The tools you’ll need (cont.)
I’m going to get straight into this by telling you to download “Reaper“, which is a very awesome, very affordable DAW that operates very similarly to industry standard DAWs such as Pro Tools, although don’t take this out of context as full HD versions of Pro Tools have capabilities far beyond Reaper, for what we’re doing Reaper is more than enough for most musicians to get their feet wet with home recording. This software will give you a good amount of tracks and capabilities for a very good price of 60 USD for an individual personal use license, AFTER you use the awesome 60 day trial, which is plenty enough reason to at least try the software first.
To address the concern of what we refer to as “monitoring“, which is how you listen to the music you’ve recorded, we’re going to still assume we’re working on a tight budget and in all honesty you probably have a decent pair of headphones that will do the trick for now. I’m sure some people just hopped out of their chair but let’s be realistic, you’re just getting into recording, for all purposes, you’re learning, there’s no need to stress an extra, very expensive aspect of an at home recording studio before you’re even recording, so take everything one step at a time and let’s get the necessities down first. That being said, after years of recording and owning expensive monitors and other equipment I still use my 20 dollar headphones, because I can hear small dynamics I don’t hear on my studio monitors more audibly and because ultimately, your mix has to sound good across all platforms, and if you can get a decent mix in a decent pair of headphones that’s a good start. You can spend hours tweaking a mix that sounds great on your monitors that might not always translate well on other speakers like headphones or your car speakers, but most of the time, if it sounds decent on a reliable(not cheapest of the cheap) pair of headphones, it should suffice.
Alright, so if you’ve chosen to go with the suggested gear right so far your cart total is about 240 (USD) which puts you well under our 300 dollar budget! This may seem very bare and basic, but that’s exactly what it is, a very essential set up with the sole purpose of getting started. With the interface you’ll be able to plug in, launch the software, and begin recording. Although it’s very fair to mention you’ll want to have sorted out how you’ll be getting your guitar tone, if you haven’t by now, don’t fret, there’s plenty of freeware and other downloadable plug ins you can load into your DAW to produce awesome tones on a budget! Some worth mentioning are Positive Grid Bias, EZ Mix, and Guitar Rig to name a few, but if your budget allows here’s where we start expanding.
Before we go further though let’s discuss one more thing to put the cherry on top of our set up so far, the last main component we’ll be needing once we have the interface and DAW is some drum software, because this is very essential to most musicians’ writing and definitely helps the creative process. You’ll be able to hear the ideas how you want, if you already have drums in mind, or you’ll be able to write over drum patterns you already wrote. There will be a learning curve here as you’ll discover what MIDI editing is but that process is relatively simple and will come easy! If your budget allows it, I recommend Superior Drummer 2.0 which you can find here, http://www.zzounds.com/a–3858995/item–TNTSUPERIOR but you can also check out EZ Drummer which is a little more price friendly, available here http://www.zzounds.com/a–3858995/item–TNTEZDRUMMER2
Let’s get fancy
Now getting back on track to enhancing our set up with a bigger budget, as I mentioned, you will need some sort of software or hardware to produce your instrument tone either before you go into the interface or in your computer while you’re plugged in. The best solution you’re going to find (if your budget allows it) is an amp modeler, which typically has a USB interface with recording capabilities built right in, in addition to its ability to create seemingly endless possibilities of tones. My recommendation (again if your budget allows it) is the Line 6 Helix, as it takes strong jabs at more expensive modeling equipment and holds it’s own with purpose and versatility. You can check out the Line 6 Helix here http://www.zzounds.com/a–3858995/item–LINHELIXFB
Moving forward, keeping your personal budget in mind, now we can get some decent monitors in our studio to audition out loud! Bear in mind though, real studios and recording institutions are DESIGNED with the acoustics of the room in mind, so even with nicer monitors, you monitoring at home will sound different, and get a different response as opposed to recording or rather monitoring in a “real” studio. Yes even the way your room and objects in it are set up will affect what you hear, which is why you probably see a type of foam padding in small studios, which is actually called “acoustic treatment“. I’ve included this information because it’s very important to understand that just having the basic equipment is not enough for truly professional production, so don’t get discouraged if you finally get some nice monitors and you’re still lacking or missing in certain aspects; studios are designed with thousands of dollars of funding so do not expect nor beat yourself up if your production isn’t quite there yet!
So now that I’ve provided a little bit of information let’s actually talk about monitors. Keep in mind this article is titled, “Getting Started” so don’t expect to see high end references or unique product specific information, because really, any decent monitor can suffice in the beginning, but it’s important to know which monitors will work with your set up! So to start, let’s cover the monitors I use! KRK Rokit 5 monitors! Oh yes. These are active(powered) speakers that have 1/4″ and XLR inputs so that I can use either XLR tipped speaker cables or 1/4″ jack tipped speaker cables! Being that these monitors are powered I can leave them on or turn them off without messing with my computer or audio set up at all, which is very nice for when you want to record through headphones late at night without having sound come from the speakers, with USB powered monitors they power on when your computer turns on and with Passive monitors they are on as long as the equipment powering them is on. You can find the KRK Rokits through the following link http://www.zzounds.com/a–3858995/item–KRKRP5G3 So as I’ve mentioned, right now it’s more important to discuss WHAT monitors you should be using at this point rather than WHY, and that in itself will be dictated by what interface you’ve decided to use, so best bet assuming you’re using the Scarlett interface recommended earlier, is to stick with something simple like the KRK Rokit 5 active speakers or any monitors around that price range that aren’t riddled with terrible reviews online.
Time to begin your journey!
Now that we’ve covered a decent amount of material let’s take a moment to reflect and focus, our objective here is to get started recording at home, not to go all out and worry about anything other than the essentials. Now that it’s in your head about, the interface, Digital Audio Workstation, and other software you may need let me say it again, congratulations on your decision to get involved in the recording aspect of music! Remember, this is just the beginning so don’t rush yourself, take your time, have fun, but above all focus on the objective that is writing and recording music, because that is all that matters. You may find yourself eventually wanting “better” or just different software that’s out there, but don’t ever stop writing and don’t let the lack of that software or hardware you want hold you back. Always do the most with what you have and don’t focus on what you don’t have, if it’s important and you feel you “need” it, you’ll get it, but don’t go gear crazy and go on the tangent most of us go on, “okay well now I need more plugins, now I need more hardware, now I need better software, etc.” This is a very easy trap to fall into when you’ve made your first steps but stay focused and keep your mind on the whole point of it all: writing music!
I hope this article helped to prepare you for the awesome experience of at home recording and I hope you join us next time as we go further into detail and discuss more about at home recording! Thank you for reading, now go show your gear some love!
Until next time fellow Gear Snobs!