When designing a studio and purchasing the equipment for it you need to decide what you’re studio is going to be used for, what kind of music you are going to be making? This guide to studio equipment is the essentials for a singer songwriter looking to do release worthy recordings at home.
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.
Monitoring your recording
At this point you need to think about how you want to monitor your music production or 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 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 mix”.
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 the singer songwriter.
Recording Your Vocals
Essentially as a singer songwriter you’re looking to record vocals with the best clarity possible. 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. For home recording a condenser microphone would be better suited than a dynamic microphone. A good condenser microphone gives you a warmer sound with more clarity as well as a lower signal to noise ratio.
For the acoustic guitar, singer songwriters, 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 pickup plugged straight into the audio 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.
Recording the Piano
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 pair of good condenser microphones 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 you’re 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 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 you’ll need a Virtual Piano instrument like the XLN Audio addictive Keys to playback a piano sound. It really is very simple and the software provides you with a range of piano sounds to choose from.
Speakers or Headphones
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 for through flat response studio monitors to give you a true representation of what you have just recorded, in terms of both performance and signal clarity. Should you be doing overdubs such as backing vocal then you would need a pair of studio headphones to avoid bleed from the speakers in the microphone while recording.
Last up you’re going to need to put a little aside for cables etc. For a recording setup of this calibre Soundbase suggest you put aside £40 – £100 of your studio budget for cables and microphones stands etc.