If an artist is just starting out in recording their own music, the idea of building a ‘studio’ can be daunting. But there are a few basic rules to stick to that will ensure that regardless of budget, it’s possible to get decent results.
Recording on a Budget
Perhaps the first thing to remember when attempting to recording any music when money is tight – be it a demo in a bedroom or a full band making a CD to sell at shows – is to make the best of what’s there. Artists may not need to spend thousands of pounds on high-end professional recording software and hardware. Just think of how many great songs and albums were recorded before the likes of Pro Tools and Logic Pro were on the scene…
For example – Just think that right up until the White Album, The Beatles were recording on just a 4-track tape machine. Revolver, Sgt. Peppers: The results artists are capable of achieving without fancy technology are staggering when true creative skills are mixed with good playing and a bit of patience.
How to Plan Record at Home
The first thing an artist needs to decide is the logistics of their recording setup. Is it a 12 piece funk band or a 3 piece funk band? How big is the drummers drum kit? What kind of sound is the band looking for? All these questions are basic pre-production issues that it’s essential to solve.
Once these questions are answered (and it may help to write down a list of points to remember right from the word go) then it’s time to choose a basic set up.
Choosing Hardware and Software to Record With
Choosing what medium to record onto is an essential part of building a home recording set-up. Microphones, mixing desks, computer interfaces, and outboard effects are all things that can be included. But there are a few really basic questions to ask first of all – The most important being: What do the band actually record ON to?
Standalone Multitrack Recorders
There are a number of good multitrack recorders out there that work as stand-alone mixers and recorders with no computer interface needed. These are often a good start. Largely, the more channels these mixers have, the more expensive they’ll be. But remember the Beatles! A band may only need 4 channels. They may need 24. Always consider the needs of the project at hand.
Standalone recorders are great for on-location recording or for hands-on mixing if the band want the emphasis to be on ‘old school’ fader mixing, rather that computer technology.
Computer Recording Interfaces
There is also a multitude of mutitrack computer interfaces that send channel information to a computer via USB or Firewire – many also come with free software to mix the results too. A computer inferface connected to software to mix will give an artist the most control over their mixes, and the best opportunity to add effects etc – but it does have a less organic feel to it.
Choosing between a standalone mixer and a computer interface is the first step in choosing the direction of a band or artist’s recordings. Weighing up the style of recording, the location of the recording, and what the band want to achieve from the recording should all play a part – not to mention the potential of future projects.
Microphones, Headphones, and Leads – Oh my!
Once a band have decided on what to plug everything into, the next step is choosing the right equipment to make the project come together. Firstly, and rather obviously – Microphones are important here! If the budget is really small, a selection on low-end microphones can still achieve great results if used properly. Shure SM58s are a good starting point as a very versatile microphone.
Headphones are also essential – especially if a band like the idea of recording live to capture the raw energy of a performance. A few pairs of headphones and a headphone mixer can be bought relatively inexpensively.
In terms of mixing, some monitor speakers are also an important part of building a home studio set up. they will allow the producer to hear the full spectrum of sound when they are mixing, so every detail can be picked up. These will be plugged into either a mixer or the computer, depending on the system being used.
Once all of these components are in place, it’s time to choose a recording space, plug in some microphones, and begin experimenting with the newly built hit factory! Good luck!