Setting Up Your Home  Recording Studio (And 5 Mistakes To Avoid)Setting Up Your Home  Recording Studio (And 5 Mistakes To Avoid)

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Setting Up Your Home Recording Studio (And 5 Mistakes To Avoid)

In this article, we’ll show you how to set up a great home recording studio. There are plenty of different approaches across the music industry, so let’s show you the way. These are the steps that our favorite hip hop beatmakers, electronic music producers, and other creators use for making music every day. All without leaving the house. Let's get started.

By

Tracklib

·

August 17, 2022

1. What is a home recording studio and what are the benefits?

A home recording studio is simply a space in your home where you can record your own music or collaborate with others. Home studios come in all shapes and sizes—some people use them to write and record simple demos, while others use them to create entire finished albums. If you’re a performer, you can also use a home studio setup to improve your musical skills by practicing on your own, or with a band. You can even perform live-streamed shows to your fans across the world.

The main benefit of having your own recording studio in your home is that you’ll be able to make high-quality recordings without having to pay for studio time. And because you’re not paying by the hour, you can take your time and achieve that specific sound you’re after—it gives you complete control over the music recording process. You can get started for just a few hundred dollars, and as your requirements develop with your skills, you can add more studio gear to your home studio setup. Studio gear is much cheaper now than ever before, so music production has never been more accessible.

Finally, a huge benefit of having your own recording studio setup is the creative freedom it affords you. Without any interruptions or constraints on your time, you can get into that creative headspace while you work on your music production.

2. Setting up your home recording studio

Now let’s look at the essential steps you need to take to set up a home studio.

1. Choose the right space

The space you choose for your first home recording studio setup is important because you need to be able to work in a quiet environment without distractions. We recommend choosing a space away from the main living area of your home. It should be large enough to accommodate all of your studio gear—such as guitar amps—and it should be well-insulated from outside noise to reduce interference with your recordings. Some good options for home recording studios are a spare bedroom, a basement, or an attic. Try testing the acoustic properties of the room before making your final decision: the most suitable rooms will have a dead, dry sound, without echoes or reverberation, and only need minimal acoustic treatment. You can give this a try by clapping your hands. When there’s no reverberation or echo, that means the room is “dry.”

how to choose the right space for your home recording studio

2. Soundproof your room with acoustic treatments

In order to get the best quality recordings, you’ll need to add some acoustic treatment to your room. It’s critical that you reduce noise from outside your home studio (people talking in other rooms, traffic, etc.) because this can bleed into your recordings. You’ll want to reduce any echoes from within the room, too. There are many ways to soundproof a room, and this depends on the type of studio you have. For a small bedroom studio, simple solutions like acoustic foam or soundproof curtains can work well. But for larger studios, more intensive acoustic treatment measures like cavity wall insulation and noise-reducing windows may be necessary.

Here are some of the different acoustic treatment options:

Acoustic panels. These are made of materials that absorb sound waves, such as foam or fiberglass. They can be placed on the walls or ceiling to help reduce reverberation and echoes. This can give you much better results when recording drums or loud instruments. But acoustic panels are also helpful for more delicate instruments, such as acoustic guitars. Be aware though, that foam acoustic panels don’t absorb bass frequencies very well.

Carpet. Sound can bounce off hard surfaces like wooden floors, and these reflections can ruin your recording. Consider getting a carpet fitted if it isn’t already. Alternatively, just put some heavy rugs under your desk and the area where you’ll perform on instruments. A very simple but effective acoustic treatment.

Sound booth. This is a small, enclosed space that’s acoustically separated from the rest of the room. This is an ideal solution if you're only recording one or two people at a time. Sound booths can be bought ready-made, or you can make your own using timber and acoustic blankets.

