k screen.  

If I were to get it I'd prefer the i7 with a Terabyte SSD which will run $2,549 with the Magic Trackpad 2. 

To me that's way over budget, my mid 2011 i7 imac was $1750 originally however I did spend $400 on an SSD upgrade 2 years ago. 

While the Mac Mini has slightly outdated processors it's still a beast, it's small and I can get a smaller screen that won't be such a monster on my desk. 

With the iMac, Mini, and MBPro 13s often times the very base model is not the way to go. 

For me I went w/ an i7 Mac Mini w/ a Terabyte drive. I'm not used to running samples and sessions off an external and the base mac mini comes w/ 500 gb so I figured I can spend money on an external and have to figure out how to migrate data over, or spend the same money for a terabyte sized drive and not be bothered with data dilemmas other than a time machine system restore. 

I did have to buy another wireless keyboard for $99, a $220 monitor but it's USB C and has 2 USB A pass thru ports. While the mac mini has a ton of ins and outs, it only has 2 regular USB ports.  I always have 2 in use, maybe more and I like to charge my iphone w/ a lightning cable. 

To me 4 Thunderbolt/USB C ports is future proof, the only drawback is the GPU, while it's fine now how will it be in 5 years? I guess I'll see. There is the option to run and external if needed. 

The Mac Mini was the best option personally. For the money compared to a 27 inch brand new imac I don't get 10th gen processors, but I do get a speedy 8th gen i7 versus the i5 on the iMac. I save money and save space. Plus the mini has a more robust selection of inputs. 

So far it's excellent, one thing I overlooked was that I was on Ableton Live 9 with no plans to upgrade to Live 10. This was forced on me because the Mac Mini ships with Catalina and Live 9 is basically broken and unsupported on this version of OSX. 

Depending on your needs I'd recommend:

i5/i7 Mac Mini (check refurbished)

i5 iMac - any of them - even the cheapest model should be excellent

Macbook Pro 13 - either of the options with 4 Thunderbolt Ports

Macbook Pro 16 

Apple is selling refurbished Macbook Pro 13s and 16s. 

Track Reviews & a Big Shout to John Summit

WOW!  I was just cruising beatport as I have a number of tracks in cart and I want to see which ones are available on bandcamp as BC gives the labels/artists a much higher percent of sales.

Then I saw a familiar name on the home page w/ the No.1 track

Pretty much exactly 3 years ago - John took me up on an offer for a track review. His work at the time was very solid.  We've been connected and I've seen him release on labels like Dirtybird and and Farris Wheel from Chicago's Gene Farris. His latest is on legendary house label Defected at at the moment it holds the No.1 spot on beatport. 

Big congrats on all your hardwork!

Here's John's Soundcloud.

For anyone interested in a proper second opinion on your music, I'm available for reviews on  There you can see examples/reviews.  

Or you can buy a review on this website where John was kind enough to leave a testimonial. 

Reach-Promo.Agency Review (Music Promotion Service

Here's my review of  


First off - they are a legit operation. I appreciate anyone willing to say something is not a fit. That's what happened when I first reached out about a campaign. The song in question just wasn't the right match in terms of genre so it didn't make sense for both parties. 

No harm no foul. At the time I appreciated the response and book marked the site for future use.

This past August I released a bootleg I had been working on and wanted to get it out there. 

Here's the tune.  Also covered in this tutorial 

So I reached out to Reach-Promo. 

This tune was good to go so off it went.

A few things to keep in mind.

The artwork and description of the release is entirely up to you so get writing or find someone to do it. Writing an article about the release isn't needed but a solid paragraph is. Some people specialize in this. Just get it done well before hand. Here's my release.

This will help DJs who get the release want to give it a listen. The words should be factual but also curiosity generating - kinda like a good press release.

Here's what I wrote which got reposted on NoiseGate.

I chose to make a modern interpretation of Nat Monday's Waiting. I borrowed parts from The Creamer and K mix.

