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Want to set up a home recording studio!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Willr, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. Willr

    Willr Guest

    Yes, I am a complete newbie to recording. My basement is setup as a practice studio so I have a lot of necessary items but i know there are some things Im missing.
    What I have already is a Shure SM58 mic along with 3 V-tech VT-1040 mics plugged into a Soundtech Quick Mix6 mixer with 4 big monitors. I have all the drums, guitars, amps, pianos that i could want. What else do i need?
    Thanks, will
  2. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Hey welcome. This is a huge question because I have no idea if you know anything about project studio recording. You might want to read back through a few threads that cover this topic (just keep scrolling back through the newbies forum) because this gets asked alot but here is a link to a recent thread of this type

    You need to define your needs better, your budget, etc
  3. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I wonner if it ain't about time to put together a basic signal path type line or block diagram thread... and post it as a sticky??

    Maybe if everyone could put together to most basic of the system that they use; M-Box, Cuebase, DP, PT-LE, etc....

    Each diagram would need two block layouts labeled Tracking and Mixing... unless you could do it in one drawing.

    It would sure beat having to go over this time after time after time....

    wouldn't it?

    Just a thought*.

    *No synapses were overly strained or damaged in the process of that thought creation, as hard to believe as that may be.
  4. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    I have an mspaint image of how to record the non-acoustic type of guitar, showing all options.

    ^^ this one.

    Will I make some more?
  5. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member


    In order to get started in home recording it would be wise to first address what it is you are trying to do and why. Is this just to capture some song writing ideas, are you trying to make a band demo, are you thinking about getting into recording as a business. A lot of people venture into home recording not realizing that their needs and budget would probably be best served by utilizing a pro studio to produce their band demo for example. The investment needed to produce great results at home is roughly equivalent to or more than the studio time cost and then there is the fact that the beginner has no experience in the rather complicated process of achieving great results. That being said here is my short course on getting started.


    Let’s assume you have a recent computer that you are willing to dedicate to recording, because in order to use it for recording you will need to disable wireless, antivirus software, and likely make some other changes that make it difficult to use as your everyday PC. You will need a second hard drive either internal or external (7200 rpm or better) to record to. All the better interfaces (more on this later) require firewire connection and the chipset included in your stock computer will likely have to be upgraded. Once you have made some of the decisions regarding what other hardware you will be using you may have to review your computers specifications to make certain that it will meet those demands.


    In order to record we must take a source signal, for example a microphone, guitar pick up, etc. preamplify it (boost it) convert it to a digital signal, send it into the PC and use a software program that will recognize it, record it and create a file we can store. The most common method for doing this in home project studios is the use of an audio interface. This unit goes between the signal source and the computer. It usually provides preamplification, digital conversion both incoming and outgoing, and monitoring capabilities. The fewest channels I could recommend would be two but four and eight channel models are probably the least you should consider when dealing with recording drums and/or bands and you may need more than that. Some models can be daisy chained to provide as many as 24 channels of tracking. The common inputs to the preamp sections are XLR (mic cable) and ¼” phone jack, either line level or instrument level depending on the unit. Other options include additional inputs like optical ADAT I/O (in and out), Midi I/O, S/PDIF I/O, multiple monitor outputs, headphone jacks, and more. Prices start at $75.00 and go way up from there. The more you pay the better the preamps, digital converters and input and output options will be. You should buy the best quality you can possibly afford with more options than you believe you will need because no one ever says later “I wish I did not have eight channels” it usually the opposite. Some interfaces are proprietary meaning they will only work with certain software, others require very specific computer hardware so check this carefully. These units connect either by USB or firewire cable to the computer. USB is not recommended, it can be used for two channel units but firewire is the accepted norm.


    Almost all interfaces come packaged with limited edition recording software. These are slightly reduced option versions of major recording studio software and this is where the channels you are recording get assigned to separate tracks. You can use this software to mix your tracks later, add effects (reverb, delay, compressors and many more), copy, delete, and playback. If you are already familiar with a particular software system then it might be worthwhile to choose an interface that comes with the software you want as some programs only work with certain hardware. There are multiple low cost or free software systems as well. The software becomes the “mixing board” most people associate with a recording studio complete with graphic slider controls and all. They offer multiple routing choices and monitoring options and this whole process is sometimes known as “mixing in the box”. This type of system means that a hardware mixer is not necessary.


    It seems to me that a great deal of people overlook this very important aspect when considering getting into home recording. You can have all the best equipment covered so far, great microphones, a well recorded performance and produce outstandingly poor results by skipping due diligence in this area. What good is a great recording if you can’t give a listenable copy to anyone? In order to mix, EQ, add effects or assess your results you will need both monitors and headphones. Headphones will at least be required while recording and please dispel the idea that you can create professional mixes using headphones or computer speakers or your home stereo. You will need monitors. For most home studios nearfield monitors (these are placed near your listening position) are the obvious choice. Most home studios utilize 5” speakers but larger sizes are available. There are two basic types passive and active. Active monitors, which are more popular, have amplification built in to the monitor, while the passive types require a separate amplifier to power them. You can get good results with either type. Prices for a good set start at about $200.00 a pair and up.


    It would be easy to write a book here and many have, microphone choices are among the most debated issues in recording. There are two basic types most new people consider dynamic and condenser mics. Dollar for dollar dynamic mics are probably the best choice for a beginner. The single most recommended one I can think of being the SM57 (Shure Microphone) $99.00 which is an excellent all around instrument mic and can be used for vocals with the addition of a cheap foam pop filter. It can be used to mic drums, acoustic guitars, amps and so on. Condenser mics require phantom power and decent quality ones IMO start in the $300.00 range. You will also need microphone stands for your mics and words of caution cheap stands are soon found in the garbage can. Pay for quality once and you will only cry once.


    You will need to buy cables for your microphones, monitors, and instruments if you don’t already have them. It is best to buy TRS style (balanced) cables for your monitors if they accept them. Quality counts in durability and there are many reliable brands on the market, you don’t need the gold plated elitist cable or any particular manufacturer’s brand name ones either.


    This part really should go first in this discussion but it would still get skipped right over. Bedrooms, closets, living rooms, garages, attics, basements and in my case woodsheds make poor recording environments and even worse mixing rooms. Proper acoustic treatment will do a tremendous amount for your recordings and your ability to assess and correct them. It is not inexpensive and figuring out exactly what needs to be done in any given space is not easy. There are members of this forum that have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their recording spaces before equipment and while you may not carry this to this level it would be wise to consider where you are going to record as much as how.


    Now once you get all your new equipment there is one huge piece of advice I can give you. RTFM (Read The F%@*&ng Manuals) yes all of them, even the software’s 120 pages. These products are not very intuitive they do far too many things to be. The next is that good recordings come as much from technique as they do from equipment and a great engineer can make great recordings with decent gear and a poor engineer can only make poor recordings with the greatest of gear. Have fun, experiment, and learn to listen.
  6. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member


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