How to Set Up a Home Recording StudioDec 29, 2022
If you're a recording artist without a recording setup, you're like a guitar player without a guitar.
Recording setups are now essential for vocalists in the music business, but gone are the days where you need to go to college to learn how to record. I’ve put together a free workshop to show you in one day how to record a song BEFORE you buy a thing. That’s right, we record a song using only free resources and our laptops. I recommend giving that a try first, and then making your home studio equipment purchases after!
Your budget may vary, and there is always an achievable type of setup for you. Decent bundles on Guitar Center or Sweetwater Sounds can start around $333. Yea, it does take a little time and money to get started, but the investment your making will pay dividends!
I’ll send you a free copy of my detailed Recording Studio Buying Guide with my product recommendations and their prices all in one neat PDF when you sign up for my free Learn to Record Challenge. Learn more about that over here.
Here’s that list of equipment for your home recording studio:
If you’re getting just started, it’s totally fair to start with a lower budget home recording studio. But if you were to spend a little more money on only one of the items, I’d recommend you make it the microphone. Although there are mics under $99, a condenser mic like the Blue Bluebird around $300 will work great for professional singers.
When it comes to audio and video software, Mac computers reign supreme. You can certainly make it work on a Windows computer, but the music industry agrees Mac is the way to go. I’ve run Pro Tools on a MacBook Pro successfully for years!
Recording Software aka DAW
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and this is the recording software you will use. When deciding which software to use, consider what you’ll be doing with it. Vocalists and songwriters looking to record vocals, hands down I recommend Pro Tools. Avid Pro Tools is the best recording software for recording, editing, and mixing.
If you’re mainly going to be producing instrumentals, consider Ableton, especially for sound designing and electronic music. Logic is the second favorite of producers.
I do mostly vocal recording, but I also produce instrumentals, and I do it in Pro Tools.
Again, for vocal recording I recommend a condenser mic. One thing to keep in mind, condenser mics (only - so not dynamic or ribbon mics) require that you engage the Phantom Power 48v button on your interface in order for it to work. My current microphone for recording vocals is Manley Ref Cardioid. I recommend the Blue Bluebird over the Rhode NT1A. I had the NT1A and found it really warm - and I prefer more brightness with vocals, so I wasn’t a fan.
Your interface is the piece of equipment that allows you to plug in a mic and studio speakers into your computer. If you’re only recording singers, you might do fine with an interface that only has 1 microphone input. Consider if you may potentially have a situation where you want to use more than one microphone at a time, and decide if you’ll need an interface with more inputs.
Studio Headphones are for optimal recording. Yes, you can get away with any regular headphones, as long as they’re not bluetooth. However, studio headphones are designed to reduce sound from escaping and entering the microphone. This is called “closed back headphones.” You also want studio headphones because they have a “flat frequency response.” Many consumer headphones are designed to boost certain frequencies like bass to give you a fun listening experience. However, when the bass is boosted in headphones, you’re likely to turn the bass down in your recording mixes… it’s not a true mixing experience.
In the studio we call the speakers “monitors.” Like the studio headphones, recording studio monitors have a flat frequency response so when you mix your song, you’re hearing the truest flat range of frequencies. Without a flat frequency response, you might make your song sound good on the speakers in your studio, but the song won’t sound the same on other speakers.
Typically when you buy your studio speakers they come with power cables, but might not come with ¼ inch cables that connect your speakers to the interface. You’ll also likely need to buy a microphone cable, called an XLR cable. One more thing to consider is a ¼ inch adapter. Headphones you’re used to have an 1/8th inch plug, but interfaces headphone jacks are a ¼ inch. This is a little piece you simply stick on the end of your headphone jack to make it fit the interface.
For recording vocals, a pop filter is an absolute must! This is a round screen that goes in front of the microphone, and catches excessive air from consonants like “P” and “B” while you’re singing.
Honestly, a cheap mic stand is usually just fine! If you will most likely be leaving the mic setup in one place for a long time without moving it and re-adjusting it, a mic stand can last a very long time. What wears down a mic stand is when we adjust it a lot - so as a rule never force the mic stand to move without loosening it!
Your closet is your best friend starting out. Basically you’re just trying to dampen your sound where you’re recording to reduce any room echo/reverb from getting into the mic. The cloth of your clothes in the closet will absorb a lot of those unwanted reflections of sound. Acoustic panels are your next bet. Honestly, I don’t think acoustic foam does very much. It only absorbs high frequencies, and looks sorta cool I guess. Go for acoustic panels, or make your own with Owens Corning 703 and some fabric!
Bundles for your Budget
Head to your favorite pro audio store online and search, “recording bundle.” There’s always a new bundle and you can save a lot of money by buying their pre-selecting bundles of gear.
The Budget Studio
Here is a recording setup I’ve put together for $333! If you’re just learning to record vocals, this might be the way to go! Assuming you have a computer, and can download Pro Tools Intro (the free version of Pro Tools), skip the studio speakers and just mix in headphones, we get this:
Sterling Audio SP150 $99 https://bit.ly/3KFiJvp
Pro Co Mic Cable $23 https://bit.ly/3i6WT7Q
M-Audio Solo $49 https://bit.ly/36cCv2v
Sennheiser HD 280 $99 https://bit.ly/3I7MOCc
Pro-line Standing $38 https://bit.ly/35OONyr
Gator Pop Filter $25 https://bit.ly/37tHfBB
[Skip the monitors for now, just mix in headphones]
Save even more if you want to start with your own headphones.
If you want to truly try it before you buy it, check out my free Learn to Record Vocals Challenge. It’s a fun workshop where I show you step-by-step how to record vocals in the free version of Pro Tools, and we use special fx to make your vocals sound good even though you’re singing right into your computer’s microphone! I just want you to get the feel for the possibilities of recording before spending a dime. I bet I can prove to you that recording your own vocals from home is easier than you think!
Join to receive free invites to the SSP Live mastermind calls!
When you sign up, I'll also send you a free copy of the Master List of 35 Revenue Streams for Singers WITHOUT Having to Perform Live!