Do you dream of making professional-sounding music productions in your own home recording studio? Then we’ve got good news! These days, anyone can make recordings and produce albums, EPs and singles in the comfort of their own home! All you need is the right gear. It used to cost a small fortune to rent a professional studio or equipment, but those days are over. This blog takes you through the five basic studio products you need to begin. So, what are you waiting for? Clean out that space in the attic and start building your home studio today!
#1. Keep track of your tracks: DAW
The first most important recording tool you’ll need is a DAW, otherwise known as a Digital Audio Workstation. This is a type of software program that provides you with (sometimes unlimited) tracks for your recorded audio or samples, which you can then edit and mix. There are many DAWs on the available to choose from, but they all provide pretty much the same functionality. Some DAWs come complete with a mountain of plugins, but for basic productions, a handful of plugins are actually all you need. More can always be added later by either buying or downloading them, but bear in mind that you do need to make sure that the DAW you select is compatible with your operating system.
#2. Neutral beauty: studio monitors
For listening to and mixing your productions, a good pair of studio monitors is a must-have. Studio monitors provide you with a natural-sounding, honest representation of your music, and prevent you from having to face any unpleasant surprises when you have a mate listen to your production through of a pair of car speakers, only to find out it doesn’t sound anything like it did when played through your speakers. Studio headphones are a great alternative for mixing, but keep in mind that if you only ever mix with a pair of headphones, you’re likely to end up with ‘limited’ and dry tracks. Vocals and snare drums are often too loud; something that’s also not going to sound great in a car.
#3. The missing link: audio interface
Even though your computer may be equipped with a good sound card, if you really want high audio quality, then it’s vital to invest in an (external) audio interface. Audio interfaces have several significant advantages: the sound reproduced by your speakers or headphones gets a boost in quality, and any microphone, guitar or other instrument recording will sound a lot letter. In addition, audio interfaces usually offer separate headphone and speaker outputs, one or more microphone inputs, and volume controls for each input and output.
Do you produce your music in-the-box?
If your work’s completely digital, meaning you exclusively work with samples/virtual instruments rather than your own recordings inside your DAW software, you’re what’s called an in-the-box producer. Still, while an audio interface won’t change anything about the mix itself, it isn’t such a bad idea to invest in one because it improves studio monitor sound quality and gives you a better ‘picture’ of your mixes. After all, better audio quality gives way to better mixing decisions, and is much easier to listen to for hours on end compared to low-quality sound.
Which audio interface?
The question is: how many tracks do you want to record at once? If you work in-the-box, you won’t be using any inputs, so that’s one thing less to worry about. If you are going to be making recordings, however, you’ll unlikely to need to record more than one or two tracks at the same time. In that case, an audio interface with one or two inputs is a solid choice. Always check the specifications to see what can be plugged into the inputs and once you know what you need, it’s time to figure out your budget. More expensive audio interfaces generally have better input and output quality and more advanced features and functions.
#4. “Check… one… two”: a microphone
You simply can’t make a recording without a microphone. Before investing in one, however, ask yourself what you will be recording; shredding guitars, or fragile vocals? A large-diaphragm condenser microphone is ideal for vocals and acoustic instruments and a dynamic microphone is better for capturing electric guitar from directly in front of the speaker cabinet. Make sure you get cables that have the right connectors and length. A cable is not usually included when you purchase a microphone so you can select the one that best suits your personal home studio setup. If you’re looking for an affordable all-in-one solution, you’ll want to consider a USB microphone. These have an audio interface built in.
#5. “Do, re, MIDI”: a MIDI controller
MIDI devices aren’t loaded with any sounds, but they’re nonetheless an extremely handy tool to have in your studio, since it enables you to play an unlimited number of virtual instruments or control parameters in your DAW software. It’s also a lot faster and more intuitive than the combination of a keyboard and mouse. MIDI keyboards let you play melodies, chords and rhythms like you’re playing a piano. If you’re more interested in controlling samples, loops, beats and DAW functions, a MIDI controller is a great idea. If you want all of it, go for both, or pick a MIDI keyboard with additional features like pads and sliders.
You can also consider investing in a complete studio bundle.
What types of productions are you planning on making in your home studio? Would you like to know more about recording music and producing? Leave your questions in the comments below!
» Getting started with iPad music production
» Why artists use ghost producers
» Studio monitors
» Audio interfaces
» Studio microphones
» MIDI keyboards and MIDI controllers
» Studio bundles
» How to connect studio monitors