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Thread Setting up first home studio

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1 Setting up first home studio
For some time I have been wanting to set up a home studio, not so much for myself as for others. I want to record other bands and try to work my way into forming an independent label, but I want to start out small. Basically, I have a near unlimited budget (no, I'm not some rich kid that has mommy and daddy paying for everything, I plan on financing this along with 2 friends of mine and we all have jobs). The problem I am running into is, while we are all musically inclined people and fairly computer savvy, I don't really know what all I need to buy. Right now I have plans to buy a PowerMac G5 with ProTools, but aside from that, I don't know what mixers, burners, software, other hardware, etc is good. I know this is probably too general of a question and I will undoubtedly get flamed for asking something so stupid, but we all start somewhere, so any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
2
You're talking a pretty steep learning curve here, bro. Although I have been recording for years, all of the digital recording I've done has been on PC based systems, and I really don't know much of anything about Macs or Pro Tools.

In general, though, you will need decide how many tracks you want to be able to record at once. You will need an audio interface for the computer that has at least that many inputs. I would say that 8 is a minimum for recording a whole band. 16 is much better, 24 even better. Big $$$$. I use MAudio's Delta 1010, but that's PC.........

You will need a mixer that has direct outs on the channel strips- enough channels to match most of your audio interface inputs. You can leave a couple of interface inputs free for the really good mic preamp you buy for the vocals. A Mackie board is a good all around general board.

You will need at least a couple of good mics for vocals, a couple for instruments, and several for drums.

You will need mastering software of some kind (I use SoundForge on my PC), and a suite of decent effects plugins. (Waves is the most common on PC)

You will need a good set of reference monitors to mix on. I use Event 20/20bas monitors, some folks don't like them but I do. There are many out there, though.

You will need a bunch of cables (good ones), and you will need a decent room for the band to record in, along with material to make gobos for isolation and any other sound treatment the room requires. Maybe a vocal isolation booth, and some sort of headphone or in ear monitoring system for the band.

Lastly, and most importantly, you will need to begin to learn the art of sound engineering and recording. You will have to learn the basics, develop your ears, and learn the tips and tricks that make good recordings. There is a lot of stuff to know, so be prepared to do a lot of reading.

Without that, you can spend all the dollars you want and still not be able to produce a decent recording........ 8)
The Axeman (##(===> Cuts From My New Blues CD
3
Axeman, thanks for the info. I appreciate you taking the time to write down all of that. I know that I am getting myself into a lot all at once, but I have the time and it has been something I have been wanting to do for many years, so hopefully my determination will help me through it.

As far as how many tracks I want to record at once, I am thinking that either an 8 or 12 track system will suit my needs (I'm pretty sure I saw 12 track somewhere). One thing that I didn't mention before is that, while planning on recording a full band, my largest constraint is space, so I will likely only be able to record 1 or 2 members at a time.

With mics, do I need any for guitars (your post made it sound that way)? I was under the impression that guitars were able to plug into the mixer directly so that there would be no interference.

You also mention good monitors. I was looking at those online and I didn't feel that they were as good of quality as the home system I am running now (even though it is just a shelf unit). Is there some difference between studio monitors and regular speakers that I am overlooking?

One last thing, you mention a lot of reading is in store for me. Are there any books or websites out there that you recommend? Also, I was considering going to the Meditech Institute next spring. I was just skeptical about that because it is expensive and you don't get a degree and with the way our economy is today I am not sure I want to be without a degree.

Thanks again for your reply and sorry this was so long winded.
4
Well let's see-

8-12 tracks is a good start. Let's look at track allocations for a small band:

At least 4 of them will probably be eaten by the drums (snare, kick, stereo pair overhead is prety much the minimum), unless you do a submix on a small mixer and route that to a stereo pair. If you do that, then it only eats 2 tracks, but you can't adjust either the snare of the kick individually onced recorded.

A track each for rhythm and lead guitar, one for bass, 2 for vocals.

That's 7 or 9 tracks depending on the drum issue. They go fast.

So far as tracking the band in parts- that's pretty tough to do unless your musicians are pretty good. You could try recording, say, the drums and rhythm guitar along with a scratch vocal, the going back and overdubbing in the other parts. Remember that the track limitation of your soundcard only limits how many tracks you can record at once, not how many your can record total. You will loose the live feel, though, and, like I said, unless the musicians are very good, they're not going to be able to give great performances this way. You WILL have a hard time selling this as a commercial facility.

