"Put together a home recording studio? How can I afford that?"

Well, even when times are hard, you can record yourself for very little money. I’ll describe a few home-studio setups at various price points. You may be surprised how little it costs to get started recording.


First, be sure to read library books and online web pages on recording techniques, or purchase some good recording books and magazines. They will help you get the best sound possible. Also consider paying a local engineer for advice. Read equipment manuals and write cheat sheets that concisely tell how to do various operations step-by-step.


Now you need a studio. Look for a quiet, acoustically dead room in your home, the larger the better. Hang some comforters or sleeping bags behind you. Maybe attach some convoluted foam mattresses to the walls (make sure they are fireproofed). Also nail a 3-foot square patch of foam onto the ceiling above you and your mic. 


If no room in your home is usable, consider recording in a venue where you play or at a friend’s house. Turn off the furnace or air conditioning only when you record. Mike close and record direct if possible to reduce any recorded background noise.


Now let’s consider budget recording equipment.


Portable Stereo Recorder System (about $370)


This is the easiest way to record. It’s also the cheapest way if you don’t have a computer.


Gear examples:

Zoom H2 recorder with built-in mics ($200). 

Flash memory card ($35). 

Mic stand with a boom ($35). 

Headphones ($50-$100).


To record a singer-songwriter demo: Mount the recorder on a mic stand about 8-12 inches from you. If you’re playing guitar, move the recorder up or down to get a good balance between voice and guitar on playback.


If you’re playing acoustic piano, mount the recorder about 6-18 inches in front of your mouth. Aim the left mic at you and aim the right mic at the piano. Move the mic toward or away from you until you hear a good balance between voice and piano on playback.


To record a band demo: If your recorder has omnidirectional mics which pick up in all directions, arrange the band in a circle around the recorder. Mount the recorder on a stand at chin height. If the recorder has cardioid mics that pick up mainly in front, put the band instruments in a half-circle in front of the recorder. The instruments should be as close as possible to the recorder. Move instruments and vocals toward and away from the recorder until you hear a good balance on playback.


What do you give up at this price point? You can’t overdub more parts, add effects or mix tracks after the recording is done, so what you record is the finished product. The sound quality depends on the recorder’s mics and your room acoustics. However, you can copy the recording file to your computer, open it in recording software, then add EQ and slight reverb if you wish. I’d call this method "demo quality" rather than "album quality".



For more info on recording including books by Bruce Bartlett ("Practical Recording Techniques 5th Edition" and "Recording Music On Location") as well Mastering Services, please stop by Bruce’s website: Bartlett Recording


Originally posted 2009-03-01 22:08:00.