Starting making music on budget

I’ve had a little session making music with a friend on my machines this weekend and after all the fun of knob turning, filter opening, muting/unmuting, he wants to get his first machine.

He needs something really cheap, like under 150€ (no problem if it’s a second hand), that can produce a song from start to finish so I’ve advice him to get a groovebox/sampler, something like a korg Er1/Es1.

So, I think you guess my point, what will you recommend to someone who want to start making music on budget ?

Even better \o/

Step 1: Grab an old groovebox, learn it inside out and master it completely
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Profit \o/ \o/ \o/

Some suggestions…

Yamaha RM1x / RS7000
E-Mu Command Station
Korg Electibe ES-1 / ESX-1 / EM-1 / EMX-1
Roland MC-505 / MC-808 / MC-909


Does this person already own a laptop? If so, I would recommend a second hand Machine Mikro. They should be able to get hold of a used MkI for under €150. Just make sure a 2.x software license is included with the device (see

Does this person already own an iPhone or iPad? Korg Gadget is only $20 right now and there’s also a fee light version if they want to give it a try before buying. All of the Korg controllers work great with Gadget, so they can grab one in case physical control is wanted.

Old grooveboxes can be a lot of fun, but they can also be frustrating because pretty much all of them have quirks and limitations that IMHO don’t make them very suitable to produce a full track for a beginner. Depending on the type of music you want to make, they might also not be as flexible in terms of sound as the above options, especially if you’re after analogue sounding filter sweeps.

Finally, I doubt you’ll be able to find any of the grooveboxes suggested above in decent shape for less than €150.


+1 for Gadget
For an absolute beginner, iKaossilator is loads of fun

Both are universal or have iPhone versions

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is awesome. Good advice / call.

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My advice would be to save up a little longer and get a used MPC1000. I’m guessing the prices will come down now that the Live and X are out. That is a fantastic machine.

+1 on an older electribe.
Getting the sampler could open up a whole new world where absolutely everything becomes sample fodder.

Not sure on the specs, but the wee mpc500 tends to go quite cheap.

IMO 150€ is a very limited budget, if compared to what 2nd hand groove boxes cost, if in good shape. Even a used MPC 500 will not sell for this price.

At this price range the Korg Volca series comes to my mind and the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator series.

If there is a computer already in place, there are quite a couple of free DAWs and plug-ins, including drum-machines, samplers, synths, FX. Just let her/him buy one issue of this months “Computer-Music” and get a load of free software and samples. Computer Music often licenses special CM-free versions from great developers, which have peen picked at a pro level sometimes.

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Just had a quick look - I stand corrected on the mpc500.

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Volca sample and a demo of Reaper if your friend already has a computer. It will be really difficult to find a large format groovebox at that price point but I’d definitely jump on an RM1X too because I loved that sequencer. I regret selling that to a friend of mine.


You could also look for a used SP-303. Madlib made a bunch of famous tracks with that one.


A po 12 and a volca sample both second hand can bé had in this budget… Or à second hand electribe 2 for a bit more…

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To be honest, I think if you’re under a strict budget, I say use your laptop (if you already have one) and buy a half decent MIDI controller. If you get into hardware, you’re just going to buy more and more hardware.


And don’t forget this while your friend is trying to decide on what to go with. :wink:


Lots of good ideas here :slight_smile:

I didn’t thought about SP-303/MPC500/RM1x, but I guess it can be found around this budget and it’s all nice machines.

Of course there is still the computer / ipad way, and in fact, he already started to discover the DAW world with Garageband, but what was fun was the machine, the feeling of the hardware knob/button/pad. I told him that when I got started, I started on a computer too, but because of the infinity of possibility and the (IMO) lack of fun, it was really complicat to begin.

I think that the best advice the actual version of me could give to the poor student I was, is : GRAB A MACHINE !!! (even a really poor one)
Machine is fun, even with limits, lack of power or strange logic.
Remember : “We make hardware because it’s fun” :slight_smile:

But as someone said, a gadget (or vst) / sampler combo fit the budget, and could be enough to have fun writing your first songs.


A Maschine Mikro is incredibly good value considering you get Komplete Select and that great Maschine library, the Maschine software (which is much improved) plus the controller with its great pads.


Since he has a computer already, the most efficient way to get in producing tracks would be ITB. Having free or light versions of pro plug-ins, which sometimes have the GUI of the original hardware, combined with an affordable midi controller could be a good starting point.

I wouldn’t advise any musician to buy a poor machine or poor instrument. Second hand and decent it should be. Strong limitations or poor quality or poor reliability can generate frustration and destroy all the fun.

What about a mixture of having some software and some friends with hardware, which could be borrowed for a time?


I explicitly recommended Maschine and Korg Gadget because both options have the same kind of “fun and immediate” feel as hardware. Even though they run as software on your computer or iPhone/iPad, using them is a completely different experience than using a DAW.

Especially Maschine feels like you’re using a dedicated hardware device. It is however the more expensive option.

Don’t get one. They’re severely limited.

Very Cool way to use a Nintendo Switch if you have one. I appreciate these moves to integrate into music creation into all kinds of machines. This would be better than on a ipad with the haptic and tactile response of a dedicated controller.