Studios. Part 1 - Basic Knowledge

This Article explains the basic knowledge of home recording studios. Though home studios can't afford the gear from those pro studios you can still expect your sound to rival the pro ones.

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Thinking of making a home studio?! Tired of paying all the money you could spend on a new gear to the recording studios for your band's new song?! Anyways, you're welcome to the Studio Production Classes. I'm V and I'm going to write about home studios and what you'll need for making one I consider you are not ready to spend thousands of dollars for your first studio (I also recommend no to because of dozens of reasons (for example after some time you will gain experience and will have your own tastes in gear, you'll decide what pre-amps sounds better for you, which mics and so) Though home studios can't afford the gear from those pro studios you can still expect your sound to rival the pro ones. Ok Now sit down and relax

The Room

The real studios have separate rooms for each instrument (a vocal booth, Drums room and so) but as we're making a home studio you can't just take your younger sister's room as a vocal booth. Hm first you will need to remove your room's acoustics (the reverb). You can cover the walls with those egg cartons glued to the wall or just cover the walls with soft stuff like pillows in the corner will help to eliminate the problems with bass. If gluing cartons or other stuff like that you don't need to glue all the walls leave the opposite side clean (like you can glue the cartons to the right and front side walls and the ceiling and leave the left and rear sides untouched as well as the floor (it doesn't always work though: I had some anomalies once). You don't need a room reverb for recordings! You can add it later to the recording by hardware and software plugins Recording a track with reverb at once loses the ability to remove or change the reverb Also try covering up the windows with jalousie and have some lighters to light up your working place (it helps your eyes to relax and your hearing to concentrate more) Also make sure you plug all the gear to the same mains (using different circuit's of mains can also bring hum) avoid the electrical and audio cables crossing each other or make the crossings perpendicular to each other (never leave them running parallel to each other (yup! Again you'll get hum).

The Desktop

You can buy a decent table for a PC (unless you have one already). Try getting one with loads of space, and levels. Buying a flat monitor will help you to preserve more place for the other gear (having the new MACs would be the best deal if you can afford it). Now also you'll want a stand near the desktop for your keyboard (later I'll say why you may need one). Later when we'll be unpacking our new gear remember to leave a free space on the table for writing: notes and songs (you may also put there your hot chocolate tea or new ordered pizza). Just like I mentioned before, use lamps (only no luminescent ones, cause condenser mics pick up some hum from them). Always have empty papers to write down the settings of a compressor or lyrics for your new song, you'll need em. Put them in one of empty boxes of your table. Get an office chair, as soft as it can be. Later when the gear will be unpacked sit down on the chaire, stretch your hand and turn around (try to free up space in that radius to be able to turn around your gear and not to kick em off). Have hangers for cables (in fact you'll need bunch of different cables, jacks and adapters).

