101 Home Recording Studio Tips And Techniques
Sometimes you need specific information on a certain subject like how to correctly place your microphone and speakers respectively. You may want to learn how to solve a certain problem in your DAW software. Or maybe you are not searching for anything at all, and are just looking for some fresh ideas and techniques. This is exactly the goal of this article.
The following is a selection of 101 tips and techniques related to all things home recording studio. You will notice that the different sections follow no specific chronological order. And that is the whole idea.
This collection of facts and techniques is randomly thrown together on purpose, where each section can be used as helpful piece of information on its own without having to read the rest of the article.
You can study the whole article or just skim through it at your own leisure when looking for something new or different:
1. Plan And Research When Starting Or Expanding Your Studio
Set enough time aside to properly plan how you are going to set up your home studio. You know the saying, "Failing to plan is planning to fail". It applies just as much to building a home studio than it does to any other endeavor you undertake in life..
Set aside as much time as you think you will need, depend on your own personal requirements. Then learn as much as you can during this period and make notes of important things you want to include in your plan.
Just make sure you read enough different sources of content to have a basic understanding of how exactly everything works and fit together,when you start building your studio.
Now, set yourself a deadline. This is very important. Whether it is 2 weeks or 2 months you set aside for your planning, stick to this deadline. (One or two extra days to tie up some loose ends won't kill you, but limit it as much as possible.)
2. Before Buying, Determine Your Budget And Break It Down
This will be one of the first important considerations of your planning. You are the only one who will really know how much you can and are willing to spend on your recording setup. Not only does this depend on your financial position, but more importantly what your goals are and how urgently you need to achieve them.
Once you decided on your budget, you need to break it down for yourself before you start spending. Factors to take into consideration, are equipment, acoustic treatment and your recording space (depending on what you have available or have to make available).
Whatever your personal needs and requirements, you do need to budget! (You don't want to run out of money halfway through setting up your studio.)
3. Consider The Size & Location Of Your Recording Space
Apart from your budget this is probably the most important factor to consider after you decided to set up your home recording studio. It is actually surprising how many people jump straight into buying equipment and only after a small mountain of boxes are delivered and piled up next to their front door, do many start thinking about where all this equipment will actually be set up.
The space, preferably a separate isolated room, is essential to provide enough room for setting up your equipment while isolating yourself from exterior interference. Insulating yourself from exterior noise is vital, as is the ability to have a controlled environment for the correct placement of components for optimal sound quality.
Once you established the space for your studio setup, it will also be easier to apply acoustic treatment for the best audio quality possible.
No matter whether you are using a separate room or creating an isolated space in a much bigger room, make sure you address this issue before doing anything else.
4. Always Plan Ahead With Your Future Goals In Mind
By doing your planning and having a clear understanding of your goals, you make sure you have a solid framework in place to help you through every step of setting up your studio. You can also ensure you save money in the long run and stop yourself from incurring unnecessary expenses later on when expanding or making changes to your setup.
For example, with condenser microphones available from less than $100 to well over $5000, and audio interfaces available from less than $50 to over $1000, you can see how big the impact on your choice of equipment can be.
As a professional busy building up a system that you will expand fairly rapidly and end up needing a very high end system, you may be prompted to save a little extra for a higher quality microphone that will be able to grow with your system. (Saving you the expense of having to upgrade fairly quickly to a more expensive microphone to perform with a higher end system.)
A "weekend podcaster" on the other side, just wanting to have decent sound for his audience, may be satisfied with an affordable USB condenser microphone and happily use it for the lifetime of the microphone.
As you can see, it works both ways. You can overspend on a device whose full potential you will never need, or waste money on equipment that you will outgrow within months, when you could have waited a bit longer for a higher quality component that would have lasted you much longer, and potentially saved you a small fortune.
The key is having a good idea what your goals are and plan accordingly to make the best and most cost effective decision.
5. Don't Be Afraid To Experiment
It is always advisable to learn from the experts, use tried-and-tested methods and follow the right procedure.
But sometimes, trying your own ideas or experimenting with something completely new can solve a problem with your home recording studio you have been battling with for weeks. It may even open up a whole new world for you.
From equipment placement, acoustic treatment to software settings, the norms and guidelines may be a good place to start off with, but may not be ideal for your unique studio setup. You may find or stumble across placements or settings that work much better for you by simply using your own intuition or playing around with your own ideas.
As with many other fields, its easy to box ourselves in and be very cautious to venture outside the norms and "rules" of the recording industry. You will soon see the advantages of trying out your own ideas and exploring new avenues, especially in the privacy and freedom that your home recording studio provides.
6. Choosing Expensive Equipment Is Not Always The Best Choice
It is always tempting when your budget allows it, to look at a more expensive and prestigious piece of equipment. This may not always be necessary and can sometimes cause more difficulties than advantages.
As an example, you can produce audio quality on a good $300 audio interface that is basically on par with an interface more than double the price. The untrained ear, and even some seasoned professionals will never be able to tell the difference.
It really is best that you choose audio components that fits in best with your actual needs.
7. Don't Be Stingy When Purchasing Your Microphone
Many novice users believe anything can be corrected and cleaned up by DAW software, no matter how bad the quality of the source. You cannot be more wrong if you believe this.
The quality of sound captured by the microphone will largely determine the overall quality of the recording. Bad source audio quality can never be completely cleaned up, no matter how good your DAW software.
Therefore, always be willing to spend that little bit extra on the best quality microphone you can afford. (And waste less time in post-production software.)
8. Never Neglect You Cables
We all make this mistake. We all focus so much on the equipment we use, we pay little or no thought to the cables connecting them. As long as everything is connected, you are satisfied.
Good quality cables with solid connectors can make a bigger difference on sound quality than you think. For example, a $20 cable can make a bigger difference to your sound quality than upgrading to a $500 audio interface. (That's how badly a poor quality cable and connection can impact sound quality.)
You don't have to spend a fortune, but always invest in a good cable. You won't be sorry.
And always make sure you understand your cables and which ones to use.
9. Get Your Microphone & Instrument Positioning Right.
Sometimes you just can't get the right sound from your voice or instrument. No matter how much you change equalizer settings in your software or change the gain on your microphone, the sound quality remains poor and distorted.
All the while, your microphone was just placed incorrectly. Placing it a few inches farther or closer, a little up or down, and you would have gotten the perfect sound right from the start.
When a piece of audio remains problematic, experiment with you microphone placement in front of the sound source. You will be surprised how often that is the root of the problem.
10. Do Not Overthink Things, Get Started!
Here you find in the opposite position as those users who do not do enough planning. In fact you do so much planning, you never get started.
You are constantly watching and reading new articles, trying to find the best way to implement an idea, what equipment to choose or how to upgrade your setup. As soon as you start getting to the point where you can make a decision, you came across new information that make you second guess yourself. You start doing more research, and the whole process starts all over again.
Getting stuck in this endless loop of not being able to decide on which equipment to buy, how to upgrade your studio, which piece of audio to use, etc etc - is a vicious and dangerous cycle.
You end up procrastinating, putting off actually doing anything for weeks, months and sometimes years.
Avoid this by also setting a deadline for yourself and stick to it. Do as much research as you can during this time, then make a decision and move on.
11. Play With Lighting To Keep Things Interesting
You will most probably be spending many hours in your home studio. Especially if you have no window (which is probably not ideal for good acoustics anyway), things can start feeling pretty boring and mind-dulling after hours of work, specially when you are working on something not very stimulating.
The lighting in your studio can have different effects on your mood and productivity, so it will be a good idea to experiment a little and see what works for you.
With the continuing growth of LED lighting, you get a wide variety of lights available with different intensities and different colors. Some even allow you to adjust the intensity levels and color, all within one light source.
Just to give you an indication of the effects lighting can have on your mindset, here are two examples. Very bright lighting conditions have shown to keep you alert and increase productivity, while very low conditions create a more relaxed mood which can be beneficial if you need to wind down.
The color of your lighting on the other hand, have a substantial effect on your mood. A light producing a blue tint have shown to have a calming effect on the user, while a red tint can induce emotions of excitement.
These are just broad generalizations, but you can already start to see what a big role lighting can play in how you experience and perform in your environment. There are too many different light sources and options available to even begin discussing it in detail. Just know this powerful option is available to you to keep studio life interesting, so start doing some research.
12. Don't Wait Until You Can Afford It All Before Starting
You may have seen a Youtube video or finished a comprehensive article explaining in detail how to set up your home recording studio and everything you need to create the perfect sounding setup and environment.
Many users make the mistake of believing that you need all the equipment, all the acoustic treatment, the right DAW software, and exactly the right room before they can get started.
Apart from the fact that most of us don't have the budget to instantly have access to all these elements, its also not necessary. If you have the basics ready to start recording, start right away. Even if you still need better equipment, lack acoustic materials or don't have the perfect room, that's fine. You add it as you go along and get the necessary funds or the right space becomes available.
The important thing is that you get started and gain knowledge and experience as quickly as possible. This is more valuable in the long run and something money cannot buy.
