Welcome to Day 1 of 31 Days to Better Recordings!! Over the next 31 days, I hope to share with you lots of useful advice to help make your recordings better. Don’t forget to leave your comments!

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So you want better recordings, right? Or perhaps you’re just getting started and you just want to be able to record.

First things first, you need to take a few minutes to evaluate your current recording setup. Before we can talk about mic techniques, signal flow, EQ, or compression, we need to make sure that you have a setup that is capable of producing great-sounding recordings.

The Good News

There has never been a better time to record music, especially for us home studio folks. Technology keeps advancing in leaps and bounds, which leads to quality equipment at affordable prices.

Years ago, you simply couldn’t build a multi-track recording studio for less than several thousands of dollars. Those days are gone. Today, you can have a quality recording rig for a couple hundred dollars.

The Bad News

With the onset of affordable recording technology comes the endless array of choices. There’s not a single best way to build a studio. Every category – computer, audio interface, microphone, preamp, etc. – has dozens, maybe hundreds, of choices.

With all these choices comes a lot of confusion. Hopefully I can help ease that a bit. Whatever you do, don’t freeze. Even though there are a bajillion options out there, nearly all of them are capable of giving you great results. Decide on a few and get busy.

Here are a few steps to help you.

1. 12 Home Studio Necessities

I wrote a series of articles when I first launched Home Studio Corner called “12 Home Studio Necessities,” where I outline the basic components of a home studio. (You can read the articles by clicking on that link, or you can read the eBook version by signing up to my newsletter.)

If you’re just starting out, and you don’t even know where to begin, this is a must-read. Even if you’ve been recording for a while, I’d recommend that you read it, too. It’ll help you evaluate your rig, and might help determine any missing pieces.

2. Identify Wants vs. Needs

Almost everything I list in 12 Home Studio Necessities is something you need to make good recordings. But there are plenty of things you may want to add to your studio.

There’s nothing wrong with that. But, you should probably make a list of things you want vs. things you need.

If you’re really itching to buy a new plug-in bundle when you’re still recording everything through the 1/8″ mic input on the back of your computer…you should probably reconsider. The plug-in bundle would be a want, whereas an audio interface would be a need.

3. Create a Game-Plan/Budget

Once you’ve identified the things you need, make it a priority. Devise a plan for exactly how you’re going to get them, how much they’re going to cost, and how long it’s going to take.

In the meantime, don’t put off recording. Make the most of what you have, no matter how minimal, and practice. If you’ve only got a cheap $20 microphone, while you’re saving up for a new one, record as much as you can with the mic you have. Learn to make it sound as good as possible.

Better gear won’t always guarantee better recordings. You have to know how to use it. (More on that another day.)

Day 1 Challenge

In the comments section below, inventory your setup (what you have), identify wants and needs, and tell us briefly what you’re game plan is. Welcome to 31DBR!

  • gio

    Mbox2,Krk rp5 rookits 1stgen, focusrite liquidmix 32, imac 21.5 and a starndard midi controller.

  • Steve Twyning

    Alright chaps? Well, here’s my two cents…

    – Macbook with 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor and
    2 GB 1067 MHz DDR3 Memory
    – Alesis M1 Active 520 Monitors
    – Behringer Xenyx 1222FX with USB/Audio Interface (I REALLY need a decent pre-amp)
    – Logic Studio 9
    – Waves Bundle (Must have!)
    – Seagate Expansion 500GB External USB 2.0 Desktop Hard Drive

    – Gibson SG Special
    – Ibanez GRG 270B
    – Marshall DSL 401
    – Casio PX120 Digital Piano
    – Alesis DM5 Kit Pro

    Needs:-

    – A decent firewire pre-amp
    – Firewire/USB connector for my Macbook (Wish I’d bought the Pro now ¬.¬)
    – Acoustic treatment

    Want:-

    – My own separate room for the studio (In student accommodation atm unfortunately)
    – Toontrack EZ Drummer Software.

    Or, in an ideal world….
    – Drum room with full acoustic drum kit.
    – Microphones for full acoustic drum recording.