The Gear

Buying the right gear is a real challenge: somes say to go mixerless others are against it, somes say you can go fine with a midi controller keyboard only others prefer full ability workstations Now I'm from the ones who say you better buy a mixer (Yes I do! You can use your mixer later on live shows and your band's practices). Ok now we'll go a bit deeper on what to buy during your first purchase:
1.A decent PC (not necessary for those rocket machines faster than Yngwie 
Malmsteen you'll just need a lot of place on HDD, enough RAM and CPU power,
 put a DVD or CD recorder on it)
2.Mixer
3.Audio Interface (to put on the PC) Note: make sure it has got a midi port
 which is really important
4.Studio Monitors
5.Mic (at least one)
6.Patch Bay (to prevent the cable jungles)
7.Control surface (not necessary if your on a budget)
8.Soft sampler
9.Some stands for mics
10.Bunch of cables, jacks and adapters
11.A good Keyboard (Workstation will do the best) thought almost all the 
keyboards have got midi connectivity, always check if they do before buying
12.Headphones
There are dozens of other gear but these are the ones you need most of all. I also recommend buying a rack tuner with a metronome it'll help you when recording other people for money (in fact when they'll need to tune their instrument or a metronome you'll always have one ready and they'll like the way you work (like everything under your hand, without loosing the expensive time we all have). Another good addition would be a reverb unit (vocalists need reverb, when they're being recorded, sent to their headphones (not being recorded as you may wish to change or remove the reverb (you'll be able to add reverb after recording remember?!) this is some kind of a trick but it really helps them to be more sure about what they do Also you can buy an effect unit for a guitar (when recording an electric guitar not everyone will be able to bring an amp so you'll always be able to plug the guitar straight 9throught the FX unit) to the mixer Now a bit of info about the gears (I will write separate articles about each gear later) PC PCs are really awesome things in studios You can loop trim and do loads of other stuff after recording. You don't need those expensive FX unit's as you can have awesome plug-ins in your PC. The PC is the most powerful musical instrument human beings ever invented. Now when buying a PC it is not necessary to have those rocket machines faster than Yngwie Malmsteen:p you'll just need a lot of place on HDD, enough RAM and CPU power, put a DVD or CD recorder on it). In addition you'll need a good Audio Interface. Make sure it has got enough INs and OUTs (mainly INs to be able to record separate tracks at ones) the onboard ones that come with your mother board are often stereo and with a right cable you can record two tracks at ones I'd suggest buying one with at least 4 inputs. Mixers What mixers do is a long story to explain, but there's an article by me about Mixers. I consider buying a 4 bus mixer for recording: the one like Behringer Xenyx 1832FX or Xenyx 1222FX. I'll go deeper about it in Mixers. Part 2 Studio Monitors These are the desire number 1. You want a speaker system to hear what you've/are already recorded/ing which won't color your sound and will bring it to you as it is. You must be careful with choosing them as it is a real challenge. Somes will sound different so you'll be like why does my track sound awesome in my studio, and loos the bass track in the other's?! Mics No need to explain these, right?? Patchbay Ooh these are cool things but are hard to figure out. What it does is helping you to get rid of cable jungles and be fast in hooking up gear together. These are boxes with jacks Dozens of jacks Control Surfaces Are for helping you out with software samplers, pretty useful and save time. They got knobs, fader buttons, but carry no audio signal Connect them through the USB Port. What they do is controlling parameters in Software sampler. You can have a 4 fader CS (Control Surface) but you'll be able to control all the tracks you've got in Software. Though these are a bit expensive but working with Keyboard and Mouse only can get your arms fallen off which in our case is a fail. Soft Samplers It's the program you use for recording/editing. They cost much, but there are the ones you can get for free like the reaper (which I am currently on). Add some awesome plug-ins to them and you'll have a pro-co tool. Keyboard You need one, it helps a lot you don't need to be an awesome player o get a good sounding track of a keyboard You can use the midi connectivity and record the midi track than edit it with your mouse (or CS if you've got one) and than play the track through the keyboard or even use the Soft Synth like FL Studios (if you aren't happy with your keyboard's sounds). Well that's it Like I said this is only a basic info of what you shall know for making a home studio. Like I said I will write separate articles about each gear later: what to buy, why and how to use it. Feel free to ask anything you want and make any correction you think is being miswritten or dismissed. Also feel free to contact me whether by UG or by my e-mail. Also check out this group to talk and discuss everything about studios.

