THANKS TO CURRENT HOME-RECORDING technology, all musicians
can aspire to emulate the great
studios of the past and present.
But be warned. Access to powerful
DAWs, a desire to crush the
doddering tenets of the recording
business, and an audience supportive
of artists taking charge of their
releases don’t guarantee stunning
And yet, hard work, research,
experimentation, and experience
can pay off big time within your
personal creative bubble. Put in
the time, and you may be amazed
at how wonderful your home-studio
productions can sound. Here
are ten snippets of advice to start
you on your way.
1 Egg cartons may be retro cool,
but they’re not effective for diminishing
annoying slap echoes
and other sonic aberrations. If
your studio space is bedeviled with
weird reflections, invest in some
audio-grade absorptive foam. As
a bonus, most companies making
these products offer free advice for
transforming bad-sounding rooms
into places where you can make
2 Dedicate a computer solely
to recording. Sharing computing
firepower with photo
libraries, spreadsheets, videos,
and other personal doodads can
make your recording software act
wonky. If you’re going to get serious
about recording, you should
make sure your DAW is running at
3 Use your entire space—not
just the room in which you’ve
set up your DAW. Interesting
miking opportunities can be found
in closets, bathrooms, kitchens,
stairwells, and garages. Don’t be
timid about positioning microphones
in strange places—many
noted engineers and producers
have done it.
4 Savvy panning can often clarify
elements more naturally than
cranking EQ. Don’t be afraid
to drop something exclusively into
just one speaker if it helps the part
bust out of the mix.
5 Accurate monitoring is essential,
so purchase nearfield studio
monitors (not computer or
stereo speakers) that deliver relatively
un hyped, transparent sound.
Position them in an equilateral triangle
of three feet apart (the bottom
of the “pyramid”), and three feet
from your ears (the top). This upclose-
helps diminish any gremlins your
room imposes upon the listening
space, which can cause you to
hear an inaccurate reference of
what you’re recording and mixing.
6 Headphones can be lifesavers
if studio monitors are not
practical (cranky roommates,
late-night recording, sleeping kiddies,
etc.). But avoid hyped-up, consumer
fashion models that pump
up certain frequencies, and go for
studio-quality phones that provide
a flat, accurate representation of
the sounds you are tracking.
7 Make sure you have a good
dynamic and a good condenser
on hand. Two mic
choices will allow you to consider
the best one for a particular application.
If you have the bucks, go for
two matched condensers to handle
8 Go easy on the reverb levels.
Nothing screams “amateur” like
a track flooded in ambience.
9 Compare your tracks to your
favorite CDs to see how
your frequency spectrum
stands up to established masterworks.
If your low end, high end,
or mids are found lacking or too
extreme, adjust the EQ until your
tracks sound closer to the reference
10 Making the best recordings
should be your goal—
not being a know-it-all.
If you suck at mixing, arranging,
tracking, and/or any other essential
audio-production task, find
someone who can do the job really
well. Your ego will still be pissed
at you, but at least your recordings
won’t suffer when you insist
on doing something you’re not yet
that skilled at.