Ten things you need for a successful home studio.

Published: January 12, 2015

Ever wanted to get that rich Muscle Shoals sound in your living room? Have you ever listened to a record from your favorite band and thought "I wish my band could sound like this one!". Once you've got the band, and you've got the music, all that's left is getting it put down to Brass Tracks!

Creating your own home recording studio is easy and fun! After reading this article you will have a good introduction and basic understanding of what every home studio needs.

  1. Space to record and spread out equipment.

    Everyone knows musicians can get messy sometimes. Musicians need a little space to spread out and feel comfortable, especially when recording their own album! The first item on this list is making sure you have a good amount of space to use and using it well.

    This doesn't mean you need a whole studio with isolated sound booths and storage closets for gear, but recording in a bathroom with a band is too cramped and WAY too loud for anyone to get a good mix.
    A living room or bedroom set aside specifically for recording is more than enough!

  2. Vocal booth/isolation room.

    This one is a bit of a two-for, the vocal booth is used to record tracks of the vocalist while being able to isolate the sound of their voice. In a pinch the same room can be used for recording a guitar through an amp or sounds of auxiliary instruments like maracas.

    The vocal booth could be a closet or another room entirely. The key to the best vocal booth is sound insulation. A closet full of clothes works really well, though you could also hang curtains on the walls. Avoid any hard flat surface like drywall because it reflects the sound back toward the microphone and makes a messy recording.

  3. Microphones.

    Finally we can talk about microphones. For a home studio you don't need to go crazy! Getting one or two great mics is better than fifteen crummy mics. The first step is thinking about what the microphones are used for.

    Vocal mics are usually wide diaphragm condenser mics.

    Drum mics are a range of condenser mics.

    Instrument mics are usually small diaphragm condenser mics.

    If your band is recording a live drum kit look for a package of drum mics, these same mics can be used for vocals or instruments so you save a lot of money by just buying the package which usually comes with five to seven microphones.

  4. Cables.

    What good are microphones without cables? If there's any thing a studio needs a lot of it's cables. You should make sure to have at least one cable for every microphone in case you use them all at once to record the drum kit I mentioned before.

    But also think about the future, cables break, get lost, and they get stolen. The worst thing that could happen in a studio is getting the band together for a session and not being able to record because of one cable missing.

  5. Mixer.

    Without a mixing board the cables would have nowhere to run audio! Drop a line to your nearest music retailer and get some advice from them about good deals on small equipment. Most mixers are alike, the manufacturer just changes a few things to set them apart.

    What you should be looking for is a mixer with six to eight individual channel strips, phantom power, and something that can fit well in your studio on your budget.

  6. Audio interface

    The audio interface is important for anyone recording through a PC at home (nowadays almost everyone is). The interface allows the mixer to be plugged in to your computer with no latency issues. There are many audio interfaces on market and the decision can be tricky.

    What you should be looking for is an interface which fits your needs. You will probably only need two to four inputs on dedicated channels. The choice of a tube driven interface is completely up to you.

  7. Computers.

    The most important thing in the entire setup is your audio capturing device. In the recording industry this is known as the ADC but it basically means your computer. To make sure your computer is to par with requirements for recording ask professionals and consult google. 

    You will want at least a four core processing system for clean recordings without latency. Also your computer will have to have USB connectivity.

  8. Recording software DAW

    Once you know your computer is ready for recording you will need to download some recording software. The software is probably the most expensive part of a home studio but it lasts a lifetime. The software itself is known universally as a DAW which stands for Digital Audio Workspace.

    If you are on a budget many people use freeware like Audacity.

    Some bigger names worth checking out are...

    Ableton
    Fruity Loops
    Reaper
    Cubase
    ProTools

    Dont forget to look for student versions if you are enrolled in a college, they can save you hundreds to buy the industry standards and start recording just like the pros do.

  9. Work flow.

    In recording things need to get done quickly and efficiently or else one album might take months or years to complete. Once you have all the gear set up you won't be recording immediately, you'll need some practice first. And truthfully perfect practice makes perfect recordings. 

    Go to your local library and get a book or two on studio recording. Check out youtube and other sources on the internet for recording. Every bit of information helps along the way. Make sure to take notes, practice what you learn, and don't get worried when your first recording doesn't sound perfect, no one was an expert their first day.

  10. Music and the band

    This one is sort of like a NO DUH moment so I saved it for last. If you have an amazing home studio, and you've practiced recording everything from vocals to the pots and pans in your kitchen, you might finally call yourself a recording guerilla. But without a band to record you'll never move along in the craft.

    Put your name out there on the coffee shop bulliten board, email your friends, and talk to your teachers or peers. Chances are someone knows someone else who has a band and would love to record.

Recording can be time consuming and the most entertainment you've had in a long time. Make sure your studio stays clean and organized so you are ready for whatever comes your way. If all goes well you'll have people lined up around the block to hear what new sound is coming from YOUR OWN garage.

Good luck and most importantly, have fun and do what you love!