12 Home Studio Necessities #12 – Accessories

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CWD0oxyhSg

I know, I know. “Accessories” is a pretty anti-climactic topic to end this series on. However, we’re talking about 12 Home Studio Necessities here, and accessories can play a huge part in the functionality and workflow of your studio.

In light of that, I’ve compiled a list of accessories that I find indispensable in my home studio. This is certainly not an exhaustive list. It’s more of a starting point to get you thinking about what various items you may be missing.

Here goes.

  • Equipment Rack – There’s nothing quite like having a rack for your equipment. However, filling up a rack can be quite addicting. (Be careful of G.A.S.) That being said, even if you just have a few pieces of gear — audio interface, power conditioner, rack-mountable hard drive — you can still benefit from a rack. There are all kinds out there. At the time I’m writing this article, I’ve got a very basic $20 rack sitting next to me. It’s just a metal frame with rack rails on it. Works just fine. (more…)

12 Home Studio Necessities #11 – Power Conditioner

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cn1koTr11O4

Throughout this 12 Home Studio Necessities series, we’ve looked at various pieces of equipment for your home studio. Almost all of them have one thing in common: they run off of electricity.

At this point in your home studio, you’ve most likely invested a fair amount of money. Now you need to protect your investment. It’s time to consider a power conditioner.

If you compare your gear to a car, then a power conditioner would be both an insurance policy and regular maintenance. It protects the gear and helps it run at optimal performance.

You mean a power strip?

The idea of power conditioning is a bit of a new concept for most people. There are plenty of cheap plastic power strips out there. You can spend a few bucks at Walmart and get a power strip with plenty of outlets on it. However, do you want to entrust all of your gear and your computer to a $20 power strip? It’s a question worth asking yourself. (more…)

12 Home Studio Necessities #10 – Good Cables

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6S8ZnutRH4

You’ll hear regularly in the pro audio world that your studio is only as good as its weakest link. And the weakest link is? Cables.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t use cheap cables in your studio. Every single piece of equipment that you will use for making music in your studio will be connected using a cable, so focusing on good cables is important.

I’m not advocating going out and buying the latest gold-plated, oxygen-free, organically-fed, free-range, thousand-dollar cable out there, but don’t spend $4.95 on a cable either.

As I’ve mentioned several times in this series already, you get what you pay for.

Using a good cable as opposed to a cheap one will help you in a number of ways.

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12 Home Studio Necessities #9 – MIDI Controller

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL0gYT8yTPA

Not every home studio owner is a keyboard player. But almost every home studio owner will want to put keyboard parts into their recordings at some point. Hence the need for a MIDI controller, or MIDI keyboard.

The reason I call it a MIDI controller as opposed to just a keyboard is that not everyone needs a big expensive keyboard with lots of sounds. Most recording software you can get today comes with all sorts of free virtual instruments, like keyboards, strings, organs, drums, etc.

Obviously you’ll need some sort of keyboard to actually play these sounds that are living inside your software. That’s where a MIDI controller comes in.

What is MIDI?

MIDI is a communication language. It’s the way different devices (particularly keyboards and sound modules) talk to each other.

MIDI is used in all sorts of ways. It can allow one keyboard to play the sounds off of several keyboards. It can control lighting. It can change settings on an effects unit. It can do your laundry and make your bed, too. (more…)

12 Home Studio Necessities #8 – Acoustic Treatment

  httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhAoSBtTuqI

Acoustic treatment is arguably one of the most important components of your home studio. Sadly, it’s usually the most neglected area.

Most folks would much rather buy a new mic or new studio monitors than bother with acoustic treatment. Or they’ll buy plug-in bundle after plug-in bundle, praying that one of them would be able to “fix” their mixes.

Oftentimes the problem isn’t the gear, it’s the room.

Think about it. Everything you do in your studio revolves around sound waves. These sound waves are bouncing all around the room. Unless your room was built from the ground up to appropriately handle all these reflections, you’ll need acoustic treatment. (more…)

12 Home Studio Necessities #7 – External/Dedicated Hard Drive

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDoiCy177mQ

This is a concept that has been a little fuzzy for a lot of home studio owners. Whenever you’re getting into multi-track recording, it’s important to have a dedicated hard drive for streaming all your audio.

What do you mean dedicated?

Recording music to a computer can be a pretty intense process, especially when you start recording and playing back ten or twenty individual tracks of music or more. Each of those audio files has to be streamed in real time from your hard drive.

The system hard drive on your computer (the one that came with your computer) will technically work as your audio drive, but it’s not the best idea. For one thing, your operating system and all the software you own is installed on the system drive. Before you even fire up Pro Tools or Garage Band, the system drive is already working pretty hard. It has a full-time job of simply running the operating system.

Now to ask that drive to handle all of your audio streaming is just too much. What that means in the real world is you will start to get freezes and error messages in your recording software.

For this reason I (along with every DAW software manufacturer out there) recommend using a dedicated hard drive for recording. This means you want to use a second hard drive that does nothing but stream your audio to and from the computer. (more…)

12 Home Studio Necessities #6 – Headphones

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpkjE7jP96c

I can’t tell you how many hours of my life I’ve spent with headphones on my head. Whether you’re editing tracks in your apartment at three in the morning or recording vocal overdubs, headphones are an invaluable component of your home studio.

First Things First

We took a look at studio monitors in the last article. If you’re new to this whole home studio thing, you may be wondering, “If studio monitors are so important for getting good mixes out of my home studio, why do I need headphones, too?”

That’s a fair question. The biggest single reason you need headphones is for recording. Since you only want your instrument or vocal to be recorded, you’ll obviously need to mute the studio monitors while recording. You need to be able to hear what’s being recorded as you record it, and that’s where headphones come in.

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12 Home Studio Necessities #5 – Studio Monitors

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9ZjkHcUAVU

If you were to browse any of the popular recording forums, it wouldn’t take you long to find someone complaining about how their mixes don’t translate.

What he’s complaining about is that he records a song, spends hours in his studio mixing it, and then it sounds completely different when he burns a copy to go listen to in his car or stereo.

This is something that has always plagued engineers and will continue to do so for years to come.

The issue? Everybody listens to music on a different set of speakers. And no two sets of speakers sound the same. So a perfectly crafted mix on one pair of speakers could sound really bass-heavy and muddy on another pair.

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