Yes, you do need a graphics card for music production. However, all computers have a basic Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) already installed. Because graphics are not that important in the world of music production, your computer or laptop’s standard GPU will be fine, although you may wish to upgrade.
Graphics and Music Production
A Graphics Processing Unit is a computer component that allows your computer to display an image onto your monitor. If you have no GPU, you have no picture!
Because music production is more focused on audio than video, upgrading your computer’s GPU is not that important since you usually won’t deal with intensive graphics or video rendering.
However, there are a few potential benefits to upgrading your system’s GPU. In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at these benefits and which graphics card is right for you.
Adding Additional Monitors To Your Recording Setup
The main reason you would want to upgrade your computer’s graphics is to support multiple monitors.
Imagine if you could split the different windows in your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) so that you have your main tracking screen, your piano roll, and your mixing plugins all open at the same time but on separate screens. (Trust me, it’s a game-changer!)
That way, you can work on a track without having to be constantly opening and closing windows within your DAW. This can save you time and improve your workflow while producing, but it may require upgrading your computer’s graphics card.
The reason for this is that much like your computer’s CPU (Central Processing Unit), your GPU only has a certain amount of processing power. So, if your computer has a standard graphics card and you try to connect multiple monitors to it, you may start to notice a decrease in functionality.
Before you go spending the extra money on a new graphics card, keep in mind that some computer’s onboard graphics card will be able to handle multiple monitors.
For example, I can connect my 2018 Apple Mac Mini with standard onboard graphics to multiple monitors with no issues. This will vary from system to system.
Improving Your System’s Picture
Another reason to upgrade to a new graphics card is to optimize the picture of your audio production laptop or computer.
Although it is not necessary, it can be more enjoyable producing a track on a computer with crisp and clear graphics.
Some benefits of having improved graphics for music production are:
- Being able to see small details in audio waveforms.
- Making precise and up-close edits of audio clips in your DAW.
- Having a more clear picture in general.
Because graphics are not that important for music production, improving your system’s picture is only something you should do if you have plenty of funds or feel that you would genuinely benefit from it.
Which Graphics Card Should I Get?
Whatever the reason, once you decide to upgrade your computer’s graphics, you will have to consider which graphics card is right for you.
Some of the main things to keep in mind when investing in a new graphics card are performance, price, and compatibility with your system.
I want to provide some different options of graphics cards for you to check out! Take note that all of the products I am recommending here have mostly great reviews by customers.
The first graphics card I want to show you is the ASUS GeForce GTX 1050.
Not only will this graphics card deliver in terms of performance, but it is also a great option if you do not want to break the bank. Here are its specs:
- NVIDIA CPU
- 1392 MHz clock speed
- 768 Cuda cores
- 4GB memory
- 128 bit
Another great option is the MSI GeForce GTX 1050.
It is very similar to the ASUS graphics card that I have listed above. This is another excellent option for someone looking for a graphics upgrade without having to hand over their whole wallet! Its specs are:
- NVIDIA GPU
- 1190 MHz base clock speed
- 768 shader cores
- 4GB memory
- 128 bit
My final recommendation for a graphics card is the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX570. Although this graphics card is a bit more on the pricey side, you definitely get more bang for your buck.
Not only does this unit have greater performance than my other recommendations, but it also features a more quiet cooling fan for 0db gaming as well as a customizable lighting system.
The customizable lighting system does not improve your computer’s performance; it only adds aesthetic value.
Here are the specs for this graphics card:
- AMD CPU
- 1178 MHz base clock speed
- 2048 stream processors
- 8GB memory
- 256 bit
Take your time with this decision and make sure that you get the GPU that best suits your music production needs.
Difficulty In The Market
Something that you will have to keep in mind when it comes to purchasing a graphics card is the current graphics card market.
Not only are graphics cards extremely hard to find right now, but they are also much more expensive due to the higher demand.
One of the main reasons for this trouble in the market is the boom in cryptocurrencies and crypto mining in recent years.
Crypto mining is the process in which new cryptocurrency is created or put into market circulation using advanced computer programs.
Because we are music producers and not crypto miners, there is no need to know the exact details of this process. What you do need to know is that crypto mining requires certain computer specifications, including upgraded graphics.
Therefore, as this boom in cryptocurrency has swept the globe over recent years, graphics cards have been in higher demand, making them difficult to find.
Although manufacturers are aware of this problem, they still have trouble keeping up with consumer demand.
At this time, no one can say for sure when conditions in the graphics card market will begin to improve.
Laptop vs. Desktop Computer – Which is best?
Another thing that you should consider when looking for a music production computer is whether a laptop or a desktop computer would work best for you.
Benefits of having a desktop computer include:
- They are much easier to upgrade.
- They are generally less expensive.
- You will never have to worry about battery-related issues.
Benefits of having a laptop include:
- They are much more portable for on-the-go recording and producing.
- They are quick and easy to set up wherever you are.
- They can operate without having them plugged in since they hold a charge. If you are producing and you experience a power outage, your laptop will stay on. Therefore, you will not lose any of your work!
If you want to take a more in-depth look at building a music production computer, here is an article from our site that goes into full detail.
What specs should my device have for music production?
The specifications that you should focus on for a music production computer are things like:
- Do you have enough RAM (Random Access Memory)?
