Do you want to start recording yourself? With today’s technology, setting up your own home recording studio has never been easier. With the combination of cheap hardware and software-based systems, creating a home recording studio is not only inexpensive, but it is also really quite simple. In order to create a good quality recording, you will need to know a bit about audio engineering, but with the steps I will outline, you will be on your way to creating a great sounding demo tape.
The most obvious first step is acquiring a space. If you are working on a very tight budget, your first space may be a bedroom or office in your house. If this is the case, my advice is to make sure that your room has a closet that is empty for you to use. If the room has a closet, you will be able to have your own isolation booth to use for vocals, or even guitar amps. If the closet isn’t big enough to comfortably fit a person that is okay. You can take the door off of it, if it has one, and a singer can just sing into it. As for the rest of the room, try your hardest to make it an environment in which you can control the sound. If there are too many pieces of furniture or equipment within the room that you intend to do any recording, sound will bounce around and not distribute properly into your microphones. Of course, if all you are recording with a microphone is vocals, then that’s what your handy closet is for.
You are going to want to condition your recording room a bit. This can be done very quickly if you are not interested in getting into the science of room conditioning. To make any room sound better, using egg-crate mattress on the wall can drastically improve the sound in a room. I know this from personal experience, and still use egg-crate mattress padding with some of my DIY and on-location recordings. You will want to put it up in your closet isolation booth, as well as any other room you plan on recording and listening in. The idea is very basic. You don’t want sound waves bouncing back and forth all over the place. That creates an unwanted reverb from the room. A little is fine, but you want to control the sound so that you can manipulate it after you record. Some experimenting will need to be done to achieve the best room sound possible, but putting it all over the walls is a good start.
The next thing you are going to want to do is get your equipment. And the point of this illustration is how you can get cheap equipment for your studio. Remember, we are setting up a studio on a budget in this article. The main pieces of equipment that you are going to need is a computer and some sort of outboard gear to plug in your microphones and instruments to run to your computer. You will also need some sort of software to record to. This could be Ableton Live, Pro Tools, or Logic. As far as the computer you are going to want, it should have at least 4 gigabytes of RAM. This is one of my biggest concerns for a beginner studio because any new computer today will have enough internal hard drive space, and enough USB inputs for what you need, but might not have enough RAM to run the software you will be using. As far as connecting your instruments, you need something that will plug into the usb port on your computer. Your outboard gear also needs to have an XLR input on it as well as a TRS, or ¼”, input. Something like the M-Audio M-Track is as cheap as you are going to get. You can find the M-Track, or similar products like it, for extremely cheap from GuitarCenter.com in their used gear. That is always the first place that I look when I am making a new purchase. You can usually find what you are looking for there at half the price.
As far as what software you use to record into, that is a whole subject of it’s own. This is because they are not cheap, and there are so many programs to choose from. There are many people who will tell you that the software that they use is superior to all others. I don’t think there is a best program to use. Usually, whichever program you start learning with is the program that you will use for a long time. The reason for this is, while all of the different recording software is easy to learn, it takes a very long time to master any one of them. It’s all about which one you feel the most comfortable with and which one you decide to sit down and learn with. I would consider the industry leading programs now are probably Pro Tools, Apple’s Logic, and Ableton Live. These programs are pretty expensive but they can take care of all of your needs guaranteed.
My advice is to download a trial version of any of the programs that strike your interest and just start using them. In the world of home recording, the software you choose to record on will end up being your most powerful tool.
With these three things, you will be ready to go. You will, of course, need whatever instruments you play, cords to connect all the instruments and devices, speakers, and headphones. For this article, the only thing I stress is a good microphone. You read it everywhere; the first microphone you should get is a SHURE SM57. This is the do-it-all microphone. If you can only get one, get it. It is even a good idea to buy more than one SM57. Without a good microphone, you will never have good recordings. If you are trying to get serious about recording vocals, then a good idea would be to buy a condenser vocal microphone that requires phantom power. You can find very cheap vocal microphones from the MXL company that sound very good. In fact, I still use MXL condenser microphones in my studio all the time, and some of them were the very first microphones that I ever bought.
With a little trial and error, that is all you need to set yourself up with a home recording studio that you can be proud of. The best way to learn is to start recording yourself. Figure out what you don’t like and try to change it the next time you record. If this is a serious hobby, start reading more about what you are doing, and never give up the chance to acquire some new equipment. It takes a lot of practice and experience to make a really great sounding song, but by using what I have written here as a starting point, you will have all of the tools to make a great sounding recording that you can be proud of.