This was early 2000s progressive house. Think Tenaglia and Deep Dish. Actually the tune was on one of my favorite compilations ever - GLobal Underground Moscow - mixed by Deepdish - the duo Dubfire was in before going solo. 

Anyhow I got some great feedback - far beyond the guaranteed minimums. 

DJs including

Sahar Z

DJ Boris

Paco Osuna

Chris Fortier

Ian Dillon (Decoded Magazine)

Shmitty (minimal Sessions) 


Gene Farris.

Overall 290 opens and 240 plays 3.8 out of 5.  Some big names got it, listened and gave feedback/support - and by the way the names above genuinely downloaded and left a comment.

"Downloads for Richie Hawtin" don't count. I did get that LOL.

All in all great service this is something the pros use. 

Great for some if you who want real feedback from people other than your Mum or Bros. This service is used by some top labels so you also have access provided it makes sense.

It goes without saying your material should be well mixed and professionally mastered.  If you already have some street-cred and releases behind you all the better. That's not required but helps tell a story and for new artists that story is what helps you get heard.

news worth checking out

New documentary called "The Sound of Berlin" is out now.

New York City based House Icon, David Morales calls out Kanye West for stealing one of his bass-lines.

In 1988, Acid House swept Britain - NYTimes w/ the story.

Psyk discusses new alias "MAAN"

"DJ Samuel" aka Sam Paganini shares an early mixtape from the 1990.  Listen on SC.

Young rising star Avision / Anthony Cardinale shares production tips --"His tracks and remixes have been released by such esteemed labels as Intec, On Edge Society, InMotion LTD and Mark Broom's Beardman Records, and supported by the likes of Chris Liebing, Pan-Pot, Joseph Capriati, Ben Sims, Paco Osuna and many more."

And in other news Pioneer and Native Instruments have dropped new stuff.

Competition is always good.  Pioneers release isn't such a big deal - yet another controller in the XDJ line.  This time it's a less costly version of their XDJ-RX.

Native Instruments drops a ton of stuff w/ Traktor 3 coming soon along with updated S2 and S4 controllers.  The S4 comes in at $899 which is less that Pioneers DDJ 1000 and new XDJ RR.  Between these 3 offerings there's a good amount to choose from for the serious DJ who doesn't want to shell out big bucks.

The Traktor S4 MK3 looks interesting!  While full details are limited it looks like it can run as a stand alone mixer which is a win for anyone with a turntable and it can play from IOS with the Traktor DJ app.  However the app has collected dust for a while - to me the question is if you can run 4 tracks with the controller playing from the Traktor DJ app.

Im sure Traktor users are psyched for Traktor 3.0.  I'm more of a Maschine user so I'm hoping a big Maschine update is coming soon.

So, Berlin happened...

Hey readers,

I know I've been a little quite. This past April I started a new 9-5 job and 2 weeks later had my 2nd kid.  So the company I work for is German, and they've sent me there 2 times now.  The first was mostly work, the most recent trip was mostly party.

I think smarter companies are realizing it's a better trip when employees can mix and mingle rather than spend too much time in meetings fighting off hangovers.

I knew this was going to be a good trip because I saw US House Maestro Todd Terry in the airport.  I travel out of Newark most of the time and saw who i thought was Todd sitting at CBGB. It was his signature backwards NY Yankee hat that made me realize it was him.

Todd was cool enough to chat for a few minutes, he was coming into Newark from Pacha Ibiza and off to Atlanta.

Awesome guy!

Anyhow I arrived in Berlin quite sleep deprived, rested in a hotel for a few and had to do some meetings and stuff from 2-6pm.  Then it was dinner.

The next day I was off "the Castle," rather Schloss Beesenstadt.

It's more of a manor than a castle and about 3 hours from Berlin.   Many of the popular Berlin clubs have held off site parties there.

It was beautiful, strange, creepy, crazy and cool this place.  I'm actually really happy they booked it because the local people have  a lot of pride in it and booking it helps fund renovations.

