Retiring soon? Or maybe you’re already there?

After finance, the biggest issue people in face in retirement is what to do with all that new free time. If you’re like most retirees of my Dad’s generation you’ll read the paper, play golf and spend the rest of the day hanging around the house driving your spouse insane.

It’s inescapable: Adults need some kind of work to feel satisfied with life. The lack of such a focus can prematurely whither a person mentally and physically.

I’ll leave the question of remuneration out of this discussion. Some people don’t feel they are really doing anything unless they are getting paid for it. As a card-carrying introvert I am not burdened with this potentially crippling belief. I spent a large part of my adult life in the corporate world and, aside from the paycheque, I don’t miss Dilbertland at all.

My adolescence and early adulthood were happier times, the life of a self-taught footloose musician, playing bars, recording when I could. Like so many others of my cohort, I found my religion in the Beatles and Bob Dylan..

The author

But by the time I was 25 I was disillusioned with performing and tired of being chronically penniless. I put down my guitar, got a good job, bought a house and raised a family. I wouldn’t have missed it.

Does any of this sound like you? Did you give up on making a career in music because the odds against commercial success were so daunting? Did it seem to you that even if you won the lottery the music business was 99% business and 1% music?

Happily, right now is the perfect time to get serious about doing music for its own sake. Writing songs and recording them to the

The author's man-cave studio.

highest professional standards without artistic compromise is no longer an impossible dream . Come on in, the water’s fine.

What I love about recording music — the creative process — hasn’t changed since 1970. The technology for making records, on the other hand, has become ever cheaper and more powerful. In the late 1960s studio time to do this kind of work cost more than $100 an hour.

I’m going to point you to the technology that will get you started making high quality, multi-track recordings — for less than $2,000.

Two excellent online music stores are and I have shopped at both extensively and wholeheartedly recommend them for selection, price and support. Pay attention to the customer reviews. If a number of people bought something and rate it highly, it de-risks your purchase.

These are the the essentials:

 A Windows 7 or Mac computer system. I use Windows because it’s what I know. Mac is equally capable, but pricier. A new dual core Windows system with 4 GB of RAM , 1 Terabyte of hard disk and a 23” HD monitor will do fine. It’s not unlikely that you already own such a thing. 
Cost (for a Windows 7 System similar to this): about $700 US

The M-Audio Delta 66.

An audio interface, such as the M-Audio Delta 66. This gives you all the inputs and ouputs you need and supports all the pro sample rates.
 About $200 US.

High-quality powered stereo monitors. JBL LSR 2325P is one good choice. Monitors are the single most critical piece of any audio system. Resist the impulse to cheap out on these.
 About $400 US.

Music production software. It’s not necessary to buy the full featured professional products. Get the next less expensive model from the companies that do it best, such as Cubse Artist, Cakewalk Sonar Studio or Apple Logic Express. 
About $200 US.

The Shure SM57.

A microphone such as the ol’ reliable Shure SM57. 
About $100 US.

Misellaneous cables, mic stand, connectors, good quality headphones. 
About $150 US.

Drum software. In the 21st century you can generate professional quality “live” sounding drums with software. I recommend Toontrack EZ Drummer and a couple of EZX Expansion packs. 
About $250 US.

Beyond that, all you need are your ears, your voice and your choice of musical instruments (all sold separately).

Okay, begin.

Not so fast! That $2000 is only part of your investment. There will be the hundreds of fun-filled hours you will spend learning how to get great results from all this stuff. Don’t be put off: Take it a step at a time and avoid complexity until your learning curve has flattened out.

And what’s your hurry anyway? You’re retired, you have no boss and your time is your own. Settle in and take the ride of your life. If you persevere, the satisfaction can be beyond anything you’ve known. Imagine the songs you’ve written (or other people have written) in crisp, clear professional quality recordings. Imagine your own album. Then get down to making it all real.

Click here to hear some of Jeff Skinner’s home-made tunes.

Toronto-born-and-raised Jeff Skinner lives north of Manhattan and south of Poughkeepsie.

Coming up sometime: Music not your thing? Learn how you can buy all the tools you need to produce professional quality video for under $2,000.