Vocal isolation shield. These small structures fit onto microphone stands. Isolation shields help to reduce reflections with vocal recording, so that the sound sits better in the mix of your audio track.

vocal sound booth in a home recording studio

3. Get the right desk and chair (more important than you might think!)

When setting up your home studio, it's important to choose the right desk and chair. The desk should be big enough to hold your audio equipment, samplers, and hardware, and the chair should be comfortable enough to sit in for many hours at a time. For desks, an inexpensive option is the IKEA MICKE desk. While something like the Studio RTA Producer Desk has many more features, but also a higher price tag. Some good options for chairs are the Herman Miller Embody Chair or the Steelcase Leap Chair.

comfortable chair in a home recording studio

3. Must-have equipment

Once you've chosen and soundproofed the space for your home recording studio, it’s time to turn that space into a usable home recording studio by decking it out with all the studio essentials you need. A powerful computer is the most important—and usually the most expensive—item on this list. If you already have one, you shouldn’t need to spend more than a few hundred dollars to build your own studio.

Essential studio equipment includes:

1. Laptop or desktop computer

2. Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

3. Hardware such as samplers

4. Audio interface

5. Studio monitors

6. Studio headphones

7. Microphone(s)

8. Microphone stand(s)

9. Pop filter

10. MIDI keyboard

11. MIDI controller

12. Quality cables

13. Third-party plugins

music production laptop at work in a home recording studio

1. Laptop or desktop computer

The computer is the heart of the home recording studio, so it’s important to choose a powerful one that’s up to the task. Your requirements depend on what kind of music you’re making. Simple singer-songwriter tracks with just guitar and vocals won’t take up too much of your CPU, but big music productions with over 100 stems will easily max out even very powerful computers. Some powerful computers we recommend here at Tracklib are the Apple iMac or the Dell XPS Tower.

2. Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Your DAW is an integral part of your music production process, so do some research first and choose wisely. Different DAWs are better suited to different types of music, so it all depends on what kind of music you’re planning to make and what your workflow is. Some are more user-friendly for beginners, while others such as Reason have a steep learning curve to grapple with for endless possibilities. The most popular choices are FL Studio, Ableton Live (perfect for—as the name suggests— live performances), Logic Pro (very user-friendly, but only works with Mac), and ProTools (popular among professionals, though could be described as difficult to get started with). Reaper is another option that’s very low cost, while Pro Tools is the most expensive.

3. Audio interface

An audio interface is a piece of hardware that allows you to connect studio microphones, instruments, and studio monitors to your computer. The interface functions as a kind of external sound card. This reduces your computer’s workload, freeing up CPU for other tasks. Audio interfaces also act as a pre-amp for studio microphones that require phantom power, so this can have a big impact on the overall sonic quality of your recordings. There are plenty of models on the market to suit all scenarios and budgets. We recommend using one that has at least two microphone inputs and four stereo outputs.

The Scarlett 2i2 from Focusrite is a popular option for beginners, as it offers a great balance between functionality, quality, and price. If you want to record a whole band, however, you’ll need something with more inputs, like the Scarlett 18i20. For vocal recording, the Apollo Twin is an amazing quality product, though it comes with a price to match.

When choosing audio interfaces, it's important to consider the type of connection it uses. If your computer has Thunderbolt or Firewire connections, it’s better to take advantage of these, as they can offer better sound quality than a USB connection.

4. Studio monitors

To hear all the details in your music, you’ll need a good pair of studio monitors— consumer speakers just won’t cut it. If you’re just starting out, these KRK Rokit 6 G3 monitors are a good, inexpensive choice. For even more detail and accuracy in your audio, however, you might want to look at these JBL LSR305 studio monitors.

If you want the best quality monitoring and have the budget to support it, a pair of Yamaha HS8 studio monitors are a great choice. Remember: your monitors are only as good as the room they live in. To make sure your room has some acoustic treatment, and your speakers are set up correctly—this usually means placing them about 40 centimeters away from the wall. Check the manual though, as the optimum set up varies depending on the model you choose.