The truth is, you will never be finished. There will always be equipment that can be replaced with better ones, newer versions of software becoming available and changes in acoustics to be made. This is a never ending process, so don't wait for something that will never happen.
13. You Don't Need To Know Everything To Run Your Own Studio
I am pretty sure when Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking reached the end of their lives, they were left with more questions than answers. If these brilliant men were unable to get many of the answers they were looking for throughout their lives, what chance do we have?
The answer is simple, we will never know everything or enough. The sooner you make peace with this the better. Even in the very unlikely event of you learning everything that is possible to be learned, within days (if not hours) new information will become available at the speed of light. It is livelong exercise, so embrace it and don't let it hold you back.
Learn as much as you can within a set period of time and then get started. If you get something wrong, don't be hard on yourself and beat yourself up about it. We all get things wrong. It's the only way we learn and grow.
14. Keep Your Audio Equipment Clean And Sanitized
One of the most neglected parts of running a recording studio is keeping your audio equipment clean and sanitized. Over time dust, dirt and sometimes more unsavory materials start building up on our equipment and components. The importance of keeping them clean goes beyond aesthetics. There are a few other benefits you may not be aware of.
Microphones are by far the biggest culprit when it comes to collecting dirt. In commercial studios it is handled by dozen of hands, exposed to just as many mouths with everything from saliva and any kind of other "foreign objects" accumulating.
The issue of hygiene is obvious from what was just mentioned. But all the dust and dirt can also degrade the performance of a microphone over time.
The same applies to studio monitors, audio interfaces, desktop computers and cables and connections. Especially with devices like audio interfaces and desktop computers housing delicate electronics, layers of dust and dirt can cause severe degradation in performance and even long term damage.
There are a variety of ways to keep your different equipment clean. You can read about it in detail in this article. However you choose to keep your equipment clean is up to you. Just don't neglect this seemingly insignificant but important habit.
15. Leave Space Between Your Speakers And The Back Wall
The position and height of studio monitors/speakers in your room are crucial to getting the right feedback for properly monitoring your audio recording. When placed closed to a wall, there is another important factor to take into consideration.
Even though studio monitors are facing away from the wall they are placed against, the low frequency sounds (bass) from the speakers travel in all directions. This sound is reflected off the back wall and clash with the sound travelling in the direction the speakers are facing.
By placing the speakers at least 2 feet away from the wall, you can keep this effect to a minimum. You can further lesson the effect by applying acoustic materials to the back walls behind the speakers. Bass traps are ideal to be use for this.
By using just these two techniques, you will already make a huge improvement to your speakers' overall sound quality.
16. Use A Closed Controlled Space For Your Studio
Beggars can't be choosers. As a home recording studio user, we realize this too well. Wherever we live we have to use what we have available in our homes to convert into a recording studio. This may vary from having a whole granny flat, a single room, to making space in the confines of a studio apartment or bachelor flat.
Whatever your situation, you can turn almost every space into a studio. There is just one requirement. You need to create a closed controlled space within which to set up your recording studio.
This may take many forms. From using the multiple rooms of a separate flat/apartment, the natural barriers created by the walls of a spare room, to using acoustic curtains to create an isolated space in a larger open area. Just make sure its closed off to allow you the best possible control over your audio.
17. Never Place Your Microphone Directly On Your Desk
In the controlled environment of the studio, condenser microphones are very popular due to their ability to pick up the finest detail. Their added sensitivity means that extra care should be taken when deciding as to where and how they are placed. (Many manufacturers ships their mics with a small tripod or stand that you can place directly on your desk. Unfortunately, this is recipe for disaster.)
Your microphone is sensitive enough to pick up the slightest knock and movement on the desk. Placing a microphone stand directly on a desk without any shock absorption means any sound from the desk gets transferred straight through the microphone stand and still gets picked up by the microphone.
To make things worse, sound from your voice also get reflected off the hard surface of the desk, and also gets picked up by the microphone.
You need to create some space and shock absorption between the desk and the microphone, as well as avoid directing your voice at the desk. The best solution is using an adjustable boom with a shockmount attached to it, that you can place at the right height and distance from your mouth.
This way you avoid any direct contact with the desk, and the height of the microphone allows you to keep your voice directed at the mic and away from the desk.
18. Don't Forget About Acoustic Treatment
Many home studio owners look at the extensive use of acoustic treatment in high-end commercial studios, thinking it is too complex and expensive to apply in their own studios. This is one misconception that must be debunked as quickly as possible. Actually the direct opposite of this way of thinking is true.
You are already handicapped by a small recording space in a rectangular room with directly opposing parallel walls, causing the effects of reverberation (echo), amplification and the distortion of sound to be that much more severe. This makes the use of acoustic materials that much more important.
It is also not nearly as difficult or expensive as you may thing. If you would like to find out more, I am covering acoustic treatment in detail in this article.
Just never neglect acoustic treatment in your home studio. It is not that difficult if understood correctly, quite inexpensive, and will make the world of difference to your sound quality.
19. Do Not "Eat The Microphone"
When you see a photo of an artist performing on stage, in many cases its with the lips pressed right up against the microphone, and in some extreme cases with the mouth wide open and the microphone "shoved" halfway into the mouth.
And there is some method in this madness. Artists performing at a live event, especially in a noisy environment like a rock concert, don't have much of a choice. They are competing against some very loud instruments, fellow vocalists and a very noisy crowd of thousands.
That is why they are often told by their sound engineers to actually "eat the mic". The only way for the sound engineer to capture and isolate the sound in such a noisy environment, is to have the performers mouth and sound directed at the mic in the closest possible distance.
They cannot just turn up the gain (volume) to capture more of the sound, as this raises the noise level and possibly capture other unwanted sounds as well. Dynamic microphones with their relatively simple and robust design are ideal tor this purpose.
In your home studio, the chances are pretty good you are using a condenser microphone. Combined with the controlled quiet environment of a studio, your approach should be almost the exact opposite. Condenser microphones are active (powered) and its much more sensitive diaphragm makes it very sensitive to the smallest noise.
As result, you need to create some distance between your mouth and the microphone to produce a recording that is clear and not distorted. (Up to a foot in distance, depending on the microphone and studio.) Not only will this allow the sound to develop and sound natural over distance, it will also help to protect the microphone. Condenser microphones are very sensitive and are prone to be damaged or completely destroyed by a very loud sound.
To find out more about condenser and dynamic microphones, you can find it in this article.
20. Don't Rely On Just One Source To Monitor Your Sound
We often see sound engineers sitting behind a mixing console with a pair of headphones on, as well as music videos where artists are "staged" performing with their trendy looking headphones in a "studio". This creates the misconception that a good pair of headphones is all you need to produce a good recording.
However, all professional studios have at least two or more studio monitors as part of the permanent setup, and with good reason.
Your headphones may be able to pick up the smallest detail that some other sources are unable to. However, you still need to get a more realistic indication of what your recording will sound like in an open space to an audience. Only studio monitors can give you a realistic feedback for this purpose.
You simply can't rely on just one source to monitor and judge the overall performance of your recording. Only by using both sources to evaluate your recorded audio will you be able to get the best possible result.
21. Don't Use Software To Compensate For A Bad Recording
DAW software are very powerful and getting more powerful by the day. It posses an impressive set of tools to correct and adjust recorded audio. The downside of this, is that all these tools can create bad recording habits.
You probably heard the saying, "Garbage In Garbage Out". This simply means if the original source "recording" is of poor quality, the final product will be sub-par as well. Your DAW software can be powerful and versatile, but it can only correct or improve a poorly recorded piece of audio so much.
And why waste so much time in the first place when the problem could have been avoided in the first place during the recording phase? By simply moving microphones and instruments around for the best recording quality, as well as adjusting the gain and other input functions on the audio interface, many of these issues can be addressed and even completely resolved during the recording phase.
Always pay attention to setting up everything in the studio to sound at their best during the recording stage, and use your DAW software to only fine-tune and put the final touches on a recorded sound.
22. Keep Your Studio Dry
One of the biggest dangers to your studio is damp. Especially when it comes to your equipment and connections, damp can be deadly. It get's into your electronics, especially circuit boards and can cause oxidation and rust (on metallic parts) which eat away and shorten the life of your equipment.
Too much moisture can also result in an electrical short (electrical current is forced down an unintended path) inside and between equipment, which can lead to complete equipment failure. Connectors at the end of cables are especially prone to electrical shorts due to the amount and proximity of pins grouped together, and how easily moisture can interfere with their connectivity.
There are quite a few things you can do to damp-proof your studio. Using dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air is a very effective way of keeping your studio dry. They come in a variety of capacities and with different levels of automation.
Just remember that dehumidifiers normally create quite a bit of noise, so make sure you operate then whenever you are not recording or monitoring. This leaves more than ample time to let them work and effectively keep your studio dry.
Another long term solution, is to use a proper damp seal coating to apply to your walls and ceilings. Just a remember, in a place where high levels of moisture exist, like a basement, a lot of the moisture can be trapped inside the walls, which can leave to peeling of your coat, fungus and a weakening of the outer wall structure.
