I’m often asked what kind of equipment is needed to get started with home studio recording. A lot of folks think that it takes buckets of money or a van load of groupies to set up a home recording studio
If you look at pictures of pro recording studios, with their racks and racks of gear, massive consoles, high-end equipment and $4,000 microphones, it’s easy to think you can’t do this without a hefty bank account or maybe some angel investors. It looks daunting and a lot of folks just give up or don’t even try.
Well, screw that! Fact is, you can get started for way less than you think.
Here’s What You Actually Need for Your Home Studio.
A Computer. Doesn’t have to be fast or fancy. I recently bought my mom a refurbished Dell laptop on eBay for $217, including shipping, that would totally work for home recording. If you’re sitting in front of a computer right now, I’ll bet you it will work just fine without much fuss. If you’re checking this on your phone, please send yourself a note to check it for real when you get home. Do you really think you can get world class sound with something that fits in your pocket? (Oddly, the answer is “yes” but that’s another topic.)
Some Recording Software. This is called your Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. You can get a pretty decent entry-level DAW for free. It’s called Audacity. Yes, there are better DAW’s available, and we’ll talk about those, but you can start with this one, then upgrade when/if you want to. Some names to watch include ProTools, Sonar, Digital Performer, Live, several others.
An Audio Interface. This connects your DAW to the real word of microphones, guitars, accordions, crappy singers and anything else you want to record. A basic audio interface can be had for less than $100. Here are some audio interface options. The audio interface used to be called a “Sound Card.”
A Pair of Monitors or Headphones. “Monitors” is studio-geek-speak for, um, Speakers. This is one thing you really can’t scrimp on. You’ll need to hear what’s really going on with your recordings, and cheap speakers just won’t do. FORGET using your ear-buds (For what we need, they suck!) If you can swing it, I recommend a great pair of headphones like the Sony MDR-7506. You’ll find these everywhere from LA to Abbey Road and they’ll set you back around $200 but they’re absolutely worth it. If you can’t afford that, plan for at least $50 on a pair closed-ear headphones, the kind that cover your whole ear, with a thingie that goes over the top of your head. Here are some Monitor and Headphone options.
Your Instrument or Voice and a decent Microphone. You’ve probably already got an instrument or two or you wouldn’t be here, and I assume your voice is working, so I won’t bother talking about those, other than to say to keep them in top condition. As to microphones; the type you’ll want to buy and use depends on what you want to record, but you can get a decent cardiod or condenser mic (don’t worry if you don’t know what that means) for less than a hundred bucks. More info about microphones over here.
A Space to Record. Most home studios are in the spare bedroom, the garage, basement, or the living room. My First Album was done entirely in a 10′ x 14′ room with small furry animals lurking about. It might not be ideal, but you can get great results recording in whatever space you’ve got. Don’t stress about having the perfect space. Your ears and your tenacity can overcome almost anything!
Time. Creating a pro-quality recording at home takes time. No way around it. The good news is that, unlike renting a pro recording studio, once you’re set up, you don’t have to pay by the hour or stress out about how much it’s all costing. You can tinker and tweak to your heart’s content.
That’s pretty much it.
On every level and for each thing, you can upgrade or ramp it up when you’re ready, but really, you can get started for way less than you think. There is lots of great, free, information here at Home Studio Geeks that goes into detail about each of these steps, and I encourage you read up on it and get started.
To go deeper into any given topic and to fast-track your awesomeness, you’ll want to check out my home studio Premium Training.
Oh, just one more thing.
You don’t have to be an “Expert”, (whatever that is)
You don’t need a degree or a certificate. You don’t need a diploma and you abso-fuckin-lutely don’t need “permission”. Screw the suits and screw the nay-sayers. You don’t have to know everything right now. This is a learning process, and each step builds on the last one. You’ll learn what you need to learn as you go along. Breathe.
Even world-class professional recording engineers and producers will tell you (if they’re honest) that there never comes a time when they know everything. Anyone who says they do is an asshole.
So EMBRACE THE PROCESS! It’s a really FUN process, and I look forward to helping you do your kick-ass shit, show you how to record your music, make your awesome voice-overs, have a blast, and make the kind of recordings you can be proud of.