Money is not an Excuse
At a minimum, you’ll need the following:
• A laptop or desktop
• Audio Interface
• Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
• Studio Monitors
• Studio Microphones
You likely already have a laptop and headphones, meaning that the rest will only set you back a few hundred dollars. This might seem like a daunting figure, but it’s an investment. We often hear the cliché that “a bad workman blames his tools,” and the same is true in the music industry. You don’t need to have the most expensive or high-tech model of these things to get you started.
You can build an at-home amateur studio for $700 that gives you the freedom and flexibility to record your music whenever you want to. You don’t need the type of record studios you see in music videos or Hollywood movies. For some artists, a smaller home studio works better for them. You’ll be more comfortable in your space and can create the best music possible.
It’s Not the Studio That Makes the Music
In the beginning, you might find yourself playing all these roles. You could be doing everything from writing the song to producing it and mastering the disc. As you get more experience under your belt, you want to expand your team and bring in people who can help you create a hit record.
It’s not the equipment that makes the music what it is – it’s the people behind it and the talent they bring to the system. Everyone can open a producing software. Only people with talent know how to use it and make your music sound the way you want it.
Your equipment is there to magnify your music’s potential and bring it to reality, using the skills and talent of you and the collaborators you work with.
Creating Professional Music at Home
When you’re setting up your at-home studio, there are a few things you want to consider. Sometimes as simple as the placement of your microphone can radically change the quality of your audio record. We’re rounding up four things you want to keep in mind while building your amateur studio. If you get these things right, you’ll be on track to creating a hit song.
1. Recording Techniques
There are four types of recording techniques that you need to know about:
- Microphone Distance
Your microphone should be somewhere between 6 and 12 inches away from your mouth. The proximity effect is when you get too close to your microphone, and it causes a low-frequency response. Being too close to your microphone can make your music sound muddy or with too much of a bass.
If you want to get a clear and tight sound, you want to be on the closer end of the spectrum to the microphone. The last thing you want to deal with is leakage, making it challenging to mix your music as it leads to level and phasing issues with your music.
- Microphone Placement
If you have other instruments in your at-home recording studio that are playing simultaneously, like a friend on their guitar, you want to move the microphone away from them. The 3:1 rule is a general rule of thumb. The nearest microphone to you should be three times further away from the microphone than you are.
While your microphone should be placed close to you, it shouldn’t be too close. Most microphones should be at least two meters from you, if not closer. It’s worth doing a trial run to hear what the sound is like. Some artists prefer to use distant milking.
This process is when you place the microphone 3 or 4 feet away from your sound source to capture some of the background noise in your room. It gives you a more natural sound and can help other instruments bleed into your track. You’ll want to be careful that you don’t have too many microphones in your at-home studio.
- Movement Behind the Mic
You want to be mindful of movement behind your microphone. After all, the singer should be 6 inches away from your microphone. While singers tend to move a little while singing and vibing to the music, you shouldn’t get closer than five inches from your microphone.
- Performance Behind the Mic
It’s worth investing in absorption materials to place behind your microphone to prevent an echo. Even in a smaller room, you could end up causing an echo while singing or playing an instrument. Utilizing different tools like absorption fabrics can help improve the performance of your microphone.
2. Vocal Production
In the same way, you might add a few strawberries to the top of your cake; you might add extra vocal tracks to the chorus of your song. The harmonies and ab-libs add the same emphasis to your main product as the strawberries do to the cake.
Not every part of your track will call for vocal layering, just like how some cakes look better when they’re as minimalistic as possible.
If you can work with a vocal producer, it’s a bonus. The vocal production is what will make or break your music.
As you start to build a profile and have more flexibility with your budget, reaching out to an experienced audio engineer and bringing them onto your team is definitely worth it.
3. Reference Tracks
It’s easiest to start by looking at the acapella version of a song to understand where the different layers are without being distracted by the backing track. Reference tracks are also used to help with the mixing stage of your production process.
4. Learn Basic Compression, Effects, and EQ
You can mix your music at home. There are thousands of people who make a full-time job out of doing just that.
The internet is full of tutorials and how-to guides (just like this one!) to teach you everything you need to know about mixing at home. You want to learn the basics of compressing, effects, and EQ to get you started. Once you’ve spent some time working on your mixing, you’ll start to learn as you go.
Compression is when you reduce the difference between the quietest and loudest parts of your audio during the processing stage. You still want your audio to have a bit of punch to it, but you need the listening experience to still be enjoyable for your audience. You can invest in an audio compressor to help balance out your different audio levels. Plugins can help level out your audio if there are larger variants in your music’s dynamics.
At a minimum, you want to make sure you’re balancing the audio. There are lots of different terms and techniques that you need to wrap your head around before you start trying to compress your music. It’s worth picking up an audiobook or going for a search through YouTube to find out everything you can about the basics of audio compression. After a while, it’ll become second nature, and you’ll learn as you start to experiment with your recordings.
The purpose of mixing is to bring out the best parts of your audio and to complement the main vocal track. You can do this by layering tracks, adjusting the levels, and bringing in audio effects at the right time. When you’re starting out, keep the audio effects simple until you begin to learn what works with your type of music.
There are five main types of audio effects that you can add to your music to manipulate the sound.
- Dynamic effects are compression and distortion of your audio.
- Modulation effects include the chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo.
- Filters are another way of distorting the sound of your audio.
- Time-based effects, such as delay, echo, and reverb.
- Spectral effects, including EQ and planning.
Audio Equalization (EQ)
Equalization or EQ is a common form of audio processing. It allows you to adjust the volume and range of the frequency within the sound, allowing you to cure it to remove imperfections for your song. You can cut out pieces from your music that you don’t want while boosting others. There are dozens of different types of EQ for you to utilize. Whatever software you use, there are usually six different types of frequencies that you can work on.
You want to focus on improving your audio EQ skills to remove unwanted frequencies from your audio without making your sound appear too artificial. You can also use your EQ as a way of cleaning up the low and high end of your music.
One thing to consider when you’re doing audio equalization is that you can go too far with it. Don’t forget to consider the bigger picture and know when to stop. If you’re a perfectionist, you could easily do too much work on your audio and make it appear artificial.
We hope this article shows you that it is possible to create high-quality and professional music from an amateur studio at home. As an independent artist, you don’t have to go to a mainstream studio to produce your music. If thousands of other people can do it, so can you! You can use the tips and tricks in this article to help get you standard.
With a bit of practice and patience, you’ll start to streamline your production process and be producing hit songs in no time.