If you’re a musician, chances are at some point you’ve considered putting yourself together a home studio. The benefits of having an in-home recording studio range from providing an easy and convenient way to save your musical ideas for future reference to allowing you to record entire albums at a fraction of the cost a professional studio would charge, all in the comfort of your own home. But no matter the intended purpose of your studio, you will need to start off with a few basic necessities common to all studios. From there, you can create a fully customized studio to your exact specifications, or simply continue to use a basic and handy recording rig.
First off, prior to considering the construction of a home studio, you should have already acquired most or all of the musical equipment that you plan to use in your recordings. For example, if you are a guitarist, you should already have the amplifiers, guitars, and effects pedals that you want to use during your recording sessions. Remember, the best home studio setup in the world does you no good if you are not musically prepared to make use of it. Once that is taken care of, you will need to put together three basic pieces of equipment that will make up the heart of your first studio.
The first of these three is the computer onto which you will record your music. This will not only store your tracks, but will also serve as the instrument by which you will be able to edit and mix them. That being said, while it is not strictly necessary to have a computer that you will dedicate solely to this purpose, it is awfully convenient if you happen to have a spare computer that you can afford to use for nothing else, as this allows you to keep it continuously plugged into the rest of your recording equipment for quick and easy track takes. It is also helpful, but not vital, for this computer to be an Apple. The reason for this is that Apple most Apple computers have built in Firewire capability. Firewire is a data transfer system similar to USB, but with faster transfer rates. However, if you only have a computer with USB capability, don’t fret. Many audio interfaces have USB outputs, and therefore can be used with any computer you choose to use.
Next up is the hardest choice you will have to make in putting together your first studio: the audio interface itself. This is the device that will take your music, translate it into a language your computer understands, and send it into the computer to be permanently recorded. With that said, it is crucial in selecting an interface that is both easy to use and also of a decent quality. Two good examples are the Focusrite Scarlett and Presonus Audiobox series of interfaces. Both are relatively user friendly, and also come with good beginner recording software, making editing and mixing the tracks much less difficult to the first time amateur sound engineer. If you want to step up to higher end or Firewire capable interfaces, Focusite also makes models at several price points. Higher end interfaces can be well worth the investment, but it can often take longer to learn to use their numerous features to your best advantage.
Finally, you will need the microphone or microphones you will use to capture the sounds you intend to record. For the stringed instrument player, a Shure SM57 is by far the best way to go for a first microphone. Other Shure models are available that are intended specifically for drums and vocals, giving numerous options. If you intend to record songs with an entire band, you should invest in a variety of different microphones so that you have one for every player and instrument.
With these three major components, you will also need some peripheral accessories. These will include microphone stands, cables to connect your microphones into the audio interface, and a good pair of stereo headphones, which you will plug into the headphone jack of your audio interface to monitor the recordings in the highest possible quality.
From here, the possibilities are endless. You can purchase rackmounted effects, include multi-channel mixers into the recording setup, or even construct your own small soundproofed isolation booth (if you happen to be feeling really ambitious). The most important thing to do at this stage is to use the equipment you already have until you have comfortable mastered it. Record some demo tracks, or even just tracks of you speaking, and use the editing software to see what kind of crazy effects you can add in to change the sound completely. Remember, practice will make perfect, and will also make introducing more advanced equipment into your home studio a much smoother process. Enjoy your recording experience!