Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Building Your Home Studio

In this day and age, it’s very common to find musicians with their own home studios. Equipment is more affordable, descriptions of recording techniques are available on the internet, and there is greater motivation to be able to capture a performance.

Home studios offer the ability to track with whomever you want, whenever you want. Someone halfway across the world can send you a session file and you can lay down the drum tracks at your convenience. This is actually the direction that lots of music production is moving in. Professional session drummers are establishing their own home studios in order to reduce travel and setup time with the added convenience of tracking on your own time without any pressure.

Having a home recording setup also allows you to record your practice sessions, which can be a valuable method for improvement. As a follow up to the "Why You Should Record Yourself" post, we wanted to cover the basics of necessary gear for recording.

Putting together your own home studio can be a bit overwhelming at first, due to the wide variety of equipment available as well as the learning curve associated with making your own recordings. Here are the essential items for making a recording in order of signal flow;

Microphone > Preamp > A/D Converter > Recording Device

Before we open up this “can of worms,” it should be made clear that this is a very basic overview of the items necessary for a home studio.

Starting at the end of the flow, the recording device is what will actually store the recorded performance. This could be a standalone recording device (Such as the Zoom Handy Recorders) or even a computer with the necessary recording software.

If you’re going the route of a standalone recorder, it will likely include a mic preamp (or several) as well as the A/D converter. When researching recording devices, you will want to consider the number of microphones/tracks that you plan on recording simultaneously. This will dictate the number of necessary preamps and help you narrow down the specific recording device.

If you decide to go the computer recording route, you must first make sure that you have a capable computer. At the absolutely minimum, a machine with combined processing power of 4GHz and 2GB of RAM. When it comes to recording, more processing power and RAM is always better.

There is a wide variety of software available for computer-based recording; Everything from Pro Tools to Logic to Digital Performer and much more. The best piece of software is what works best for your needs.

To get the signal from your microphone(s) to your computer, you’ll need an interface. This is similar to the standalone recording device except that it will send the digital signal to your computer via USB or Firewire.

When it comes to microphones, the sky is the limit. At minimum, I would recommend a matched pair of condenser microphones to use as overhead microphones. This will provide a generally accurate representation of the sound of your drums and cymbals. Close mics, often dynamic microphones such as the Shure SM57 and the Beta 52a, help to capture more of the character of individual drums on your kit. Over time, and as money permits, you can add more microphones to your recording setup.

It should be noted that there are a wide variety of variables including acoustics, microphone techniques and recording methods that make all the difference in the end quality of your recording.

Happy recording!


  1. Everything you've written with regards to recording and why drummers should record themselves is too true. I just recently started recording in my home - using two overhead condensers, an SM57, and a BETA mic along with a TASCAM 2488 neo - and I can tell you it is DEFINITELY an eye opener.

    Recording what you think is a "good take" and then listening reveals all of the flaws one can have in their playing very quickly. Recording my practice sessions has really helped me to know what I need to focus on when I pratice and to really listen to myself as I play.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Having your own home studio is a big MUST for any musician with a serious interest in creating some decent pieces of music. Imagine yourself waking up in the middle of the night, with a clear mind and inspiration bursting out of your head, but you lack the most vital thing: Access to your own sound recording facilities. And waiting until the next morning is not enough because your mind is empty of inspiration now and you have returned to dull routine.
    Absolutely, a home-based sound recording studio is your resort to unleash your creativity, exactly when you need to.