5. Studio headphones

Whether you use monitors or headphones to listen to your work will depend on the task at hand. But it’s a good idea to have both options available. Studio headphones can give a more accurate sound, though they might not be able to produce very low frequencies as well as a good pair of studio monitors. When choosing a pair of headphones, you need to decide between closed back headphones and open back headphones. Open back headphones can have a more natural sound, but they don’t block out much external noise. Closed back headphones are better for recording, as they don’t leak out sound. Some good options for studio headphones are the Sennheiser HD280 Pro, the Sony MDR7506, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.

microphone with stand in a home recording studio

6. Microphone(s)

When choosing a microphone to add to your home recording studio equipment, it's important to choose one that's appropriate for the type of music you want to record. To record vocals and acoustic guitars, the Audio-Technica AT2020 is a great choice, while the AKG C214 is a versatile microphone with many applications—no wonder it’s a firm favorite of studios across the world. Dynamic mics, such as the Shure SM57, are great for live vocal performances.

7. Microphone stand(s)

You’ll need at least one sturdy microphone stand—or better yet, get as many stands as you have microphones. The K&M 201A/2 microphone stand is a classic, suitable for all types of instruments. But if you’re looking for something to attach to your desk, the Heil PL-2T might be a better option.

8. Pop filter

When recording vocals, pop filters are essential. This is just a small screen made of metal, plastic, or fabric that goes between the microphone and the vocalist, and reduces the popping effect plosives—words beginning with B, D, G, K, P, and T. A good entry-level one is the sE Electronics pop shield, while the Neumann PS 20a is a high-end option, as it’s easy to get it (and keep it) in exactly in the right position.

9. MIDI keyboard

A MIDI keyboard will help you play music on your computer quickly. Look for one with weighted keys—88, ideally—but make sure it will fit onto your desk. The Roland Juno-DS88 is a great quality product, and the Alesis Q88 is a good low-cost option.

10. MIDI controller

Midi controllers are a fantastic tool for creative tasks like drum programming. Some MIDI controllers we recommend at Tracklib include the budget-friendly AkaiMPD218, and also the Arturia BeatStep Pro, which is more geared towards live performance.

11. Quality cables

When setting up a home recording studio, you’ll need a selection of cables to connect everything together. Most microphones use balanced XLR cables, which reduces the effect of ground hum and electrical interference. With these mic cables, it’s a good idea to get them a few meters longer than you think you need. Your MIDI keyboards and controllers will probably come supplied with the relevant cables, but it can be useful to have longer MIDI cables for added versatility.

12. Third-party plugins

Most digital audio workstations (such as Logic Pro or Ableton Live) come with a huge selection of plugins already pre-installed. But you may want to upgrade some of these with higher-quality products. At Tracklib, we recommend the FabFilter mixing bundle, which contains professional-grade tools for EQ, reverb, compression, and much more. You may also want to check out plugins from Waves and Izotope too, as these can be lower in cost, but still of great quality. For creative effects, make sure to look at Soundtoys—Little Altar Boy and Decapitator are some of our favorites.

setting up your home recording studio

4. Putting your studio together

Once you've got all of your equipment, it's time to connect all the pieces, configure your settings, and get ready to make your first audio recording. Let's run through the steps:

  • Connect your hardware
  • Set up your software
  • Set up your microphones
  • Record your first track

Connect your hardware

The first step is to connect the audio interface to your computer or laptop. USB audio interfaces can be connected directly to a USB port on your computer. With Thunderbolt or Firewire audio interfaces, you may need an adapter if your computer doesn’t have these ports. You may also need to download software to get the most out of your audio interface—check the manual for the specifics relevant to your device.

Next, plug in your MIDI devices—these usually just have one USB cable, which provides both power and data. And you’ll want to connect your studio monitors and headphones to your interface too.

