The Essential Home Recording Studio Guide for Beginners
While all serious crafts require some investment in gear and space, any seasoned musician knows that the first steps to creating a home recording studio can seem daunting. But setting up your studio doesn’t have to feel like a monumental undertaking (or break the bank). Here, we’ll take you through the first steps to building a home recording studio, from setting up your recording space where the magic will happen to purchasing your first batch of recording equipment .
Essential Home Recording Studio Gear for Beginners
Maybe you already have some recording equipment that simply needs augmentation, or maybe all you’ve got is a computer and a dream. No matter your situation, your three main considerations when purchasing any of the following essentials for a home recording studio for beginners should be your budget, your familiarity with the products available, and your style of music.
The Physical Home Recording Studio Space
First, start with your physical space. A great home recording studio boils down to size, noise, architecture, and acoustics. While there are certain things you shouldn’t compromise on, you may need to be flexible. A room with loud laundry machines isn’t a great choice, for example. But style of music – and what you’re looking to accomplish – might give you some leeway. You may want a rough, “bedroom studio” sound, in which case, gear like pop filters may be excessive.
If you’re lucky enough to have a whole room to dedicate to your home recording studio, make sure it’s big enough. Not only to fit the equipment but also the number of musicians you intend to work with. Try to find the quietest room in your house. If possible, make it one with concrete, tile, or hardwood flooring. You don’t want to destroy your carpet, and rooms with creaky floors or lots of vibration will kill your sound and your flow every time someone moves. Shoot for decent acoustics: high ceilings and asymmetrical or irregular surfaces.
To some degree, you’ll have to work with what you’ve got. But you can make your life easier by completely clearing the room. Remove any décor, especially things that vibrate, and get creative with acoustic treatments like diffusors. Or more budget-friendly soundproofing blankets.
Invest time organizing and maximizing your space. Your home studio’s physical space – as well as your desk or workstation – can greatly impact your home recording success.
Your Computer and Storage
After your physical space, your computer, its storage and your software are huge considerations that will effect everything else. When it comes to PC or Mac, go with whatever you’re most comfortable using – or whatever you already own. RAM is an important consideration is RAM, the limiting factor of your recording software. A minimum of 8 GB is the sweet spot, but 4 GB should run most software smoothly without lagging or overworking your computer.
You’ll also need hard drive space. An external drive is your best bet, not only because it’s independently secure, but it also frees up your computer’s memory for your actual editing and mixing. Some producers opt for solid state drives, or SSD’s, which store information on microchips rather than the moving parts of a hard drive, making them incredibly fast – but also that much pricier. If you’re on a budget, a decent external hard drive will do the trick.
Your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) & Software
All that RAM on your computer will go to running your DAW, or recording software – your digital music playground. Again, go with the grain of familiarity on this one. That said, it can’t hurt to consult friends or the hive mind of the internet to see what the pros are saying about their favorite softwares.
Keep in mind that your computer (Mac or PC) will limit your choice of software somewhat, but there are countless stellar options – Avid Pro Tools or the Native Instruments DAW/interface bundle, for example – on both sides of the aisle.
Your Audio Interface
If your DAW is where you manipulate recorded sounds, your audio interface is where raw sound actually goes in. Bundles that include DAW software and an interface, like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio Pack can get you an audio interface, condenser mic, open-back headphones, mic cable and free recording software all for one low price. You can find more Must-Have Products for Home Recording here.
Again, consider your budget and your computer (which needs to be compatible with your interface for things like USB connection), but especially your style of music. What you use to make sound – vocals, instruments, outboard gear – will dictate how many channels, or preamps, you’ll want on your interface. For most, particularly electronic producers, 2 preamps will suffice, but if you’re going to be recording a number of instruments (like drums) in your home recording studio for beginners you may need 7 or 8. Just make sure your interface has phantom power, which you’ll need for any condenser mic. Which brings us to…
Shure and Audio-Technica make good condenser mics, and MXL 3000 even sells a bundle including a pop filter, for a cleaner sound. There are so many things to consider when it comes to buying the right microphone. Are you recording a voice or an instrument? If you’re recording an instrument, what kind is it? You probably won’t want to use the same type of mic to record a guitar that you’d use to record drums.
No matter what you’re doing, here are some great otpions that can help you get started for less than $100.
Your Monitors & Headphones
Eventually you’ll probably want to invest in a pair of studio monitors – not hi-fi speakers, which aren’t designed for the sound range you’ll be working with and risk blowing out.
And don’t forget a good pair of closed-back headphones to prevent sound from escaping from the phones and into your mixes. Sennheiser and Audio-Technica sell quality options.
At minimum you’ll need a couple of XLRs to connect mics to your interface and your interface to your monitors. You may also need jack cables to connect instruments to your interface.