Guitar-Elite’s Home Studio Recording Guide: Basic Setup
Your guide to setting up your own recording studio at home
Home studio recording – In today’s day and age, being a guitarist with live performances is really not enough. A guitarist today is able to record both audio and video without having to pay for expensive sessions at recording studios. This simply means having your recording studio at home. Sounds complicated? Worry not – our home recording studio guide will set you up from down from the essentials to using your gear, and up to gearing up with luxurious items (just for show of course).
So let’s get this straight – what do we first need? If you’re unfamiliar with how home studio recording works, you will want to start off with the basics. You will need (1) a computer; (2) an audio interface; (3) a microphone; (4) sound output; and (5) recording program.
- The number one thing you need to have is a computer. Computers nowadays come with a simple sound or voice recorder which is as easy to use as pressing just one button.
- This is where everything from recording to editing to mixing takes place. Consider it as your virtual workstation. A decade ago, people had cassette tapes and a cassette player or recorder to record their music. Imagine how painful it would be to repeat an entire song if you make just one mistake! Nowadays, you can simply highlight the part you made a mistake at and simply re-record that part – easy peasy!
- If you are looking to go “pro” later on, you will want to consider getting a computer with more than 4GB of RAM, since most Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) require a high memory to run.
Pro Suggestion: Make sure that your computer has at least 4GB of RAM to avoid lagging. You might get recording delays if you are using a microphone connected directly to the computer via USB – this can be fixed by having an audio interface.
2. Audio Interface
- Aside from the computer, this is one of the next things to get. It will also be one of the most expensive things you will be purchasing when setting up your home recording studio.
- Basically, an audio interface reduces the latency (or delay) when transferring sound from the microphone to the recording program on your computer. This is a must-have for all those who are looking to get a good output for recording.
- I would personally suggest getting a basic audio interface such as an M-Audio M-Track 2×2 or a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
- If you still don’t have the budget for an audio interface, you can go for the ASIO4ALL driver which can be downloaded for free. It uses your RAM to act as a virtual audio interface, reducing latency. But then again, it’s not as good as having an actual audio interface.
Pro Suggestion: Getting an audio interface is really a must, and we would recommend you to get one as soon as you can because you don’t want delays when recording (it’s frustrating).
- Whether you are using a desktop computer or a laptop, it is always a good idea to get a standalone microphone – a microphone that is not by default, attached to your computer. Having a separate microphone allows you to “condition” the environment. We’ll get to talk about this later on in the second part of this article.
- Once you have an audio interface, you will want a microphone that is connected via an XLR cable to be able to connect it to the interface. Some microphones like the Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone is really good for its price (around $110) to record voice, guitar, and other instruments.
- If you don’t have an audio interface, choose microphones that are connected via a USB cable. You can try out the Samson G-Track Condenser Microphone that has its own audio interface if you don’t have a standalone audio interface.
- When buying a microphone, make sure to have it checked before ringing it up. Some of the known problems with cheaper microphones are the feedback (white noise) that is heard in the recording output.
- If you’re really serious about recording your own stuff, you will always want to go for quality over expense.
Pro Suggestion: If you begin by buying a correct microphone, you will avoid snags like white noise, bad quality, low dynamics, etc. It would be good to pay a visit to your local computer or music store to be able to try out different types of standalone microphones.
4. Sound Output
- It wouldn’t make sense if you couldn’t hear what you’re doing, so make sure to have speakers attached to your computer or a pair of headphones.
- When it comes to laptops, you will want to choose a pair of headphones instead of going with the default laptop speakers. Based on experience, recording on a laptop using the default speakers tends to create unnecessary echoes in your recording. Isolating them with a pair of headphones usually does the job. Just make sure that these pair of headphones does not have a microphone itself because it will just cause problems later on.
- You can also go for a separate pair of speakers (or monitor speakers if you have the money for it). Make sure they are properly set as a Left and Right speaker since the sound direction will matter later on. Again, I want to stress out quality over expense as any musician should do.
Pro Suggestion: Normal computer speakers are okay to use for listening to music. But if you really want to have a good recording studio, you will have to go for monitors. Monitors have a better quality of sound because they play back the music in a neutral condition – you’ll hear your basses using these!
5. Recording Program
- You won’t be able to record without a recording program of course! Newer computers come with basic recording programs such as Windows 10’s Voice Recorder. However, we don’t really recommend going for default programs such as this because the sound quality is really poor.
- Free software can help you to record stuff in good quality, but if you really want to get the best quality possible, you have to use professional software. For Mac users, you can try GarageBand. Windows users, you can try Pro Tools First.
- Looking for the good stuff (AKA “paid”)? We would recommend going for PreSonus Studio One (new in the market – as good as Cubase but cheaper). With these Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), you will be able to produce awesome music and learn good recording habits from the very beginning. The lite versions like Pro Tools First can later be upgraded to the full versions whenever you’re ready.
Pro Suggestion: Go for simplicity over complexity. Always start out with the easier programs first, and later progress to ones with more features.
Setting up and getting started
Here’s a quick guide to setting up and using your home recording studio essentials.
Set up your equipment
Make sure your microphone, your audio interface, and your speakers or headset are plugged in. Normally, these equipment tend to auto-install, but if not, you will have to search for its drivers on the internet.
Condition your studio
Make sure your recording room is free from environmental noises such as footsteps, electric fans or air conditioners, people murmuring or talking with each other, etc. You’ll want a silent room so you get the best out of your recording session. Further advice: get a carpet and soundproof your walls.
Turn on your recording software
You can’t record without your recording software. Before you do a recording session, make sure you know how to use it! Learn the shortcut keys as well so you don’t have to bother using the mouse to point and click on the buttons.
Practice, practice, practice
As a musician, this couldn’t be stressed well enough. Before any performance, even just recording at home, it would be best to know what you’re playing by heart. Make sure to limber up those fingers so you don’t mess up your solos!
You’re doing this for you! Keep your head up and don’t fret about mistakes during your recording session, it’s pretty normal to feel some anxiety especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Good thing is, you can always just delete and redo everything because you’re at home!
Music production is a big industry, and in this first article, we wanted to help you begin with a strong foundation. We’ll be going in-depth about music production in our next articles, so stay tuned! Don’t forget to join the Guitar-Elite community to be the best guitarist (and home recording studio professional)!