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Home Recording Guide - What You Need to Make a Home Studio

Home Recording Guide - A Guide To Home Studios and Recording Music At Home
Home Recording Guide

Home Recording Guide

Recording music at home is easier than ever before. To do so, you’ll need the right gear, so we’ve created this guide to help you create and record music at home.

SHOP NOW | Home Recording Gear

By Matt Wilkinson | Published 07.10.19. Updated 09.10.20

Twenty years ago, you needed a pro studio to make music. Equipment was big, expensive, and difficult to use. Today though, anyone can make professional recordings from the comfort of their own home.

You'll need a little know-how, but this guide is here to help you get started by finding the perfect Home Recording Gear

What do you need to record music at home?

SubZero BASE-2 Complete Vocalist Recording and Monitoring Bundle

To record music at home, all you really need is a recording device and a way of hearing your music played back. Simple!

Most people already own the means to do this - your very own smartphone or tablet. With free software and learning tools, you can record audio, play onscreen instruments, add effects, and hear your track played back.

If you want to achieve better results, though, you’ll need some specialist recording gear.

Computer-based recording

We recommend building a setup around your own computer* because it lets you easily record, edit, and share music.

Then you'll need an audio interface. This is the bridge between your computer and your instruments, microphones, and other studio gear. The interface essentially turns your computer into a studio!

Once you've got your core setup of a computer plus audio interface, you can start adding other studio equipment.

* If you don't want to use a computer, standalone digital recording devices can get great results too.

Looking for a quick solution? Audio Interface Bundles are a great way to get started - they include an audio interface plus other equipment like microphones, monitoring equipment, and everything you need to record music with your computer. You'll find bundles for vocalists, producers, musicians, podcasters, and more.

Contents

These are the essentials you need to produce music, record instruments, or podcast at home. Click each link to skip ahead and learn more.

  • Computer – the brain of your studio and the storage for your recordings.
  • Audio Interface - the bridge between your audio equipment and your computer.
  • DAW software – the visual interface of your studio. Arrange your music here.
  • Headphones – for monitoring your sound clearly. The best choice if you're starting from scratch.
  • Microphone – to capture instrument sounds and vocals.
  • Essential accessories: microphone stands, cables, and more.

Here’s some extra equipment you could also consider

  • MIDI Controller – a device to control your software instruments or recording software. Comes in many forms - keyboards, rhythm touch pads, mixing desks, and more.
  • Studio Furniture – get your studio organised.
  • Studio Monitors – the ultimate way to make sure what you create sounds the best it can.

The alternative to a computer-based home studio

  • Digital Audio Recorder – lets you produce music without a computer. Plug in instruments and microphones to easily record and edit your music. Ideal for recording on location. Some look like fully-fledged mixing desks and have complete studio capabilities!

Computer

Audio Computers

The computer is a fantastic hub for your recording studio. If you use it to build your setup around, you'll be able to edit music, record, produce, and publish.

What a music computer does:

  • The central hub of your studio - connect your equipment to it via an interface.
  • Record, edit, play virtual instruments, mix with effects, produce music, stream online, and much more.
  • Use it as the complete 'user interface' for your studio.

Why a computer is great for recording music:

  • Even a mid-range and some entry-level computers are perfectly adequate for music production.
  • Incredible range of software - from editing music to recording, mixing, mastering, adding effects, and even playing onscreen instruments.
  • Super flexible - built your setup exactly to your requirements.

What to consider with a music computer:

  • You'll need an audio interface to connect studio gear to your computer.
  • More RAM lets you layer more musical tracks, use more virtual instruments, and mix with more effects. Aim for 4GB minimum if possible.
  • Music files take up a lot of room. Check your hard drive storage.
  • A fancy graphics card or cutting-edge processor isn't required for music - simply aim for decent RAM and storage space.
  • SSD hard drives dramatically speed up the response of your computer - perfect for music production.

Shop now | Audio Computers

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Audio Interface

Turn your computer into a studio with an audio interface. It's the bridge between your computer and other musical equipment.

What an audio interface is for:

  • Turn your computer into a recording studio.
  • Expand your computer's range of inputs and outputs.
  • Connect instruments, microphones, and monitoring equipment to your computer.
  • Record more than one sound source at once.