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Beefmo
    Egg cartons are only going to eliminate one frequency, think about how thin they are, they might reduce a bit of high end slapback if you're lucky but other than that they won't do anything. The pillows are also a bit of wishful thinking, you'd be better off just buying 40 of rockwool and making some DIY traps, I mean you'll be spending much more than that on gear anyway. Also, in a digital system, mixers are usually a total waste of time if you're also buying an interface, who wants to pay x hundred pounds for what is basically a big mouse with a cheap eq. Buy better pre's or better mic's but for god sake don't spend money on a mixer that is redundant. If you're doing a small home studio better to do it all digital anyway, because you'll save yourself a hell of a lot of hassle and money and get a product that sounds just as good as anything else you'll achieve in a small space. Lot of emphasis on midi as well, unless you plan on doing a lot of dance mixes or are a keyboard player its pretty much a waste of time. Also you can get a free tuning vst for use in Reaper called GVST Gtune, that'll save on a rack unit and Reaper has a metronome built in so send it as a signal via one of the aux sends on your interface to a set of headphones and you'll save buying a rack unit. For an interface your best bet is the M-audio Profire 2626 - not cheap but if you want to record a band with even a simplified drum mic setup then it is the best choice, 8 excellent pre's and good D/A A/D converters. Monitors are a personal choice, get something you think sounds good, some nice ones on the cheaper end are Yamaha Hs50's or Hs80's, M-audio Bx8a deluxes or Tannoy Reveal 5a's. Mics - the Samson 7kit is a good start for micing drums, also a few sm57's and 58's will come in handy. And that'll be all you pretty much need for recording anything, computer, interface, mics. Room treatment is also essential, and you'd be a fool to skimp on it with egg cartons and pillows like this man suggests, get some wood and some rockwool and make some nice DIY traps. Also, if you want to know anymore then there are some real professionals on the Andy Sneap board over at Ultimate Metal.
    franc0ph0bic
    This article is really useless for anybody who is serious about or recording or anybody who wants to be intelligent about what they buy. First and foremost - check your freaking grammar and spelling, it just makes you look unprofessional when you write things that Word would yell at you for. As for the content - every person's situation is different, and all you really need for a home studio is an audio interface, a good mic, and a computer with a great DAW. You clealy know very little about all of these things, so I am not even going to cite individual things. Oh and by the way, a mixer is, with current technology, probably the least important thing you can buy. You probably will never be recording more than one track on once, and if you do, it can simply be mixed later. Warning to anybody who is reading this - this guy does not know what he is talking about at all, ask somebody who does before blowing your money on useless stuff.
    polaroid_kidd
    Nice easy job. Now I know what about I should get. What would you suggest if I wanted to hook up the following instruments and be able to record them all silmutaneously in different tracks and how much would I roughly have to dish out? 2 E-Guitars/1 Electric & 1 Electro Accoustic 1 E-Base 2 Mic 1 Alesis DM5 Pro E-Drumm Set 1 Keyboard 1 Synth (if possible, if not I can live without it) keep up the good work Dan
    Ic3
    vigenharutyunya wrote hmm well jst tell me what will you be recording? if an amateur than it will i guess... also get a normal audio interface like with two ins and two outs... (Behringer's got somes like that for around 40 or 50 dollars)and voila...
    guitar + vocals yes I ' was thinking about something like that thank you
    Vendetta V
    Thanx everyone for reading and commenting Now mm here we go with the answers
    Icarus Lives wrote: Nice info. I have Audacity and I think it's pretty crap. Is Reaper better?
    Get the Reaper... Easy to download and use.. i specially like the mixing board and UV matters... also the plug ins are awesome... and its for free. it gives ya some evolution days bt after it it doesn lock... you'll jst have to wait for 5 seconds till it'll be available to use lol.. .better 5 secs than 50bux eh?
    Ic3 wrote: I'm thinking about getting a 4 channel mix table . Is this enough for amateur recording ?
    hmm well jst tell me what will you be recording? if an amateur than it will i guess... also get a normal audio interface like with two ins and two outs... (Behringer's got somes like that for around 40 or 50 dollars)and voila... ya can record two tracks at a time with the ability to edit each separately later on
    Phe4rTheGod wrote: What use is a keyboard if you don't want that sound? That sounds like a 'want' not a 'need'...