Set up your software

Setting up your DAW is essential for getting the most out of your home recording studio. The first time you open your application, you may need to download sound libraries. These files can be very big—Logic Pro, for example, has around 42 GB of free sounds to download. You’ll also want to double-check that your computer is using your interface as an output. If you make sample-based music, you can dig into Tracklib’s Music section to find all-original, all-cleared samples. At this point, you can install any third-party plugins you have too. The settings will vary depending on the DAW you are using, but there are a few basic things you should always configure:

Tool bars. Customize your tool bars to your own preference. Hide anything you don’t need.

Recording format. You’ll want to record WAV files, as these are the highest quality.

Setting Up Your Home Recording Studio (And 5 Mistakes To Avoid) 8

Sample rate. Higher sample rates result in higher quality recordings, but also use more processing power. We recommend a sample rate of 44.1 kHz for most situations.

Bit depth. Higher bit depths result in higher quality recordings, but also use more processing power—we recommend setting this to 16 or 24 bits.

Set up your microphones

Once your computer is set up and configured, it’s time to position your microphones. There are a few things to keep in mind here:

The distance between the microphone and the sound source. The closer the microphone is to the sound source, the louder and more detailed the recording will be. However, if the microphone is too close, you may get unwanted sounds like mouth clicks and plosives.

Microphone angle. The angle of the microphone can have a big impact on the sound of the recording. For example, if you are recording a guitar, pointing the microphone directly at the fretboard will result in a brighter sound, while pointing it at the body of the guitar will result in a warmer sound. Experiment.

Pop filter. If you’re recording vocals, you’ll want to set this up too.

After you've positioned your microphones, it's time to connect them to your audio interface. Most professional microphones connect to the audio interface via XLR cables. If you are using condenser microphones, you will need to enable the phantom power switch on your interface. Other types, such as dynamic microphones, do not require phantom power, and ribbon microphones can even be damaged by it. Check the manual of your particular model if you are not sure.

Now that your microphones are connected and positioned, it's time to check the inputs and levels. The settings will vary depending on the interface you are using, but there are a few basic things you should always configure:

Inputs. Choose the input source for each channel on your audio interface. For example, if you are using multiple microphones, you will need to allocate an input for each microphone. Write them down if you need to so you don’t get confused.

Input levels. Adjust the input level for each channel so that the levels are well below clipping, especially with very loud instruments, such as electric guitars and drum kits. You can easily make a quiet recording louder later on, but it is often

Setting Up Your Home Recording Studio (And 5 Mistakes To Avoid) 9

impossible to remove the distortion from a track that was recorded at too high a level.

Monitoring level. Adjust the monitoring level so that you can hear yourself clearly while you are recording. You might want to add some reverb or Auto-TuneAuto Tune if you are recording a singer.

Record your first track

Now it’s time to produce music! Recording your first track can be a daunting task, but with the right setup and know-how, it might be a little bit easier than you first thought. Just create a new project in your DAW and start experimenting. If you want to work with sample libraries or virtual instruments, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to help you get started. Otherwise, just press record and start playing. Once you've finished recording, it's time to edit and mix your audio track. Recording and mixing can be a complex process, so we recommend reading up on some more tutorials or seeking out help from more experienced music producers. With some practice though, you'll be able to create amazing quality recordings in your very own home studio setup.

5. Pro recording tips for beginners

If you're just starting out in the world of home recording, here are a few tips from experts to help you get the most out of your studio.

Tip 1—Start simple. Don't try to record a complicated song your first time in the studio. Start with something simple—maybe a cover song, or a slow ballad with just guitar and voice. Work your way up to more complicated tracks later on.

Tip 2—Try different microphone positions. Once you've got the basics down, start positioning your microphones differently to see what effect this has on the recorded sound. Moving things around can have a huge effect on the final product.

Tip 3—Take your time. Don't rush the recording process. Take your time and make sure you're happy with the finished result.

Tip 4—Use reference tracks. While you’re recording a track, compare your work with a few reference tracks. This may give you clues as to what adjustments you could make to improve your work.