Why an audio interface is great for music:

  • Many different options - USB/Thunderbolt/Firewire.
  • Connect all your musical gear to your computer.
  • Many have built-in microphone preamps so you won't need a mixing desk.
  • Some have built-in DSP processing to lighten the load on your computer. With this, you can easily create complex audio routing, or add plugins (software effects and instruments). Universal Audio is a prime proponent of this technology.

What to consider with an audio interface:

  • How many instruments/microphones do you want to record at once? A podcaster or songwriter may just need 1 or 2 inputs. A band may need 6 mic inputs or more.
  • If you're only using an interface to edit music, or play with software instruments, you may not need any mic preamps.
  • Check your connectivity - USB/Thunderbolt/Firewire.

Shop now | Audio Interfaces

Shop now | Audio Interface Bundles - great-value kits with microphones, monitoring equipment, and essential gear to get you recording.

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DAW

The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the software that lets you record and playback music on your computer. It lets you layer tracks, add effects, play software instruments, and change the balance of your mix.

What a DAW is for:

  • The main user interface of your computer-based setup.
  • Create a complete musical arrangement on screen.
  • Visually see all your tracks, effects, software instruments, and more.
  • Mix audio together.

Why a DAW is great:

  • Choose the DAW to suit you - free trials are often available to get started.
  • 'See' your music and arrangement on screen.
  • Highly intuitive for working with music.
  • Makes it easy to build arrangements, layer tracks, play software instruments, add effects, and automate.
  • DAWs let you control virtual instruments. Some are incredibly realistic recreations of acoustic instruments and synths. Many film and TV composers use them to produce music.

What to consider with a DAW:

  • Which DAW suits you? Get a free trial before buying, or read our guide - Which Music Software Is Right For You
  • Do you want virtual instruments? See if they come included.
  • How many tracks do you need to layer?
  • Are you working on Apple? Logic Pro and the (free) Garageband DAWs are available to you.

DAW software is used by producers, composers, songwriters, electronic musicians, podcasters, and more - no matter what you're creating, you'll find the right DAW for you.

DAW software also frequently comes with extra ‘virtual’ instruments built in. You can use a MIDI controller (see more below) to play these instruments. They can be incredibly convincing, whether they’re emulating acoustic instruments or electronic instruments. Some virtual instruments will even create a musical part for you based on different parameters, making it easy to create a complete track.

DAW software also allows you to play with samples (recorded segments of audio). You could create an entire track by looping these samples and layering them together.

You’ll often find that your audio interface comes complete with a DAW software, so you’ll be able to make music right out the box.

Shop now | DAW Software

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Headphones

You’ll need some way of hearing your music. While you could go with studio monitors, headphones are a solid choice if you’re on a budget and buying lots of gear at once.

What headphones are for:

  • Hear all parts of your music clearly.
  • Play back a track in your headphones, while simultaneously recording another track on top.
  • Monitor the sound of your microphone or instrument - so you can hear what the microphone 'hears' directly.

Why headphones are great for music recording:

  • More affordable than studio monitors.
  • Multi-purpose: mix music accurately, monitor sounds, or simply enjoy your music and films.

What to consider:

  • Closed back headphones stop sound escaping. Great for recording instruments with a mic while your track is playing in the headphones.
  • Open back headphones let sound escape out the sides - not ideal for recording but very comfy and feature very accurate sound.
  • Check your cable length. You may need a cable extension to record instruments or drums.
  • Recording a loud instrument? You may need a headphone amp.

Shop now | Studio headphones

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Microphones

Capture the sound of your voice or instrument with a microphone. With many different mics specialised for different jobs, there's the perfect microphone for any situation.

Shop now | Studio Microphones

Dynamic microphones

Studio Dynamic Microphones - Shure SM57

A rugged mic with a focussed sound that's ideal for vocals and stage instruments.

What they're for:

  • Generally for instruments with a louder SPL (Sound Pressure Level) like guitar amps, brass instruments, stage vocals.
  • Instruments on stage.
  • Studio and broadcast.

Why they're great:

  • Rugged design and can handle loud volumes.
  • Feedback-resistant designs for live stage use.
  • Generally more affordable.
  • Direct and 'up-front' sound.