    like others in here said... ya dnt want yr hand to fal off after 6 hours of work.. with mouse and keyboard.. and its more comfortable if yr recording keyboard tracks... first record the midi and than fix the problems with timing and wrong notes in your softsynth and after make the synth or yr softsynth (according to which sound ya want) to play it and record the track.. To llanafreak44 1. yeah it is true nothing digital can be compared to Nature or something like dat duh! bt hey what if the reverb won't be the one you'd want?? or what if you decided that someother kind of reverb is needed for your current project?? it's a pain in ass.. like i said recording with a reverb ya wont be able to edit it later... which ya cant say about adding it in the software... ya can try dozens of ways and after choose the perfect one from them...!!! 2 I am talking about the budget studios.. you can also use foam plastics, they used to work in my previous band's practicing place... I really cant think why cartons don work cause they have got loads of corners and cant jst simply not work :p btw if ya aint using an empty room, bt yr bed room or so that in most cases ya wont have any reverb cause of yr room being filled up with other stuff like wardrobes table/chairs, bed... 3 waht with behringers than ima say theyre cheap you get what you pay for... they go better on live performances... and btw theyve fixed theyre quality a bit... i see the difference at least... btw if yr buying little consoles than buy the Xenyx ones.. a bit more expensive bt better quality than UB series Wow this went on like another article :p
    Vendetta V
    Nice info bro Beefmo bt once again ima say.. yama need the mixer anyways if doing live so why not to get it now?!? and also doing everything on Software is a bit annoying... + if you don want yr hand felt down ya may consider buying a Controller surface... bt .... bt for example buying an 8 channel Mackie Controller surface costs 1000 and plus, dollars.. which ya cant say about mixers... oh and also the controller surface is crap without PC, and ya cant use it with separate recorders if ya decide to upgrade yr gear... w/b mixers? ya can use em everywhere: Live, recordings, rehearsals....
    polaroid_kidd wrote: Nice easy job. Now I know what about I should get. What would you suggest if I wanted to hook up the following instruments and be able to record them all simultaneously in different tracks and how much would I roughly have to dish out? 2 E-Guitars/1 Electric & 1 Electro Acoustic 1 E-Base 2 Mic 1 Alesis DM5 Pro E-Drumm Set 1 Keyboard 1 Synth (if possible, if not I can live without it) keep up the good work Dan
    Hmm all at a time... now it might cost really much! Ya may need Good Condenser mics for guitars, 8 channel audio interface with MIDI (for synth), also id suggest once again buying a mixer... with 6 preamps at least and with 8 bus... or 6+2 (in Behringer's way to say) I dono much bout the E-Drum set.. how much outputs does it have? als it'll be real trouble recording em al at the same time in a home studio... you'll need two separate vocal booth (as i can think of 2mic, and separate booths for guitars if ya might be recording from their amps... (ya dont want the mics to catch other instrument's voices right?) but here' another easier and cheaper way Id suggest... Record 4 tracks at the same time... (easier and quicker as the possibility of one of the 8 musicians will do a mistake is really big!) ya can get a 4 or 6 bus controller (2+2 or 4+2) which will be a lot cheaper, what for the guitars than buy a Effect processors or better get some DI boxes... (They've got cabinet compensating circuits) there are ones with two and more channels so it'll be ok for guitars... I actually like the sounds coming from the guitar jst plugged to the Mixer (i do that way sometime) here is a song i recorded about two days ago... Me and my friend jst needed a demo song and if recorded it within two hours (and with my current crappy gear (jst cause im in Armenia now i got now god gear ) http://artists.ultimate-guitar.com/blues... I used RP-250 on my guitar bt the other guitar was straight plugged to the mixer
    Beefmo
    Because typical live protocol is to rent out the gear which is usually organised by someone other than the engineer. The engineer just specifies the type of gear he would like and then there is some bartering between the management of the tour and the rental company as to prices. Or if it's a smaller venue for a gig then a desk can quite often be supplied. Also live gear isn't really designed for studio work.
    thedeaduk
    llanafreak44 wrote: Whoa, there's some things I need to lay down. 1. The room is one of the most important parts of recording. The reverb of a room is what makes recordings sound good. You can tell the difference between a real reverb and some VST plugin. 2. Egg cartons on the wall? That was disproved YEARS ago, they're a lot more trouble than they are worth putting up, plus your room flammability skyrockets. There have been tests showing that they don't help much, if any at all. Same with pillows. 3. Anyone recommending a Behringer mixer must not know very much about recording. Very bad quality control. Some will argue that it's cheap, but not when you have to buy another one after it breaks. Some good information, but some facts are false.
    The soundproofing qualities of eggboxing were disproved. It does, however, still have a positive effect on getting rid of unwanted acoustics of the room itself.
    Vendetta V
