Alright friend! Time to get started with your recording studio at home so that you can become the next one-hit-wonder!
Or maybe you plan to become the new RedOne who create songs for a famous singer (Lady Gaga)?
It doesn’t matter, you will need the same gear.
Ultimately, you will buy equipment based on what kind of music you are planning on making.
Are you going to record a tune using sampled sounds or are you a musician who’s working with real instruments?
Using samples is very easy and require no skills, in that case, just buy a midi keyboard and a microphone if you also have plans on recording vocals too.
Real musicians will have to spend more money to create a perfect recording studio at home while DJs are depending on equipment that automatically makes transitions smoother when changing songs for example.
To get an idea about what I’m talking about, you could actually check out Sound City, a film about creating music.
The best microphone to choose will actually depend on the purpose of your recordings.
Are you planning on using the microphone for a specific instrument? Y
ou can actually pick up the sound from an acoustic bass or an acoustic guitar by using a so-called guitar pickup, a detachable microphone for acoustic guitars and/or basses.
To record vocals, your microphone should have a great range in hertz while offering great quality. I use a Røde NT1-A microphone for vocals while I use a Shure SM58 whenever I record instruments.
The greatest perk about using the SM58 is that you can remove the “puff” protection which practically is the same as using a SM57.
The SM58 is commonly used as a stage microphone for singers while the SM57 model works perfect when recording guitar from an amp.
Soundcard & Mixer
A recording studio at home can basically mean anything, are you building a big home studio or a small one for yourself?
If the latter one, you just need to get a mixer with 1-4 inputs and it’s worth to mention that most mixers with 1-4 inputs have an integrated sound card which can save you from spending unnecessary amounts on a sound card.
If you plan to build a home studio to record multiple instruments/singers simultaneously – you need a bigger mixer.
The bigger mixers rarely have an integrated sound card so you most probably need to buy yourself a sound card too. I bought my 2-channeled Steinberg mixer with an integrated sound card 2 years ago for ~€100.
I use Cubase as software when I record, Cubase is a program which also is developed by Steinberg.
Tryto stick to as few brands as possible as they tend to be more compatible with themselves than with other brands.
It’s important to think about the acoustics of your home recording studio.
How are the resonance and the natural reverb, compared to the sound picture that you plan to use when recording?
The room doesn’t have to be 100% cleared from resonance, it’s merely a matter of preference.
Most sounds can be adjusted after they have been recorded, allowing you to remove most of the “natural effects” that you might get from the acoustics of your home studio.
Many professionals are actually struggling in finding a unique sound – a problem which I believe occurs when the studio acoustics are “too perfect”.
Don’t try too hard to reach the perfect acoustics since they usually remove your own unique sound.
There’s a big difference when comparing recording vocals with recording instruments.
Every instrument has different characteristics, so you might have to do some research on how to record your chosen instrument in the best possible way.
A wise option is to investigate how one of your favourite songs was recorded and then try to redo what they did – but with your own hands and instruments.
You will be able to create a unique sound that way while there’s a possibility that you’ll manage to make it sound better than your favourite band did! For example, I never record guitar straight into the mixer.
I always plug in my electric guitar to an amp while using a SM57 to pick up the output (10-30cm) from the amp.
The SM57 is in turn plugged straight into the mixer which gives me a more realistic sound of a guitar.
If I still feel dissatisfied with the sound picture, I will add effects and equalize the sound picture through Cubase – my music software.
Sound Pollution & Disturbance
Recording at home is super fun! But there’s a backside to it too.
You will never be able to isolate the noise from surroundings to the same extent as you would be able to do in a real studio with proper sound isolation to prevent the unwanted sounds from reaching your microphones.
Recording in general, is done best with a “click” (aka Metronome). A metronome is a tool that will assist you in keeping track of the rhythm – even before you started recording.
Click is essential for recording sessions since it allow you to always be tight (on-beat). It also enables other musicians to add new stuff to a track without ever losing rhythm.
You are expected to use click if you plan to make something great but the sound of the click must never reach the microphone at all.
You don’t want any clicks or other noise to be heard in the finished song, so make sure to use over-ear headphones as much as you can when recording. (Over-ear headphones surround ears, allowing them to cancel more noise than in-ear & on-ear headphones)
Drums, Percussions or Electric?
There’s an infinite amount of midi plugins to use if you are using a MIDI plugin, regardless if you’re going to record drums or any other instrument.
Through Cubase, I am able to play any possible instrument by using my MIDI keyboard (a full-sized electric piano with a midi-output).
The amount midi plugins will however differ if you are using other music software than Cubase.
Recording real drums require many microphones, as you usually need to pick up sounds from up to 10 sound sources in total: 1 drum-kit with 4 toms, kick, hi hat, cymbals and a ride.
I own an electric drum-kit which I can plug in to my studio using MIDI, but I must say that I prefer my acoustic setup.
Instead of using an electric or real drum-set; I use a Cajun, an egg, a tambourine and wooden percussions to create a sound that I experience as more authentic.