  • robert windsor

    can you tell me how to use a behringer c3 with a sony ix200 and I have the small amp that behringer makes for the mike 400 and it still doesn’t work. what can i do ???

  • Dar

    Wow! I just found this site and wanted to add my portion to the 31 challenges:

    Toshiba Duo 2 laptop
    Wes Digi 2TB ext
    Zoom R16 (love the flexibility)
    Samplitude 9 pro (love it!)
    KRK 5 monitors
    M-Audio Keyrig 25
    Waves bundle & other plugins
    2 bass guitars (A 5 & 6 String)

  • abel mendoza

    im so late but here is my setup..

    15′ macbook pro 2.66 intel core i7,4 gigs ram.
    hp w2338h computer monitor.
    apogee duet.
    yamaha hs50m studio monitor.
    bss audio ar-133 D.I. box.

    keyboards/controllers..
    korg triton extreme 88.
    yamaha motif es6.
    kurzweil sp88x.

    softwares..
    logic 9.
    melodyne editor.
    t racks3 deluxe.
    IKmutimedia classic studio reverb.
    waves ssl 4000 bundles.
    east west quantum leap pianos.
    east west quantum symphonic orchestra.
    spectrasonics omnisphere
    native instruments akoustik piano.
    N.I. battery 3.
    N.I.core player.

    mics.
    shure beta 58.
    neumann tlm 103.
    pop filter,sterling audio pf1.
    mic stand dr pro.

    headphones.
    sony mdr-75009hd.
    sennheiser hd 280 pro.

    guitar fx. soft. & hardware
    N.I.guitar rig 4 pro.
    boss tu-2 tuner.
    boss os-2 overdrive/distortion.
    boss dd-7 digital delay. boss fs-5u.
    deltalab to1 tube overdrive.
    deltalab dd1 digital delay.

    guitar amp.
    15 w.fender super champ xd.

    guitars.
    fender stratocaster american standard.
    fender jazz bass american standard.
    taylor 314es acoustic guitar.

    percussion.
    L.P. tamborine.
    meinl shaker.

    cables.
    monster and mogami.

    my needs are.
    a proper room and work on all of those gears that i have for a better recording.

    my wants are.
    a full drum set mics or BFD2 drum software.
    IKmultimedia ampeg svx.

  • Ebrahim Rashid

    well since I am from middle east, thus I can’t find everything I want, especially in my country
    what I have (I know it’s nothing)
    AKG K77 headphone
    YAMAHA PSR E212 keyboard
    Yamaha F310 CS acoustic guitar
    Adobe Audition 1.5 (it’s old but does the job)
    cockos reaper (still evaluation :P)
    a laptop ( it uses linux atm)
    what I need
    an a USB interface
    shure SM57
    more memory for my laptop
    win7

    plan:
    to get a good interface with midi so I can use my keyboard
    to convert my current laptop as a portable recording solution.

  • Have:

    Gibson Les Paul 1957 Custom ReIssue

    Yamaha Bass Guitar (New)

    Various Nylon acoustic guitars (cheap but OK for teaching music)

    An old Japanese Stratocaster

    My very first guitar, a Big Sound Stratocaster replica.

    Marchall JCM 2000 TSL122 Combo Guitar Amp. (One of the best and craziest beasts ever to come from England..)

    iMac 27″ 3,06Ghz Core2Duo with 2TB Internal HD, 8Gigs of RAM.

    M-Audio Keystudio 49i (16/44,1) Midikeyboard and Audio Interface 2I/2O

    M-Audio Fast Track USB (24/48) Audio Interface 2i/2o

    Yamaha MG 10/2 10 Channel Mixer with 4 preamps. Using to control all monitoring, but also as a pre since none of my audio interfaces has +48v 🙁
    But I have to use the Insert Jack to send the preamped signal to the Fast Track.

    Sennheiser HD 250 and 600 Headphones

    Native Instruments Guitar Rig Mobile tiny USB guitar interface. Great for on location jamming and recording. Too bad it won`t run PT.

    Awaiting Brand New ADAM AX3 Monitors (Jippi 🙂 )

    Awaiting Brand New SE Reflection Filter with Bundled SE X1 mic. Already tried the mix and it`s great for my home recording needs.