What to consider:

  • Not quite as sensitive as some other mic types.
  • Slightly more coloured sound than other mic types.

If you’re recording a podcast or want to try voiceover for a video, the Shure SM7B is one of the industry classics. While it is a dynamic microphone, it is incredibly popular for producers and podcasters due to its silky, characteristic warmth and well-rounded sound.

Shop now | Studio Dynamic Microphones

Small diaphragm condenser microphones

Small Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphones

A sensitive and balanced microphone with real nuance - ideal for acoustic instruments.

What they're for:

  • Studio work.
  • Acoustic instruments.
  • Percussion and drum overheads.
  • Stereo recording.
  • Capturing room ambience.

Why they're great:

  • Clear and transparent sound.
  • Large dynamic range.
  • Excel at 'natural' recordings.
  • Buy a matched pair for accurate stereo recordings.

What to consider:

  • May have too much of a transparent sound - sometimes, colouration is a good thing.
  • Require Phantom power - a power supplied from audio interfaces or mixing desks.
  • Highly sensitive design requires care if used in live situations.

Shop now | Small Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphones

Large diaphragm condenser microphones

A traditional large microphone that epitomises the studio vocal aesthetic. Excellent balance, nuance, and often a certain 'colour' of sound.

What it's for:

  • Studio vocals.
  • Acoustic instruments in the studio.
  • Recording room ambience.

Why they're great:

  • Clear and natural sound with large dynamic range.
  • Some have switchable polar patterns for different applications.
  • Some have a signature coloured sound which suits particular instruments and vocals.

What to consider:

  • Highly sensitive - require care if used in live environments.
  • Require Phantom power from the mixing desk or audio interface.
  • Easily picks up rumbles, pops, and bangs - requires a shock mount and pop filter for vocals.
  • Not all are appropriate for loud instruments.

Other mic options

  • USB microphones: typically a condenser mic that connects to your computer via USB. Plug in and get studio sound in an instant with no other equipment required! Perfect for podcasting.
  • Ribbon microphones: a specialist choice with a signature warm sound, but care is required as they are delicate.
  • Instrument microphones: an adaptation of the dynamic or condenser mics described above. Features bespoke clamps and sonic patterns that suit certain instruments. You'll find mics for vocals, drums, strings, brass, percussion, guitars, pianos, and much more.
  • Boundary microphones: perfect for conference calls as they pick up sound near a hard surface and are great at rejecting background noises.

Microphone accessories

If you’re buying a microphone to record vocals, don’t forget a pop shield. It helps reduce the sibilance and plosives in your voice (the loud ‘s’ sounds and popping ‘p’ or ‘b’ sounds). If you really want to isolate your vocal sound, you may consider a reflection filter – it’s like stepping inside your very own vocal booth.

Don’t forget your accessories! You’ll need an XLR microphone cable and a microphone stand. See even more microphone accessories here.

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MIDI Controller

MIDI Controllers don't make any sounds of their own. Instead, they let you control your music software. They come in many types - keyboards, rhythm pads, mixing desks, and more.

If you'd like to learn even more, read our MIDI Controller Buyer's Guide.

Keyboard Controller

Keyboard MIDI controllers are keyboards with no built-in sounds. Plug it into your computer and play your software instruments with a traditional keyboard input. Some keyboards are weighted (like an acoustic piano), whereas others feel more like a synthesizer.

Percussion Pad

Percussion pad MIDI controllers let you tap out beats. They are sensitive to pressure and make beat creation a much more hands-on process.

Control Surface

MIDI Control Surfaces feature an array of sliders and controls. They allow you to control the main mixing desk inside your DAW, as well as many other parameters such as the playback controls.

DJ Controller

DJ Controllers are more specialised, often with turntables, crossfaders, FX controllers, and more. They are designed for use with DJ software (often included in the price).

Many of today’s MIDI controllers include a combination of the features described above, giving you multiple ways of controlling your computer software from a single device.

You’ll also find many controllers that come complete with software instruments to make music straight out the box. Check out the Native Instruments Controllers if you’d like a premium set of software included with your controller.  

