Thursday, November 18, 2010

Open-Source Sound/Record Studio: How to set up your physical installation

See the Open-Source Sound/Record Studio Project overview

Time has come, get started building that studio!

a Home Recording Studio
a Home Recording Studio

I found a video the other day that makes everything I would write about subject even better. It's well explained, and very clear. So instead of making a tutorial about that part myself, I will be cheating (only this one time..) Unfortunately it doesn't include some tips about what you should invest in and what not. So, I'll be still covering that part myself ^^

Anyway: How to set up your physical Sound/Record Studio:
Howcast - how to set up a home recording studio

So, if you saw the video you'll be aware that you require these:

work surfaces
swivel chair

No I must say it's true.. BUT your work surfaces should reflect what you are going to do with your studio, if you don't have a keyboard stand but you'll be using a keyboard you'll need more space than someone who's going to record some vocals.

keyboards @ your studio
keyboards @ your studio

Next comes my biggest problem with the whole video, the swivel chair. Yes you'll need a good seat if you're planning on working a whole day in your studio. But paying 100's isn't going to make your recording better! If you're a singer you'll be much more with a good microphone than with a swivel chair... (but more about microphones later.

For the mixer I'd like to say following, having an audio mixer is nice! As you are recording some audio source with a microphone you'll have to take some things in consideration:

a semi-advanced recording mixer
a semi-advanced studio/recording mixer

For most of us it will be hard to sing without hearing the music, naturally you'll put the music on when you sing. But recording the music on 1 line with your voice isn't a good idea, it will ruin every chance of editing it later on (and if you can manage to get the sound of, it will be tough!)

In order to solve this you can play the audio true your headset. Though this will unable you to hear yourself singing properly. If you're only using a computer you can "monitor" your voice by sending it back at you true the headset. But I dare you to try this out! You'll notice you start singing slower and slower and aren't singing on the melody anymore. Why is that? Latency!

latency kills good recordings
Latency kills good recordings

Latency occurs inside your computer (but almost all monitoring devices will have a minimal amount of latency). The reason that a pc slows the audio output down is because the processor will be to busy recording your voice. You can solve this by buying very expensive audiocard, Creative has a lot of them. So your mixer can be handy to solve this, I've got a very simple mixer to do monitor my recordings.

hi-end audiocard
an expensive, hi-end audiocard

I'm not going to use this mixer in a few weeks because I'll show you how to make your own monitor! this will enable you to connect your computers audio-out to your headset and your microphone, your microphone will be sending his audio to the computers in and your headset will let you hear all sounds.

If you don't have a mixer nor any other monitor device you'll still need to use your computer. if you want to do this you can find low latency drivers to help you to reduce that.
Hint: note that when you are recording multiple channels at once (guitar, voice, drum all live and recorded on a seperate channel) your computer will be working very hard which increases your latency.

So things you should invest with are those that help to make your recording better. A good microphone is worth gold! you'll see this when checking for one, as there prices can be over 1000€ (+1000$). A good headset will let you enjoy your work a lot more, don't use earbuts! they not only harm your ear, but they also start itching and are horrible to wear for a long time!

A good headset
a decent headset, worth every penny

If you have a little band and want to record everything on a seperate channel you might be finding yourself in the position of not having enough record signals on your computer, you can buy USB-soundcards with multiple record channels for under 40€ (45$) if you look for them well. For people in belgium and the netherlands Conrad sells sweex boxes for 30€. Those boxes will not have hi-end quality but thats okay since the quality of your record will mainly be determent by your microphone.
Hint:if you have a playstation with singstar and connect the mics with the singstar usb connector you can use that as two extra inputs. (tho realize there quality is far from excellent)

Ardour, multi-channel recording
Ardour, multi-channel recording studio for free

Making your own music doesn't stop with just voice, you'll need to record instruments (or compose your music on a computer). Some of them use real microphones (guitars,drums,flutes,..) for those the same rules apply as for your voice: USE HEADPHONES! Other instruments like keyboards use an internal recording without a microphone here you just use speakers instead of your headphones.

Of course the rule applies (in general) that more money equals more quality. But spent your money wisely, neither your desk, your chair or your graphical card will let your records sound better!

Before you start over-think the space you'll be using and how you are going to use it. Make sure you've got environmental echoes covered.
Invest in a good Microphone, (a good soundcard)and a good headset.
Speakers are nice when you record microphone-less devices, and to listen final recordings, in my opinion they should be in your studio, but don't spent money on them if you can't buy a decent microphone! Also don't spent money on a mixer if you're not planning on using it for more than just monitoring.
If you are writing your own music and need to record the melody, think about buying a secondhand keyboard if you don't already have another instrument. If you don't know how to play an instrument and want to learn one quick, buy a keyboard, not a guitar! When you buy a keyboard ALWAYS make sure it has MIDI, you might not use it now but it won't take long until you'll miss that option! I'm fairly confident that every MIDI keyboard has an audio out port so no stress for that.

Because this thread is already so long I'll make another one (today or tomorrow) which tells you what kind of microphone you should use.
EDIT: the microphone thread is available here
Get your voice out!

BTW: if you have questions, post them as comments..


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