The point of all these warnings is not to discourage you at all. It is just to make you aware of the seriousness of the dangers of damp. It is also to highlight the impact of environments that are naturally high in moisture. This includes areas like basements that do not just contain above average amounts of moisture in the air, but are also hiding a few extra dangers in the walls and other structures. These environments may require a lot more work to properly deal with damp and eliminate the problem.
23. Use An "Equilateral Triangle" To Position Your Speakers
The ideal position between you, the speakers and the distance between the two speakers, can be determined by using the dimensions of an equilateral triangle. An equilateral triangle has equal lengths and identical internal angles (60 degrees).
Just remember, it is not always the best position, especially the distance between the user and the speakers. Sometimes the "sweet spot" is closer or further away from the speakers, depending on factors like the length of the room and the power output of the speakers themselves.
Only by experimenting with different positions, will you be able to find the right position for your setup. If you are unsure about the ideal position to place your speakers, or your distance from the speakers, start by using the "equilateral triangle position" as a reference point.
If you find the information a bit confusing or need more comprehensive information on studio monitor/speaker placement, you can read all about in this article.
24. Invest In A Good Quality Chair
If you are a serious home studio user, chances are pretty good that you spend hundreds of hours per month in your studio, and more specifically in your chair. Just taking this sheer amount of time you spend sitting into consideration, the importance of a comfortable and supportive quality chair cannot be emphasized enough.
You most probably know the feeling of getting up from your chair feeling sore and stiff all too well. This means you are not getting up often enough to stretch your legs, but more often than not the real reason behind the soreness is using a chair that is not supportive or comfortable enough.
Not only will the right chair be comfortable and help you keep you active and productive, it will also support you in all the correct areas to promote a healthy body and good posture.
25. Always Choose A Desktop Computer For Your DAW
We live in a world where almost everything is getting smaller and more compact. A modern day smartphone carries more computing power than a state-of-the-art computer of the 1970's, that would literally fill up a whole room.
There are still many instances where the computing power and design of a tablet or smartphone still cannot even begin to compete with a "real traditional" computer. In some cases even a laptop are not able to replace the capabilities of a desktop computer.
In a nutshell, the advantages can be summed in 3 words: Power, Upgradibilty and Size
To function properly, DAW software requires a lot of processing power. A modern Intel Core i7 CPU used in a desktop computer provides the amount of power 50 smartphones combined will never be able to match. (Smartphones will keep on getting more powerful, but will never be able to compete with a CPU in a desktop computer of the same era.)
Size is actually very obvious if you think about it. A modern day DAW software interface sometimes mimic traditional mixing consoles. To properly view all the detail represented on screen you need a big screen monitor (or more). In most cases, a 23 inch monitor will be the smallest monitor recommended to accommodate all the onscreen information. (Just have a look at photos of professional recording studios and you will see 2 or 3 big screen monitors being used in the majority of them. Now you know why).
The ease of use a full size keyboard provides, not only helps you speed up your work but also make you more productive as well. Assigning shortcut keys to many important functions in your DAW software, is just one example of how productivity can be increased.
Upgradibility come in the form of additional memory slots, and space to add extra hard drives or sound cards - all which will be required at some point as your studio and hardware requirements grow. This is something only a desktop computer can properly address.
I just skimmed the surface of why a desktop computer is always the recommended choice. If you find this information a bit confusing or need additional information, you can read a detailed explanation of the advantages of desktop computers in this article.
26. Invest In Affordable Mass Loaded Vinyl Acoustic Barrier
It is not just your speakers and microphones that are sensitive to vibrations and shocks. Vibrations and knocks to your desk can be disruptive and interfere with your computer and audio interface situated on your desk.
Whether you have a carpeted, tiled or wooden floor, you are still going to experience some knocks and bumps from sources inside or outside your studio. One way of making sure you isolate it as much as possible, is by using a thick sound-and-shock-absorbing material like mass loaded vinyl.
This 1/8 inch thick vinyl absorbs almost any notable vibrations that may be emitted through the floor, while providing some added stability and sturdiness to your desk as well. It is a very affordable material that can make the world of difference to your recordings.
27. Keep Your Cables Tidy And Organised Right From The Start
If you look behind your computer work desk right now, chances are pretty good you will find a nest of tangled cables that build over the years. In a recording studio you build and expanded over years, the situation might be a lot worse.
These cable are not only dangerous as it can cause electrical short-circuits and even result in an electrical fire. It also becomes a headache when it come to changing equipment and its cables. The time and effort wasted on this seemingly endless process, takes its toll on productivity. And even though it may be hidden behind a desk or another object, it doesn't make the problem disappear and will only get worse when not addressed.
Using a cable organizer like the Spiral Cable Wire Wrap Tube, is a simple but very effective way of keeping your cable together, neat and tidy without any tangling. It also also allows different cables in the "tube" to exit at any point to be directed to the appropriate device.
28. Use A Pop Filter To Protect Your Microphone And Recording
Chances are pretty good the microphone you are using in your studio is a condenser microphone. With its ability to pick up the smallest detail due to its sensitive diaphragm, the microphone is especially prone to loud sounds, especially explosive ones like pops and cracks. Not only can these pops and cracks overload the mic and distort the sound quality, it can actually lead to microphone damage over the long term.
One effective and affordable way of preventing this is by using a pop filter. This mesh covered circular filter helps to protect the microphone in more than just one way. The thin mesh material filters out the loud popping sounds while letting through almost all other sound frequencies, not degrading the sound quality in any way.
A condenser microphone is not only prone to loud sounds, but also the environment, especially moisture. And as much as some of us hate to admit it, we all produce some form of saliva or moisture when speaking or singing. A pop filter shields the microphone from any saliva or other airborne objects.
29. Use A Wall Mounted Clock
I already mentioned the importance of time when it comes to taking breaks, setting deadlines and overall planning. Yet despite that, we still get carried away with our work, no matter how religiously we are trying to stick to a schedule.
A good idea is to keep large appealing wall clock against your studio wall, specifically directly opposite you so that it is directly in your line of sight. You will find this method very effective, as it it will catch your eye every now and then, helping you keep track of your day and stick to your schedule.
30. A Studio Monitor/Speaker Stand Makes All The Difference
You will only really appreciate the importance of studio monitor stands once you used them and realized just what a difference they can make.
Freed from the reverberation and sound distortion caused by a desk or any flat hard surface, placed optimally at ear level and properly angled at the user/microphone - your speakers/studio monitors will really shine when properly placed on a pair of stands.
Make sure you choose a stand with all the attributes that is required for optimal performance. Providing a sturdy and solid base, an adjustable height with a platform that has a non-slip pad that prevents the speakers from moving around. All these features should also be available at a reasonable price as a good quality pair of studio monitor stands are normally affordable.
You can read more about proper speaker placement in detail in this article.
31. Back Up Your Audio Files On An External Hard Drive
Whether you are recording you audio in 16-bit or 24-bit depth, you will be surprised how quickly you audio files will fill up you computer's hard drive. Luckily hard drives with bigger capacities at affordable prices are widely available to consumers. When you are working on a desktop computer with additional open slots, you now have the option to upgrade your hard drive to a bigger capacity one, or simply add a second large capacity drive to your system.
But what if something happens to your computer? We don't think of backing up our data nearly enough. You may be sitting with months or years of work on your computer, and only realize the consequences of not backing up when an electrical power surge or computer virus destroys all the data on you hard drive. When your hard drive is destroyed, there is no way of ever getting your years of hard work back.
For this reason, I would not just recommend, but plead with you to invest in a separate external hard drive where you can keep a copy of all your data files. USB connected hard drives are affordable and you can come in capacities of up to 4Gb.
32. Use A SPL Meter For The Right Volume Level
Have you stopped and considered the volume at which you are listening to and monitoring your recording? There actually is a volume level that is considered by sound engineers in the recording industry to be the sweet spot when it comes to monitoring your recording to get the most accurate feedback.
In most recording studios, 85dB (decibels) is the magic number used to listen to recordings and monitor sound. It provides you with the flattest hearing curve, meaning "the listener perceives a constant loudness when presented with pure steady sounds" (also called equal loudness contour).
This is a general standard used in commercial studios. It is not set in stone though, and may vary according to the size of the studio. Some smaller studios may use a much lower volume setting of 70dB to achieve optimal results.
In order to achieve this volume, you need a measuring device, called a SPL Meter. This a handheld device with a microphone on top. The diaphragm in the microphone measures the air pressure produced by sound waves and display the result in decibels.
The best place to measure the volume, is the position in the studio where you are seated to monitor your sound. (Obviously with the studio monitors and acoustic treatment correctly set up.) It will also be useful to take additional measurements in other relevant spots in your studio to get a balanced indication of the overall sound volume.
33. Record Your Audio At 24-bit
The dynamic range of your recordings is mostly determined by the bit depth at which the audio is recorded. Most music CD's use 16-bit depth and a huge debate is raging as to using a higher 24-bit depth is necessary at all. Many users claim there is no real audible difference between the 2 bit depths.
