Essential Equipment for a Bare-Bones Home Recording Studio

music mixing board

Recording your own music can be a fun way to share your creativity with friends, but recording music or voice on a semi-professional basis requires a more substantial investment in equipment and expertise. While using a by-the-hour recording studio can be a good way to record, it can get expensive if you’re going to be recording regularly. Many musicians and speakers use a home recording studio to boost production and allow them to build professional quality tracks. Assuming that you already have a computer and are using some audio software, like Audacity which is free, then there are only a few more essential pieces that you will need.

The Microphone

For recording speech alone, a more economical microphone like the Audio-Technica ATR2100 for USB/XLR can be perfectly acceptable; these can be found online for as little as $60. But for recording music, a model like the Neumann KM184 will give better quality and may be worth the investment. The AKG C1000s is a good budget model that will provide decent quality for musical recordings and acoustic instruments. It’s a good idea to go with  the best possible microphone that your budget can afford since this is such an important part of recording.

Instruments

Keyboard players have an advantage, as most modern keyboards are MIDI capable, which provides a great transfer of sound. Many guitars can be connected to the computer to record on MIDI, which provides great sound quality. Acoustic instruments and drums will require a much more robust sound-proofing for the studio.

The Space

There’s a reason that opera halls have high ceilings! The best rooms to record in are large rooms with high ceilings, so if you can convince your mother or your spouse to let you use the two-story living room to record, you may be able to get away with very little in the way of room modifications. Smaller rooms or rooms with lower ceilings will need some type of sound treatment. High-quality sound treatments like Sonex panels are a wonderful option that help improve the sound quality and reduce noise complaints from the neighbors, but it can be expensive to cover the entire room with them.

A more economical option is to use heavy drapes on the walls and to use overstuffed or soft furniture in the room. Any “hard” furniture like dining tables or desks may need to be draped with heavy fabric to prevent it from creating echoes and distortions in the recording.

Get Comfortable!

I’ve seldom found an artist who got all their recording perfect on the first take! Your recording studio should be comfortable and pleasant, because you’ll probably be spending a lot of time there. You’ll want to place the mixing board or computer within easy reach of your listening position – the place you sit between the monitors. A good pair of closed-ear headphones can come in handy, especially during the mixing process.

Consider “creature comforts” as well, because this space is a space for creativity and production. Adding a few pictures, a comfy overstuffed sofa for lounging between takes, or even some candles or incense can help you to feel more at home in your studio. The more you enjoy being in the studio, the more you’ll be there, and the more likely you are to get the “perfect” recordings.

Cables

One of the most frequently overlooked aspects of the home studio is the cables. While high-end cables may not make much of a difference to the listener, they can make a tremendous difference in the quality of the recording. The last thing you want to find is that the perfect track you just played is unusable because the cable caused pops or hums on the track.

Building a home recording studio may seem expensive or challenging, and for professional CD-quality tracks, you may still want to use an outside studio. But a home recording studio can be used for testing new equipment, recording “rough draft” demos, and even for recording great tracks that can be released on their own.

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