Carl Verheyen's Home Studio Tips

Last year, I d id something I vowed I’d never do: I put in a dreaded home studio.
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Last year, I d id something I vowed I’d never do: I put in a dreaded home studio. Changing times have dragged me kicking and screaming into the home studio-business—something I’ve resisted for many years. Living in Los Angeles, I’ve been spoiled with the good fortune of recording in some of the finest temples of tone in the country. Who wouldn’t want to make their records at Sunset Sound, Studio 2 where Van Halen did their first record, or Studio 1 where parts of Led Zeppelin IV and Exile on Main Street were tracked? The mic selection alone at Village Recorders or Capitol Records (where the reverb chamber was designed by Les Paul) is enough to make you pony up the day rate.

The writing was on the wall when the composer for the hit TV show Lost began sending over his engineer to do a “field recording” of me playing acoustic instruments. Rather than having me sit through 20 tacet sheets to play five cues at the orchestra session, they would simply cart a laptop, a hard drive, and a mic to my house, and I’d knock it out in 45 minutes. No big studio—yet it sounded fine on TV.

Over the years, I’ve received dozens of emails from guitarists after they’ve read an interview with me, or my engineer. They’d ask, “I use the same guitar as you, the same amp as you, and the same mic as you, so why doesn’t my record sound like yours?” My answer was always the same: I don’t record in my bedroom.

For many guitar tones, it’s not only the mic—it’s the room. And that’s one reason why I wanted nothing to do with recording in an un-tuned environment. Manipulating sound in a physical space is much more unique and rewarding than playing with software in the computer—just listen to Daniel Lanois. The other reason I wanted nothing to do with home recording is the intense learning curve. I’m a solo artist/performer with the need to maintain a high level of chops on my instrument, so a lot of practice time is important to me. I don’t want to spend it reading manuals. I prefer to hire an engineer so I can concentrate on the music—and preferably I can get a guy who has put in as many hours miking an acoustic or electric guitar as I have learning to play it.

So after installing Pro Tools 11 and the Avid HD Omni and Native Instruments interfaces I called that engineer. We began work on a solo-acoustic project I’ve been meaning to do since I recorded Solo Guitar Improvisations back in 2001 (shameless plug—this new CD is called Alone: Solo Guitar Improvisations, Vol. 2). To my surprise, my little studio room sounds good! I’ve learned just enough of the software to slap little demos together and record vocals, and I’m beginning to wonder: What took me so long? This is cool!

Carl Verheyen is a crtically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, producer, clinician, educator, and tone master with 12 CDs, two live DVDs, and two books released worldwide.