However, recording at 24-bit still provides you with the biggest dynamic range, which is recommended for the recording phase of your production. Yes, the file size of a 24-bit recording is much larger than a 16-bit recording, but with the increase in hard drive capacity at a very low cost this should not be an issue.
Since the standard for DVD quality is 24-bit, it is even more reason to start with best dynamic audio range possible. If file size becomes an issue or 16-bit is required at a later stage, you can always export your audio at a 16-bit depth.
34. Microphone Holder For An Uncluttered Desk And Safe Mic
You probably know the frustration of finishing monitoring your recording when you take your headphones off and try to find a place on your already cluttered work desk to put it down. Not to mention the irritation of constantly moving it around the desk to access other equipment it was left on.
Some people use the microphone and its boom arm to hang the headphone over, but this is not ideal and can have its own share of problems. Luckily, enough users all over the world are battling with this problem, which led manufacturers to start developing microphone holders.
A simple but extremely helpful accessory that you can hang your headphone over. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be fixed against a wall or, my personal favorite, bolted onto the side of a desk where you can easily hang and retrieve it. Your desk remains less cluttered and your microphone hangs safely out of the way on the side of the desk.
The K&M Stands Headphone holder with table clamp is just on of a wide variety of different headphone holders available in different forms and shapes. What I like about the K&K holder, is that it clamps directly to the side of your desk, keeping your headphones within reach and neatly secured against the side of you desk.
35. Use Isolation Pads When Speaker Stands Are Not An Option
A good pair of studio monitor/speaker stands remain the ideal place to put you speakers on. There may be a few reasons though, that you simply are not able to place your speakers on separate stands. From budget restrictions, limited room space to just a strong personal preference to place your speakers on your desk or other surface, stands are just not working for you.
Luckily this is not a train smash, largely due to the availability of iso-pads (isolation pads). These firm but absorbent foam pads are the ideal alternatives to place your studio monitors on. They can be used on your desk, shelve, the floor or other solid horizontal surfaces.
They mainly serve to two purposes. The most important one being the ability to absorb vibrations and shocks effectively from the surface it is standing on. The foam used in iso-pads is still firm and flat enough to provide a stable surface for the speakers to safely stand on.
The second purpose and advantage is the ability of many iso-pads to to be tilted at an angle (or multiple angles) to allow the speaker to directly face your head. As a result, floor or desk standing speakers not at ear level, can easily tilted to directly face in the right direction.
Not all iso-pads provide a lot of flexibility when it comes to angling studio monitors in exactly the right direction. This is part reason why I am such a huge fan of the Ultimate Support MS-80 isolation pads. They may be a bit overkill and are not the most affordable options available to you. If a specific angle is not a priority for you, there are certainly much more affordable quality iso-pads available.
36. Studio Case For Safe Equipment Storage
As your studio grows, you will be collecting a multitude of some equipment, like multiple microphones and specialty cables. Many of these microphones and cables will not be actively used for extended periods of time, and need to be safely stored.
This is where a studio case with protective foam interior comes in very handy. Most condenser microphones and some cables are sensitive and needs to be stored in a protective environment.
A sturdy studio case are able to safely store multiple microphones and other equipment, holding them in place, and protecting them from knocks, dust and other external forces. They also come in very handy if you need to transport your equipment safely.
37. Don't Dismiss Free DAW Software As Just A Waste Of Time
DAW software is the heart and soul of any commercial and home recording studio. They are involved at every phase, from recording, editing and processing, to outputting the final product. Deciding on the right software to suite your needs, is turning out to be a very important one.
With many experts discouraging the use of free software, how do you learn the basics to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing more advanced DAW software? We take a look at Audacity, a popular free DAW to find out.
Audacity comes with a user-friendly customizable interface interface with a variety of toolbars available right from the menu. The interface is clean and pretty self-explanatory, making it easy to navigate your way around, which is a good thing when coming to grip with an audio interface for the first time.
It has a simple recording panel on the interface, allowing you to record audio and voice-overs directly in the software. The recording can be saved as a project file. Audacity also supports multiple tracks, which can each be import as separate audio files, effects and filters applied to, then exported as an audio file.
There is a number filters to apply to your audio, and I will just highlight a few noteworthy ones to illustrate their diversity: Equalization, Compression, Normalize, Reverb, Auto Ducking and the Silence Audio Tool are just a few of dozens of useful filter and effects.
Files can be exported in a variety of formats, the Windows WAV file being one of the standards you will probably use. You can even install and use the Lame MP3 Encoder to export your MP3 audio files.
As Audacity is a "light" application, it does not take up a lot of your system resources, meaning any changes and effects are quickly applied. The user-friendly interface speeds up productivity as important functions can be accessed and executed quickly. The ability to customize and add keyboard shortcuts to often-used functions, adds to the ease of use and increase productivity even further.
To summarize, Audacity is a fairly straightforward no-thrills software suite that still covers all the basics of DAW recording software, and throws in some more advanced futures to make it more than just usable. For a beginner, Audacity definitely comes highly recommended, and it is really worth downloading and learning the basics of this "simple" but surprisingly powerful audio application.
If you are interested, Audacity gets covered in more detail in this article.
38. Don't Edit The Character Out Of The Music
When you finished recording your audio, the post-production process takes up most of your attention. Most of us like everything to sound just right. Great care is taken that the notes is optimized, every flaw is corrected, and all noise and distortions are removed. And it is exactly this meticulous process of editing and correcting, that may actually diminish the character and uniqueness of a piece of music.
Obviously you need to correct obvious mistakes and unwanted noises. But sometimes that one note just being a little out of sync, or the vocalist not quite hitting the "right" pitch, actually creates the perfect authentic and unique combination you were looking for.
Sometimes some of the best audio productions are created by "accident", which can result in authentic sounds and with a unique character.
The take-away here is that you don't have to get everything perfect in post-production. Unpolished and a bit raw can sometimes be just perfect.
39. Make Sure Your Room Temperature Remains Comfortable
I already pointed out the amount of time you are probably spending in the studio. Apart from seating and other factors, room temperature can play a big part in your productivity.
Being kept comfortable and alert by optimizing the room temperature to your liking and providing good air circulation, you will stay productive and be able to work for longer periods of time without getting fatigued.
Due too the amount of insulation and and acoustic treatment present in a studio, combined with the heat produced by equipment and the people present the studio, a studio can become very hot and "stuffy". This create uncomfortable working conditions and a lack of concentration. All of this can lead to much reduced productivity.
Air-conditioner of circulation vents can be used to address this issue. Just be aware of the noise it can produce. I address this noise issue later in this article. (Low-noise air-conditioners are more readily available nowadays which will be worth taking a closer look at.)
40. Catalogue Your Recorded Data
This something you should be doing right from the start. As important as naming your files correctly right from the start is, so is keeping a record of all your files.
Elsewhere in the article I mention how quickly your files accumulate. Naming hundreds or thousand of file simply is not enough. When you start looking dot an specific audio track, you need a proper list with file names, as well as a short description next to each to make things quick and easy.
This way you make sure you know exactly what to look for and where to look at. (You may not just have a large number of files, they may be spread over a number of external hard drives.)
A Microsoft Excel or similar spreadsheet file will be ideal to list the names, description and location of any given audio file. I know its a hassle in the beginning, but you will quickly get used to adding a new file to your catalogue. You will thank yourself later on.
41. Use An Angle When Pop Filters Are Not Enough
The use of a pop filter is great to reduce plosive sounds that causes your microphone to clip and create that ugly distorted sound. Sometimes, some condenser microphones are so sensitive or the reverberation in the room so bad, that the pop filter by itself is not enough.
This can normally be rectified by angling you microphone. If you tilt the microphone away from your mouth and even lower it slightly to not speak directly into the mic.
The amount of tilt will depend on your own specific conditions. Experiment with the angle or tilt until you find a position where you get best results. (Another solution is to offset the microphone slightly to the left or right of your mouth to avoid speaking directly into the microphone.)
42. Remove Or Deafen Noise Sources From Within The Studio
There are a few equipment you will be using in your studio that will just make some kind of noise. They use movable parts like fans that generate noise that are simply impossible to eliminate. Air-conditioners, computer fans and the slight buzz generated by neon lights are just a few examples.
If you can, move the source of the noise out of the studio. Computer cases can be placed in an adjacent room with properly insulated cables connected to your monitors and keyboard in the studio.
Sometimes the sound source cannot be removed from the room. Air-conditioners are one example, Placing them as far away as possible from the recording source is a good start, as well as directing them to face away from the this position. Additionally, use acoustic treatment around these equipment and directly opposite them to lesson the effect of any reverberation they may cause.
Lighting can much more easily be solved by removing any noise producing light sources like neon lights, and use quiet lighting like LED lights.
It is a tricky problem that cannot always be fully addressed, but you can do much to lesson its effect on your room acoustics.
43. Save All Recordings For Later Use
It is very possible, almost certain that you have plenty of takes from a certain recording session. You could be recording some unique combination or sequence, or even use a very unique instrument in your recording.
