This article is a continuation of the article Recording Music at Home.
Setting up your studio is just as important as having the right equipment. Failure to create a controlled environment will result in poor quality recordings and poor quality recordings can never be polished professional perfection. The way you set up your recording space will determine the quality of your results.
To create a controlled environment, you need to capture your audio with as little echo and reverb as possible to maximize your options when it comes to mixing. You or your engineer will be able to shape the recording into what you imagined rather than having to make the best of a bad job.
The first step is to choose a room that isn’t overly echoed. Avoid rooms with very high ceilings and little soft furnishings as well as rooms that are all tiled or all wood. It is important to avoid recording in rooms with parallel walls as this also creates echoes.
You need a room that is a dead space; fortunately you can very easily adapt a room so it produces minimal reverb. There are expensive soundproofing foam rolls or panels you can buy, but to be honest a thick blanket will work just as well. Rugs on the floor, curtains over the window and blankets over the door will help to deaden the room. When faced with parallel walls cover one with a thick blanket.
There are many things you can do to create a recording paradise. I’ve recorded in closets before. I hung blankets over doors and crammed pillows under the door to seal out the background noise. If you have the means and permission to sound proof then go ahead, but know that there are cheaper alternatives that prove just as affective.
Distance yourself from your laptop
Due to the size of the DAW and the project you are creating; your poor laptop has to process everything. As a result you may find that your microphone is picking up a low hum and may be present in your recording.
This might not seem like a big deal but any background noise will only be amplified when you compress the file tinker with the EQ. There is a simple way to counteract this hum: move your laptop as far away from your microphone as possible!
If necessary, purchase longer cables and position your laptop in a different room. You’ll find doing this will cut out that dull buzz in the background and leave your recording crisp and ready to mix.
Other recording tips:
– Use an External Hard drive. There is nothing more frustrating when your DAW quits suddenly because your computer can’t process the data fast enough.
Solution: Your project files are HUGE! So save all your work to an external hard drive and do not store them on your computer, this will literally give your hardworking laptop room to think.
– Save REGULARLY! This leads on from my previous point. Anyone been in this scenario? You’re 3 hours into editing vocals and having pressed “\” more times than you care to remember the software quits suddenly. It’s amazing how easy it is to press Ctrl+S and how devastating it is when you realize you’ve forgotten. Get into a habit of regularly saving.
– Back up REGULARLY! Back up once a week and replace your updated project. If anything goes horribly wrong, you know you have a copy backed up to refer to.
The technology is out there to assist self-producing artists and songwriters. The skies the limit! However as artists we often recoil at the thought of getting our hands dirty. I know I used to hide behind the label of “artist” and be fearful of utilizing the options available to me.
This is a detrimental attitude and will only limit your creativity. In the end it was only when there was no one available to help me to develop my ideas, that I had no choice but to learn for myself. It has taken time and effort to learn the new software; and has been completely worth it.
Part of recording music at home is the long hours in isolation; staring at the same chorus over and over. There is the danger of becoming a musical hermit surrounded by Red Bull cans.
Get out there every now and then! Meet up with friends and experience life. Collaborate, share, travel and be adventurous! It will not only help you keep perspective but your music will benefit tremendously.
Well done for taking the plunge! Build those tracks day in day out; layer by layer, piece by piece. Keep creating and striving to be better at your craft. Don’t be afraid to seek out the advice of those you look up to and build relationships with your fellow songwriters.
–Heidi Fisher is a British songwriter, session musician, and music blogger based San Francisco. Heidi composes for the singer-songwriter/pop genre and specializes in emotive ballads and passionate upbeat melodies.
She also writes for “Sing for your Supper” a music blog which delves into all things musical. From interviews with up and coming artists, new music reviews & festival coverage as well as songwriting and home recording tips for aspiring songwriters and producers.