The place was once a military spot where horses were raised, another time an elite boarding school, probably at some point was run by communists as there was a big mural of Karl Marx.  At another time maybe some Free Masons did stuff there.  Was taken over by Nazis for a time, then used as a party place for East German Gov, and definitely spent some years in an abandoned state prior to being bought by a private owner after the fall of the Berlin wall.

So that's that. I have plenty of crazy pics of the place.

My employer is cool as fuck so they had various workshops to choose from.  Music production, grafitti, volleyball or just chilling by a local lake.

You know what I chose to do.

My employer also has it's on DJ on retainer, Mr. Marvin Hey a Sisyphos mainstay.  This year he brought in 2 DJ pals, his Ableton tutor Ingo and Ingo's girlfriend Diana May. (all great people).

I had found out some little details about the work outing and messaged our event planner about playing in a couple songs or something. I asked her to put me in touch w/ the DJs so I could work out technical details.

(They rented 4 CDJ 2000 Nexus players, a DJM 900 and an Allen & Heath Zone 92) Ingo brought in a bunch of production stuff too.

The first night was a gala dinner and masquerade ball/techno party (some top 40 was played too) and the next day was a DJ and production work shop.

Anyhow at the beginning of Day 1 when our awesome event planner was saying a few words to the whole company, she spoke about how her team of DJs had been there 2 days earlier setting up. She mentioned Diana who joins the team as the first girl DJ and then announced me as guest DJ from NYC.

"Oh hey pressure now, thought I'd just play a few songs here and there didn't know I'd get proper announcement"

I curtailed my drinking during dinner a lot as to not mess up my set.  I played from 1am to 4am in this sexy library turned techno room.

I totally rocked it and it was HOT.  Germany had an unusual hot spell and there was no Air Conditioning up in there.

Anyhow really good time, great crowd as many of my European colleagues are totally up for the music.  Not like fucking Americans - I love Americans but not too many where I'm from understand electronic music.

Maybe you can relate, but I learned a while back it's better to not even mention the whole DJ thing at work.  No body gets it.

"Oh u dj like parties and weddings and stuff" - Nope.

"Then you must scratch like wika wika"  - Nope not that either.

"Oh so then like EDM big David Guetta DJing (Puts hands in air)"  Not not like that either just forget I said this.

So that's how it went a couple jobs ago so I don't mention it at all unless I know they "get it" first.

Anyhow, my coworkers thing Berlin DJs are like the worlds finest - they had no idea I could totally hold my own w/ them.

I made the switch to Rekordbox 2 years ago.  I also have the XDJ-RX at home which makes walking up to CDJs quite easy.

Good thing for hot cues because sometimes equipment is a little shoddy. One deck had a cue button that didn't work. I usually drop cue point A on beat 1 so that was an easy work around.

I finally called it a day(night) at about 8am. The party went strong for a while.


The next day was DJ/production workshops and as honorary member of "Team DJ" I ended up teaching the DJ workshops which was fun.  Didn't mind goofing off w/ a Nexus set up for a few hours.

Was fun teaching others how it all works.  We let them try and mix without training wheels (the sync button)

If you're in the Berlin area Diana May gives lessons on the regular in addition to club/festival appearances.

Speaking of Berlin - you must be wondering if I made it to Berghain.

I did but didn't get in.

I got back to Berlin Saturday afternoon but had to be back to the hotel by 6am so I could be ready to leave at 7am.  That made Berghain a tough one and when I got to the place the long line made it a no go.  12am-4am are peak entrance times so my chances were basically zero.

What I should have done was gone to Watergate - but we decided it was Berghain or bust.  So I had a bust of a night.

What you should know about Berlin is that there are too many patrons and not enough venues.  What this means is that Berghain isn't the only club in town that will deny you entrance.  Getting in during peak night time hours can be annoying.

However from what I'm seeing there's so much nightlife activity that you can go out in the afternoon and have a blast with no stress of lines or getting rejected.  There's enough people to have fun but still room to have plenty of space.

Hit up Reddit for advice about Berlin.

Here's links to the fine people I met

Marvin Hey made it all possible

Ingo Reiber is a teacher here.