Saving these unique sequences or instrument sounds may come in very hand at a later stage when you don't have access to the original sources. As good as DAW software and their virtual tools are, it is just not always possible to completely recreate that sound. Using samples from the saved recording to create new sequences and incorporate them into your current project will save you valuable time and money.
You will need plenty of hard drive space to save almost every recording you made. As I pointed out elsewhere in this article, external USB hard drives are growing in capacity while becoming more affordable at the same time. It will be much less expensive spending time on an extra hard drive than having to source and and make another recording of something you could have had readily available.
44. Record Vocals Without Any Effects
The temptation may be very high to add effects in real time while recording vocals to hear what it will sound like in a mix or as a finished audio production.
Rather resist this temptation, as it can be difficult or impossible to remove the effect at a later stage if you don't like it. By recording "dry" (without any effects or instruments added), you don't limit yourself and can add all the effects at your disposal later on in your DAW.
45. Store Your Backups Away From Your Studio
We already covered making backups and its importance, so no need to go over it again. What is almost as important as making backups, is where you store them. If your hard drive or other storage medium fail, you are prepared. But what if your backups are stored in your studio?
This section is not aimed to make you paranoid. This is simply brought to your attention so that hopefully in the very unlikely event that it ever happens to you, you did prepare for it.
The worst case scenario is where you may loose your whole studio and house content in the case of a human action or natural disaster. You may just be unlucky and fall victim to a burglary where the whole contents of your house and studio are stolen.
Electrical fires and flooding from a broken geyser or underground water pipe happens more often than you think. As unlikely as it may seem, a natural disaster like a fire and flooding is not impossible. You get the point.
All these "doomsday scenarios" have just been sketched to emphasize the importance of keeping important backups stored away from your home. Obviously you cannot make a backup of every possible saved audio file, but you know which your most important and treasured ones are.
The home of a trusted friend, family member or work colleague will be the ideal place to store your backups out of harm's way. It won't be an inconvenience, as external hard drives with years worth of work can easily fit inside a shoe box. It can be safely placed in a closet out of the way, and give you that added security and piece of mind.
46. When Possible Record More Than You Think You Will Need
Whatever you record, make sure you have enough material to work with. If possible, record a song or voice-over more than once with different variations if possible.
When you start mixing and editing your recorded material, you may discover several recording flaws, or parts of the audio just do not sound right. Having multiple versions of the audio will make it a lot easier to replace those pieces with different takes that do not have those specific flaws in them.
This will save you a lot of time and money, as you can address these issue immediately with readily available alternatives, and save you the time and effort of getting and artist in again to do another recording and try and simulate the original recording conditions.
47. Enjoy The Journey And Allow Yourself To Have Some Fun
There is no doubt about it. Your work is important and should be taken seriously. Even if it is not your main income and a just weekend hobby, you should still take pride in it and always try and improve.
The moment you stop enjoying yourself and your home studio becomes a mundane chore though, you are heading for trouble. If it is not a passion anymore and you feel more obligated to do it than looking forward to doing it, you need to stop and take stock.
Chances are very good that you haven't lost any passion or love for what you are doing. You may have gotten so stuck in the nitty gritty of grinding away at all the small details and getting everything right, you forgot to have fun.
Stop being so hard on yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes and try something new and different any now and then, even if it feels silly and like a waste of time.
Most importantly, remember why you started in the first place. Every passion/job has its dull repetitive parts. There is no way of getting away from it. But always keeping the big picture in mind will help you keep the right attitude and inspiration.
And remember to celebrate small successes and breakthroughs. They all accumulate to result in one big success.
48. Difference Between Soundproofing And Acoustic Treatment
These two sound treatments are often confused to be the same thing by many users. They are two completely different processes with different aims as well.
Soundproofing is the process of insulating and protecting the studio from any external sound sources. (Or the exterior from any sounds generated in the studio) Traffic outside the house, people's voices and television sounds are just a few sources that can interfere with the sound inside your studio.
Acoustic treatment is the process of treating the sound generated inside the studio, how it is perceived, absorbed and scattered to create the optimal environment for quality audio recording.
In most discussions and articles, acoustic treatment will receive preferential treatment, as it effects your sound more than soundproofing in most cases, especially in relatively quiet environments. Just be aware of those external sounds. Your microphone picks up everything!
49. Seal Your Doors And Windows
As you just saw in the previous point, there is quite difference between soundproofing and acoustic, with a little more emphasis on acoustics. Whenever a home recording studio gets discussed, room acoustics are also one of the first issues that are covered. This does not mean soundproofing should be neglected at all, especially in noisy environments.
There are two big culprits when it comes to externals noises penetrating the studio. The first one being your door. Although seemingly solid, the material used for the door may be less absorbent than you think.
Light composite materials used inside many doors, are more prone to conducting and letting sound through than absorbing it. And don't forget, the spaces above and below your door are also letting more sound through than you think.
Apart from investing in a solid sound absorbing door, make sure to use acoustic panels on both sides of the door to absorb unwanted sounds. Space underneath the door can be addressed by applying 1/8 inch thick mass loaded vinyl to seal any open spaces. (Yes, the same vinyl used underneath a desk or stand to absorb vibrations.)
Windows are the second big culprit. Even sealed and closed windows allow sound waves to travel through their surface. The good news is that you don't have to get rid of your window. Treating windows with a special acoustic glazing like Glassflex will greatly reduce, if not completely eliminate any exterior noises penetrating he window.
50. Remember To Take Breaks And Stretch Your Legs
I think we all know how quickly we can get engrossed with our work inside the studio, especially when it comes to mixing. It is easy to loose track of time and when you look again, more than three hours have flown past and you are so sore and stiff, getting up can be a painful experience.
Getting up every hour to hour and a half to take a break is very important. This literally helps to promote your health. By standing, stretching and taking a walk, you are not just working your muscles and joints that have been stagnated for more than a hour, you are also kick-starting and promoting blood flow. This stimulates and refresh your whole body and brain.
Speaking of the brain, taking a break is essential for optimal mental function as well. You can only perform mentally at your peak for so long. Battling to think clearly, solve problems and just getting that familiar "dull" feeling in your head are all indicators of mental fatigue.
You will not only feel more awake and be able to think clearly after some time and activity away from the studio. You will also find yourself more productive and able to solve some issues you were battling with before your break.
51. Keep Everything Tidy And In Place
Keeping you studio neat and tidy looks great and create a professional organised environment for you and potential clients. Studies have also shown that a clean and tidy environment promotes productivity, whereas a cluttered and messy environment can have a negative effect on your mindset.
During one of your breaks, take the time to do some cleaning up if your studio is messy. This way you are killing two birds with one stone.
52. Remember To Save Your Files Often!
As you spend extended periods of time in your studio mixing away in front of your computer, you can easily loose track of time, as I already mentioned. Apart from taking a break, you may be forgetting to do something just as important. Saving your files...
There are few things so frustrating and giving you that helpless sinking feeling, than when your computer freezes or gets shut down due to some unforeseen incident, and you realize with a shock that you just worked for three hours straight without saving you file.
This happens to thousands of users every day, so develop the habit of saving your work often. If you have to, force yourself in the beginning by setting a timer that goes off every ten/fifteen minutes to remind yourself. It will become second nature very quickly. Just get in this habit as soon as possible.
53. Get Feedback And Be Willing To Accept Criticism
If you listen to your own piece of audio long enough, you will start missing errors as you hear them so often you skip over them without even registering they are there anymore.
You may also get so accustomed and stuck in the groove of listening to your audio with your own perceptions and personal preferences determining your final product, objectivity and originality can get lost in the process
Asking someone else (preferably someone with a good ear and some experience) for help with listening and evaluating your piece of audio, will provide some fresh perspective and highlight some flaws/mistakes.
Just remember to this with an open mind and don't see any feedback as an attack on your style or abilities. From a helpful source, any criticism should be seen as just that, a genuine attempt to help and provide some fresh objectivity.
54. Allow The Music "To Die Down" At The End Of A Recording
This is a common beginner mistake when recording. Whenever you reach the end of a recording take, a voice or instrument like electric guitar or snare drum may still be fading out after the last note is played.
In the excitement of the recording, it sometimes happen that you stop the recording immediately after the last note was hit before all the vocals and instruments have faded out. This creates a very audible abrupt end to your recording. This mistake can not be rectified post production.
Luckily, this is an easy mistake to correct. At the end of the song/instrumental or vocal performance, simply let the recording run out till a few seconds after you heard the last sound fade out. This way you make sure you catch all the audio, and even if you are left a few seconds of dead track, this can always be deleted in your DAW.
55. Stay Committed And Consistent
Starting, building up and mastering your home studio is a long marathon, not a short sprint. Just realize this right from the start, and this will mindset will serve you well.
You are definitely going to encounter some hard times along the way. From difficulties mastering your equipment and software, doing mind-numbing mundane repetitive tasks, financial difficulties to lacking motivation - these are all just some of the obstacles you are bound to run in. I can almost guarantee it. It is just part of any journey, no matter how appealing and glamorous it may seem in the beginning or from the outside.
