Getting started with your Home Studio Setup
Now, this is the part we all want to work on. The creative art of writing and recording music.
In this article, I will focus on the recording setup part, and not the writing part. They go along pretty well, and even when recording, you could change a thing or two in your song.
The interesting art of songwriting will be covered in another post. For now, let’s just focus on the technical setup.
Find your Best gear and optimize it!
A great recording needs great gear. The definition of great gear, in my opinion, is gear that simply works well and works within your recording.
Simply put, it should not be broken or damaged in such a way that it is almost unusable. This will slow down the whole process of recording your great song.
Repair all the defects that you can find, restring (if necessary) all your guitars and bass guitars, double check all the cables and microphones and go from there.
In a home studio, you could create extra time to repair a broken cable, but learning to prepare for those situations, will also prepare you for future studio recordings.
Studio time is expensive, and you don’t want to waste it with changing strings for half an hour.
Also, the instruments you choose should work well within your recording. Try to match the instruments to the song you want to create. A good example can be the drum part. If you do not have a real drummer, but you want to add one later, create the best drum track you can imagine. This will give the real drummer something to work with, and it completes your song.
What Cables should you use?
Double check if you have the correct cables. Cables are the veins of every home studio setup, so take good care of them! Never assume that a cable just works. Also, match the cables with your instrument. It is good practice to keep certain cables with certain instruments, just to eliminate confusion. A guitar cable could be used for bass or keyboard, but what if you want to use 2 instruments at once? If you try to find the best quality cables for each instrument, you’re good to go. Not the cheapest but no need for the most expensive. They should be crackle and hum free, strong build and long enough to be practical. Remember those videos with guitar players and supershort cables? You don’t want to drag your amp behind you when you move an inch in your studio :)
Types of Recording equipment
When your instruments and cables are in order, it is time to check the recording equipment. You could go for full analog recording or full digital, or a mix of both.
Whatever the case, double check if your choice matches your goal. You can get great results with a full analog gear setup, but it will also take a lot of time and if problems occur. They can sometimes take more time to fix and have a different price tag. Think analog tape recorders or that awesome 70’s synth you want to add to the mix. If they work, they are a great addition to your song. If they need repair, it could take up a lot of time. No problem per se, just something to consider.
Want to go fully digital? Yes, the full workflow can be very fast, but also not problem free.
In the end, it really depends on what you want to achieve. They all have their pros and cons and never let that stop you from creating some great musical artwork. If you know what to expect, you will be fine.
To record your instrument on your computer, you need a solid recording device. Of all the choices you have online, I would go with the Focusrite ones. They are super easy to setup, give awesome results and they have a great price tag. A cool starter set that you can use even if you go semi-pro is the scarlet Focusrite series. depending on your needs you could start with the 2i2 studio set. you get a great microphone and headphone, along with a great daw, and you can start recording in no time!
Find your best DAW Software and configure it
With the digital approach, you will need a good daw. Your choices are almost endless and I could list 5 daws that are super competitors. They all work well and serve the needs you have while recording your song. To help you choose, you could approach it like this.
What do you want to create and what are you looking for in a DAW? If you want to record a lot of guitars, you will need a great workflow in the audio track section. If you want to use a lot of loops or midi, you could use some great looping features, midi instruments and such.
You could even need a mix of both. The cool thing is, that almost every DAW can help you with loops, audio tracks, midi, and effects. The real workflow depends on the DAW of choice.
For example, if you compare fruity loops, logic pro x and Ableton live, you end up with 3 “different” DAWS. The features are all there but in a different way. This gives the way you record, edit, mix a unique feel. In the end, there is no BEST DAW, you just want to find the one that helps you in your creative process. It should feel natural and simple to use, and it should give great results without limitations.
If you want to start from scratch, with a free DAW, I would advise REAper. Reaper has all the features you want in a daw, and if you add some free VST plugins to the mix (see what I did there :) you will have a great DAW for your home studio setup to start.
Create a smooth workflow
Everything should work together. Your instruments should work and connect flawlessly to your recording device.
The reason why you need a smooth workflow and a great home studio setup is simply that you want to keep recording as much as possible at any given time. Create a nice setup for your instruments, so you just have to grab them and start playing to record.
Put all your cables in an ordered bundle, and keep them out of any walkways if possible. No dangling or unplugged cables around, as they could cause trouble with hum and buzz.
On your computer, shutdown or even remove apps you don’t want or need at that moment. Those apps next to your clock? remove as much as possible, as they could clog up your memory and CPU. In your daw, you could set up a recording template that you like best. Some daws like logic allow you to save a template for later use, but if your daw doesn’t have the option, you could create an empty song and save that for future use. Cool trick, make it read-only after you created it, so next time you use it and click save, it forces you to save it as a different file. That way, you will keep your original file without accidentally overwriting it.
download this great logic pro x template for free
Write down everything
Although optional, it will help you a lot when you start taking notes while recording your songs.
Write down all the special details, like certain ways of wiring your amp, special settings in your daw, changes you made to your effects, etc.
This ensures that you keep track of your work. The more songs you create, the more settings you will have to tweak. If you write them down, you create a music diary which gives you a nice backup of your work process. Remember how you got that awesome guitar effect 10 songs ago? No? That is why you need to write that down.
If you have a super memory, YOU, my friend, are superman :)
Choose your distribution channel
As an extra tip, you could choose your distribution channel.
Where do you want your music to go to? Do you want to start on SoundCloud, or did you create a nice quality song that could easily fit on iTunes or Spotify?
You could even choose to put your music on a cd or vinyl. You do not have to choose at this level, and it is perfectly fine to start recording some songs and determine what you want to do with it after a while.
If the time comes and you want to add your songs to SoundCloud, you should go with routenote.
Conclusion and start recording!
With all the above tips, you have a great start with a professional home studio setup. You will finetune your workflow as time goes by. Tweaking your gear and setup is part of the process, so prepare for that.
And as always, keep making awesome music and share it with the world
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