Technology has changed how we make and consume music. It’s hard to believe that audio recording wasn’t possible until 1860. Thanks to modern software, you can record, edit, mix, and master music in a heartbeat, but how much storage space do you need for music production?
You need a minimum of 500 GB of SSD storage for music production. The space is necessary to store your operating system, Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), plugins, sample library, saved projects, and other software. However, if you don’t have budget constraints, go for 1 TB to work more comfortably.
This article breaks down how much space you will need to produce music. We’ll also discuss why SSD is preferred over HDD storage and give you some tips for optimizing disc storage.
Why You Need at Least 500 Gigabytes
Although storage space needs vary, you need at least a 500 GB SSD to seamlessly produce music.
This space is enough for the OS, music production software, plugins, and a decent sample library. However, it’s only enough when you are starting. You’ll need to upgrade with time, depending on your needs. Big music production studios have ten times more space on their computers.
For best results, it is better to have a computer dedicated to music production. That way, you don’t have to fill up the storage with non-music files. More importantly, you need to optimize the storage available. You can do that by buying external storage drives to complement what you already have.
Why Is SSD Recommended for Music Production?
A solid-state drive (SSD) is a storage device that has no moving parts. It uses the same technology found in USB drives and memory cards. Generally, SSDs are about four times faster than their mechanical counterparts.
Because there are no mobile parts, SSDs read and write data much more quickly. As a result, if your operating system and applications are installed on an SSD, they load faster. Speed and reliability come in handy if you are in music production.
Professional music studios have huge music samples. Having an SSD makes it easier to search and find the samples. The speed of SSDs also makes it possible to record higher sample rates, add more velocity layers, and capture realistic sounding virtual instruments.
Determining the Correct SSD Size for Music Production
SSD prices have dropped in recent years, making them more widely available. As a result, buyers are often faced with multiple storage options with respect to technology and capacity.
The most important factor is the storage capacity. The correct SSD size for music production depends on the following:
Operating System (OS)
The OS is the most important software on any computer. It manages all the resources and enables interactions between the music producer and the computer. Most computers today come with a pre-installed OS. The most common OS include Microsoft Windows, Linux, Apple macOS, and Android.
Windows 10 files are about 15 GB. However, after the latest update, you will need a minimum of 32 GB to run the OS smoothly. That’s because the OS needs some space to store the temporary files it creates while your computer is running various applications.
Similarly, the heaviest version of the macOS requires 18.5 GB of disc space. If you choose to go with Linux, you’ll need to spare around 20 GB for the installation. Most operating systems get bigger with each update, so you need to have adequate space.
Music Production Software
The operating system only provides a platform for the other programs to interact. You’ll need a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to make music. Like most fields, there are so many options to choose from. Some of the most common software out there include FL Studio, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Garageband, and Cubase. Some are limited to a specific OS.
Most of these applications come in different packages with different functionalities; therefore, they vary in size. For example, Ableton Live needs between 6 and 55 GB of disc space, depending on the version. If you prefer Cubase, you will need at least 11 GB of free disc space. Others like FL studio and Garageband need less space, usually about 2 GB.
Note that the software will get bigger with every project since it has to keep track of all your projects, save your settings, and store your files. Consequently, you will need a lot more space than what is indicated under system requirements. So, to stay on the safe side, invest in more space than you think you’ll need to prevent future problems.
Sample Music Library
Sampling is a crucial part of modern music production. It allows you to pay homage to some of the classics or completely contextualize it. Sampling can use a portion of a recording such a rhythm, sound, pitch, and entire bars. However, generating samples requires a good ear and an extensive music collection.
A sample collection can easily run into the 1 TB, and this is before you add your saved projects. Most people invest in an external drive to store all the sample music. It is a better approach since it frees up the internal storage for daily use. Plus, you can keep a backup of your projects on your external drive. But if you can afford it, by all means, get an internal SSD that can carry most or all of your sample library.
Another option is to have an HDD for your samples and an SSD for your software. This way, you don’t have to spend so much on a high-capacity SSD, but you’ll still benefit from the speed advantage.
Plugins are additional apps that add functionality to an existing program. Music producers rely on different plugins to enhance their music. The most common audio plugins include reverberation, delay, equalization, and digital instruments. Since each plugin performs a specific task, you will likely need more than one.
The good news is that plugins don’t take up much storage. The bad news is that you will probably have hundreds of plugins after a while. It is a habit most music producers struggle with. The memory usage adds up and makes your DAW even larger. This is why you should always have extra space on your workstation.
The following YouTube video includes more information on determining your storage needs for music production:
You can probably get by with a 225 GB SSD. However, you’ll need to have separate storage for your sample files and saved work. Since SSDs are generally pricey, investing in external HDD storage makes sense for beginners. You can get 1 TB of storage space without much investment to complement your limited SSD internal storage.
The major downside of an external drive is that you risk damaging or losing it. This can put you behind schedule and interfere with your workflow.
Another solution is to store your saved files on the cloud. A dropbox account with 2 TB of storage will serve you well. You are in a position to access your files on all your devices at the same time. The only downside is that cloud storage may be expensive in the long run.
SSDs are preferred in music production mainly because of their high processing speed. SSDs are also less likely to get damaged or corrupted. Budding music producers can get away with having less space since they don’t handle big projects.
Full-time music producers need all the storage space they can get. They also can’t risk using an HDD since it compromises quality. While 500 GB is enough to get started, they often need to invest in external and cloud storage. It’s also crucial to optimize the space you already have by deleting anything you don’t need.
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