Diana May



Techno Samples And Organizing Your Library of Sounds

Having the Right Palette of Sounds is Essential for Hassle-Free Techno Production

Let's talk techno samples.  Here are the problems I wanted to solve. Now if you don't have a reason to do this you can end up drowning in near pointless activity.

What I wanted to do was make better use of the samples I do have, pick more specific sounds which will help define the music I make, have it better organized by mood/genre. Organizing by mood/genre is important - for the same reasons you'd organize playlists for a DJ set. Different songs are more appropriate for different parts of the night. Same for samples. The problem with samples is that they aren't organized by energy or feel so you can just end up with a bunch of kicks or hats.  Different kicks are better for different kinds of tracks.  The same applies for bass, lead sounds and so on. 

I also wanted my samples key labeled which makes things sound tighter and more cohesive. And when you get things sounding great at the onset it means less time mixing.  Plus key labeling makes it easier to pick out what samples to use. (I tend to focus around the Key of A or something close to it)

Here we go.

Before I get into these tips let me give you a little back story.

The first sample pack I ever bought was a double data compact disk. This was ages ago and it was by East West which is still around today. However finding usable samples for underground music or techno was not an easy task.

Imo very little was actually good - like 5% at best.

So when modern producers started making packs I found them to be tons better however I'd still use less than half of the pack's content.

More on this in a moment.

Over the years I'd grab packs from beatport when they do really deep Holiday sales - this doesn't mean I'd gorge myself on them.

To date I have maybe 20 or so packs in total including 5 (Maschine) Native Instruments Expansions. The NI ones are quite good BTW.

Anyhow it was time for me to start getting more particular about my sounds so it was time to get them organized.

What I did was make one folder called "select samples" - this folder would Be a home for the good stuff I'd use.

So, I went through each pack and searching for kicks loops hi hats synths riffs noises and so on. I then put them in folders.

From there it was easy to find gaps in my sonic palette. To fill those gaps I signed up to Splice for $8 to get more interesting usable stuff.

The beauty of Splice is you only get the samples you hand pick - I have about 79 so far.

You want to organize your sounds so they represent the frequencies in a club track. This way when your selecting stuff you'll have the spectrum covered. Now leads and melodic content may come from synths and stuff - I'll get to that.

Anyhow once your done and trust me this can be a never ending task, but once an initial pass has been done you'll want to key label your sounds.

I have an old copy of Mixed In Key version 5 that was up to the task. All I needed it for was to key label my samples - the ones that were missing this that is.

The benefit of having your stuff labeled by key is that when you get a groove going and then reach for your keys for a melody or bass line you know what key to play in.

Synth presents are another animal to organize - honestly I have yet to go there, but that's next on the list.

In short a good first pass at this would be to:

  • Hand pick the samples you actually do lik
  • Categories them into folders - kick, hat, ride, bass, top loop etc
    • You could make sub folders as needed (Peak hour kick) but it might not make sense to go too crazy on this
  • Spot categories of sounds your weak in - for me this is lead sounds, plucks, noises, and metallic percussive sounds - use the image below to see what "space" your techno samples occupy.  Tracks that sounds "big" and "full" tend to fill out the entire spectrum.
  • Keep in mind this is an on going task that will evolve over time. Don't let this become overly time consuming.  Use a timer.  This is a way you get smarter and more precise about the sounds you do choose to use.
  • Organizing is helpful but organizing is not producing
frequency of a club track

credit Future Music

Places to Shop for Underground / Techno Samples


Splice (Pretty solid for shopping techno samples by label (Sample Magic, Audio Tent) or by artist collection. Remember you can download them individually and combine them in your own sample packs or re-packs.

Raw Loops (A Personal Favorite)

Native Instruments Expansions - also quite especially if you're using Machine or Komplete Control

Samples from Mars - great for samples of analog gear

Personally I don't go out lookin for free stuff.  Anything worthwhile isn't typically free. 

Designing your own samples for techno is a another story soon to be covered. 

In the meantime have a look at these free samples I've put out in the past.

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