Learn more | MIDI Controller Buyer's Guide

Shop now | MIDI Controllers

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Studio Furniture

If you’re putting together a home studio, a set of studio furniture is a very worthwhile investment.

What it's for:

  • Organise your studio equipment.
  • Mount your rack gear semi-permanently.
  • Place monitors and keyboards at the optimal position for creating.

Why it's great:

  • Bespoke furniture for musicians, producers, and creatives.
  • Ergonomic designs - puts everything within reach.
  • Many have slide-out keyboard trays.

At its simplest, studio furniture can be a set of speaker stands, designed to isolate your speakers from the surface that they're sat on. Studio furniture could also come in the form of a bespoke home studio desk, designed to organise your equipment and mount your monitors. The 3 Tier Pro Audio Studio Desk by Gear4music is an affordable option with a sturdy structure.

You may also consider acoustic treatment to make sure the room you’re working in has no unwanted resonant frequencies that could distort your mix. Check out the AcouFoam Room Kit as a great starting point.

Shop now | Studio Furniture

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Studio Monitors

Studio monitors are designed to give you the most accurate representation of your music. Unlike hi-fi speakers, studio monitors won’t flatter your mix by making it sound better, and that is a good thing!

What it's for:

  • Hear your music out loud.
  • Get a true representation of your audio.

Why it's great:

  • Designed for clear and transparent sound - not designed to artificially flatter your audio.
  • If it sounds good on studio monitors, it has a higher chance of sounding good on many other types of speakers.

What to consider:

  • Active speakers have a built-in amp, passive speakers require a separate power amp.
  • Smaller monitors are more suitable for smaller rooms. The reduced bass response won't overpower your room.
  • Larger monitors (6'' and above) are ideal for larger rooms. They deliver more bass and louder volume.
  • Ported speakers have a hole which helps amplify the bass. If it's a rear-facing port, don't place the port too near a wall or in a corner as it'll muddy the response.
  • Speaker stands or isolation pads help get a clearer sound.
  • Acoustic treatment (foam panels and bass traps) can greatly help the sound in your room.

Shop now | Studio monitors

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Digital Audio Recorder

- the alternative to a computer audio interface setup

A digital audio recorder lets you capture music and sounds without a computer. At its most basic, these handy units have built-in mics that let you record sounds at the push of a button. More advanced units are more akin to a complete portable studio - allowing you to plug in extra microphones and blend sounds together.

Shop now | See all Digital Audio Recorders

Handheld Audio Recorders

What they're for:

  • Record audio without a computer.
  • Vlogging, videography, field recording, foley.
  • Songwriting - a musical sketchpad.

Why they're great:

  • Built-in mics - no external equipment required.
  • Compact, portable, and battery powered.
  • Some have additional inputs to record more microphones or instruments.
  • Easy to get great sound quality.

What to consider:

  • Handheld recorders don't often allow for much editing or layering of tracks.
  • Built-in mics need to be close to sound source - they 'hear' what you hear in the room.
  • Not as powerful as computers for editing or arranging, but they are a nice standalone option if you don't require virtual instruments or more in-depth editing/mixing capabilities.

Shop now | Handheld Audio Recorders

Multitrack Audio Recorders

What they're for:

  • Record audio without a computer.
  • Bands, studio sessions, mixing/mastering audio, video production on location.
  • Songwriting - a musical sketchpad.

Why they're great:

  • All-in-one designs - simply add microphones and instruments.
  • Look and feel more like a mixing desk/studio.
  • Record multiple sound sources at once.
  • Editing capabilities for mixing.

What to consider:

  • How many microphone/instrument inputs will you need?
  • Not quite as powerful as computers for editing or arranging, but they are a nice standalone option if you don't require virtual instruments.

Shop now | Digital Multi Track Recorders

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Find out more

No two home studios look alike, and you'll find yourself making many decisions based on budget and requirements. The great thing about a home studio is that you can build one up piece-by-piece, upgrading and changing gear as you go.

Start your journey today!

Shop now | Home Recording Equipment

Shop now | Audio Interface Bundles - everything you need to start recording with your laptop or computer, featuring essential microphones, monitoring equipment, and more.

Posted on 12 Oct 2020 09:35 to category : Instruments News

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