Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

The Dos And Don’ts Of Home Recording

I’ve been recording music at home since about 2009. I’ve worked in garages, basements, bedrooms, and a walk-in closet. And I’ve learned a lot about DIY recording by trial-and-error and by learning from experts.

So in this post, I want to take you through the Dos and Don’ts of home recording.

The DON’Ts Of Home Recording

Before we talk about what you should do when recording at home, let’s first cover things to avoid.

Use an untreated recording space

I know it can be difficult to treat your home recording space, but you’ve got to do anything you can to improve the sound. Don’t put this off. An untreated room can ruin the recording.

So use things like acoustic panels, bass traps, and diffusers to improve the acoustics.

Worry if you only have a smartphone

If you don’t have recording equipment or if you think your equipment isn’t good enough, remember that you have a smartphone. Plenty of artists have made professional-sounding music on iPhones and iPads.

So if you don’t have fancy equipment, don’t worry. You have a recording studio in your pocket.

Put your equipment in storage

The more time between your creative ideas and when recording them, the more likely it is you’ll lose the spark. Or forget your idea. Or start telling yourself it’s stupid.

So, if possible, don’t store away your recording equipment. Leave it out and set up.

Record without a metronome

Back in the day, bands like The Beatles may not have always used a click track, but us home producers should. Most of the time, you’re probably not in a studio recording live songs with a band. A lot of home production involves layering.

So you need a metronome.

Record just one take

Speaking of The Beatles, Paul McCartney recorded 32 takes of “Blackbird” before deciding on the final take. The very last one he recorded became the official take. You can’t just record one take and think you’ve got it.

Even if you did get it, it’s smart to record a few more takes, just in case.

Let the levels go into the red

Red is bad news when recording. That means your recording — whether at the source or during the mix — is peaking. And that causes distortion (the bad kind).

The DOs Of Home Recording

Now onto the things you definitely should do when recording at home.

Choose the right room

Your room is very important to the sound you end up with. Recording at home, you may not have much choice of rooms. But if you do have a couple of options, pick the room with more space, less outside noise, and hardwood floors (carpets absorb higher frequencies, which is not good for acoustic).

Use the best equipment you can afford

You may not be able to afford the fanciest equipment out there, but use the best stuff you can find. A slow computer can make recording a horrible experience. A mic with lots of self-noise can ruin a track.

Know how to use your equipment

Not only should you have the best equipment possible, but you’ve also got to know how to use it. Even if you have average equipment and software, you can still get great recordings if you know how to bring out its full potential.

Isolate your sound source

Before you hit record, it’s important to isolate the sound of the instrument you’re recording. You can always add reverb and delay later, but you can’t remove it from the original recording.

Record all the ideas

It’s best to get every idea out of you and sort through what works and what doesn’t at a later time. Don’t edit yourself right now, just let the creativity flow out of you. Your future self can be the editor, deciding what stays and what goes.

Use reference tracks

One of the smartest things you can do when mixing and mastering is to use a reference track. You’re using a specific pair of headphones or speakers in a specific room set up a specific way. You won’t know if your song sounds professional until you can compare it to a professionally mixed and mastered track.

Master your song

Speaking of mastering, you need to master your music if you want to stand up with the big guys. If you want your music to flow on a playlist with the songs that cost thousands of dollars to make, you (or a mastering engineer) need to master your music.

Caleb J. Murphy is a singer-songwriter and music producer based in Austin, Tx., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.


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