- Does your system have sufficient storage?
- Is your computer’s processor powerful enough?
- Is a desktop computer or a laptop best for your needs?
RAM is the hardware component in a computer that stores application programs and data you are currently using. RAM is the primary memory within a computer.
Your computer’s processor can reach items that the RAM stores quickly and easily.
If your system does not have enough RAM, you will have trouble with certain things such as:
- Working on large projects in your DAW.
- Loading and using VST plugins or VST instruments.
- Rendering audio files.
You measure RAM in GB (Gigabytes).
For music production, I recommend having at least 8GB of RAM. However, if you can afford it, 16GB of RAM will not only be enough for any music production beginner, but it will also give you room to grow as you further explore the realm of music production.
Hypothetically speaking, there is no limit to how much RAM you can have as long as you have a 64-bit processor and not a 32-bit processor. But, in the realm of audio production, it is uncommon for someone to have any more than 64GB of RAM.
When talking about computers, storage usually refers to either SSD (Solid State Drive) or HDD (Hard Disk Drive) storage.
Although the two types have their differences, they do the same thing; permanently store data and files on your computer.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the differences between SSD and HDD storage devices.
If your computer or laptop does not have ample internal storage, you will run out of room to save projects and audio files on your computer.
For this reason, you must invest in having adequate storage for your music production rig.
I recommend having at least 500GB of SSD or HDD storage for your music production computer. But, if you can afford it, having a drive with a TB (Terabyte) capacity would be even better!
If you are a beginner in music production and do not have this kind of storage, you can still start producing music.
You will have to keep an eye on your storage capacity as you go and buy an external hard drive if you start to run out of space.
An external hard drive is a hard drive that connects to your computer instead of your computer having it installed inside of it.
External hard drives allow you to add storage capacity to your computer without replacing internal components.
Here is a link to a great external HD for you to check out if you need one!
Your system’s CPU is its most crucial component. Without a processor, your computer could not carry out a single function.
I recommend having at least a 2.4Ghz processor (Intel i5 or core i7) or the AMD Ryzen equivalent for music production.
Should I choose MAC or PC for music production?
An ongoing debate within the music and audio production community is whether MAC or PC is better.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It will be different for each individual producer.
There are some things to keep in mind when making this decision. Each operating system has its pros and cons.
- The popular music production software, Logic, is only available for MAC and not PC.
- Because only Apple makes the MAC OS, getting customer service if your computer is experiencing issues is very simple.
- Arguably, MAC is more user-friendly for people who are not computer savvy.
- Unlike a PC, a MAC is much harder to customize and upgrade.
- Since Apple is such a popular company, MAC computers can be costly.
- You will often have to buy Apple specific cables and adapters.
- PCs are much easier to upgrade and customize. Replacing internal components within a PC is much more doable.
- Because many different manufacturers use the PC operating system, there is a lot of variety.
- Cables and adapters are easier to find.
- You cannot use Logic on a PC. Logic is a very powerful and popular DAW, so this might limit you a bit on who you can collaborate with.
- PC computers often have noisy fans and cooling systems. These noises sometimes bleed into your audio recordings.
What are integrated graphics?
If your computer has integrated graphics, this means that your GPU is on the same chip as your CPU. Integrated graphics are typically far less powerful than a dedicated graphics card.
What are some popular manufacturers of graphics cards?
There are many different options for purchasing a video card, but the main thing to consider is the GPU itself. The two most popular manufacturers of GPUs are Nvidia and AMD.
These manufacturers produce GPUs and then sell them to third-party companies that customize them, package them, and offer them to consumers.
Can I use my gaming computer for music production?
The answer to this question will depend on your computer’s specifications, such as RAM, storage, and processing power.
If your computer is powerful enough to handle gaming, there is a good chance that you can use it for music production.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- You will have to keep a close eye on your storage capacity if you plan on using your gaming PC for music production as well.
- Gaming computers often have noisy cooling fans. You will have to adjust these to use your system for music production. Otherwise, you will experience audio bleed when recording music.
What are graphics cards used for other than gaming?
Some of the main uses for a graphics card other than gaming include video editing and 3D graphics rendering.
A more advanced GPU will be necessary anytime you deal with intensive graphics or visuals.
Do you need a MIDI keyboard for producing music?
The short answer to this question is no. You do not need a MIDI keyboard for producing music. However, if you can afford to get yourself one, I highly recommend that you do.
Having a MIDI keyboard can save you time and frustration while producing music.
In this other article on our site, I explore the need for a MIDI keyboard controller for music production and show you some strategies to use if you do not have one. Check it out!
As I have shown you in this article, upgrading your computer’s graphics can increase your efficiency and enjoyment while producing music.
However, since music production is all about audio, not video, a new graphics card is not necessary.
This is especially true if you are new to music production.
Other specifications are much more important than graphics to look for in a music production laptop or computer.
about the author
I’m Jack Oberkirsch, a film and media composer residing in Denver, Colorado. I play in several local bands and have been touring the country for nearly a decade.
Since 2016 I’ve been focusing on studio work and production and have moved into the realm of film and media composition.
I like to combine and implement many different musical instruments and styles to convey the director’s vision on any given project.
I also enjoy writing material for music libraries and sync placements.