Everybody knows that the recording conditions in a home studio aren’t usually as good as professional studio recordings. You simply don’t have as many possibilities as a full equipped studio does. But here are some tips to bring your own home studio as close to a professional one as possible.
A must for a good home studio is that you never stop trying things. It might take some time until you have found the best way of recording, producing and, of couse, playing your music, but it will be worth it. Experimenting is the only way to improve your skills and to get the best out of your equipment.
Try not to rush things and have plenty of patience.
Make sure your instrument is in good shape. No matter if you sing, play guitar or drums, it`s important to prepare it before the recording to get the best out of it.
You play the guitar? Change your strings!
You play the drums? Change your drum heads!
You are a singer? Be gentle to your voice a few days before your recording. Wear a scarf, drink tea and don`t smoke. Also, prepare your voice right before you want to sing. Do some vocal exercises and, as funny as it may seem, eat potato chips! They help your voice to get a better tune.
Now the recording itself.
If you need a very calm voice for your song, let’s say a ballad, let the vocalist lie down on his/her back and hold the microphone right above their mouth. This helps the vocalist to relax and gives him/her more head space.
You can also adjust the room to your song. With light for example. You’re playing a ballad – light a candle. You’re playing a rock song – turn all the lights in the room on. It helps you to get the feeling of the song.
Depending on the conditions in your room, your instruments can sound completely different. Is your room wooden, do you have a carpet on the floor or a lot of windows? All this can change the way your song sounds. That`s why you have to move around in your room with your instrument and find the place with the best sound.
If your room doesn’t offer the best conditions and creates an echo when you’re recording, make use of your blankets, sleeping bags or cushions. Put them up to a kind of wall or tent and put the microphone in it. Also, if you have the cash, be sure to buy some good cables, it’s money well spent.
Try to get someone who knows how to check your recording studio space for ‘standing waves’ and any other soundwaves that can spoil your recording or mix sessions – use empty egg cartons (not plastic ones) to eliminate waves by ‘dampening’ the room.
If the low end or the highs aren’t the way you want them to be, don’t change anything on your EQ immediately. Try to adjust the settings on your instrument or amp first. Another mic can also make a difference.
You will need different frequencies for your recordings. Use filters to focus your instrument on higher or lower frequencies. The filters also help you to cut out unwanted noises like an air conditioner.
It’s a good thing to have good equipment, but don’t use too many devices at the same time. It might not do any good to your music. Again, experimenting is the key. Try using different devices to find out how to get the best sound.
Another way of getting different tones out of the same equipment is to adjust the gain on your preamp. Using a microphone for example, you won’t need a pad if you’re recording something that’s supposed to sound natural. But now, to change the tone, you can push the preamp. Using the pad cranking the gain on the preamp will make a big change. This might also mean that you have to move all your devices, including the musician.
Play your recording/mix through small speakers to try and gauge what the sound will be like when played on the radio.
You see, everthing comes down to experimenting.
It is also important to try different placements and angles for your microphone. Turning it up toward a 45º angle will fade down unwanted hissings.
Angling your amp will do a huge difference to the sound as well. Adjust it to the conditions in your room (especially the floor) and to the music you`re playing. Put it off the floor in case the low end is sucked by the floor or increased because of vibrations.
Listen carefully and critically to your own work to see where you can make improvements.
BUT do NOT listen to your music over-loudly, especially when using headphones. Remember, your ears are the most important bit of ‘kit’ you have and they are NOT replacable.
It is also helpful to read magazines like SOS that inform you of recording techniques and tricks to give you a more professional sound.
And most important, don’t lose your fun doing your music!