    TSM MT 87 shoddy condenser mic.

    Shure Beta 58 Mic.

    2X Behringer Ultragain Pro Dual Channel Mic pre`s
    (I think one of four channels still works..)

    An old Kenwood Amplifier with some hifi speakers for checking mixes.

    ProTools M-Powered 8 with Music Production toolkit 2 and lots of various plug-ins.

    My Plan:
    Get rid of Fast Track, Behringers + an old USB Midi keyboard and other stuff I`m not using. Buy new MBOX with Low LAtency Monitoring and Built in DSP (Been waiting for something like this for ages.) Will be my last audio hardware investment for years to come.

    Build sound treatment tiles from rockwhool lying in my shed. (Just need some 1 by 1 for the frames)

    Paint Studio Room, lay new floor and build a new large desk with Galant series stuff from IKEA

    Work with music until I croak.

    Stian

    • And also a Mackie CFX 12 Mixer I really like, but it`s to big for my current desk…

  • axiom pro 49
    mv8000
    pro tool 8 m-power
    project mix i/o
    pro tools micro
    serato pitch n time pro
    trandfuser
    mac book pro 17
    two tapco speakers
    art 2 tube compressor

  • Joe R.

    P/C Using CUBASE 5

    I use two audio interfaces

    1. Steinbergs MR816csx (for recording intruments)
    2. TC Helicon VoiceLive 2 Vocal Harminizer and vocal effects processor (for recording vocals)

    Mics:
    1. SM81
    2. SM58
    3. PEAVY ?? works great for my voice
    4. Samson Co2

    Guitars:
    1. BC RICH ELECTRIC (American)
    2. LINE 6 VARIAX
    3. ESP 5 string BASS
    4. MARTIN JC16 ACOUSTIC

    AMP:
    LINE 6 VETTA 2 (this is Amazing!)

    As far as Plugins: I am only using what comes within Cubase 5. My thought is to learn the best I can with what I have.

    For the future I am looking at getting:
    1. Axiom pro MIDI Controller
    2. HALION SONIC (VST Intrument)
    3. GROOVE AGENT 3 (Drum Sampler)
    4. Then move to recording real drums! (plus equipment)

    • Joe R.

      I forgot a couple items..

      GR20 MIDI SYNTH triggered by my guitar

      TRITON LE MIDI KEYBOARD (I dont use this often… Im a guitar player so I use the GR20)

  • Carlos

    I’m kind of late but still here it goes.
    Audio Gear:
    Behringer BCA2000 USB interface
    Behringer UCA202 USB Interface
    Behringer Bass V-Amp Pro preamp/amp simulation
    Behringer MDX2600 compressor
    Behringer FBQ 1502 GraphEQ
    T.Amp S-100 power amp
    B&W DM601 S3 speakers
    M-Audio Oxygen49 (silver series)
    ETEK AD1823 mixer
    Cheap dynamic mic

    Computer:
    Toshiba Laptop (2Gb RAM core 2 duo 2.2GHz 2x200Gb HD)
    LG L1750SQ 17′ monitor

    Software:
    -Windows:
    energyXT 2.5 Compact
    Ableton Live Lite
    Native Instruments Komplete players
    Couple of free VST plug-ins and instruments

    -Linux:
    Ubuntu Studio 10.04
    energyXT 2.5 Compact
    ——————————————-
    Wants:
    Mic Preamp, preferably with digital out S/PDIF optical or ADAT
    Condenser Mic
    energyXT 2.5 complete version
    New computer

    Needs:
    I think the Condenser would be somewhat of a need but true needs are the upgrade for energyXT from compact to full version and a pop filter.

    My plan now is to start recording everything I have composed along the years even if I think it’s crap and also help a friend to record his compositions.

