Your laptop can do far more than simply access the Internet and run applications. With the right processor and the right music setup, you can turn your laptop into an entire portable recording studio, complete with full music production capabilities. While the quality of your studio will depend largely on the quality of the hardware you can afford, you can create an impressive studio setup with even a modest budget.
Install a digital audio workstation on your computer. This would include any popular music editing program like Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic Pro, GarageBand, Mixcraft, FL Studio, Acid or any software that allows you to record and edit music in a multitrack environment.
Set up an audio interface. For professional recording capabilities, you will need to purchase an interface with multiple ports for all of your musical instruments, speakers and microphones. If your laptop has firewire capabilities, consider using a firewire interface for the fastest and most reliable connection. If your laptop has only USB ports, use a USB interface. Use the CD-ROM provided with your interface to install the necessary drivers on your laptop.
Hook up your instruments and microphones. Your audio interface should contain ports for your audio cables, so begin setting up your home studio by plugging in your microphones and instruments. If you absolutely cannot afford an audio interface, you can buy converter cables that will allow you to plug your instruments directly into your computer through USB ports and Line-In ports, but this may have a negative impact on the quality of your recordings.
Set up your monitors. To accurately hear your music recordings for precise editing, you will need a strong set of monitor speakers and monitor headphones. Music sounds different when played through speakers vs. headphones, so you will want to use both types of monitor when mixing music. Purchase the best monitors that your budget will allow and plug them into the corresponding ports on your audio interface.
Set up at least one microphone stand and a pop screen. The stand will allow you to record vocals hands-free with the correct posture, and the pop screen will minimize hard popping sounds in your vocal recordings. Hook the pop screen onto your mic stand and adjust the screen so that it sits approximately one to two inches in front of the microphone.
Add a MIDI keyboard to your setup. Though completely optional, a MIDI keyboard makes a worthwhile addition to any home studio as it allows you to access your software's built-in instrument settings and create complete synthesized music that with far greater editing capabilities than raw audio. Best of all, you can pick up a MIDI keyboard very inexpensively. To plug this device into your laptop, you will need to use a MIDI cable and a MIDI-to-USB converter cable. Plug one end of the MIDI cable into your keyboard and one end into the "MIDI In" port on your converter cable. Then plug the opposite end of the converter into your laptop using a free USB port. If your audio interface contains a MIDI port, you can simply plug your MIDI cable into the interface without the need for a converter cable.
If you plan on performing functions that require extensive processing power, like recording and playing back multiple music tracks simultaneously, consider adding additional RAM to your laptop or updating your processor. For best results, use an Intel Core 2 Duo Pro processor.