We live in a time where anyone is able to release their own music online. While sites like YouTube and Soundcloud allow users to upload their finished tracks, access to affordable recording gear has made it even easier for music enthusiasts to create and further democratize the DIY movement that has made celebrities nearly out of everyone.
Once accessible to only those lucky enough to afford the priciest studios, mixing and recording a decent song is now as simple as obtaining a few pieces of equipment, and finding a spacey enough table. These days, the bare minimum you need to have a record room is a USB Microphone and a Laptop: but why stop there? You can choose to build a home studio all at once as a complete setup (which is more costly) or gradually where both your gear and environment flourish with you.
This article isn’t for those to set up a commercial recording studio with a limited budget, but for creative people who just want to get things done.
Listening and Monitoring Devices
Being able to listen to and monitor what you’re mixing and recording in the best of details is the gist for making a quality record. However, you won’t need to break the bank to get some good headphones and monitors. You can simply wait for the best deals at the end of the month or during Black Fridays, plus it wouldn’t hurt waiting for JBL coupons and promo codes from time to time.
Since your home entertainment WIFI or car audio system may be good enough to play a favorite album on, you definitely don’t want to mix on those systems. For instance, when the system has a hefty bass, you can compensate by mixing with your tracks with less bass and then playing it on a standard car system or pair of headphones.
Perhaps you realize it but, a reliable and up-to-date computer is your top priority from now one. Although it may still be possible to make music on machines older than four years, this might severely hinder your rig’s growth by potentially becoming complete down the line or having something go wrong. If you want something to last in the long run, then investing in a new computer with new hardware specified for your need is a better idea.
While there is a long-standing debate on using a Windows and a Mac-based machine, both have an almost equal list of Pros and Cons.
But if you enjoy building your own computer, this can also be an option. Doing so allows you to spec out your hardware and even upgrade them as you go along. Contrary to what you have heard, purpose-built PCs are considered more “futureproof” as you can build them to exceed higher specifications than a similarly rated MAC.
Bear in mind that higher specifications like ram amount and processor speed allow you to have more resources to work with multiple fx plug-ins and multiple tracks. What is more, both your hardware and software have to be perfectly compatible.
Choosing The Right Audio Interface
An audio interface acts like an external soundcard that allows you to record analog audio such as instruments and microphones into your DAW. It also provides a better audio quality for mixing and tracking.
If you plan on doing any recording like guitar, vocals, and live performances, you’ll definitely need an audio interface.
In turn, those who don’t do recording, having an audio recording around helps them with lower audio latencies- especially when using plug-ins and virtual instruments.
For beginners, an audio interface with a basic amount of inputs and outputs is decent enough to get things going.
Picking the Right Digital Audio Workstation
Your DAW or Digital Audio Workstation is the software you use for recording, editing, mixing, and mostly producing music. If you own a Mac computer, then this machine already comes with an initial DAW, Garageband. This will allow you to upgrade it to the full version – Logic Pro X- which is honestly one of the most complete DAWS, preferred by many music producers.
However, the DAW you’ll choose depends on your goals and needs, but if you’re faced with too many options, allow us to shed some light:
- Support and Reliability
Make sure you choose a DAW with good support and updates. Preferably a DAW that comes with a community forum filled with active users will prove really helpful if you’re a beginner. A forum can be extremely valuable whenever you have questions to ask.
DAW developers like Reaper and Presonus are boasting with communities like these. They further rely on people’s reviews and requests to build more advanced features into the DAW.
A DAW that is able to work on both Mac and Windows it’s important. This will allow you to collaborate with other music producers around the world and who might not be using the same operating system as you do.
Microphones and Inputs
As with other recording gears, choosing the right microphones for your first home-studio can be very confusing due to the absolute number of options. Where to start? Let’s say you only intend to record vocals for podcasts, streaming, and voice-overs. In this case, USB Microphones are your best deal as you won’t have to buy a different audio interface with phantom power.
Another confusing question for first-time buyers is whether to get a condenser or a dynamic mic. This is available for both standalone mics and USB microphones that require an interface. Without getting into many details, a condenser mic is more appropriate if you’re looking for the best high-frequency details and sensitivity, while for better isolation on the vocals, a dynamic mic would prove more useful.
Once you’ve formed an idea of what pieces of equipment you need, you can go ahead and do more research on the product reviews and brands you want. This will prove very effective in terms of choosing the right gears and spending your money wisely.