  • Mike

    Hello…..love your site….here’s my setup
    Adobe Audition 1.5 (tracking and mixing)
    -M-Audio Delta 66 soundcard
    -Mackie cfx12 board (pres for drums and monitoring)
    -2 Art v3 pres
    -Art VLA Compressor
    -Alesis 3030 comp.
    -Dbx 118 comp.
    -Behringer Truth b2301 monitors
    -Shure sm 57 and 58
    -2 Behringer b-1 mics
    -1 Behringer b-2 mic
    -AKG d110 kick mic
    -v tech sm 57 copy
    -v tech condensor mic (cardioid)
    -POD xt
    -1962 Heathkit aa-141a tube preamp
    -1989 Gibson Les Paul Standard
    -1988 Fender Strat
    -Squier Tele
    -Charvel Fusion
    -Yamaha acoustic gtr.
    -Peavey Classic 50 head and 410 cab
    -Ampeg ss 150 amp
    -Bose 1602 power amp
    -Sansui home stereo to Bose 301’s, AR bookshelf and computer speakers out of Mackie board to check mixes
    -Behringer 8 channel headphone amp
    -Sony 7506 headphones and cheaper ones for other musicians while tracking
    -Sony 353d 7″ reel to reel(use to run mixes thru)
    -Allied 7″ reel to reel
    -various cassette decks
    -Tascam DA-20 DAT (just for live 2 track)

    For what I do….I am pretty happy with my setup. Your article on “G A S” makes a lot of sense. As far as wants and needs: I “want” to buy a high end preamp at some point such as a Universal Audio or Hamptone and upgrade my monitors when they die. I “need” to do some better acoustic treatment. The room I record in is about 25×25 so it isn’t tiny, but it could stand to have a little better sound treatment. Any further tips on eq’ing and compression techniques are always welcome.

  • Pauline Blackwood

    Hi
    Here is my setup:
    Macbook 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 1 gig ram
    Presonus Firepod
    Shure Sm57
    Apex 435 LDC
    M-Audio Studiopro 3 monitors
    Sony MDR-XD100 headphones
    Behringer Bass Vamp Pro
    Line 6 Pod 2.0
    Fender Electric guitar
    Epiphone acoustic guitar
    MTD Kingston Heir bass guitar
    Elephant 250 gig external hard drive
    Logic Express 7
    EZ Drummer

    Wants:

    I like to get a keyboard controller. I’ve been looking at the M-Audio 49 or 61 keys.

    I’d like to get a nice acoustic guitar. A Taylor or Guild.

    I like to get a really good large diaphram mic, but until I get some extra cash I can always borrow the ones e have at work.

    I need :
    I’d like to have some better monitors.I’m not sure which ones I can afford yet since my budget is a really tight.

    I’d want to update to Logic Express 9.

    But what I really need is some confidence that I can learn how to use this stuff and produce good recordings.

    By the way Joe I love your album.

  • Everett Meloy

    what I need? I need nore information on how to make clean recordings closer to what I want to hear and less of what I’m hearing.
    Equipment:
    Logic 9 and a Mac Book pro
    Several guitars and microphones
    What I want? To keep moving foward and learn form everyone who has been doing this longer and better than I.

  • babydufus

    I’m brand spanking new to this board and i’m pretty excited to have found it.
    my stuffs
    computer
    sweetwater creation station dual core 3.0 w/ max ram
    power
    fuhrman m8l
    interface
    motu traveler (1st version)
    daw
    sonar 8.5 producer
    FL 9
    monitors
    dynaudio bm5a on auralex pads
    cheapo computer speakers
    sen and grado headphones
    sampson c cue-8
    pres
    daking one
    great river mp-500 in a lunch box (otherwise empty)
    mics
    sm-57
    beyer m-160 (2)
    sen 421
    rode k2
    sm 7 (borrowed)
    midi
    novation 49slmk2
    korg padKontrol
    tranzport
    Software
    various synths
    Waves gold
    UAD 1
    UAD 2 quad
    various uad plug ins incl massive passive and EL7 fatso (my favs)
    Antares auto tune avox and efx
    guitar rig 4
    line 6 pod live x2
    stillwell rocket, transient monster and olga
    other stuff i’m forgetting
    Guitars
    Jazzmaster re issue
    lead 2 (from the 80’s)
    am deluxe tele (my fav)
    cij tele delux
    rick 370
    es-336
    cheapo bass
    ovation heritage custom (from the 80’s)
    amps
    delux rev reissue
    vox ac30c2
    soldano slo head
    marshall 4×10 slanted cab (from the ’80s)
    matchless independence
    behringer gmx212
    Sound
    homemade traps, panels and gobos
    wants:
    outboard compressor
    better interface rme800
    less latency
    more processor!
    more engineering knowledge!
    a magic mic placement on guitar cab tool 🙂
    needs
    more recording/engineering/mixing knowledge and experience
    plans
    finish 7 song demo by the end of feb.

