The new Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 is an excellent preamp for mobile tracking, and other affordable, easily portable models from Apogee, ART , M-Audio, PreSonus, and others are great choices, as well.
If your DAW is a laptop, then
you're basically a mobile recording unit.
Yeah, you may have set up a nice desk
with a rack of gear and your favorite monitors
and all, but that’s no reason to chain
yourself to one area of your home. Even
those lucky enough to work in large commercial
studios with finely tuned recording
rooms sometimes seek out hallways,
bathrooms, and storage areas to document
strange and seductive sounds. Likewise,
your home has some fabulous sonic locations
to explore. But you have to get off
your butt (literally) to find them.
You already have your laptop DAW, so
all you need are a few items to mobilize
yourself—stuff you may already have. A
portable mic preamp is essential. I typically
use only a small, two-channel model,
but you may need up to eight channels if
you’re going for drums, or recording multiple
instruments simultaneously. The
other items are closed headphones (to
give you some isolation from the instruments
you’re tracking), mic cables, and
the appropriate mic stands (boom, mini,
and/or straight). Cartage-wise, that’s no
more than three trips from your “fixed”
studio to wherever you roam in your
home, so don’t be lazy!
These days, experienced home recordists
know how to capture conventionally
“good” sounds in their abode. But
conservative and predictable sounds are
not the goal here. You are on a quest to
find unique environments that can really
make a track stand out. Bathrooms are
good starts, due to the hard surfaces and
chances for interesting reflections off mirrors,
porcelain, and tile. But don’t ignore
the kitchen, hallway, staircases, and even
closets. Bring your recording gear, position
the mic all over these areas, pop on
your headphones, and sing or clap your
hands (or have a friend strum a guitar)
until you find environments that produce
As fun as it can be to blindly discover coolsounding
areas in your home, you may be
more productive if you know what type of
environment will best enhance the parts
you’re about to record. For example, dry
areas (such as living rooms with cushy chairs
and couches, drapes, and carpeting) can
produce rather dead, mid ’70s-style sounds
that can be perfect for retro percussion (schwack!)
and organic, un-hyped guitar parts.
Want natural reverb and/or slap echoes?
Go for that reflective bathroom. Looking
for expansive midrange frequencies with
some ambience for a guitar solo? Try a long
hallway with a wood floor and bare walls.
The possibilities are near endless if you’re
willing to experiment.
There’s no sense leaving the nurturing
womb of your dedicated recording space
unless you intend to shake things up.
And while it’s hardly an enormous trek
to walk from, say, your bedroom to the
garage to seek wacky ambiences, some
home engineers/producers are loath to
risk the unknown. So let those scaredy
cats be ever conventional, while you wow
listeners by crafting tracks with extraordinary
and ear-catching sonics. Go!
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