Setting up your home studio
If you want to create tracks at home that sounds professional, you need to put in the effort to setting up your home studio the right way
the right space, right equipment, and right layout. All this is less challenging and costly than it may sound. Simply follow these steps and you’ll be ready to start producing music in no time, even if you’re on a budget.
Choosing the Right Space
Your options may be limited when it comes to choosing a room for your home studio, but if you are lucky enough to have several possibilities, bear in mind this criteria to select the best choice:
– Size. Opt for a space large enough for musicians to play comfortably and where you can accumulate gear without crowding the room.
– Noise pollution. Pick an area where traffic, home plumbing, weather, and other sources of noise are unlikely to ruin recordings. Similarly, take your neighbours into consideration by choosing a room where you can avoid disturbing others, otherwise you may have limited playing time.
– Shape. Improve acoustics by seeking out high ceilings, asymmetrical walls, and irregular surfaces. Bear in mind, all of these are quite difficult to recreate in a home studio, so this need not be a priority.
Once you’ve decided on a place to convert into your home studio, you’ll need to purchase all the basic equipment. Depending on your goals, your preferred styles of music, and your areas of expertise, the exact gear you need will vary. However, at a minimum, you will need the following:
If you’re on a budget, it’s best to use the computer you already have, provided the machine is reasonably up-to-date with a powerful CPU and plenty of RAM.
External Hard Drive
When you’ve spent hours working on your tracks, the last thing you want is to lose everything in a flash. Avoid the desolation that can follow a crash by connecting an external hard drive to your computer and back up continuously.
Never neglect an audio interface. It is impossible to record tracks of any quality when you use a microphone connected directly to your computer. An audio interface will give you control of signals for far better sound.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
DAW software allows you to record and mix tracks, including MIDI. Although DAWs are often included with audio interfaces, you can purchase one separately if there is a specific software you want to use. If you have no experience with DAWs, pick a software that is easy for beginners to use but includes all the features professionals require.
If you’ll be recording live instruments, you’ll need at least one microphone (and a stand). In fact, when you’re getting started, a single versatile mic may be enough. At a minimum, you should have a condenser mic with a cardioid pickup pattern.
If you’ll be working alone the majority of the time, you’ll just need one pair of headphones. For now, opt for high-quality closed-back headphones.
Studio monitors are speakers designed for recording studios. They offer a flatter frequency response for a more accurate depiction of sound than regular speakers. Unless you already own open-back headphones, you’ll need studio monitors for mixing. In addition, you should purchase monitor isolation pads to prevent the surface on which you place your monitors changing the sound.
Most hardware comes equipped with the necessary cables, with the exception of microphones and studio monitors. For every mic, you’ll need an XLR cable of a decent length. Remember that even your cables need to be of high quality, as cheap XLR cables will negatively affect your recordings.
If you want to include MIDI instruments in your songs, you’ll need a few extra pieces of gear, namely:
– A MIDI controller
– Virtual instruments, unless your DAW comes with instruments of sufficient quality
Setting Up Your Room
Now you’ve chosen a space and have all your equipment, you’re ready to start arranging the room.
It is best to begin with a completely empty space. Remove everything from the floor and walls, particularly objects that vibrate. If possible, remove any carpeting, as the material will absorb high frequencies and impact acoustics. Concrete, tile, or hardwood flooring are all much better choices. If you plan to use the space only occasionally as a home studio, set up the space in a way that will enable you to remove as many objects as possible whenever necessary.
Next, you’ll need to apply the acoustic treatment. Bass traps and acoustic panels are crucial. For a large room (and if you’re willing to spend a bit more), you can also install diffusers.
Once you’ve completed all of the above, your room will be ready for your gear. Split the room in two: one area for your mixing desk, the other for musicians. The latter should have space enough for a chair, mic stand, and instruments.
Setting up your mixing area will take a little more time and effort. Start by installing a basic desk. Place your computer in the middle and the studio monitors at an equal distance on either side. Turn the monitors inward at 45-degree angles and check for accuracy by playing a mono audio track, such as a podcast. The audio should sound as if it is coming directly in front of you. As for the rest of your equipment, simply experiment until you find a comfortable setup.
The next step is to enable phantom power for your condenser microphones. Find the 48V switch on your audio interface and turn it on.
Finally, plug in the rest of your equipment, install the latest drivers and software, and run a test recording to make sure everything is working properly. Once you’ve done all this, you’re ready to go and can start producing music. If you succeed in getting it all up and running perfectly, now would be a great time to sit back with a well earned drink, whilst you take a backup or restore point of your computer 🙂