The important thing is to keep going, especially when things are getting tough and you don't feel like it. Even if you feel you have lost your drive and inspiration, it takes just one small success, or overcoming one big obstacle to reignite everything.
As I said elsewhere in this article, whenever you feel like giving up, remember why you started in the first place. It's always good to take a break, refresh and get some perspective. Just remember, there is a difference between taking a break and walking away.
56. Make Sure Your Equipment And Computer Are Compatible
The rate at which technology evolves seems to be increasing by the day. With it comes the emergence of the new technology, as well as quick demise of out-of-date technologies, or those who failed to get a foothold in the market.
This can be bad news for audio equipment users. Many manufacturers are quick to adapt a new technology to get a head start or advantage in the market. It this does not work out and you unfortunately invested in expensive equipment based on this technology, this can be a very expensive loss.
Take the technology "FireWire" for example. When it was first introduced, FireWire showed a lot of promise. It was much faster than the USB2 technology of the time, promising to get rid of any latency issues and provide lighting quick connections between the audio interface and computer/laptop.
For a variety of reasons FireWire never manage to gain much popularity, and further development and support for this technology was also halted by its developers.
Unfortunately many audio interfaces, especially high-end devices already adopted these technologies. Owners of these devices are now sitting with a growing problem, as no new laptops or desktop computer come standard with a FireWire interface, meaning owners who need to upgrade are going to find it increasingly difficult, and will probably have to end up purchasing a new audio interface.
The best advice one can give is to stick with an established technology that has been around for years and is constantly evolving. USB is now in its 3rd incarnation, with speeds exceeding those of the original FireWire connections. Being an established widely used interface, makes it a safe technology to invest in. (It is also backwards compatible, meaning different versions of USB can be used with each other, with a few limitations.)
The new kid on the block called Thunderbolt, is literally lighting quick and shows a lot of promise. Like FireWire in the beginning, is not established yet, and need to gain acceptance and popularity in the market. At the time of writing this article I will strongly advice against purchasing any equipment based on this technology, and rather use a "wait and see" approach to see if will be safe technology to invest in.
The takeaway here is to choose a device using established interface technology, especially if you need to purchase and build up a new setup. At the moment USB seem to be the safe bet.
You may not own the latest and greatest technology, but you will be sitting with equipment that you can safely use for a long time, knowing it won't get outdated and you will not battle connecting it to other devices now and in the future.
If you already own a device, make sure you know exactly what kind of digital connection it use. This way you can purchase a device with the same connection, and don't fall into the trap of trying to pair two completely incompatible devices.
57. Count Your Sources When Choosing An Audio Interface
I already mentioned the importance of planning. This is especially important when investing in an audio interface.
For the beginner home studio user, investing in the popular sub $200 audio interface market is very tempting. You get exceptionally good quality audio interfaces in this price range. Very often, if you choose a quality interface, this audio interface will serve you well for years.
There is however, one very important factor to consider before spending any money. Take into consideration the amount of sources (vocals and instruments) you will need an input connection for on your audio device.
Most audio interfaces in the above mentioned category, have a maximum of two combo inputs for microphones and instruments. For most home studios this will be sufficient.
There are a few cases however, where you know you will be using three or more input sources (for example 2 vocalists and more than 1 instrument), either right from the start or soon after your studio is up and running.
In this case, don't make the mistake of taking the less expensive route in the beginning, just to be confronted with an expensive upgrade headache shortly after you get started.
Rather wait a bit longer until you can afford an audio interface with at least two or more extra input ports than you will need. This way you ensure you have more than enough input ports available for your current and future setup.
Yes, it is quite a bit more expensive and you might have to wait a little longer, but you will save yourself time and money in the long run.
58. A Carpet Can Make All The Difference
This is one for many of you on a tight budget. If you have all your equipment in place, the next logical factor to look at is your room's acoustics. Especially if your studio has a wooden or concrete floor, you are already sitting with a problem.
The hard surface of the floor, combined with the solid flat ceiling above it, is the perfect breeding ground for some major reverberation (echo) problems. Before you start budgeting for some acoustic materials to address the problem, just hang on.
The chances are pretty good that you have a loose carpet lying around somewhere. You may even be lucky enough to have thick rug tugged away somewhere in a closet or the garage.
In a fairly small room where your carpet (or rug) may cover half the floor space, lay that carpet down on the studio floor before doing anything else. The soft absorbent material of a carpet spread over a big portion of the floor will do a remarkable job eliminating a lot of the reverberation. A thick rug will have an even bigger effect.
It may not solve all your acoustic problems, but will go a long way to eliminate much of the reverberation. So much so, that your studio will be more than suitable to start recording. And that all without spending a penny extra.
59. When "Good Enough" Is Really Enough
It is blessing to be a perfectionist, but sometimes it can also be a bit of a curse. Whenever you are recording or mixing, you should strive to get the best possible result in each phase. Checking and double checking your settings and refining your audio to be as close to ideal as possible is a good practice. But only to a point.
Going over a piece of audio mix or recording the same take over and over again because you can't nail the audio to your satisfaction, can result in you wasting precious time and productivity. This is where the perfectionist in you must take backseat.
After a set number of attempts you must accept the fact that what you have is good enough, for the time being anyway. When worst comes to worst, you can always go back and redo some parts that remain unsatisfactory. In most cases, you will find that your attempts turned out to be more than good enough.
To stay disciplined and keep yourself from getting stuck in this endless loop of trying nonstop to get the perfect result, use a deadline or set yourself a limit on the number of attempts to get a recording or mix right.
I know its a compromise in a way, but in time you will learn that there is no such thing a the "perfect sound". And sometimes a piece of audio production not refined to perfection can turn out to be exactly the right uniquely original sound that makes it stand out.
60. Prepare For The Worst
This sounds like a rather negative way to approach anything, but its just a way of being as prepared as possible for any event. You cannot be prepared for everything that can go wrong, but you can put alternative options in place to be ready if things go wrong.
Here are just a few examples of what you can do to be as ready as possible for a few scenarios.
When you schedule a certain amount of time for a recording, set aside an additional hour. Your recording may start later, run longer or be delayed due to some equipment malfunction. (The same applies to time for mixing.)
If you have been running your studio long enough and are in the fortunate situation to have a few extra microphones and audio interface available, make sure a backup is set up and ready to go in case your primary equipment fail at the last moment or during a take.
You may also have limited space available on your hard drive for recorded audio. The chances are more than likely that you will be using more space than planned as you will most probably do multiple takes of a recording or save more than one version of your mix. Having a spare external hard drive in place will always be a good option.
These are just a few example of how you can prepare for some unforeseen events. You can look into your own situation and see how you can best prepared for your own events.
61. Learn To Improvise Quickly
You know Murphy's Law. When things can go wrong, they most probably will. This is very true in a recording studio, and especially during a recording session. And learning to deal with unforeseen events quickly and efficiently closely ties in with the previous session, "Preparing For The Worst".
When it comes to recording, having backup equipment ready is not enough, and neither is setting them up. You also have to have it connected and ready to be activated with the flip of switch or change of a cable.
This is especially important if you are working on a tight or set schedule with a client who has booked a session.
Having an external hard drive available and ready to go is also essential. Your internal hard drive may get full unexpectedly quickly, or start using "virtual memory" that takes up all of its space. Being able to quickly plug in the external hard drive and continue working will prevent you from wasting any time.
These are just few practical things you can do beforehand to be ready to improvise quickly when you need to. In time you will learn to make other quick adjustments when something is just not working.
Being able to move the microphone around when the standard position is not producing the correct result, or adjusting the gain on your audio interface just a little to correct that one instrument with an unexpected big output that throwing off all the other instruments and vocals - are all skills you learn over time.
Try and make a point of mastering and remembering these skills and how to apply them quickly. This will not just improve your productivity in general, but will also be a lifesaver when something unplanned happens and you need to act quickly.
62. Don't Use Your Studio For Storage
In a way, this was already covered in the section where the point of storing your backups away from your studio was made. This section goes beyond that in terms of acoustics.
If there isn't already storage space available in the shape of build-in closets (or shelves and drawers in your desk), be very careful to add any additional furniture for storage when your room is already acoustically prepared.
There are mainly two reasons for having to be very careful to add any big piece of furniture to your studio. The first and obvious on is that a big object placed in a room where optimal acoustics have already been achieved, will definitely have some kind of effect in the way sound travels in the room and my throw the acoustic balance off completely.
The biggest problem you can create though, is if you are adding objects with flat hard surfaces. A solid rectangular filing cabinet or bookshelf is the worst possible kind of object you can add to a studio. The flat vertical surfaces will almost certainly cause some kind of reverberation which will have a negative effect on your recording quality.
If you can't find storage for your equipment, documentation and accessories in an existing space in your studio, rather store it outside the studio at a location close-by where it is quick and easy to find.
63. Don't Go Overboard With Effects
Being spoiled for choice with the hundreds of effects available in your DAW software, makes it tempting to "overload" your audio project with special effects. This can and very often do more damage than good to a recording.
Remember, you effects exist to compliment your recorded audio or vocals. As soon as your effects starts taking center stage instead of your recording, you are going off-target and setting your audio project up for potential failure.