  • Current inventory:
    – Apple G5
    – Logic 8
    – Mackie studio monitors
    – Mics: MXL 990, Mxl 991, Shure sm 57
    – Lexicon Omega interface
    – Pop screen
    – tons of XLR and 1/4 inch cable

    Needs
    Acoustic treatments, and a power conditioner.

    Wants
    A better vocal mic maybe a bluebird, Project studio C4 Mics, and M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 8.

    Game Plan
    Right now I’m focusing on acoustic treatments as we speak and as soon as I can free up the ccash I am going to try to get a decent power conditioner. I also would like to try to build the acoustic treatment so it is a bit portable and could fold down so I could move it based on the instruments I’m recording then I could also position it behind my mixing desk for added protection when mixing.

  • Ben P

    Ok sorry bout that, I hit publish accidentally. Anyway so it is as follows:

    MacBook 2.4ghz
    Logic pro 8
    Focusrite le
    Focusrite saffire pro 10 I/O (x2)
    Shure beta 58
    Shure sm57
    Behringer c3
    Behringer c4
    Samson 8 piece drum set
    M audio nova
    Audio technica at2020
    M audio oxygen v8
    M audio axiom 61
    Alesis m1 mk2
    Behringer bcf2000
    DI box
    Sennheiser headphones
    Headphone amp
    Auralex acoustic treatment
    Home made acoustic treatment

    WANTS: I wouldn’t mind getting a new interface. Don’t get me wrong the saffires are great and have served me well. But I’m looking at getting the Mackie onyx range. And perhaps a rackmount cd player for mixing.

    Needs: currently there is nothing that I really NEED at the moment. The stuff I have is all very much useable for semidecent recordings and yes Behringer is in my list but they’ve yeilded some surprising results.

    GAMEPLAN: I’m currently doing a lot of sound work in live sound theatre work and recording to help pay for any new equipment that I desire. But more than anything I’m practicing different techniques to get to know my gear more and how to get the best sound at the source. Another thing is trying out different environments to see what results they produce. For example recording a snare drum in an echoey stairwell.

    Looking forward to the new posts Joe.

  • Ben P

    Hey Joe really looking forward to these up coming posts. Ok here goes:

    MacBook 2.4ghz 2gb ram
    Logic pro 8
    Focusrite le
    Focusrite saffire pro 10 I/O (x2)
    Shure beta 58
    Shure sm

  • Current inventory:
    – 13″ MacBook (often plugged into 24″ dell display)
    – M-Audio Delta 1010 PCI interface
    – M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB interface
    – Focusrite Trakmaster channel strip
    – Mackie Big Knob
    – M-Audio BX8 monitors
    – Yamaha S08 weighted synth
    – Controllers: M-Audio Trigger Finger, Evolution X-Session, Behringer FCB1010
    – Mics: Groove Tubes GT55, Shure SM58/SM57, Audix Fusion kit
    – Cubase 4
    – Garritan Personal Orchestra
    – EZ Drummer (with most EZX’s)
    – Native Instruments B4II, Akoustik Piano, Elektrik Piano
    – 9 guitars and lots of analog effects pedals not worth listing here…

    Needs:
    Studio-wise, not many needs… just the need to actually accomplish more with what I have… simplifying and minimizing technical/tweaking hurdles. The only valid “needs” exist in refining my live rig… primarily my electric guitar rig.

    Wants:
    – Amp attenuator… just to be able to actually use more of the range of my amps at reasonable volumes.
    – Nicer dedicated preamp… wish-list for down the road. I can get plenty done with what i have.