A guitar plugged directly into a mixer is an ugly thing, but there are a variety of amp modelers out there (Behringer is one of the best and cheapest) that do an ok job of recording guitars direct. No substitute for a mic'd up tube amp, though. It's a tradeoff- your trading killer tone for ease, isolation, and staying cool with your neighbors. It can be done....... although, again, this is a tough sell commercially for a lot of guitarists. And it doesn't work very well for acoustic guitars......

Reference monitors are a must. Commercial speakers are designed to sound good. Reference monitors are designed to have a flat response. The only way to accurately assess what you're recording and mixing and come up with a mix that sounds good on a variety of systems is to use a set of reference monitors. Trust me on this....

Reading-

Here's a good site:

http://www.diyrecording.com/

Also, I like Craig Anderton's Musicians Guide to Recording. Good book.

Never heard of Mediatech, but, honestly, with the boom in home recording possibilities these days, I don't think I'd go into this business planning on making any money (or even breaking even!!). I know guys who have been professionals for years who are going out of biz.

You better plan on doing it for the love......... ;)
The Axeman (##(===> Cuts From My New Blues CD
5
Thanks for yet another awesome response Axeman. I can definately see where you are coming form in saying that band members would have a difficult time recording seperate from one another. The only reason I was thinking about doing it that way is that the one free room I have to set up a studio in is a mere 10' by 13'. I am also concerned about getting distortion from the other instruments in my mics (although I am sure there are ways to clean that up and edit it out).

One thing I am confused on is the statement you made against plugging a guitar straight into a mixer. By bypassing the amp and mic, wouldn't the sound more likely be clean and not have any interference? I'm not saying that from a knowing standpoint so much as a 'this is what I would think is right' view, but I would like to know where I am wrong.

Thanks for the info on monitors and resources, I will definately look into those. And just FYI, Meditech is a sound recording school. You just take 200 and some odd hours of lab and instruction and then you get some certification. I'm still trying to find a college nearby to transfer into that has an audio engineering program, cause that is what I really want to do for a living.

On your last point about it not being something where I could so much as expect to break even, I am mildly dumbfounded by that. I realise that home recording is booming, but if a band is serious about their music, wouldn't it make more sense for them to concentrate on that and let someone else take care of the recording, editing, engineering, and promotion? Heh, I don't know why I even bother to ask that cause it's not something that has a simple answer, much less one that is terribly relevant to the initial post. But I was kinda hoping for this to supplement my income at least a little cause working at a headshop doesn't pay particularly well and most of my free time is in off-beat hours which would be ideal for doing editing and the like. But if I'm gonna lose money doing this, I think it best to just wait till I have a degree and work for a major label that isn't going anywhere. Thanks again fro your advice.
6
I would look up some engineering professionals in your area and talk to them. I don't mean to discourage you, but I do know that it is a TOUGH business to break into, and a tough business to survive in. Ask them about the school, too. You better have your eyes open going in, ya know?

So far as guitars go, well, there have been volumes written about guitar tone. And a lot of guitarists are FREAKS about it!! I should know, I'm a guitarist..... although I'm only moderately freaky about tone! 8) The thing is, a good guitar tone is a very organic thing that is made up of a lot of different components. The guitar itself and the way it is played is just the beginning. A tube amp has a special character all it's own, and there is volume induced interaction and reaction between the tubes, the speaker, and the guitar and player. When you play a guitar into a cranked up tube amp, you are playing the AMP just as much as you are playing the guitar. There are a lot of decent digital effect units out there that do digital amp modeling which is supposed to mimic the tome of certain classic amps and can be run directly to the board (the Behringer V Amp series is among the best bang for the buck ratio), but a lot of guitarists don't like to go this route because the tube amp is so much a part of their tone....... just about every classic rock recording ever made started with a tube amp with a Shure SM57 mic stuck in front of it, or some variation of that theme!!! 8)
The Axeman (##(===> Cuts From My New Blues CD
7
:lol: you guys talk too much 8)
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Axeman has made some great points. I would take everything he said very seriously. I will just chime in with a few thought on the thread.

Good studio monitors are very important!!! The Event 20/20bas that axeman mentioned are a great choice and very modestly priced. Event also has a new "precision 8 line" which cost a bit more but are really beautiful monitors.

