Imagine being able to start recording anytime you desire with no need for an advance appointment, in a more relaxed ambiance where you can expect higher quality recording, without any rush or pressure. This could all be made possible through setting up your own in-home recording studio. Creating an astounding home studio that will have the capabilities of recording both rich and mellow sounds without breaking the budget is definitely more than possible in this day in age where gear has never been more affordable and more powerful. Although the task of gathering the components for the studio and putting everything together may seem daunting, the following tips and concepts should help you get started.
For what can be an extremely extensive and potentially expensive project it is important to start out simple. There are so many pieces that could be potential components to you home studio. However, if you go too crazy with purchasing and adding new things you may get overwhelmed and end up with a lot of equipment you don’t really need. With the vast number of items that could be relevant to your project you should focus in on the “must haves” and build upon that foundation in the future. Start by thinking about what you are recording and the intended editing and distribution. Creating a podcast is very different from recording and producing a CD.
Must Have Components
The following components allow for a reasonably quick startup of your home studio and are the essentials to a basic recording studio foundation. Having these items will give you a great base to expand off of and add to.
Computer- The one you own will work. It is common to wonder if you should use PC or Mac for music recording and production, however, great music has been produced on both so going with what you know and are comfortable with is the best way to go.
Digital Audio Workstation / Audio Interface Combo- Digital Audio Workstation also known as DAW is the software that you need to record, edit, and mix your music. An Audio Interface is the hardware that connects your computer to all of your gear. These can be bought separately or in combination with each other, so we recommend going with the combo because they are meant for entry level music recording and production. Also, when sold in combination, it is guaranteed that the two work together and it is often less expensive to buy them as a combo. When choosing this software make sure to look at reviews from other customers as well as the features to make sure you have a complete understanding of what capabilities the software has and if there is a steep learning curve.
Studio Monitors- Similar to speakers, a studio monitor’s purpose is to play your music out loud. However, unlike normal consumer speakers, studio monitors do not have any music enhancement capabilities within them meaning that what you hear is a neutral sound that lets you know what you what you really sound like.
Headphones- When starting out there is only really a need for one set of headphones per person who will be recording or editing at a single time. If you are recording and mixing by yourself or record everyone separately there is really only need for one set. There are two types of headphones made for studio purposes, closed back for recording, and open back for mixing. If your budget can afford both that’s great, but if you only have enough in your budget for one set go with the closed back and use your studio monitors for mixing.
Microphone- If you have noticed most studios have dozens of microphones around the entire room but for your needs you can start out with one main microphone or a microphone for each person who will be recording during the same session. You should spend no more than $100 to $200 on your initial microphones unless you are looking to purchase a specific one for a specific purpose.
Microphone Stand- A solid mic stand is worthwhile and will last you longer, so don’t be afraid to spend a little extra to get something that has good reviews.
Long XLR Cables- If you have a large space that you are working in you should consider purchasing longer XLR cables so you are free to move about the space without any distance limitations due to the short cables that may come with your other purchases.
External Hard Drive- For any person creating documents on a computer it is important to backup this information in case of a computer crash or malfunction. An external hard drive is perfect for this job because they are inexpensive and hold a lot of data, which means that you should have enough room to store plenty of audio tracks and edits.
Cheap Isn’t Always The Way To Go
There is a thin line between inexpensive and cheap. You could build an entire working home studio for around $500, but the quality that you will receive on all ends of production will be lower than what most people hope to achieve in studio recording sessions. This is why it is important to understand where to splurge and where to hold back in regard to the list above in order to keep you budget in check.
Choosing a Space
Now that you are aware of the fundamental components of a home recording studio it’s time to think about where you are going to set up all of your equipment.
What to Look For and Avoid
Ideally you should seek a large room with hard floors, high ceilings, asymmetric walls, with some type of irregular surface, that is away from noise. However, from a realistic standpoint not everyone will have access to a room with these characteristics but you can take into consideration what to avoid in a studio room.
Avoid Cramped Spaces- When looking for a place to become your music hub it is important to make sure there is enough room for all of your recording equipment, instruments, as well as people. Depending on how many individuals you plan to have recording at a single time you should make sure you have a room big enough where there is no chance for things to become jumbled or unorganized. Large uncluttered rooms also sound better.
Avoid Noise- Cars, dogs, people, wind, television. plumbing, etc. These can all negatively impact your recording experience. Try to stay away from areas of high people traffic such as next to the kitchen or living room. Look for a secluded room that is sheltered away from noises like these.
Avoid Carpet- Carpeted rooms are bad for acoustics. Aim for a room with some type of hard flooring, and if you have a drum set use an area rug rather than a large furry carpet.
What to Add
After you seek out the perfect room there are ways in which you can turn this ordinary room into something much more suitable for recording purposes by adding a couple of things.
Acoustic Panels- Acoustic panels provide the simple yet important function of absorbing sound. You can think of them like acoustical black holes, sound goes in and doesn’t come back out. Acoustic panels help cut down on the harsh echoes and empty ringing sounds coming from the walls.
Bass Traps- Bass traps are basically absorb acoustic energy and are designed to damp low frequency sound energy. The purpose it to attain a flatter low frequency room response by reducing low frequency resonances in rooms.
Although you can purchase these two items from retailers there are DIY sites where you can create these items to your own liking rather than purchasing them. For example: http://acousticsfreq.com/how-to-build-your-own-acoustic-panels/ has a great step by step lesson on how to create acoustic panels. There are also videos and other resources available online.
When creating an in-home recording studio it is important to not get frustrated. There are a lot of steps that will lead you to a successful studio but the creation of a solid foundation is a great way to get started. By thinking about the above information and using the knowledge provided hopefully you will be on your way to recording in no time!