In the world of “laptop producers,” there are a growing number of people who are building a home recording studio. It’s not like the old days of making music, where you had to buy time in a professional studio to get any kind of quality on a record. Now, musicians can make music in the comfort of their own homes.
I’ll be honest – you can get good quality recordings in a home studio, and its essential for anyone who wants to earn a living making music. However, there are some things you have to consider before you start buying gear, but the most important thing is to have a plan. Otherwise, you can spend yourself into a nice little hole.
I know it’s going to be a no-brainer for some of you, but you’d be surprised how many musicians have a gear fetish. They have to buy every new thing that comes out, and they don’t care if they need it or how much it costs.
I’m here to tell you that it’s a recipe for failure. It might be nice to get that momentary “fix” that comes with buying a new piece of technology (believe me, I know), but in the end it will leave you with no money and lackluster results.
Don’t fall into that trap – trust me, you’ll be better off.
As I said before, you need to have a plan, and that’s not just true with music. The same type of thinking applies to every business. You need to have a clear vision of where you want to go, and you need to have a workable plan that can get you there.
Musical gear can get expensive, and even the cheaper stuff can add up quick. You want to save money where you can, but you want to spend more in certain areas. The obvious one is, of course, your computer. If its purpose is to make music, you need to have something powerful – especially when it comes to memory and processing speed. You will also need to have a good amount of hard drive space, because all those audio files will fill it up fast.
Most importantly, you’ll need a good monitoring system, so you don’t want to skimp here. In fact, it can make or break you as a music producer, especially when your mixing your own tracks.
You can’t build a home recording studio without analyzing your space. Do you need acoustic treatment, and how much do you need? Both of these are serious questions that you need to be asking yourself before you start planning.
Not only do you have to analyze the acoustics of the room, but you also have to look at its size. Are you able to fit what you want in that space; and if you can, how can you do it? Asking these questions will improve the quality of both your workflow and your music.
3. MONITORING SYSTEM
I previously mentioned the importance of having good monitors, and most likely this is where you’ll be spending most of your money. Many of the cheap monitors have what is often called “self-noise.”
Your monitors need to be as flat as possible, so you don’t want to go too cheap on them. However, there are some inexpensive monitors that work surprisingly well.
PRICE: $699.99 (PAIR)
I had seriously considered buying a pair of Yamaha HS8’s when I built my last home recording studio. The reason why is because they were modeled off the Yamaha NS10’s. While that model has been discontinued, they’re still being used today. They work surprisingly well considering how inexpensive they are.
KRK ROKIT 8
PRICE: $249.50 (EACH)
KRK monitors are used in many home studios, and the reason is because they’re more affordable. I do have to be honest – I’ve never been a huge fan of KRK monitors. But I have to give kudos to the company for making the KRK ROKIT 8, because they sound better than many of their other models. And while they may not be my first choice, they work well for the price.
4. MICROPHONE SETUP
If you’re using a home recording studio to produce music, there’s a good chance you’ll be recording vocals, and for that you’ll need a good microphone setup. This is where your recording space will come into play. You want to make sure you don’t have any background noises that the microphone can pick up. Some of these can include:
- Ceiling fan
- Hum from a computer
Of course, there can be a number of other outside or inside noises that can bleed into your microphone.
The ideal situation is to have a dedicated vocal booth, but that’s not always an option. Your space may not allow it, or you may not have the money. Regardless of what the reason may be, there are some techniques you can use to get a cleaner recording without having an isolated space.
The first thing you need to do is move your microphone far enough away from your computer to keep it from picking up any sounds that may be coming from it. You also want to turn off your monitors, and the reason for that is pretty obvious. If your recording music with a microphone, it’s better to use headphones. That way, you won’t have any transient sounds coming back into the microphone.
If your space has a ceiling fan, you want to turn it off. This could also lead to transient frequencies bleeding into the microphone, and your AC can do the same thing. So, you probably want to turn that off as well.
The last thing you need is a good pop filter, which you can pick up at any music store for relatively cheap. If you want to spend a little extra money, you can also get a reflexion filter, but it’s not essential for getting a good recording.
You may not have the money to blow on an expensive microphone, and while some may disagree, you don’t need one to make a good recording. In fact, you can pick up a good microphone for around $100.
Here are a couple of excellent microphones that are suited for people who are on a budget.
AUDIO TECHNICA AT 2020
If there is a cheap microphone that I can recommend for recording music, it’s the AT2020. The reason is because I’ve used it. Audio Technica is one of the oldest audio companies in the world, and this microphone is one of the most overlooked on the market. I have been able to record excellent vocal tracks with it; and if you’re singer, it will probably be the best $100 you will ever spend.
The Samson C02 is a small diaphragm condenser microphone that’s perfect for recording acoustic guitar, and it’s also priced at around $100. Most small diaphragm condensers have a low frequency response, but this one is the exception to the rule.
If you want to make music in a home recording studio, you need to have a good pair of headphones. This is especially true if you plan to use a microphone for recording; and unless you plan on mixing with them, you don’t need to buy an expensive pair. However, I wouldn’t recommend you do your mixes on headphones – that is, unless you don’t have a choice.
You don’t have to spend a lot to get a good pair of headphones, but you don’t want to set your budget too low.
Here is a good pair of budget headphones you can use in a home recording studio.
AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-M50X
Priced at $169, the Audio Technica ATH-M50x Headphones will give you a lot of value for the money. I have said before that this company makes good stuff, and I had a pair of Audio Technica headphones that worked very well.
What’s really cool about them is that they have a collapsible design, which can make it easier to store them when they’re not in use. That way, you won’t run the risk of accidentally stepping on them while you’re moving from one place to another. The collapsible design also makes it ideal for when you’re on the road.
There’s a great deal to consider if you want to build a home recording studio, and it’s important to spend your money in the right areas. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a broken bank, a shattered dream, and a bruised ego. Having good gear can help you work more efficiently, but it doesn’t make you a great music producer. It’s all about using what you have to get the best possible results.
Remember that your gear doesn’t make you a great music producer. It’s what you do with it that really counts.