Whether you’re a musician looking to make it big and need a cheap way to get audio and video recordings of yourself out there, a music tech student playing around with different recording methods for your latest project, or someone just looking to mess around with an instrument at home, knowing how to create professional sounding recordings will get you a long way.
Even if you’re not that into music yourself, having a done-it-yourself home recording facility might be a useful way to make some extra money if you have a spare room.
Before you get your grand plans into action, whatever they may be, you need to know how to set up your home recording studio. Here’s what you need to know.
Home Recording Must Haves
A computer is your big home recording must have. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a top of the range system specifically designed to be used for recording, but naturally something that can run and process faster and support better software, or a high performance sound card that will still work in a lower spec system, is going to give you a better recording experience and more options when it comes to mixing, remixing, and adding effects later.
Once you are all set up, you’ll be ready to manage the whole recording process, which at home will flow as per the below diagram.
Buying Your Home Recording Equipment
When it comes to buying home recording equipment, what you buy will depend on a few things, but most likely be predominantly decided by your budget, which itself may be influenced by your reason for buying in the first place.
You don’t need to necessarily spend tens of thousands of pounds on high level equipment, but naturally if you buy at the top of the market you’ll enjoy better quality and a wider range of features. If you’re looking to keep costs low now, be assured that you can create professional sounding recordings at home with lower priced gear.
Many people instantly turn to Apple, but if you have a decent Windows or Linux laptop there are plenty of options available. Whatever system you have, your main audio interface is likely to be the largest expense, so take your time in choosing the best ones.
We have listed four excellent guides below which will help you with the decision making process.
- The ULTIMATE Guide to Audio Interfaces for 2015
- Ten of The Best: Audio Interfaces
- 13 of the Best Budget USB Audio Interfaces
- Top 10 Best Audio Interfaces
The Gear4Music website also has a great page with a wide selection of USB interfaces to choose from.
When it comes to a microphone, you can usually save a lot of money by picking up a second hand one. So long as it is in good condition it will do the job you need. Look for music stores or music equipment suppliers near you; although most will only openly advertise selling new equipment many of them will have returned equipment or kit they have accepted as part of a trade in.
On top of all this, the software you use will be crucial when it comes to mixing, remixing, or otherwise manipulating your sound.
If you’re an Apple user, then Garageband should be considered an essential. Garageband is so good for a free platform that even if you are using a Windows or Linux PC but own an iPad you should even consider recoding on your current system then sending the file to your tablet to then use within the app. Garageband is easy to use, but if you get stuck or don’t know where to start, this tutorial may help you.
Once you start to get serious with your recording, or if you have the budget anyway, you should invest in a premium recording software. Reviews and ratings of most of the better options are available here.
When you have chosen a software we recommend you join their relevant on-site forums or find groups on Google+ and Reddit where home recording is discussed. The tips and tricks you’ll discover that you might have missed, or that weren’t even included, in the instruction manual and initial online reviews will help you unlock a whole new recording experience.
Whether you’ve been used to a studio all the time you’ve been recording, or you’re entirely new to recording music, many who are new to home recording don’t consider the need for acoustic treatment. In some respects, acoustic treatment should be one of the first things you consider, and we’d certainly advocate looking to take care of this before you start buying kit. After all, you can always buy a better computer or audio interface later, but if the acoustics of your room aren’t doing you any favours, you will still struggle to create something you’d want to listen to or share with others.
This fantastic post, aptly titled Acoustic Treatment 101, provides all the necessary information you need to know in order to create a better sound at home, as well as a range of treatment options as well as links to additional articles regarding soundproofing and other options you may wish to explore as you look to ramp up the professionalism of your recording process later.
Everything else you might be thinking about at this stage should be placed into the box marked “Would be Nice to Have.” We’re talking about things like expensive mic stands, a brand new and top of the range microphone, professional recording headphones, and professional speakers. You shouldn’t consider these essential at this stage, especially if your budget is tight and you’re not sure when you’ll be able to make your money back, or how your recording ventures are going to work out.
Final Things to Remember
It is incredible how many people will spend a small fortune on setting up their home for recording, only to have their session ruined by the dog barking or a cup of coffee being spilled onto an expensive piece of kit.
Take some time to make sure you can actually record what you want to, and not have to deal with anything else so you can enjoy a productive and enjoyable home recording session, all with a professional result.
This post was written in collaboration with the team at Pro Music Tutor, a provider of online guitar and saxophone lessons taught by some of the world’s leading professional musicians.