Basic Guide to Setting Up Your Home Music Studio

This is a basic list of things you will need in order to set up a good home recording studio. It is by no means complete. I’ve been recording at home for 25 years, and I will try to list only the essential equipment you will need.

In the interest of saving space and making this a quick read, I will avoid going into too much detail. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line and I can give you more information.

  1. COMPUTER: Most home-based musicians do not record to tape. (and most kids today have never even seen a tape deck!).  There are a few reasons for this, the first being that computers are cheaper and more powerful than ever before. The second being that it is very easy to edit and arrange your music tracks by having a visual reference of your music displayed on a computers’ monitor. Ever try splicing a thin piece of tape together to rearrange your song? It’s a pain in the butt.
  2. PCI SOUNDCARD: Installing an internal PCI soundcard will enable you to take advantage of more your computers’ processing power. USB 2.0 & Firewire aren’t as useful, as the platforms are slower (especially USB) than PCI. Make sure your soundcard is equipped with Phantom Power so that you can take advantage of the better quality XLR mics on the market, and MIDI to take advantage of VST instruments (using a MIDI keyboard) that are often bundled with today’s recording software. Echo, M-Audio, Focusrite, Lexicon, Apogee, and PreSonus are all makers of Audio Interfaces.
  3. MONITORS: Since most home-based musicians will be using a computer, you will need to get a decent pair of shielded speakers. Computer speakers are an OK temporary fix, but they tend to be quite bassy and lack the full range that true music monitors have.
  4. CABLES: I like Whirlwind Leader cables, but any heavy duty cable will do.
  5. RECORDING SOFTWARE: I don’t subscribe to the belief that in order to make a proper professional recording you have to use Pro Tools. Yes it’s popular, but the fact is that there are a wide variety of great programs out there all capable of yielding excellent results no matter what type of budget you have. Just ask yourself how you will be using the program and what type of music you are going to be making. If you aren’t relying on virtual instruments (vsti’s) then a program like Reaper is perfect for capturing audio. Do yourself a favor and download the fully functioning/never expiring demo. If you like it, and you make less than $22,000 p/year from music, then a license will cost you $60. Also check out the Acid Pro line, Cubase, Logic, N-Track, Fruity Loops, Record and Reason .BTW, if you are working on a MAC, then all you really need to get started is Garageband. Also- remember that there is no one piece of perfect software, and any one of these might work for you (my personal preferences are Reaper and Cubase with a little Acid Pro for loop manipulation).
  6. MICROPHONES: Unless you’re drowning in money, don’t get an expensive mic right away. A Shure SM58 will be perfect for vocals, and any Naiant mic will suffice for use with vocals, acoustic guitars, drums, etc.. Be sure to get yourself a mic stand and pop screen.
  7. PRE AMP: The function of a preamp is to boost the often low-level signal of your voice, or instrument to line-level prior to it reaching the sound card. Pre amps from ART are a good inexpensive way to boost the signal and add warmth to your sounds.
  8. HEADPHONES: SONY’S MDR 7506 Dynamic Stereo Headphones are sturdy, accurate, and won’t break the bank.
  9. MIDI KEYBOARD CONTROLLER: A MIDI keyboard is a must in order to transmit MIDI data to your computer software synthesizers, or a hardware or software sequencer. Check out this MIDI controller buying guide from Sweetwater. You will need this to be able to play and take advantage of the many sample-sets (pianos, strings, etc.) available to the home recording enthusiast.

Well, there you have it. I hope this guide makes it a little easier for you to take the first step into the world of Home Recording.

Have fun!

4 Responses to “Basic Guide to Setting Up Your Home Music Studio”

  1. Thanks for the info i`ll have to past this one to my boyfriend

  2. Conan Troutman Says:

    Ha Ha Yep, then its just a case of trying to hide the metres of cable your drowning in and find a way round all the bugs n hiccups that comes with any recording set up (ProTools Im looking in your direction).

    • Hey Conan- thanks for the comment. I don’t know if you’ve tried the program yet, but Reaper is really great. the GUI is changeable (they even have a Pro Tools skin), and the team that writes it is constantly re-working the code to keep it fast & stable.

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