A short guide for home studio beginners
As I said in my previous article, buying all the right equipment for a home studio is not enough. There are so many aspects that you should take into consideration before even setting up a budget for your studio. If you are a beginner, you will soon learn that recording music at home is not as easy as you previously thought…
Define your style
First of all, you should think thoroughly about which kind of material are you going to record. Is it an entire album, a mixtape or just a single song? Take the time to define your style before entering the booth. If you plan to record an entire album, you need to create a concept for it, so all the songs will be related to each other in one way or another. If you are going to record your first song, you should think of it as a demo song. Since it’s your first project, don’t get your hopes too high, but treat it with the highest respect.
If you’ve never recorded your voice before on a song, you are in for a big surprise. Recording your first song is an everlasting experience and you may want to have few friends near you for this unique event. They will give you great moral support and a nice feedback once the job is done. In this case, the entourage is great for getting you in the mood.
If you make music for some time, you will learn that recording music is an enduring experience and you want to be as focused as you can. Making a great song requires a lot of work and time. Having your entourage near may break your inspiration (or it may not), depending on your own musical personality. See what works better for you!
The recording conditions
Before getting into the actual recording session, you should check the recording conditions. You should make few test recording to see what works better for you. Set the preamp to an optimal level, make sure you sing at the right distance from the mic, make sure your headphones level is just right. Also, be sure to have the best comfortable position when recording. All these details will influence the overall outcome of your song.
Many beginners like to throw as many vocal tracks as they can in the mix, getting everything blurred for the listener. If you look at major artists today you will learn that they use only a lead vocal for the verses and two low-level panned ad-libs. A principle of fashion is pretty effective here: less is more. For the hook, you may want to record additional vocal tracks that are panned differently, but try to keep things as simple as you can. If you’ve spot a mistake anywhere in the vocals, it’s always better to record that part again instead of adding extra layers over it.
Once the song is recorded, there comes the difficult and time-consuming process: the mix. In the beginning of the 90s, the music got louder. A lot of songs were pushed near the 0 dB limit by the sound engineers, marking the beginning of so called loudness war. In order to appeal to today’s standards, you should make your mix as louder as you can but without distorting the songs in the process. Don’t rush on that compression plugin and make sure every sound in the mix is heard perfectly clear. See this article for advices on how to master your songs.
What’s your own take on this? Which tricks and tips do you use in your home studio?