You should definitely have mics for recording guitars!!!!! I catch a lot of flack for this position but to me, direct recording of guitars is for people that do not give a shit about guitars or even the quality of records (or ignorance). I make about half my living mixing records other producers have done and if the guitars were recorded direct, I spent half my time trying to over come how bad the direct guitars have fucked up the track. Not only do direct guitars sound shitty in the mix, but they also fuck up the sound of the other instruments. If some one asked my advice about a studio and told me they could only record guitars direct, I would tell them to run the other way.

It looks like you are about to lay out a good chunk of cash. Do not go into this blindly. Obviously since you are asking these questions you are on the right track. Try and get some kind of mentor or consultant to help you through the purchasing process. The music store is probably the worst place for you to get advice!!! So far it looks like a digi 002 and some smartly purchased hardware (including a mixer) would be a good start point for you but there are a lot of factors involved.

Now about recording school and a career: Axeman was telling the truth about how tough it is to start out professionally as an engineer. Its not impossible, but its a bit like some one saying they are going to be a professional basketball player. Sure some people will do it, but not that many these days and most people will fail. The world of recording is getting so competitive these days that even some of the greats are thinking of getting our of the game.

A degree will not help you in any way as a professional engineer. Unless you are hoping to get a job as a teacher some where, a degree will not get you in any doors. All that will matter is your people skills, the quality of your work and most importantly if your name is attached to an artists that ends up doing really well. If you wanted to do a degree program I would recommend a place like Berklee that will also teach you a lot about arranging and musical performance as well.

Also keep in mind that most of the big recording schools (the 6 months to 2 year schools) do not teach you how to record, they really teach you the skills to get a job as an assistant in a big studio (for jobs that barely exist). Take this last bit with a grain of salt since I myself run a small recording school, but the big difference is that my school teaches people how to record instead of teaching people to be an assistant somewhere. We are also much more intense and end up costing a lot less than the big schools. http://www.homerecordingbootcamp.com Also people that teach as my school have serious background in recording. If you are thinking about one of the big schools find out exactly who is teaching the classes and get their backgrounds. Many, many teachers at these schools have never even made records in the past. All these schools dump money into big SSL consoles (that you will never actually have in your own studio) and that does not leave much money for hiring qualified teachers. My school has solid pro facilities but most of the tuition goes into making sure all the teachers are pro engineers.

Good luck. Its a crazy life you are jumping into, but I still love it.

Ronan
9
What's up man. I agree with everyone here. There's not a huge market for studios right now, there could be if we can ever get the few companies that control the music industry to break up so that new music can be heard, but anyway, off my soapbox....

I always wanted to be in recording engineering. I've been a musician since 7. However, my parents also wanted me to get that 'piece of paper.' I went to Penn State and started out in there electrical engineer program and realized that all that was going to do was get me a job pushing numbers. So, I focused more on my music and took an easier path graduating with a Sociology degree and learning a lot about music. I made mom happy and had a hell of a lot of fun.

Anyway, these guys are right about audio engineering schools. I've worked in a few different studios, and these places are often look upon as a joke for the same reasons as Ronan talks about.

My suggestion is to be patient. Buy a decent computer, buy a Pro-Tools M-box setup. Go to a local studio, ask the guy if he'll tutor you in exchange for some extra cash and you interning (taking the garbage out, answering the phone, grunt work). In exchange, you learn the trade.

In addition to that....read, read, read. Some good books to check out....
"Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook," "Modern Recording Techniques," and "ProTools for Dummies (I know I know, nice name, but it's a good read)." When you're ready to start financing your own place, drop the cash and buy a console that'll work with the Pro-tools you already have (ie. Digidesigns Command 8 or Control 24).

I think you'd be a lot better off learning the concepts and learning your own recording style before being limited by what you have already bought.

If you still want that piece of paper, Ronan's school looks like a good idea, (HOPEFULLY HE'LL HIT MIAMI SOON, hint hint), or check out Phillip Trout's Recording Mentor Association (www.getamentor.com). I would steer clear of www.recordingconnection.com. It's the same idea, but I've heard shady stories about Jimmy's operation (no offense to him personally or to any of his friends). You could also go to digidesigns website www.digidesign.com and get your protools certification with a few classes if that's what your into.

Geeze, this post kind of rambled on, and looks like a bunch of shameless plugs, but honestly, in a nutshell. Get some starting gear, learn the process, practice on yourself and your buddies, and upgrade as you need to. Also, KEEP VISITING THIS BOARD, there is tons of info alway floating around.

Hope this helps.


Justin