If your band has a practice space, this is a viable option, as long as the walls are either well soundproofed or you can access the space when there are no other bands around. If you are going to use your home, you’ll want to consider a space where external noise, such as police sirens or car alarms, is not going to be heard in the room while you record.
If you have a basement or room that you can dedicate to recording, it might be worth soundproofing it for recording. A quick search on the Internet will reveal many companies offering soundproofing material on the cheap, so you can soundproof either the entire room or just part of it. One option that has stood the test of time is using old carpeting materials on the walls.
The best option for soundproofing, if you can afford it, is to build a “room within a room.” Essentially, by building a second wall and ceiling and lining the space with some type of foam, you deaden the acoustics and create the ideal recording arena.
The other upside to creating a soundproof room is that you can save money on practice space for your band!
Now that you’ve figured out where to do the recording, tomorrow we’ll look at the equipment involved
You’ve decided to make the investment in a digital audio workstation (DAW) to record your band or solo projects. There are a variety of hardware requirements for a properly setup DAW, so let’s look at what you need.
First, you’ll want a good computer. Most of the current generation of computers can be used for project and home studios, but if your computer is older, you might want to consider upgrading it.
Having lots of RAM, preferably 3 GB or more, definitely eases the recording process and makes it less likely that your system will crash halfway through recording a track. Nothing sucks more than having the computer go down when the band is in a groove and playing at their best.
Once you are sure your computer is up to the task, decide on the software package. To some extent, this decision will be made by the type of computer you have, what type of recording you want to do, and, to a lesser extent how many tracks you want to be able to record.
Pro Tools by Digidesign is the industry standard, and they offer an LE version that still lets you record up to 32 tracks. If you have a Mac, Pro Tools is definitely the way to go; if you have Windows, the situation is a little more complicated.
One problem with Pro Tools is that the system is hardware-based. Though some companies have started to license their hardware on Pro Tools, the options are still limited. If you don’t have a soundcard or mixing console already, this is fine, since when you buy the hardware you get Pro Tools with it. However, the hardware for most applications is moderately expensive if you want more than just two tracks.
If you already have a sound card of some sort, or are not wedded to the idea of Pro Tools, many companies offer excellent DAW software. Some of the most popular include Cockos Reaper (its free), Cakewalk Sonar, Steinberg Cubase, Ableton Live, Sony Sound Forge, and RML Labs SAW.
Before buying DAW software, do some research and consider your needs. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. If you think you’re going to want a lot of virtual instruments for instance, getting a software package that has few plug-ins is going to limit you.
Next, you need to get a soundcard for recording. Soundcards can either be internal or external. If you already own a mixing console and it has a digital output, all you need is a soundcard that will take a S/PDIF, AES, or Toslink digital connection.
There are a variety of options for external soundcards that will connect via Firewire or USB to your computer. Which interface you use is a personal choice, though there is some evidence that Firewire is faster. Some companies, such as Roland, make small mixing consoles that also function as an external soundcard, such as the M-16DX, a 16-channel portable mixing console.
Your choice of soundcard will obviously be affected by your budget. While having more channels is nice, particularly for the ability to record multiple instruments in one take to get a “live” feel, you can create excellent sounding recordings by recording instruments separately and mixing later.
The last thing you will need for a DAW setup is a pair of powered near-field monitors. Once again, you can find a variety of affordable, high quality monitors from companies like M-Audio, Alesis, Behringer, KRK, JBL and Yamaha. Even Genelec is offering affordable monitors these days.
You can also get a pair of professional headphones from companies like AKG, Audio-Tecnica and Sennheiser. You can find excellent headphones for a lot less money than near-field monitors, though headphones can be more fatiguing to listen to. In addition, if you are trying to create a CD, instead of simply a demo recording, being able to hear the music through a pair of speakers is critical to the mastering process.
Next we are going to talk about Preparing to Record (Preproduction).
BY THE WAY… if you find that any of this isn’t going deep enough down the rabbit hole for you, you need to visit my buddy Joe Gilder’s Home Studio Corner. He goes deep and when he’s finished with you, you will be a pro – not kidding (tell him Corey at Musicgoat said hi).