There has never been a better time to have a home recording studio than right now. Almost anyone with a laptop and some relatively cheap equipment can record tracks that are almost indecipherable from those made in the high end studios. That said recording can still be a difficult process for the uninitiated. It requires a lot of experimentation and learning on the job. So in order to save all you would be recording stars a whole lot of time here are a few tips:
Get on the Mic
Without a doubt, the number one microphone that should be on every home recorders list is a high quality large diaphragm condenser microphone. Not only do they help tremendously in the recording of vocals, but can be used for all sorts of things, such as acoustics, some percussion, and so much more.
Monitors, Monitors, Monitors
Many people would say that one of the most important parts of your home recording studio are the monitors. Most professional studios will even shell out as much as $10,000 or more for the monitors they want, but for the humble home recording enthusiast such extravagances are not always possible.
The main thing you need to do is really know your monitors well. Try playing the same track on all different types of output (computer speakers, headphones, cell phone etc) and try to pick out the differences. Wherever your speakers are lacking you know to turn that particular area up a little higher when you are doing the mixing. It doesn’t have to be that complicated to get a great sound out of simple equipment, and it’s a great learning experience for anyone involved in music.
It’s all about the Preamp
Have you ever noticed that when you plug a microphone or instrument directly into your recording system it just doesn’t sound quite right? When you record this way the music tends to sounds very empty, and doesn’t have the warmth or tone that you need. But fear not, for there is a very simple and relatively inexpensive way to fix this.
All you need is a preamp. Most standard preamps can be as low as $50, and the difference will instantly be clear to even the greenest musicians. I highly recommend that you make sure to get a decent tube, and never use the one that is included. They are easy to replace (nothing more than a screwdriver is required) or if you ask nicely someone at the store might be able to help you.
You will also need an audio cable that is well balanced, such as a TLR or a TSR. Don’t attempt to connect the audio interface with the preamp with an instrument cable.
The Internet is Your Friend
I’ve seen a lot of first timers spend their hard earned money on expensive manuals and books about how to record from home. Although they certainly have their place, experience is the greatest teacher, and you can learn a lot, and have a lot of fun by just going for it.
Most modern recording software is highly intuitive which means you don’t need to spend hours reading and making notes before you lay down your first track. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get started, and how quickly you can figure it out just from trial and error. When you are ready to move on to particular aspects of the program that may be more complicated there are literally libraries of information, and resources online. Websites like GearSlutz and YouTube can prove invaluable. No matter what is you are trying to do, someone else has had the same problem before, and likely made a video about it.
The most important thing to remember is to take it one step at a time. Rome wasn’t a built in a day, and when you’re ready those expensive and more advance books will still be there, I promise.
Engineer in a Box
Getting the exact sound you want, or trying to replicate the sound of your favorite band/singer is not always easy. At that point, a lot of people will just find an engineer to finish mastering the track for them and be done with it.
Although it is getting cheaper and cheaper to find engineers who work at great rates, eventually the costs start to add up, and you’re back where you started. So it’s important to start to find a mastering software that works for you. Hiring a professional will always yield better results, but it honestly just isn’t necessary in this day and age. A decent program will run you about $200 or maybe a little less. They don’t take much time to learn, and you’ll have a lot more control over your final product.
It doesn’t have to be that complicated to get a great sound out of simple equipment, and it’s a great learning experience for anyone involved in music.