Another question I've often been asked is "What do you need for a Home Studio?" In this post I will list the 5 essential items that are the foundation of any home music studio.
Keep in mind that my focus here is to list the basic building blocks of equipment. Your budget will ultimately tell you how much money to spend and exactly what gear you should buy.
I will however, list my suggestions for affordable equipment that performs well in these 5 essential areas. I will also share why I feel each is a good option for the home music studio.
What do you need for a home studio to record? I've touched on this topic in a previous post here. There are two main types of recorders. One being a stand-alone unit. The other involves the use of recording software and a computer. This last type of recording is known as a DAW or digital audio workstation.
My personal preference is to go the DAW rout. In the end, using a computer to record will open up far more options than a stand-alone unit would. You can always upgrade your software to get more features as your experience, needs, and budget grows.
Also, many people who set out to build their own home music studio already have some type of computer to work with. The faster the computer the more tracks and effects you will be able to do at one time. That said, most relatively new computers can run recording software fairly well.
My number one pick for an affordable, yet powerful DAW is a program called Reaper (thanks JW for this tip). There are many other great options for recording on a computer, but Reaper is only $60.00. It also comes with a healthy amount of effect plug-ins. What Reaper provides is very hard to find for less than $60.00. You can download a fully functional demo and check it out for yourself here.
An Audio interface
The next piece of equipment you need when recording with a computer is an external audio interface. Most computers do have an internal sound card that will work to a limited degree. However, if you intend on recording more than one track and listening to them in real-time, as well as using a microphone or instrument, than you will need an external audio interface.
What this external interface provides is the physical mic/line inputs to plug your microphone or instrument into. It then takes that signal and converts it to a digital feed that your DAW then records.
What do you need for a home studio audio interface? There simply isn't one magic bullet here. There are many great audio interfaces available today that even come with DAW software. Again, your budget and needs will decide which one is best for you.
To help point in the right direction let me give you a few considerations and a few possible options. First, most audio interfaces have 1 of 2 ways to connect to your computer. Either by a USB port or a Firewire port. Though some other techy's may disagree with me here, now a days either port will work just as good. The question is, what free port does your computer have?
The next question you need to ask is "How many tracks or channels do I intent to record at one time?" Every external audio interface is going to allow you to record at least 2 tracks. You need to know if that is enough. If you only intend to record your voice and one instrument then 2 tracks at one time will probably work just fine.
Here are a few suggestions out of the many great audio interfaces available today. I've included the affiliate links to each so know that if you do purchase any of these, a portion of your sale will go back into Home Music Studio 1.
Get everything you need to compose, record, edit, and mix professional-quality music with the Pro Tools MP + Fast Track Pro studio bundle.
The FireStudio Project is a premium computer recording interface combining 8 Class A XMAX mic preamps, 24-bit/96kHz audio resolution, a zero-latency matrix DSP router/mixer, and Studio One Artist software.
This may seem obvious as we answer, "what do you need for a home studio?" However, choosing the right mic is a major factor in how much recording you can actually do. The reality is you need more than one mic for versatility but you do need to start somewhere.
The most popular option for a home studio recording mic is called a large diaphragm condenser. This type of microphone works great for voice overs, vocals, acoustic instruments, and even many guitar amps.
I won't spend too much time on this one as I've covered my suggestions for an affordable, quality Studio Condenser Mic here.
What do you need for a home studio monitoring setup? I have included 2 possible options here. Though one or the other would work, getting both a set of Studio Monitors and Studio headphones would be ideal. Yet having at least one is needed for a basic home music studio setup.
Let me first explain the difference between monitoring speakers/headphones and standard speakers/headphones. Speakers are designed to reproduce sound ranging from high to low frequencies. Part of how that sound is created comes from the cabinet design and the speaker itself.
Monitoring speakers/headphones are designed to reproduce these frequencies as evenly as possible by not boosting one range above another. Standard speakers are often designed to accent one frequency above another such as a bass boost. Although this may provide a better listening experience, it is not ideal for the home music studio.
If you mixed and equalized your tracks using a standard set of headphones or computer speakers, your final project may not be very accurate. It would most likely be mixed on the light side where your headphones/speakers boosted the frequency. In other words, a set of headphones with bass boost would cause you to hear more bass. You would most likely mix less bass guitar than is needed in your final project.
Below I have listed the studio monitor and headphones I personally use in my own home music studio.
Behringer makes TRUTH B2031A Reference Monitors to speak nothing but the TRUTH. When it comes to your studio recordings, you want honesty. In fact, considering how important your art is, you should demand it!
The Sennheiser HD280 PRO Closed-Back Headphones are circumaural headphones designed for professional monitoring applications. With up to 32dB external sound attenuation, it's perfect for use in noisy environments, at live shows, and by DJ mixers!
What do you need for a home studio in regards to a keyboard? The abbreviation MIDI, stands for musical instrument digital interface. It is essentially a way for your digital piano/keyboard to talk to your computer directly. Having a keyboard with MIDI can be a huge time saver when it comes to building drum, synth, sequencing, and keyboard tracks.
Most digital audio workstations have the advantage of using virtual instruments and sounds for recording. Now days these sounds can be extremely realistic and very difficult to distinguish from their real life counter parts. For instance, an entire drum part can be built without ever playing one single acoustic drum. All using a virtual instrument like Addictive Drums.
Your keyboard with MIDI "out" can be plugged into your DAW with a MIDI "in." Using this setup, when you play a note on your keyboard it actually triggers the sound on your computer. Those triggered sounds can then be recorded as digital data. This gives the option of changing the sound, tempo, and notes even after the original track has been recorded.
Using MIDI also allows you to build a track step by step without having to play it in real-time. This can be helpful if you are programming drums where looping the same pattern over again is needed. Having a MIDI controller will also give you a much faster and more effective way to program an entire sequencing track of virtual instruments.
Your MIDI enabled keyboard does not need to have great or even good sounds built into its memory banks. You're simply using it to trigger the internal sounds from your DAW's virtual instruments, sequencers, and other plug-ins.
Regarding what digital keyboard/MIDI controller you should buy, ask yourself what type of sounds you intend to be producing. You can build a lot of tracks using a very inexpensive keyboard with MIDI out. This purchase really comes down to personal preference.
I am a piano player and my personal preference is to have a keyboard with MIDI out that feels as close to a piano as I can find. For this reason I use a Korg SP170s 88-Key Digital Piano, Black It has full 88 weighted keys and a MIDI out.
You may find yourself not needing something full size or that has weighted keys. There are many other options. Here is great MIDI controller you may find a bit more affordable.
You'll love the way the M-Audio Keystation 61es USB MIDI Controller responds to your touch. 61-note USB keyboard with velocity-sensitive, semi-weighted keys and plug-and-play integration into any computer recording setup. Features pitch bend and modulation wheels, volume/control slider, and advanced-function button for programming sustain footpedal input.
So what do you need for a home studio? The 6 things I've listed will get you started. In my opinion, getting started is the key. Maybe you even have pieces of this equipment already? If so what else from this list do you need to add in order to have the basics?
My hope is that you've found this post to be helpful. What are your thoughts? Please add them to the comments section below.