|Question: I want to start a home recording studio.Kindly guide as to what is the cheapest|
or free way to do so.
|Wayne I. Johnson's response:|
Regarding an inexpensive but effective Home Studio:
The first thing is to carefully go over your budget,because once you get going,little bits and pieces can nickel and dime you to death. KNOW how much you can safely spend WITHOUT putting yourself into financial jeapordy,and getting Financial Backers isn't always the best answer since they will often want the lion's share of any rewards plus interest until the debt is paid back in full! Thinking big is fine,but starting out small and smart is the best policy in putting together your own studio. The next subject to ponder is what will you use it for? Is it for your own solo material,a Band,or are you planning on taking in clients? Each one can vary greatly depending upon the quality you are seeking from YOUR studio. As an example,I have worked in,Managed,recorded in,or Produced in 7 Recording Studios ranging from simple but effective equipment,to a serious basement Studio,all the way up to a current multi-million dollar Recording Facility here in Connecticut. A special note is that as you move up in the degree of Studio you work in,your abilities,ears,and skills need to also move up dramatically! But the good thing is that if you start out small,determined to succeed,and keep an open mind to learning from others,then you can develop up to whatever level you wish to as long as you can handle it. Recording Schools are great too,but they are not inexpensive,so you may wish to invest in books and videos about recording first and they can be gotten from many local Musical Instrument stores and national chains,including mailorder. Another option is to try to develop a relationship with someone experienced that can act as a Mentor,it can be invaluable to you!
So after figuring out what level you are at first and then what you wish to use your studio for,now comes the time to start making a shopping list. If you are a beginner or even an experienced veteran,the best options would be either a good home computer with LOTS of memory,and there are many great programs that you can purchase along with the proper interface equipment,or purchase an all-in-one Recorder/Mixer/CD Burner unit. My suggestion is that when it comes to efficiency and cost effectiveness,the all-in-one units are outstanding and can create some wonderful results if you take your time,study and learn the functions,and then PRACTICE with it. The better ones are adviseable and can range from approximately $1200 to around $4000 and these units usually include invaluable options and functions such as built in effects programs that can cost a lot of money if you were to purchase the individual units,processors,mixers,CD burners,and such seperately. Since technology has improved so much over the years,these type of units can sound as if you recorded in a full blown recording studio. For example,while I work in a big studio,I also have my own Roland unit and record my own clients I Manage,Songwrite,and Produce product for and I don't have to worry about paying for recording time or high utility bills! I can take all the time I wish without watching the clock and can get the results I want without the added pressure. While I do know what I am doing and have much experience recording and Producing,I have recorded my Country Artist "Miss Marie" Wuhrer's first CD "Bad Reputation" on it and it received airplay in approximately 75% of the US and many Record Label inquiries to boot!!! So the all-in-one units can be quite cost effective while returning professional quality results,and they are also very portable if need be. (A major plus!)
The next issue is to get some very good recording microphone(s) and perhaps a few stage mics for good measure. Plan on at least a vocal and an instrument mic. The recording ones are CONDENSER mics and they require phantom power to operate them,which is simply a low voltage power source from 9 to 18 volts which is usually included in the all-in-one units as standard equipment. The stage mics are called DYNAMIC mics and just require connection to a preamp/mixer. Never run phantom power on dynamic mics or you could easily and quickly damage them or the power source. If you plug the mic into the unit and it doesn't work in any of the channels as is,then you probably have a condenser mic and must press the button to turn on the phantom power unit. By the way,condenser mics are usually extremely sensitive and can pick up stray noises in the room so be careful when they are live during recording as to not have a noisy environment! And mics go by sensitivity specs,but to avoid a lot of explanations and distortion when recording,look for a mic that has a 40db or higher rating for sensitivity so if you have a loud singer,you won't overdrive the microphone easily and get distortion in the vocal tracks.
Next,you have to determine where you are going to record,especially if it is in your home. Most studios are in the basement areas and require deadening of the room to make it quiet for recording,although when using an all-in-one unit,you can do most of your recording directly into the mixer/recorder without worrying about the noise you or others are making,it is all very quiet. This is especially true when using a drum machine instead of an actual Drummer and live drums! Except for vocals and live drums,you can actually record a full song in a bedroom with family members in other rooms and they won't even hear you doing it! if you do designate a specific area,your recording room should not get too hot or too cold,and dampness is not good for any electronic equipment so be careful. When going for the cheap but effective recording studio,you can put up heavy rugs or other deadening material to quiet down the room accordingly. Whether you try making a semi-formal recording studio or a simple one,always remember to use NON-FLAMMABLE materials to deaden the room to avoid potential disaster!
Last for now,I recommend getting good headphones for you and some spares for others to use,and a headphone amplifier to run multiple sets of headphones. (For the best results,you should use the same brand and model CLOSED BACK HEADPHONES which are essential for recording with live microphones. Semi-open or Open backed headphones allow the sounds coming through to be picked up and fed back into the mic and recorder. The more isolation the headphones offer,the better.) Last in the chain would be a pair of powered studio monitors for playback and mixing. The best ones have the Bass ports in the front so they can be used in many different locations if necessary. The ones with Bass ports in the rear require a reflex action off of a wall for sound quality and this may not be practical for a home studio. As with all of the equipment I mentioned,there are many good brands and models out there and the costs vary greatly. For cost-effectiveness,Behringer,Samson,and Event make some great units for home studios,and the bigger the Bass speaker,ie: 8 inches in most,the better the quality of the sound you'll get in final mixing and playback. A fairly inexpensive boom box is a great tool to have after making a mix too. When I finish a mix of a song,I usually make both a CD and a cassette copy of it and play it on a good stereo,a cheap boom box,and a car radio just to see if it sounds good and fairly consistent for quality. If it sounds good on all of them,then I know that I have a good mix for the final product. I also have a seperate stand alone CD burner that I can use to make copies while I am using the all-in-one unit for other songs and projects,rather than tying up the unit's built in CD Burner for making copies other than a Master copy. They cost from $200 to $500 and more,but I find it invaluable for my needs.
Other than some patch cords,spare mic cables,telescoping mic stands,music stands,a good comfortable rolling chair,decorating your recording room to taste,and some blank CDs to put product on,you should be able to get some very good results with your projects at a reasonable cost with these recommendations. As your skills improve,you can always upgrade your equipment and studio to fit your needs and dreams. Again,think smart and not for showing off! I've seen some seemingly crappy setups outdo some much more expensive setups,the main goal is to concentrate on getting good RESULTS. Besides,as you begin to make your fortune,you can hire professional studio designers/builders to create your dream Palace!!!! Good luck and God Bless.
Wayne I. Johnson
Wildcard Music Productions and Artist/Model Management
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