64. Purchase Equipment Suitable For Your Type Of Studio
As with many other choices you make, this one should preferably be made during the planning stage. Your studio space is also one of the first choices you have to make during the planning stage, making your equipment choice easier to be based on this studio space.
Essentially, the type and quality of equipment you will purchase, should be determined the room or space you use as your studio. Using some examples will best illustrate this point.
In a very small studio, like a bedroom converted into a studio, you already have so much natural acoustic treatment that this should not be the your priority. A big empty lounge on the other hand, will require extensive acoustic treatment and should be one of your first priorities. You will obviously also need a bigger budget for acoustic treatment of a big empty lounge than you would for a small bedroom studio.
The same applies to high-quality speakers used for monitoring your sound. Spending hundreds of dollars on speakers with big diameter drivers to deliver powerful low frequency outputs, and at huge amplitudes in a small studio is just completely unnecessary.
You will not be able to experience the full range of sound frequency as produced by such a large capacity speaker and the sound will also become distorted very quickly in such a small space. Using a small pair of near-field studio monitors will perform much better in the same space. (Obviously the opposite apply when using a very large studio with a small pair of desktop speakers to produce an accurate and realistic sound that will fill the room.)
These are just a few examples, but should give you an idea of how equipment chosen to suite their environment, will always give you the best performance.
65. Acoustic Blankets And Windows
Elsewhere in this article, I discuss sound insulation and how windows and doors are prone to allowing external sounds to penetrate the studio. A special type of glazing can be applied to help prevent external sounds from entering the studio through the windows.
Not everyone likes the idea of direct treatment to their windows. There is another option for users who are looking for an alternative solution. This solution will also serve a dual purpose.
Acoustic blankets are described in this article to create an isolated space within a large open area for a studio setup. This same acoustic blankets can be used for your windows.
With a little improvisation, you can turn these blankets into curtains and replace the existing curtains in front of your window. By drawing these "blankets" close, you are creating a very effective acoustic barrier.
As the thick materials in the blankets are designed to absorb sound, it will help to absorb external sounds from outside the window, but also help to absorb any additional sound waves generated inside the studio. Basically a two-in-one solution.
66. Use Reference Tracks For Mixing & Testing Room Acoustics
Working for long hours day in and day out for years will reward you. You develop and fine-tune your skills, train your ears to pick up the finest detail and know exactly how you want your end mix to sound like.
With all this experience come a little bit of a risk though, especially if you work mostly on your own. I already discussed getting feedback from outside sources when evaluating your work. Before getting to that point however, you will still be working on your own for weeks without any external guidance.
When working on your audio for extended periods of time, you tend to rely mostly on your own experience and hearing to monitor and judge your mix. The danger of this is that you end up working "in a bubble".
There is a more direct way of constantly monitoring your mix and make sure you keep working in the right direction. Making use of reference tracks can help you stay on coarse and make sure you are constantly judging your own audio against industry standards.
A reference track is a commercial song/audio that is already a commercial success and from an established artist. This not enough though. Make sure this song sounds good to you in a variety of different scenarios and over time. Also make sure its in the same genre and style you are aiming to make your own production sound like.
Having a recording ready on your system to play back at a moment's notice will help you judge your own attempts, making sure settings like gain, balance and equalization are set correctly. This will also guide you to make sure your audio "sounds right" and the overall feeling, rhythm and mood you are trying to create, is moving in the right direction.
The aim is not to copy the reference track in anyway. It is there to hold your hand and act as a guideline. Left to your own devices for too long, and you may end up going in completely the wrong direction. Only after comparing your attempts against a reference track will you realize how far off-target you have gone.
Always keep a reference track or two ready and make sure to compare your own mix on a regular basis, especially if you are still finding your way. You will save yourself a huge amount of time and gain a lot of invaluable experience.
67. Address Obvious Mistakes And Flaws Immediately
Whenever you come across a flaw or make a mistake, whether it is in the recording or editing phase, address it or make a very prominent note of it immediately.
When you are entrenched in your work, there is a lot going on and you have a lot to concentrate on. You have to listen to so many different aspects of your audio, monitor so many settings and may be busy doing and planning so many adjustments, it is extremely easy to forget about a mistake/flaw in your audio you just picked up.
The important thing to remember is to stop immediately, even if it is just to make a quick note before continuing. This way you ensure a flaw or mistake gets addressed and not get lost in the small mountain of information you are busy working on.
68. Evaluate Your Audio Outside The Studio
Monitoring your audio with both headphones as well as your studio monitors/speakers are a very good start. But even these 2 sources are not enough.
In order to get the best indication of what your audio will sound like and get it as compatible enough to sound good on all devices, you should test it on as many as possible devices. And that means taking it out of the studio.
Whenever you reach a stage where you feel your audio mix is at a point where it can be evaluated and you are happy with the way it sounds in the studio, make a playable audio file and put it on a flash drive.
With most modern day devices providing USB and MP3 support, test it on everything you can get your hands on. Play it on your home theater system, your car's MP3 player, through your television's auxiliary USB port and even download play it through your portable MP3 player.
Now you will have a realistic indication of what your audio will sound like on most devices. You may get a few (or many) unpleasant surprises, but this the only way to get a realistic view of your audio's overall performance.
Its important to note that it is very seldom that you will get your final audio production to sound great on every possible device. This is normal. As long as it performs well on the majority of devices, you know your audio is on target and no obvious nasty surprises are waiting down the road.
69. Watch Your Recording Levels
Setting your recording levels up correctly can not be emphasized enough. Setting up a microphone levels too low can still be rectified, but recording levels that are set too high will cause clipping on your microphone and cause an unpleasant distorted sound that is impossible to rectify.
Monitor and adjust your recording levels during your microphone setup. Even simple audio software like Audacity, monitor and indicate your recording levels, with green, yellow and red bars. As soon as your recording level starts jumping into the yellow and red area, turn down your recording level. Stay safe and stay in the green.
70. Leave Your Bookshelves Alone
When you convert any room into a studio, chances are that there may already be some furniture in it. If you are converting a study or bedroom, there is a good chance there are already bookshelves in place. Don't be in a hurry to remove them.
Especially if your bookshelves are already filled with books and other objects with different shapes and sizes, you already have some very good acoustic treatment in place.
As a matter of fact, your bookshelf with all the different objects on it acts as a diffuser, scattering the audio waves hitting it in all directions. This will dramatically reduce reverberation. All this effective sound treatment without any extra effort or spending one additional penny.
71. Remember That Looks Aren't Everything
Obviously we would like our equipment and components to look aesthetically pleasing. Walking into your studio where everything is color-coded, looking professional and fitting together like every component was build for each other, is a very satisfying feeling. The reality is far removed from it however.
The important thing is how well equipment and components work together, not look together. You may be lucky and start off with most of your equipment fitting well together.
At some point you are going to upgrade or replace some component. And to be brutally honest, it is really going to be bit silly to purchase a piece of equipment based on it looks, not its performance.
Trust me, no one listening to your audio production or voice-over is going to be concerned about what your studio or the equipment in it looks like. They will notice however, when your audio sounds inferior due to a pretty looking but poor quality audio component.
72. Set Deadlines For Every Phase Of Your Audio Production
The planning stage when you start out your studio, is not the only phase in which you should make use of deadlines. The advantage of setting a deadline is to help you stick to a schedule, finish projects on their target dates and helping you to pace yourself.
This is why it is important to set a specific time and stick to this time for each stage of your audio production. This applies to setting up, recording, mixing and mastering (if yo feel confident enough).
This will also have the added benefit to force you to work more quickly and improve your overall productivity.
One last point worth noting, is to remember that each phase of your production will take up a different length of time. Mixing for example, will probably take a lot more time than setting up your equipment and instruments. You will work out over the course of time the amount of time on average you should set aside for each stage.
The important takeaway is that you set yourself a deadline once you have worked out how much time you need for each stage, then be disciplined and stick to it.
73. Stop Making Excuses
We all encountered this scenario at some point. We have recording project so big and complex, we chose to sidestep this daunting task by finding all kinds of excuses not to get started.
Typically, "you just don't have the time, need to plan properly and do some more research." These are just a few of many excuses we use, but sometimes just the sheer magnitude of your project has a paralyzing effect on you.
Interestingly though, as soon as you get started, it immediately get easier. So just start, even if it is with something small like taking out a notepad and start making notes of key targets you want to achieve. Write down a rough framework with its main headlines, then start filling in some smaller to-do tasks whenever you think of anything.
Even just start playing around and start setting up some equipment just to get you on the go. It can be the smallest little exercise, but jut start at some point and the rest will fall in line soon enough.
74. Break Big Projects Into Smaller Sections
Building on the previous point, big projects can be made easier and manageable in several ways. Just getting started is one way of getting off the mark, but there is more structured way of making it more manageable and not seem so daunting.
By sitting doing down and literally breaking your audio project into smaller sections you are making it a lot more manageable and less intimidating. Breaking a big project up into six or more smaller sections, you can give you full attention to each section without worrying the whole project the whole time.
