Working at a home studio setup is quite interesting and you can have a lot of fun making music. However the key to success is not just your expertise in recording but also the tools you use and how you set them up. With this guide we'll help you to set up a small recording studio at your home so that you can start creating great music.
Any studio setup is incomplete without the following few tools/instruments:
Setting up your home studio:
Hey there is already a mic input port on my computer/laptop why do I need to spend money on external audio interface?
Your system does come with a mic input port, but does any of the good grade microphone fit into that port? Secondly even if you arrange any converter jack, or anything of that sort, there is a very high probability that the supplied sound card won't be able to deliver anything near a high fidelity sound, and the latency issues will make it horrendously difficult to record and arrange music. Additionally, built-in sound cards provide little to no control over the signal. Among other advantages, an audio interface provides you with the ability to use high quality microphones and studio monitors (speakers). If you are running tight on budget the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, Focusrite Scarlett Solo, provide two microphone inputs and good recording quality without a high cost. Those who are flexible with their budget should consider the Focusrite Scarlett Bundle and Focusrite Scarlett 18i18, as well as the Apogee Duet when working on an Apple Mac. Any interface on this list will work well so long it is compatible with your computer. Check the system requirements before buying.
The idea is simple, if you have to record vocals or live instruments, you'll need at least one good microphone. Like there are different types of speakers for different sonic ranges, some microphones work better for a particular scenario than others. On the more inexpensive yet versatile end, most condenser microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern will work. On the other hand some extremely cheap options essentially include a dynamic microphone, like Behringer C-1, Samson C01 produce quality recordings at a very cheap price. A much rounded choice however are microphones like, Shure SM-27-SC and Rode NT1, offering much cleaner, better sound under most scenarios.
Studio Monitors are speakers that do a great job at representing recorded sound as cleanly and accurately as possible. First time users often find themselves overwhelmed and blown away by the detail they provide. The good news is that a good pair of studio monitors can be procured for a much less amount in comparison to high quality entertainment speakers that, in most of the cases don't even come close to matching up the sound quality. A great cheaper alternative for those who are tight on budget is M-Audio Studiophile AV40 and for those who consider quality to be of paramount importance, you should go for the industry trusted KRK ROKIT 5 G3 and M-Audio BX8.
Since you are working in a home setup, the odds are that it's highly likely that you'll resort to virtual instruments. For this purpose, you'll need a MIDI Keyboard. They are generally cheaper and connects via an audio interface or USB. In the budget range you can pick up the Samson Graphite M25 and Arturia MiniLab for a compact keyboard. Those who need more keys to play with should check the Novation Launchkey 49 and Arturia KeyLab 49.
It's not an unknown fact that you'll need cables to connect all you hardware. So, in-short, you should keep enough cables to get everything connected and a few spare for the time of need. For Recording purpose you'll need some good quality XLR cables, USB cables and 1/4" cables. Always make a list of all the ports that needs to be connected first and then go shopping.
For mounting your microphones you'll need a stand or a shock mount in case of a condenser microphone. Samson SP01 is a pretty generic shock mount to start with, it important to check the compatibility with your microphone before going for one.
All those amazing instruments that you bought can't be of any purpose unless you have a recording software. In the DAW section, there are so many options that hardly anyone is left unsatisfied after trying alternatives. The first step is to identify which operating system you'll be working on and then choose among the alternatives likewise. Entry level verions are easily available and you don't need to have a professional product to follow the lessons. Few of the cheaper alternatives consist of Reaper, Pro Tools, Digital Performer, FL Studio, and Cakewalk SONAR. While the higher end alternatives are Ableton Live 9 and Avid Pro Tools 11.
Most DAWs come with a few low-quality virtual instruments but you’ll probably want to upgrade to something better if you intend to use them regularly in your recordings. You can find some good, free options on DSK Music and VST Planet—or just by searching the web for the specific instrument you need. If you want to recreate the sound of a piano or any other real instrument, however, you’ll need to pay—sometimes a lot—for the best. You can build out a large library of sounds quickly by purchasing a software sampler. We like Komplete 10. It comes with several pianos, a decent orchestra, plenty of acoustic and electric guitars, a choir, electronic instruments, and a ton more.
That's a lot for a shopping list but is it all you need to know to setup the perfect home studio? Well the answer is that we are only half way through. For the most part, setting up a home recording studio just requires a lot of plug-and-play. Nevertheless, you’ll need to know a few things to get started and end up with a decent studio.
In a perfect world, you'd want to record in a room where no outside noise comes in and the acoustical treatment treatment is perfectly don to remove any reverbrations. In a real world however, for a home studio set up you don't essentially want to spend a huge load of money on professional recording environment. The best way to go is to have carpeted rooms, with few to no windows. Acoustic treatment of walls and doors can be achieved by extremely budget friendly Aurica products or if you want to go all the to money saving, blankets, egg trays work too slightly.
One of the lesser known facts is that, the angle at which you place your monitors greatly affects how you hear the sound they produce. To start with, place one on each side of your computer screen on top of their monitor isolation pads. Now start placing them at a 45 degree angle facing inward. The idea is to assume a straight line coming out perpendicularly out of the monitors toward each of your ear in a straight line and it should meet behind your neck. If you close your eyes while playing a Monoaural sound, the imaging should come is the exact center of your head. If it's not the case, you need to adjust the positions accordingly.
In order to record you’ll need to enable phantom power for your microphones on your audio interface. Nearly all condenser microphones with a cardioid pickup pattern—the kind we recommended you buy—require a power source. Your audio interface can provide it, but you often need to press a button or flip a switch. Consult your interface’s manual if you can’t find a button or switch labeled 48V on the front panel next to each mic input.
Once you’ve handled the previous steps, you just need to plug everything in and install drivers and software. Depending on the hardware and software you chose, the setup process will vary. In many cases, after installation you won’t have to do anything else (aside from authorizing your software, perhaps). If not, consult your manuals to find out what additional steps you need to take to get up and running and perform a test recording in your DAW software to ensure everything is good to go.
We hope we covered most topics, if you still have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.