The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Californication is one of the worst mixed albums of all time. The entire album sounds tinny, its mix is way too loud, and vocals blend between impossible to understand and way too prevalent. All that said, the style is perfect for the stoner, alt-rock vibes the album is meant to inspire. A studio doesn’t need to make you sound good, it needs to make your music sound right. If the album really called for it, recording the music on an iPhone in a garage might just be the best call. It all depends on what you’re looking for and how your music is correctly expressed. Of course, when you’re starting out, that help give any album a professional studio sound. For many artists, they’re starting to record from their own homes, but aren’t sure how to harness a crisp, full sound from inside their bedroom. I’m going to break down some common misconceptions and go over the most important aspects of any at home studio.
Investing in quality sound treatment is the absolute most important thing you could do to give your music that professional quality. Reverberation is the death of good sound. The problem with most houses and apartments is that they aren’t built to dampen sound. Look around the room you’re in right now, how much of your walls is covered by blankets or foam? I’m guessing not much. Most walls in a home are pretty blank or at the most, they are covered with art pieces, dressers/ bookshelves, and technological appliances. None of those objects dampen the rooms noise.
There are a lot of materials that you can use for sound dampening and they can range from out of this world expensive to fairly cheap. No matter what, you need to invest in sound dampening gear. If you’re just starting out and you’re on a budget, I recommend getting yourself one or two comforters for each of the walls in your home studio. Hang them up and get ready to hear the massive difference. For those who are looking to do this right and have money to spare, you’ll want to utilize three types of sound treatment for the best effect.
Types of Sound Treatment:
The three types of sound treatment are bass traps, acoustic panels, and diffusers. By mixing these three you’ll get a crystal-clear sound that feels vibrant. Bass traps collect all of the high frequencies that may bounce around the room. Getting rid of tinny sounds and vapid noise. If you can only afford one of these treatment tools, the bass trap is most important. It clears out the largest amount of negative reverberation. Acoustic panels should be supplemental, helping to dampen by taking up a lot of empty wall space. They are often thinner than bass traps, meaning that they don’t dampen quite as much sound. Diffusers are best used for larger rooms. If you’re building a closet studio, you should skip diffusers altogether. For larger spaces, diffusers are integral to creating a full audio experience.
Once you have your sound treatment figured out you have successfully won the largest battle. All microphones are fairly similar and completely different. I know that advice isn’t all that helpful, but that’s the nature of the beast. The only way to figure out what microphone suits you best is to try them all out. This is where research will go a long way. Look up artists who are similar to your musical sound and find out what microphones they use to record. There’s a good chance you can’t afford the exact one they used, but you may be able to find a very similar product. My three favorite mics are the Rode NT1A, Shure SM7B, and the Sennheiser MD421. Any of these three microphones will deliver terrific sound that blends rich vocals and studio quality. These are a great starting place, but take the time to find a microphone that is going to work best with your voice.
I’m going to be pretty straightforward here as I think there is one software that stands high above the rest. Pro Tools is the industry standard and it’s still the best overall for workflow. There are some great competitors who are making interesting strides forward, but Pro Tools for its money is still the best option. If you need your software on the cheap because you correctly spent all your money on sound treatment, then Audacity is completely free and pretty helpful. It is open source and you will spend a lot of time Googling for help, but it’s free and completely manageable.
Building your studio is all about sound treatment. Behind that you’ll need to figure out what microphone fits your style and what recording software suits your budget. It’s important to remember that these are all simply tools and cannot replace exciting music that you are passionate for. The studio is an instrument that is meant to be honed and worked to your specific cadence. So have fun experimenting and don’t get overly concerned with what other people think. They have no idea what your sound is.