The Essentials For a Home Studio

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Tom Newman

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Nathaniel (Fox) Prewitt

When people think of a music studio the majority think of a massive building in Los Angeles or Nashville. But you don’t need to go to one of those studios to make your music, you can make a home studio in your bedroom with just a couple hundred dollars. There are a few key things that are essential to creating a home studio. This article will explain the top ten essentials for a home studio and our recommendations to purchase for yourself.

Computer

The first and most important item on this list is a computer, you won’t be able to use anything else on this list without one of these. Computers have come a long way in the past decade, you don’t need the most powerful and newest computer to record beats; most likely the couple-year-old laptop will work fine. In recent years studio professionals have turned mainly to the Macbook Pro for their studio needs, with the M1 chip it’s a great selection for their needs.

Audio Interface

Next, you need something to help record your voice or instruments, that would be an audio interface. Audio interfaces come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes and it can be pretty confusing when purchasing one. The audio interface allows you to plug in all of your mics and instruments and plug into the computer through USB type A, firewire, or thunderbolt. The interface also allows you to plug in your monitors and headphones. There are two different types of audio interfaces on the market, desktop interfaces, and rack-mounted interfaces. The Majority of professional studios use rack-mounted interfaces but for a basic home studio, I recommend purchasing a desktop interface. For a beginner audio interface, the Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) is a great choice. You can plug in one XLR cable, a pair of monitors, and headphones, the Scarlett Solo comes in at $120 on Amazon.

Digital Audio Workstation

Buying all this stuff will be useless if you don’t get yourself a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation. There is a lot of great software that is expensive but if you are just starting, there are a lot of free options for Windows and macOS. If you already have a computer with macOS it comes with a free DAW, GarageBand. A great option for Windows and macOS is Ableton Live Lite, Ableton Live is one of the most popular DAWs out there and their lite version can be bundled with some of the essentials on this list. Working with the free version of Ableton Live means that you can upgrade into Ableton Live and know your way around the software.

Microphone

After picking out your DAW you need a microphone to record your voice or instruments. Buying a microphone can be one of the most complicated essentials for a home studio. There are a lot of different types of microphones out there like Large Diaphragm Condensers, Small Diaphragm condensers, Dynamic, and USB Microphones. When looking for a microphone like this it can get pretty complicated, first, you need to look for an XLR microphone that can connect to your audio interface, USB microphones are great for a virtual meeting but not for recording music. Large Diaphragm microphones are mostly used for instrument solos or singing while small diaphragm microphones are better at producing a detailed sound image. Dynamic microphones are rarely seen in studios, they are mostly used for live sessions like at a concert. Typically when buying your first studio microphone you want to go with a large-diaphragm microphone because it can be used in the most ways to kickstart your music career. A great beginner microphone to start with is MXL 770 for $75 on Amazon.

Cables/Mic Stand

There are going to be two accessories that you are going to need to buy with your microphone, a male to female XLR cable and Mic stand. Buying an XLR cable is pretty simple, you can buy a male-to-female XLR cable on Amazon for less than $10. A Microphone stand is bought based on your needs. If you are singing you want a tall stand but if you are wanting to record an instrument you need to purchase a smaller stand. Make sure to research and pick the stand that fits your needs, a basic microphone stand will cost you around $30.

MIDI Controller

A key essential to a home studio is a MIDI keyboard, it can help elevate your music to the next level. Having a MIDI keyboard or controller allows you to play thousands of different instruments in your songs and create your beats without having to buy expensive equipment. MIDI controllers can come in a lot of different sizes but for a beginner, a smaller one is usually better. When purchasing a MIDI controller there are a few things that you need to look out for, what DAW that the keyboards are compatible with and what DAW Software is bundled with the controller. A great beginner MIDI keyboard is the Arturia MiniLab MkII for $110, it has a well-built chassis and comes with a 25 key keyboard, 8 drum pads, and 16 multi-function Encoders. The MiniLab also comes with Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Lite, and Grand Piano Model D.

 

Headphones and Monitors

None of these things matter if you can’t hear the music you are creating, it’s a good idea to invest in a nice pair of headphones and studio monitors that are accurate before you begin creating your music. When selecting a pair of headphones there are a few different kinds of headphones open-back headphones, closed-back headphones, and semi-open headphones with each one having its purpose. Closed-back headphones are meant to isolate the sound it’s producing while open-back headphones are meant to allow sound in and out giving the sound a more natural sound. Semi-open is the best of both worlds letting a little bit of the natural airy sound while also isolating the sound. For your first pair of headphones, I recommend getting closed-back headphones so you have a better time recording and monitoring your music. Another important part of listening to your music is hearing it from a different perspective than your headphones, that’s when a good pair of studio monitors come in handy. Studio monitors give out a more flat frequency response that is necessary for referencing your recording. There are two different types of monitors. Near-field monitors and Far-field monitors, near-field monitors are meant to be placed around 3.5 feet away from your mixing chair. Far-field monitors are meant to be placed behind your console. To begin with, you generally want to begin with smaller monitors, around 6 inches. If you go smaller than 6 inches it usually has a harder time producing the lower bass frequencies. A good pair of beginner monitors are the Yamaha HS5 which comes at $200 on Amazon.

Miscellaneous

Lastly, there are miscellaneous goods because this is based on your needs in your environment. One key example of miscellaneous goods can be acoustic treatment, some rooms are great for recording while others are horrible and bounce sound around into key spots like corners. Other miscellaneous gear can be something like a desk or chair so you have a proper station to mix and create your music. When creating your home studio you need to be prepared to fix some problems that come with having a studio in your home.

Conclusion

With these 10 essential items, you will be able to create your home studio where you can record and mix your music. This is the most basic of a home studio and if you want to seriously invest in your music-making career you will need to spend more money on better equipment and software. Converting your room into a home studio can be a difficult challenge but with these 10 items, it can be made possible at a cheaper price than recording at a professional studio.