Tip 5—Practice, practice, practice. The best way to improve your studio skills is to practice as much as possible. The more you practice, the better

you'll become at recording and producing music. There are many professional music producers who are happy to help you if you feel stuck.

practice in a home recording studio

6. 5 mistakes to avoid

As we’ve outlined here, setting up your studio is fairly straightforward—but it’s not without pitfalls. Here are some of the common mistakes. If you pay close attention here you could save yourself a lot of time, money, and energy:

Mistake 1—Skimping on the equipment. The first thing you should do is invest in high-quality equipment that will last and give you the best possible sound. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars—you just need to make sure the key components of your studio are of the highest quality. That means a powerful computer, a good audio interface, and a quality microphone. You can save a little on the other pieces of equipment, but don’t buy the very cheapest items—you’ll just have to replace them once you realize they’re not up to scratch. Cheap XLR cables are a case in point. Trust us—it's a false economy. There’s a fine line between spending too much as a beginner and not giving yourself a chance to succeed. The bottom line: don't go too low on the budget.

Mistake 2—Background noise. A good condenser microphone is incredibly sensitive to sound, so you’ll need to minimize any background noise. When very quiet, distant noises can cause major problems later on in the mixing stage. AC units, nearby traffic, birds singing—even the sound of your own clothes moving around as you perform can ruin a recording. Do whatever you can to minimize these sounds, such as recording at a quieter time of day or wearing clothing that doesn’t rustle as you move.

Mistake 3—Recording too loud. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:don’t record too hot! If your levels are set too high you’ll add horrible distortion to your recording that can’t be removed. If you can’t hear the performance in the control room, turn up the volume on your studio headphones or monitors, not the input gain. Also, don’t use open back headphones when recording yourself in the same room as the track will bleed out into the recording.

Mistake 4—Not getting your performance right. No amount of technical know-how or music production wizardry can fix a flat, lifeless performance. So make sure you’re getting things right at the recording stage before moving on. The beauty of recording at home is that you are free to spend as much time as you like on your tracks. Make the most of it.

Mistake 5—Not getting the acoustic treatment right. If you're not careful, the acoustic properties of your home recording studio can cause audio problems like echoes and reverberation. This can result in a poor-quality recording that sounds amateurish and unprofessional—especially on vocals. You can approach acoustic treatment with an isolation shield, soundproof blankets, bass traps, or rugs to get a dry recording, free from reflections. You can always add reverb later on in the mixing stage.

maintenance and cleaning of a home recording studio

7. Home studio maintenance and organization

Maintaining your equipment and keeping your space tidy are essential for getting the best out of your home studio. Here are a few tips for maintaining home studios:

Organize your equipment. If space is at a premium, tidy away any equipment you don’t need when you’re not using it, such as mic stands. If you do have plenty of space, however, be sure to put away the actual microphones, as you don’t want these to get dusty. Or worse: fall to the ground and break.

Keep your cables organized. Make sure all cables are coiled correctly and stored according to type. For longer cables, you might want to label exactly how long they are. This can save you from needlessly choosing a cable that’s too short for the job at hand. If you're not using a particular cable, store it in a safe place so that it doesn't get tangled or damaged. Or trip anyone up!

Keep your equipment clean. Be very careful when cleaning electronic devices.  Pay special attention and use the correct methods when cleaning your studio monitors, as the cones are very delicate.

Keep your computer organized. Enable automatic software updates. Keep your desktop tidy, and create folders for all your projects, presets, and samples.

Register your hardware. This can extend the warranty on your products, and will also keep you in the loop about any updates or product recalls.

A final word

The home recording studio has come a long way in the past few decades. With the advent of powerful software and affordable hardware, creating professional-quality recordings at home is no longer just for the very well-off. Most importantly, remember to experiment and have fun in your home recording studio if you want to get the most out of it.

And now we'd love to hear from you. We’ve put together this guide with the help of the collective expertise of the entire Tracklib team. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below. We are here to share our knowledge with you.

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