Introduction to Digital Music Recording: Part 2 – Basic Home Studio Equipment Set Up

This article will talk you through the most basic equipment required to create a home studio for recording music. There are plenty of desirable extras you could add, but here are the top five essentials to get you started.

1. A recording space

We have already covered in detail what makes a great recording space in Part 1 of this series, but in short you need:

  • somewhere that is quiet
  • a location that’s a suitable size for both your equipment and performers
  • a place that has good acoustics (minimal sound dampeners, and in some cases a bit of reverb).

2. A computer

If you’re buying a new machine, you’ll encounter the old desktop versus laptop debate. Desktop computers are usually better built (more solid) and cost less for the same specifications, but laptops are portable so you can pick up your recording studio and take it to the next suburb or across the continent with relative ease. Depending on where you plan to record your music, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether you need a mobile studio or a static one.

Music recording software programs chew up both power and memory, so you’ll need a machine with a decent amount of grunt. An absolute minimum of 1GB (gigabyte) of RAM is required, but preferably 2GB or more if you can afford it.

When you’re dealing with digital music production, the old “less is more” adage absolutely does not apply to memory requirements. Greater memory capacity means your computer will be able to do more things at once, without taxing its brain quite so much. It also means you’ll be able to store more audio files. 250GB of memory would be an acceptable minimum, but 500GB would be excellent. It’s probably also worth investing in an external hard drive to back up your files.

3. A microphone

Many computers have built-in microphones of varying quality. The built-in mic on my Macbook Pro is actually quite impressive, but nevertheless, you’ll always get a better recording by using a dedicated, good quality microphone. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend trying a USB mic because these are plug-and-play ready and don’t require additional equipment such as a microphone pre-amp, or any special connections for different types of microphone plugs. USB microphones are a boon for music recording newbies.

4. Music recording software

Depending on your platform (Mac or PC), there are a number of excellent, inexpensive, entry-level programmes available for new-to-recording musicians. Mac users cannot go past Garageband, the gold standard in amateur music recording software, which comes bundled free with all new Macs as part of the iLife suite (just click on the guitar icon on your dock). PC users a number of excellent Garageband for Windows alternatives. Whatever you choose, make sure you take the time to learn your way around your software. Read, complete tutorials, and mess around with your music recording program plenty before you start any serious recording. You must master the tool before it can be of any real use to you.

5. Imagination, creativity and drive

Ok, so this one is less about equipment and more a state of mind, but without it even the most luxurious professional studio set-up is going to be pretty useless to you. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and don’t be too hard on yourself either – like anything else it takes practice to set up a studio arrangement that will work for you, so be patient and in time you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.