Home Recording Studio’s are becoming increasingly more popular. In this article Soundbase Megastore will explore the basic essentials for all studios and further essentials and desirable attributes for a singer songwriter recording Studio, in relation to what instrument you play and sound you would like to produce.
So Where Do You Start?
In current times the most popular kind of multi-track for sound recording is a DAW (digital Audio workstation). Depending on what DAW software you choose should reflect what you want to do in your studio and how advanced you would like your music production skills to be.
After you’ve decided on your computer and DAW software the next step is to pick the best Audio Interface. A high percentage of signal path fidelity is in converting your signal from analogue to digital and vice versa. So think carefully about how much you can afford to spend and how many simultaneous inputs and outputs you’re going to need and whether you require External Word Clock, S/Pdif, Optical and MIDI connections and if so! How many ports are you going to be using. On final thing when buying an audio interface is to read a little info on forums to see if any users have encountered problems while using it with specific software. Especially with cheaper PCI soundcards you might find that it just isn’t compatible with the mother board and chip set in your computer.
You also you want to think about how to monitor your song recording, mixing and mastering. What’s best for you, passive or active monitors. What are the acoustics of the room you’re going to be playing in, and monitoring in like. Will your house mate’s be trying to sleep in the room upstairs while you’re slaving away on your next “big song”.
So you’ve got the basic idea of what gear you need to get started. Next we’ll look at what essential and variable peripherals are best for a studio for singer songwriters and different types of equipment.
Basic singer songwriter Recording setup
For a singer songwriter looking to build a studio for doing demo recordings or DIY releases of their new songs DAW software such as Pro Tools, Cubase or Logic would be ideal. While this software is advance it also means you won’t be limited in anyway by the capabilities of the software. These programmes can also be as advanced, as a modern recording studio or as simplistic as using a cassette deck 4 track. If you’re limited for budget and are only looking to record, with basic mixing you might be more suited towards garage band or cakewalk. However the more you get into recording your music the more you’ll want to do with the software and before long you’ll find yourself wanting to upgrade to a more advanced software package. So its always best to buy a more advanced music programme from the out set.
When it comes buying an audio interface suited for this kind recording set up a simple 2 in, 2 out USB, 24 bit 96kHz interface with XLR inputs is perfect. Soundbase would recommend buying one with MIDI I/O as there is not much difference in price for ones with MIDI and ones without. Plus its better to have this option, rather than not, especially for you piano players.
When you increase your budget for an audio interface you essentially get better Mic pre amps and ADA converters. This is what gives you clarity and fidelity for your recordings. However you may find yourself paying for features on the interface that you will never use. For a studio of this capacity there are number of audio interfaces on the market from as little as £80.
Here is a few recommend audio interfaces suited to the budget recording studios:
M Audio M Track Plus II, Tascam US 2X2, Lexicon I-Onix U22, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and the Focusrite Scarlett Studio.
Next up you’re going to need a vocal Microphone.
The SM58 is, and has been the industry standard, close proximity vocal Microphone for many years. However you may want to look into some other options like the SM7. If you only want to use the mic for recording in your home studio then a condenser microphone would be better suited than a dynamic microphone. Condensers are powered microphones and often have a larger diaphragm than a dynamic microphone. This means you get a warmer sound with more clarity as well as a the signal to noise ratio being less noisey. For a dynamic microphone Soundbase reccomend looking at spending £70 plus, and for a condenser £120 plus. Anything less than that and you might as well just flush your cash down the toilet, but do look around at what’s available second hand in our B Stock.
For a “budget” vocal condenser microphone Soundbase recommend sontronics microphones they sound amazing for the price.
For the acoustic guitar, singer songwriters among you, you might want to look into a second condenser microphone so you can record your guitar in the same performance as your vocals. While you might be happy with the sound of your acoustic guitar pick up plugged straight into the interface. A microphone gives you a wider scope for recording in terms of proximity and axis to capture the sound you desire. Another benefit to having a condenser microphone is you could simply place the microphone in the room and capture a natural room recording. There is no rules as to whether you use a dynamic or condenser microphone to record your guitar. Some producers like to record acoustic guitars at close proximity with a SM57, compressing the hell out of it, but more on that another time.
Here is a few recommended microphones for recording both vocals and guitars, suited to a range of budgets:
Shure SM57, Beyerdynamic M69 TG, Audio Technica Pro 37, AKG C214
For the piano based songwriter
There is a few different options to consider when it comes to how to record your piano parts. The most obvious is simply to place a good condenser microphone on an acoustic piano and hit record. Though for a novice at recording a piano can be a very complex instrument to capture well, plus if your piano is out of tune then it will also be out of tune on the recording. The second option would be to buy a full size MIDI keyboard with a sustain pedal and connect this direct to your interface via MIDI or direct to your computer via USB. The signal from the MIDI keyboard will be recorded to your DAW and need a Virtual Piano instrument like the XLN Audio addictive Keys to playback a piano sound. The same MIDI controller keyboard also be used to add string parts to your song. All you would need to do this is a virtual string instrument, And so on for any instrument you can think of. A further option for those of you using a Calvinova or electric piano is to simply connect the line output of your Clavinova to your audio interface. Many Clavinovas also have a MIDI out on them that means the Clavinova can also be used in a similar way to using a MIDI controller keyboard.
For a budget full size MIDI Keyboard Soundbase recommend the M Audio Keystation 88
Listening To Your Recording
So you’re all set to record your songs, but you’re also going to need a pair of speakers or headphones to listen back to your recordings. While you could plug direct into your Hi-Fi from your audio interface it would be more suitable to listen back through flat response, uncoloured studio monitors so you can hear a true representation of what you have just recorded, in terms of both performance and signal clarity.
For a studio of this calibre Soundbase Megastore would recommend active studio monitors as you can simply plug them straight into the output of your audio interface.
Here is a few pairs of active studio monitors for under £250:
Kurzweil KS40A (pair) Alesis Elevate 6 (pair) Mackie MR5 MK3
However are studio monitors the best option for your studio or would you be better suited for monitoring through studio headphones? The first major benefit of using headphones is that if you wish to record backing vocals and guitar overdubs for example then monitoring the recording through headphones means that your song won’t spill from the monitors into microphone while you’re recording. The second benefit of using headphones for monitoring and mixing your song is that you don’t have to be concerned with any noise restrictions. You can work on your songs anytime any day with peace of mind that you’re not offending anyone.
Recommended Studio Monitor Headphones for under £120
AKG K77, AKG K612, Beyerdynamic DT 100, Audio Technica ATH-50X
Last up you’re going to need to put a little aside in your budget for cables etc. For a recording setup of this standard Soundbase suggest you put aside £40 – £150 of your studio budget for cables, pop shields and microphones stands etc.
The suggested budget for a recording studio set up for a singer songwriter is between £400 – £1900. Should you be looking to buy a complete set up from Soundbase then don’t hesitate to conduct us for a package price or simply view the following discount packages for everything you need to start recording your songs.
Basic Vocal Recording Studio Equipment Package – Click Here – £489.00 inc VAT
Intermediate Songwriter (guitar) Studio Equipment Package – Click Here – £805.00 inc VAT
Intermediate Songwriter Studio Equipment (keys) Package – Click Here – £1025.00 inc VAT
Advanced Studio Equipment Package for Vocals and Keys – Click Here – £1215.00 inc VAT
Advanced Studio Equipment Package for Vocals and Acoustic Guitar – Click Here – £1200 inc VAT