It was my dream for many years to have my own recording studio. I am happy to say that this is one of the dreams that has come true!
There are a lot of diverse ways to make this work, but I am going to share the simplest, easiest way to make this dream a reality. If you have a big budget, you can always find ways to expand, and new toys to add to your field of dreams.
But if your budget is limited, this post can help you to get a basic setup to get you started making music in your home.
There are lots of reasons to have a recording setup in your home. As a single mother of 3 gorgeous kids, being able to record at home both saves me money on recording studios and makes the process accessible even with all my responsibilities to my family.
I can jump into the studio when I have some free time, in between other things like my work building Music & Memory projects or teaching and performing…when the studio is right there in your house you can work on songs whenever you have time.
I also really love the creative process that happens when I have my own recording space. When inspiration strikes, I can go right in and record the new born song.
If you are a songwriter, you probably know what I mean when I say that my songs are like children; and my favorite child is always the newest one. So, when a newly written song is still fresh and magical, I can play around in the studio and try things out.
I also play a lot of different instruments, so I can experiment with arrangements for songs, layering piano, cello, guitar, percussion, harmonium and especially, voices, in a relaxed way because I am in my own studio and it’s like being in my own bedroom.
And, it is in my bedroom! I can also record my students, which is a wonderful experience for them, and builds self-esteem, as well as being a good learning tool and is a way for them to share their musical development with others. So, what do you need to make this happen?
First, you need a space. A room just for recording is ideal, and if that is not possible, you can do as I did and sleep in your studio (or record in your bedroom depending on how you look at it). Many engineers use foam egg crate sheets for sound proofing.
Real egg crates also work. If you don’t want to fully sound proof your studio, then the main thing to address is windows, because glass surfaces create a lot of acoustic action. That means either covering windows with heavy drapes, or putting a wall hanging on the wall that faces any windows in the room to minimize the acoustics bouncing from window to wall and creating excess noise.
A rug is also good, to stop the sound bouncing between the floor and ceiling. The other thing you can do is to work with the natural acoustics in the room. Every room has an acoustic character…blocking out acoustics with sound proofing is just one option. Another is to use the room acoustic to create a personal sound that you like and making that part of your studio’s personality.
Next you will need a computer. Many recommend that your studio’s computer be used only for recording, and not be connected to the internet. This is to avoid virus’ infection your beloved tracks.
Your computer should also have a recording program, such as Protools, Cubase, Nuendo, Garage band, etc.…There are many from which to choose. Find online tutorials or a local recording engineer to teach you the basics. You will also learn a lot by experimenting with your own music.
Some of you may need to work with an engineer to get the best sound, while others of you will be like me, and turn into octopuses that simultaneously play, sing, and engineer their own recordings.
These programs usually come with plugins, or you can buy the plug ins that will best serve your needs. With these you can create real sounding music from inside your computer using sampled instruments that you “play” with your keyboard to midi controller, as well as nearly infinite possibilities for effects, pads, and loops, to help your music fly and create worlds of sound, all alone in your studio.
Warning: it’s so much fun it’s almost addictive.
Besides a computer you also need a sound card. A sound card is an external piece of hardware that makes it possible to record sound onto your computer, by acting as in interface between the computer and the microphone.
These come in broad range in terms of price and number of inputs. My sound card has one input, which means I can only record through one microphone at a time, but that’s ok for me. If you will be recording more than one instrument at a time you should probably invest in a sound card with several inputs.
Your sound card with have headphone jacks so you can use your headphones to listen to your recordings. So, two pairs of quality headphones are essential equipment so that the musician, and the engineer, can hear and monitor recordings.
Speaking of monitor, you will probably want a pair of studio monitors so that you can listen to your creations without headphones. These monitors are specially designed for the sound needs of engineers who screen for sound quality and are different from regular stereo speakers.
You won’t get far recording without a microphone. In my case, that is another dream come true. Try different mics and see what works for you. Everyone’s’ voice or instruments sounds are different, so you will want a mic that best captures the range of sounds in your music.
And each microphone has its own personality…and they can be expensive, so pick one you like, and make sure to have a pop screen to minimize mouth noises. And, of course, a mic stand.
Finally, is the pre-amp. When I went in to buy my dream microphone, the seller wouldn’t let me invest in an amazing microphone without having a preamp, as he felt that the nuances of the quality of the mic would be lost without the addition of a preamp. I took his advice and wasn’t sorry.
The preamp converts a weak signal into a strong output signal There are also. "character pre-amps", which add color to your recordings and basically make them sound better.
Last…you need inspiration. This cannot be bought in stores as it is truly priceless. Enjoy the process and best of luck!