    yah id say separate amp for each instrument mic! if possible hmm is it stereo jack or mono balanced??!! well than it'll take jst another chanel hm also connect midi's in and outs! ya can also get the Out from yr interface to the mixer (if yave got spare place) and send em to the alt buses or pre fader FX send... more inteligent :p
    polaroid_kidd
    vigenharutyunya wrote: Nice info bro Beefmo bt once again ima say.. yama need the mixer anyways if doing live so why not to get it now?!? and also doing everything on Software is a bit annoying... + if you don want yr hand felt down ya may consider buying a Controller surface... bt .... bt for example buying an 8 channel Mackie Controller surface costs 1000 and plus, dollars.. which ya cant say about mixers... oh and also the controller surface is crap without PC, and ya cant use it with separate recorders if ya decide to upgrade yr gear... w/b mixers? ya can use em everywhere: Live, recordings, rehearsals.... polaroid_kidd wrote: Nice easy job. Now I know what about I should get. What would you suggest if I wanted to hook up the following instruments and be able to record them all simultaneously in different tracks and how much would I roughly have to dish out? 2 E-Guitars/1 Electric & 1 Electro Acoustic 1 E-Base 2 Mic 1 Alesis DM5 Pro E-Drumm Set 1 Keyboard 1 Synth (if possible, if not I can live without it) keep up the good work Hmm all at a time... now it might cost really much! Ya may need Good Condenser mics for guitars, 8 channel audio interface with MIDI (for synth), also id suggest once again buying a mixer... with 6 preamps at least and with 8 bus... or 6+2 (in Behringer's way to say) I dono much bout the E-Drum set.. how much outputs does it have? als it'll be real trouble recording em al at the same time in a home studio... you'll need two separate vocal booth (as i can think of 2mic, and separate booths for guitars if ya might be recording from their amps... (ya dont want the mics to catch other instrument's voices right?) but here' another easier and cheaper way Id suggest... Record 4 tracks at the same time... (easier and quicker as the possibility of one of the 8 musicians will do a mistake is really big!) ya can get a 4 or 6 bus controller (2+2 or 4+2) which will be a lot cheaper, what for the guitars than buy a Effect processors or better get some DI boxes... (They've got cabinet compensating circuits) there are ones with two and more channels so it'll be ok for guitars... I actually like the sounds coming from the guitar jst plugged to the Mixer (i do that way sometime) here is a song i recorded about two days ago... Me and my friend jst needed a demo song and if recorded it within two hours (and with my current crappy gear (jst cause im in Armenia now i got now god gear ) http://artists.ultimate-guitar.com/blues... I used RP-250 on my guitar bt the other guitar was straight plugged to the mixer
    The drumm kit has a standard stereo jack. I'm not too bothered about left and righ channels. I can always edit that with software. So in the end I'ld plug 7 jacks in the mixer (I don'twant to constantly have to fiddle with plugs if i want to play a different instrument so i would need 6 stero plugs and one Midi?) and then have 7 lines out from the mixer into the PC-Interface, from where on the signals go on to the Studio Monitors. also, if we play then what kind of speakers would you suggest? a seperate amp for each intrument/mic? thanx for the help, dan
    llanafreak44
    Whoa, there's some things I need to lay down. 1. The room is one of the most important parts of recording. The reverb of a room is what makes recordings sound good. You can tell the difference between a real reverb and some VST plugin. 2. Egg cartons on the wall? That was disproved YEARS ago, they're a lot more trouble than they are worth putting up, plus your room flammability skyrockets. There have been tests showing that they don't help much, if any at all. Same with pillows. 3. Anyone recommending a Behringer mixer must not know very much about recording. Very bad quality control. Some will argue that it's cheap, but not when you have to buy another one after it breaks. Some good information, but some facts are false.
    Phe4rTheGod
    What use is a keyboard if you don't want that sound? That sounds like a 'want' not a 'need'...
    GisleAune
    can't wait for next. Cant you talk easily about intereferrence in one of your next articles?
    dimatrod
    Icarus Lives wrote: Nice info. I have Audacity and I think it's pretty crap. Is Reaper better?
    Definitely get Reaper. It's really cheap and comparable to the likes of Logic and whatnot (I use Logic but if I had not spent so much on AUs and Logic itself, I'd get Reaper for $50)
    zarsss
    What use is a keyboard if you don't want that sound? That sounds like a 'want' not a 'need'
    it makes it easier to record music instead of using just a mouse you just play the piano... if you dont want the sounds on the keyboard you can get keyboards strictly for software synths that come without any sounds
    Zilcho
    This column is much better than your other one about mixing, you've shown a huge improvement. Since UGG is gone for a bit, this is going to end up being the column I look for every week, especially since I've had a growing interest in this sort of thing lately. Good job.