The 5 essential components of a home recording studio
The bare minimum amount of gear you need to create great digital recordings at home
If you’ve read my post about New Year’s Resolutions, you know I’ve been spending some time putting my home recording studio back together after a long break.
Some of it came back to me like riding a bike. Some of it (like Pro Tools) did not! Which brought me, of course, to YouTube, searching for online tutorials — where I found a video that appealed to me for completely different reasons…
Part of the beauty of recording in a small home “studio” (mine is basically just a bedroom filled with gear) is that you can use limitations to your advantage. So I’ve been obsessing lately over the basics, wanting to break my gear, my signal path, and my creative process down to something that allowed for quick tracking and decision making.
One of the “back-to-basics” videos I came across was by producer and audio engineer Graham Cochrane (who runs the Recording Revolutionblog and video series). In the video below he does a great job explaining what gear you need, what gear you don’t need, and why.
A couple days after I watched the video, Graham wrote a guest post for the Echoes Blog on the exact same topic. Strange connections! Anyway, I thought I would summarize his points below — and if you want more in-depth explanations, watch the video above or read his full article HERE.
What do you need in order to make great digital recordings in a home studio?
1. A good computer
For me this is like probably the most important thing. It’s gonna be your most important investment.
Graham says, “More often than not you already own a computer that is capable of being the hub of your home recording studio.”
Mac? PC? Graham says you should go with what you know. Great music is being made on both. His one specific recommendation is to get as much RAM as you can afford.
2. Any DAW (digital audio workstation)
Well, maybe not any Daw. But I do get where they’re getting at. Some DAWs are simply bad in my opinion, but he’s including basics in his post.
This is the program which you’ll be using to record and edit (and sometimes mix and master) your music.
Graham believes that Sonar, Audition, Pro Tools, Cubase, Live, Reason, and Studio One are all great — so just get one that’s compatible with your computer (and in your price range) and get started!
3. A solid audio interface
You need a way to turn analog or acoustical sounds (vocals, guitars, etc.) into a digital signal. That’s where the audio interface comes in.
Graham says, “Most DAWs work with just about any brand of audio interface. This leads to an endless list of boxes to choose from. Let me give you a suggestion: limit yourself to just 2 channel interfaces. What I mean is, don’t buy more than you need.”
4. A quality studio microphone
I couldn’t agree more. A good pre amp for your mic too. It makes a world of difference!
Mics are important. BUT… if you’re working mostly by yourself, or tracking instruments one at a time, you don’t need more than one or two mics.
Also, Graham cautions that because there are so many quality mics on the market now, you shouldn’t spend any more than $100 on a microphone, unless you’re looking to own a specific mic for a specific reason.
5. A pair of studio headphones or monitors
Definitely make sure you’ve got studio monitors and not just headphones. No – “and or”- it’s a must!
… because you have to HEAR what you’re recording! Only own headphones? Great, start recording and mixing on headphones. You can always listen to your mixes on other people’s systems, or in the car, or wherever, in order to get a reference for how the headphones are positively or negatively shaping the mixes.
And when it comes to buying monitors, don’t spend too much.
Clearly the theme throughout much of Graham’s advice is to keep it simple, start small, don’t spend too much, get to work, and have fun!
As you record more and more at home, you’ll discover ways to solve problems WITHOUT spending money or adding gear (though a nice preamp does sound pretty good about now). Ahhh! OK. Back to work.
For a similar take on what you need in order to create great-sounding tracks in your home studio, watch the video below:
Do you agree with these recommendations? Did Graham miss any essentials?
How do you create your home recordings? What’s your go-to piece of gear?
Let me know in the comments below.
A few other things he didn’t mention: A solid midi interface and a studio desk if you can afford one
To wrap things up, I wanted to follow up on the need for certain brands. Since there is so much out there to choose from regarding things like your computer, your sound interface, your midi interface, and you digital audio workstation.
Let’s keep in mind that many of the basic sound cards and midi interfaces out today should work fine if you know what you’re doing. I’ve been through hell and back again when it comes to computers. I believe your computer needs to be solid. Especially if you’re recording live audio rather than just producing. Additionally, backup and sync software are things I would’ve added to Chris’s post. The last thing you want to do is loose your work after being in the zone.
You can read the original post by Chris Robley here.