Where Do You Start?
Home recording is now massively accessible, with a wide variety of options on the market to suit almost any budget and level of experience.
Whether you are looking to create a simple project studio setup in your bedroom, or you’ve earmarked a room in your house for a fully-kitted out home recording studio; recording music on a laptop or desktop computer is easier and more affordable than you think!
Back in the day, even the most basic studio was full of expensive equipment run by bearded techies who knew a lot about the dark arts of science and engineering! These days, however, you don’t need a PHD in acoustics or be able to rewire a circuit! All you need is the right equipment and a little bit of background knowledge, and you could have your first demo in a few days!
To help you on your way, we’ve created a six step guide to give you all the tools and knowledge you need to get your home recording studio started.
Step 1: Ask yourself “what do I want to record?”
If you are just recording vocals for a podcast or singing over a backing track, you might find that a USB microphone is enough. With a USB Mic, you just plug the mic straight into your computer and hit record in your recording software and you are away!
If you need to record instruments, it would be better to get a bundle with an audio interface. This is basically a professional soundcard which allows you to get audio in and out of your computer easily. You plug the interface into a USB or Thunderbolt slot on your computer, then plug a mic/instrument into the interface for recording. You also get a range of outputs so that you can connect high-quality speakers/headphones into the interface to listen back.
If you are recording vocals or acoustic instruments (like an upright piano or acoustic guitar) you will need a microphone. You can get a very respectable condenser mic for as little as £60. You could also get a dynamic microphone. These tend to be less sensitive to high frequencies so they can “round out” harsher audio sources like electric guitar amps.
A pair of studio monitor speakers are ideal for mixing and listening back to your tracks when you are not actually recording. However, when you are recording multiple tracks of audio with microphones, you don’t want the audio you have already recorded to spill back into the microphone as you record the next track. This makes it harder to control the levels of each individual instrument in the mix. In this situation, a pair of studio headphones is a must.
If you are recording electronic instruments like electric guitar, electro-acoustic guitar or electronic keyboard, you can often plug directly into your audio interface without using a microphone.
Step 2: Buy home recording gear
We have made this bit really easy for you by assembling some recording bundles which contain everything you need to get started in your home studio. We’ve made bundles for singers, guitarists, singer-songwriters and more, so even if you were originally unsure about what recording equipment you need to buy, you can quickly and easily pick the gear that suits your needs.
All you have to do is check that the bundles will work with your PC or Mac. Pretty much all audio interfaces come with simple recording software, so our bundles are ideal for people who want to record themselves quickly and easily. If you’re not sure if any of these are right for you, why not give us a call?
Step 3: Set up your recording environment
You’ll want to find the quietest possible place to record so you don’t get any spill or background noise. Condenser microphones in particular are very sensitive. This is great because they pick up a lot of detail but can also pick up unwanted noise if you aren’t careful! For most recordings, you’ll want to try and avoid rooms with lots of echo. If you want that echo sound – it is better to add it later in the mix with a reverb plugin in your recording software. That way – you can always remove the echo if you change your mind. When you record in a room with its own distinct sound – that sound will stay on your recording forever!
If you’re worried about your room acoustics, it might be worth investing in a Reflection Filter. These compact filters have been a revolution to home studio owners, as you can create a controlled vocal booth environment in any room. Just set one of these up behind your microphone and your recordings will be dry and perfectly isolated from the natural reverb of your room.
Make sure all your software is installed (including the audio interface software if you have chosen a bundle which includes an interface) and that your mic/instrument is plugged in, as well as a pair of headphones and/or studio monitor speakers.
Step 4: Start recording!
The best way to learn is by getting going! The great thing about the recording process is that you can record each track individually, and layer up an almost unlimited number of tracks to make full-sounding productions. You can even sing your own backing vocals! And if you make a mistake, you can just erase that track and re-record it, without losing your previous work. Practice makes perfect, so keep experimenting with different mic positions and techniques to get the best performance out of yourself, and the best sound out of your equipment.
Step 5: Editing and mixing your audio
Once you have recorded each separate instrument onto its own track, your recording software will allow you to balance the volumes of each instrument in the mix, pan the instruments (place them in the Left-Right stereo field) and add effects and equalisation. Experiment with different effects, particularly EQ, compression and reverb, as these can really impact on the sound of your final recording. Try using the preset patches in your software plugins as starting points, and then tweaking the controls until you are happy with the sound.
Step 6: Get your music out there!
Once you’re happy with your mix, you can “bounce” it down to a single stereo audio file which can be played on a computer. You’ll want to bounce your track to an MP3, WAV or AIFF file for the best compatibility with websites like Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Spotify where you can share your tunes with the world!