My Guide For Setting up a Home Recording Studio

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Published: 28th November 2016
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I have been recording music for a long time. But not until about three years ago did I start taking it seriously. And I'm still not convinced that was the right decision. Home audio recording is a giant can of worms. In fact, it is the most frustrating process I've experienced. There are just too many variables involved. The recording space, the microphone choices, the microphone setups, soundproofing, sound treatment, studio monitor choices, studio monitor setupů the list is nearly endless. I've learned a lot about all these things. And I still do not believe I know all that much about home audio recording. I'm sure all the audiophiles out there will laugh at my techniques and choices for studio equipment. But you know what? I never set out to satisfy the audiophiles. I'm just a punk musician who wants to get good documentation of his bands performances. And along the way, I have been able to help out many musicians who do not have the bucks to shell out for the local music producer. I didn't have that kind of money either, and that was the catalyst that started the project that has gotten me here. Hopefully I have some valuable information about DIY tricks and price efficient studio equipment that can help simplify the process of setting up a home audio recording studio. It doesn't have to be daunting. It will always be difficult, but there are ways to make the whole process come together with adequate results.

Start with the room. If the recording space doesn't sound good, then stop immediately and correct it. Bass traps can be built using a frame and compressed fiberglass. Get some chicken wire to keep the frame together and the fiberglass compressed. Cover it with a material that is not reflective. If you can breathe into it and feel your breath through the other side, then the material will work. Get some couch cushions to use as broadband absorbers. Place them against the walls in spots where reflections occur. By just adding the bass traps and the broadband absorbers, the recording space should already sound much better. The low end will be less muddy and the highs will be less harsh. Microphones will capture what you feed them. Good microphones will capture a bad sounding room accurately. That is not preferred.

Quality studio equipment, especially microphones, does not have to be expensive. A few Shure SM-57's could make it through the entire home audio recording process if used correctly. As an alternative, there are brands of studio equipment such as Behringer, GLS, and SHS that make very useable dynamic microphones that are even more cost effective than the SM-57. Just experiment. Condenser microphones are good for adding ambience, and a matched pair of overheads is usually preferred to capture the stereo image of a drum set. There are standard microphone placement techniques that can be found all over the internet, but there are no set rules. As long as it sounds good, that's all that matters. Just make sure the microphones are not out of phase. The sound will become weak. The Recorderman technique for overhead microphone placement is a great fool-proof method for getting a good stereo image of the drum set. Definitely check it out.

Accurate monitors are very important in the home audio recording studio. They will give you the sound of the music accurately, with no added bass or high-end. But to have them work correctly, you must have an accurate room. With proper placement of the bass traps and broadband absorbers, this will clean up the sound a lot. Use a room measurement program such as REW Room EQ Wizard to measure the room's response. This will need to be done with a good condenser microphone, preferable one that is made specifically for this purpose. I obsessed over this process until I achieved a frequency response in my home audio recording studio within 3db across the entire frequency range. I may have taken the process too far, but it has definitely been beneficial for obtaining an accurate mix and a satisfactory end result.

Ronnie Pistons

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