    Game plan:
    Since moving my PC desktop to where my wife can use it more, I’m pretty much exclusively on the MacBook now. No real reason to hang onto the M-Audio Delta 1010 (in fact I’ve already listed it for sale). Also, dedicate a session to A/B’ing my M-Audio Fast Track Pro preamps with the Focusrite Trakmaster preamp… Focusrite is likely better, but I’m curious if I can hear the difference. If I can’t I might list it up for sale as well in the spirit of keeping my rig simple and just trying to actually DO more with it. Lastly, I might do this same exercise on my electric guitar rig so I can sort out what I have, what I’m not using, and prioritize what I think I need/want.

  • Halston

    Pro tools 8
    logic express
    mbox2 mini
    Presonus firestudio 2626 w/ remote
    Sterling audio condenser
    a few sm57s
    audix d6, i5, and audix tom mics.

    For now i am recording in logic and mixing in pro tools.
    Wants:I would like to get a 003 rack so i can record strictly in pro tools. but i still love logic for midi and software instruments and stuff.
    Need: since i only have 1 condenser mic i would like to get a pair of rode NT1-a’s for drum overheads. and i would use them for vocals, guitar cabs, and other stuff. or i might go for a pair of cascade phatheads instead of the condensers. I do really want some ribbons!! I have used the phatheads and i love them.

  • Hey Joe Visit your site all the Time! Great work and Keep it Going!

    Here is my Rig Thus Far! (Plenty of Overtime BTW)

    Acer with an AMD Phenom Quad Core with XP 32bit installed 4g Ram
    Digi003 Rack
    Pro Tools LE 8.0.4
    Yorkville YSM2P Monitors
    Altec Lansing Computer Speakers With Sub(Reference)
    Mo-Pads by Auralex
    Akai Professional LPK25 Keyboard Midi controller
    Akai Professional LPD8 Pad Midi controller
    Sennheiser HD280 Closed back Headphones(Tracking)
    Sony MDR-XD100 Closed back head phones (Tracking)
    Neumann TLM103 Large-diaphragm Cardioid Microphone WIth Shockmount
    Audio Technica AT2020 Medium-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser
    Samson C01U USB Studio Condenser Mic
    Samson 7kit Drum Mic kit
    Jackson King V
    Gretsch G5248T Electromatic Duojet w/ Bigsby
    Taylor Acoustic 110e
    Fender Telecaster American Standard
    Orange Rocker 30 Head
    Orange PPC 212 Speaker Cab
    Schoenbach – Student Violin Outfit 4/4

    I have been Collecting slow for the last 5 years.

    My needs are

    Speaker stands for proper spacing of my monitors.
    A new work desk using an old Dining table with an old Ty stand on top for Monitors and LCD.
    A furman Power conditioner
    An Maudio Pro fire 2626 as to use my drum micing kit and actually record drums.
    Pro Tools Keyboard to fascilitate tracking and rough mixing.
    Also a room thats properly treated.
    All these pieces I will work on getting as time moves on slowly but surely

    My wants would be summed up with Digidesign C24 with Protools HD. Drum room/ Vocal booth treated Properly with a window into the COntrol room properly treated. Neve Preamps for Vocals and a couple of Neuman U87’s and a Beyerdynamic Drum mic kit.

    Its pretty Cool Seeing what everyone is working with!~ Gives great suggestions on what people can use!

    Cheers! Looking for ward for the next One!

  • -dell inspiron 17. 3gb ram, 250gb hardrive.

    -tascam us1641 interface

    -cubase 4 le (better than it sounds)

    -waves mercury plug-ins

    -oxford plug-in suite

    -dbx 266xl compressor

    -samson mics (2 kick, 4 toms, 1 snare, 2 small condenser, 2 large condenser)

    -behringer mixers galore (for monitoring, headphones, preamps, etc.)

    -schecter omen 6 with EMG’s and schecter c1 artist with seymour duncans

    -pulse drums (crappy brand, but i make mine sound great)

    -epiphone thunderbird bass and vintage 1969 silvertone bass.

    -roland jv-50 synth and midi controller

    this is all the stuff worth mentioning i guess

    • oh yeah, i forgot about my ‘plan’.
      needs: actual studio monitors. krk’s would be nice, but anything with a nice, flat frequency response would do.
      wants: tube pre’s for basically everything.