24 September - 2013
Home Recording Basics: What You Need to Get Started By: Help For Bands, 0 Comments

Recording your music is one of the best ways to get new fans, raise money and getting your music out there. But from £200 upwards for a one day studio session, the cost of recording can get extremely expensive. One way to combat this is to set up a home studio and record your music yourself. The problem is many people don’t know what equipment they need for home recording.

This guide should help you understand how to set up a fully working ‘bedroom’ studio and allow you to record all of your music straight onto your computer at home.

Microphone

Microphones are the most important tool in any studio. Simply plugging in an acoustic guitar in and recording directly sounds, well…awful. A microphone gives an instrument character and colouration that you simply cannot get from direct input. Plus it’s impossible to record vocals without one!

But with a vast amount of microphones out there which one do you get?

My suggestion would be to get a large diaphragm condenser microphone. You can pick the SE Electronics SE2000 for around £79. This mic is cheap (in comparison to other condenser mics) and does the job brilliantly. But beware of putting the mic close to high volume sources as this can damage the microphone!

If your budget allows I would also recommend you get a Shure SM57 for around £95. This is a dynamic microphone and is less sensitive to sound pressure levels. Meaning you can crank up the volume without worrying about damaging the mic. It is the industry standard for recording electric guitars, snare drums and even used for vocals!

There are thousands of microphones out there so look around and pick the one you think will work best for you. Each one has their own unique sound and one mic that sounds brilliant for someone else might not be the right mic for you. I’d recommend trying a few out in store if you are unsure.

To go with your mic(s) you will also need a mic stand, pop shield (for vocal recordings) and XLR cables. These can be picked up relatively cheap and can even be found in bundle deals.

Audio Interface

Digital interfaces take the acoustic source you are recording and convert it into a series of numbers. The computer then translates this into digital audio for you to hear. It essentially takes the audio source and puts it into the computer via USB or Fire wire connections.

I would recommend the Line 6 POD Studio UX1, at around £98, which has everything you need to record both instruments and mics. There is also Avid’s Fast Track Solo at a pricier £139. But this allows you to record two sources simultaneously, which can be very handy. It allows for stereo recording techniques and also recording guitar and vocals at the same time!

Software

Both of the above options come with basic software for you to record (Line 6 comes with Ableton live lite, and Avid comes with Pro Tools Express). But there are many other options out there. So if you’d like another option or are unhappy with your software, here is a list of possible options ranging from free to insanely pricey!

There is freeware such as Audacity and Garage band but these are very basic with very limited plug ins. Have a search online for Music recording freeware and see if any take your fancy.If you are looking for more plugin options then you’re probably better off paying for software but it depends on your budget.

Here is a list of a few options for you to look at:

  • Ableton Live Intro: £66.50 (More options available but they are more expensive)
  • Logic Pro X (MAC only): £139.99
  • Propellerhead Reason 7: £342.00
  • Steinberg Cubase: £488.00
  • Avid Protools 11: £550.80

Most of the recording software manufacturers will allow you to download a demo of their software free for a trail period for you to try out. So in theory you can try them all out before you commit to one!

Headphones and Speakers

The last essential thing you need is something to listen back through. I would suggest a good pair of closed back headphones like Audio-Technica’s ATH-M35 (£62). I have a pair of AKG 271 MK2’s which cost around £115 but you get what you pay for. There are cheaper options and more expensive ones so again shop around. Try stuff out and you’ll find ones that fit your budget and do the job you need.

A pair of studio monitors (speakers) are good for listening back to your recordings and mixing your tracks. Tannoy Reveal 501a Active Near field Monitor Speakers are a decent pair for around £300. Watch out when buying monitors though as many shops sell them individually. Make sure the price you are paying actually gets you two speakers!

As always there are loads of monitors out there so just have a look around.And don’t forget the connection cables!

There are two types of speakers, Active and Passive. Active speakers have a built in amplifier and passive do not, so you have to buy a separate amplifier for Passive speakers. I would recommend anyone who doesn’t know about power ratings, impedance and other such electrical stuff doesn’t attempt to buy passive monitors and amps without asking someone first. The wrong amplifier can blow your speakers before you even get chance to hear your music!

All-in-one Bundles

Focusrite have released the scarlet studio starter kit for £200. You get a condenser microphone, audio interface, Steinberg Cuebase LE recording software, XLR cable and a pair of closed back headphones. So all you’d need is a mic stand and you would have yourself a fully functioning home recording studio set up!

So that’s all the information you need to start recording your own music at home and save on those studio fees! Also read our blog about how you get your first recordings done right, good luck!