It is not always clear as to how to start breaking down something into smaller sections, and is also a skill that you develop over time as you gain experience. There are a few things you can do to get started though.
If you already have a vague idea of a song in your head and what you want it to sound like, you already have three separate sections to work with. A start, middle and ending.
Even if you are not exactly sure what each will sound like, you already have 3 separate areas you can think about and define a but more for yourself. Once you start getting a clearer picture of what each part may sound like, you can start thinking about transitional areas in the music and how you may use them to tie the beginning to the middle and middle to the end together. Now you have five separate areas to work on.
(For all song writers and music composers having a heart attack right now, I know this not the way a song necessarily gets composed or written at all, and in many cases there are many different facets that cannot be defined in terms of beginning in middle and end. For the rest of us having to do pretty much everything by ourselves, it is a simplistic yet effective way of breaking a project down into workable pieces.)
Alongside working with these five stages, you can start thinking about other aspects of your project like rhythm and instruments.
What kind of rhythm do you have in mind? What mood do you wan to set and what should the pace of the rhythm be? What kind of drum set or other instrument will you using for keeping the beat?
The same applies when thinking about instruments in general. What are the main instruments (or virtual instruments) you will be using? How many will there be? At what stage during your track will each one be used?
At his point you have 7 different areas you can work on. An you don't have to work on them chronologically. You can work on each on each one develop each area separately. Obviously you have an overall idea of what you are working towards, but you only really need to start thinking about this much later when you start fitting the different pieces together during the mixing process.
There are a wide variety of ways to approach and break down a big project and there is no real right or wrong way. Hopefully these few ideas and guidelines will help you get started.
75. Analyze Your Room Using The "Clap" Test
Sometimes simple and free exercises can be just as valuable as the most expensive piece of equipment or sound measuring device. This is exactly what this section is all about.
When you set up your studio for the first time, you want to get rid of as much reverberation as possible. (This also applies to existing studios where you moved equipment around and need to optimize your room's acoustics.)
Using just your hands and ears, you can effectively test reverberation. When you clap your hands together in an empty room, the clap normally sounds harsh and sharp. This is the combination of of the sound source (your hands), and the the sound waves reverberating off the walls, ceiling and floor. This is normal for an untreated room and a good indication that you need some serious acoustic treatment.
What you are looking for is a dull "thud" when you clap your hands together. You can go ahead and start adding acoustic materials. After each application, do another clap test. Repeat this process until you get the desired results when doing the "clap test". Some rooms will require a lot more acoustic materials than others. It all depends on each room's size, dimensions and existing materials already present in the room.
If you need more information on how to apply acoustic treatment to your studio, you can read more about it in this article.
Also remember to do this test in various spots in the room, not just in one central position. This is not an exact science, but a very effective and tried-and-tested way of helping you create a studio with very good acoustics.
76. Get In The Closet During "Desperate Times"
This may sound very strange, but a closet can turn out to be a very handy make-shift studio if you are away from your own, and need to make a recording urgently.
No, I am not talking about a small little closet you cannot even stand upright in, nevermind holding and talking/singing into a microphone. I am referring to a convenient walk-in closet, or at least a closet which is big enough for you to stand in and hold a microphone at a comfortable distance. (If you are working with an instrument like a guitar, a walk-in closet will probably be your only option.) But why a closet?
A closet provides all the characteristics that helps to minimize reverberation. It does not have any big flat surfaces like walls that will cause a substantial amount of reverberation. It is surrounded though, by lots of clothes, which act as sound absorbing acoustic materials. With the closet doors closed, you also maximize any interference from outside sound sources.
The result? A pretty good small studio with surprisingly good acoustics. Please, don't try and turn this into a permanent solution.
77. Keep Your Cable Shorts
Your cable loose signal quality as the length of the cable increases. Therefore, keep your cable as short as possible, the shortest practical length that a cable can be to connect two devices.
This also means removing any unused devices connected in the chain between your microphone and audio interface. Even though it may be switched off and not actively used, the extra path the signal must take through the device's circuitry will cause additional a loss in signal quality.
You can find more useful information and tips on cables and how to use them in this article.
78. If You Don't Need It, Don't Use It
The temptation to buy that newly advertised condenser microphone with awesome features and a stunning design, can be hard to resist. So is the urge to get the plugin with countless of effects and virtual instruments for your DAW software.
First, ask yourself if you really need it. If you don't and simply love the idea of getting the latest and most popular piece of hardware of software, you might be creating more problems for yourself than you might think.
New products, especially software, can come with a steep learning curve, which will take precious time away from you doing actual work. If it's not really adding any value or quality to your audio production, is it really worth it?
With new hardware, there is also always the potential compatibility issues. Its new drivers may not be compatible with your current operating system and may also clash with other equipment's software drivers. Then there is always the finicky DAW software that is notorious for not always playing nice with new equipment.
If you need or can really benefit from the new purchase, by all means go ahead. Just make 100% sure. You may just inadvertently en up causing a world of headaches for yourself.
79. Beware Of The Proximity Effect
The distance between your mouth (source) and the microphone plays an important role in determining the quality of your recording. There is common tendency to stand as close as possible to the microphone to get a clear recording and cut away unwanted background noise.
Unfortunately, standing too close to the microphone will emphasize and increase the volume of low frequencies (the proximity effect). This cause the sound to get distorted and "muddied". Create more space between the source and mic to prevent this from happening.
80. Deciding Between "Mono" And "Stereo"
Basically all equipment and software used today allow you to record in either stereo or mono. It's sometimes just convenient for many users to record in the default stereo setting.
But just because you can record in stereo does not mean you always have to. There may be reasons to record a voice or instrument in mono to allow you more versatility to place it anywhere in the "stereo space" in your software where it will fit in best.
(This does not mean at all that your final production will be in mono, just that the recorded instrument will be placed on a mono track in your DAW software. The final output file will still be in stereo.)
81. Know Your Equipment
As you grow and expand your recording studio, you may reach a point where you start taking in clients (artists). At this point, remember you are now the producer. Apart from all the other abilities that an audio producer must have, a proper understanding of your equipment is essential.
You must know your equipment and component inside and out, be able to know how to make quick adjustments and set up everything in the right place.
It is not just unprofessional, but can be very embarrassing when you start fumbling around with equipment in front of a client, clearly not knowing how to solve a problem.
82. Accept The Fact That Mixing Can Not Fix Everything
I don't think anyone experienced in the recording industry will doubt the power and features of modern day DAW software. Their ability to edit, manipulate and correct audio files have opened a whole new world for new and existing users and artists.
Unfortunately this created the false impression that almost anything can be fixed while editing and mixing your audio project. This is simply not true. You can correct recording flaws and mistakes to a certain extend, but some errors are just impossible to eliminate.
To be honest, some recordings are just too bad to be salvaged. A poor performance (by the artist), too much background noise, microphone bleed from nearby sources and just a plain badly recorded track, are all factors that can make a recording unusable.
So make sure you know the capabilities of your DAW software, but also make you know its limitations. This way you will save yourself the time and frustration of trying to achieve a result that is just not possible.
83. Consistency Is Not Always Key
Your equipment change over the years, an artist's voice or the way of playing an instrument change. Therefore it is really unrealistic to expect to be able to replicate a recording and the environment it was created in. I would go as far as stating that it is probably impossible.
This should not be be seen in a negative light at all. Even if you trying to record a piece of audio in the same style and atmosphere as the original from a year ago, the newly recorded track will be familiar, but with a refreshingly different "color" and feel.
This natural evolution of music is so normal, most people don't even notice how their favorite artists' music change over the years. Only when comparing a particular artist's latest song from one produced ten years ago will you realize all of the sudden how much the style and overall performance has changed.
Embrace the fact that your music/voice-overs will evolve over time. You still have the style that is unique to yourself, and that will always remain if you stay true to yourself.
84. Name Your Files Poperly
The amount of audio files on your hard drive and external media will accumulate very quickly. Soon you will be sitting with hundreds or thousands of files. If you don't name them properly to be accurately identified when searched for, you may spend up hours looking for a certain audio track. In a worst case scenario you may not find the file at all.
A good practice when naming a file is to name it as soon as possible. Don't postpone! As soon as you start working with an audio file immediately save it. A good approach is to use the artist's name and the recording date in the file name. This will make it much easier to find.
85. Trust Your Ears
Your DAW software is a great tool, able to keep track of and and measure everything. It constantly monitors each and every track and shows you the level of each note. Sometimes, it doesn't tell the whole story however.
This is where your greatest asset, you ears, come into play. When you are unsure or confused by what you are seeing on screen and what your DAW software is telling you, use you ears to make final judgement.
In the beginning it may be hard to be able to trust your ears, but as time goes by and your are trained, you will find it much easier to use them to distinguish between what sounds right and what simply doesn't work. You will be able to make informed decisions based on experience and a pair of well trained ears.
86. You Can Create A Studio In A Large Open Space
Simply because you don't have access to your own multiple room flat or even a small room, does not mean you are not able to create your own enclosed recording space.
If you have a big enough studio apartment, find a spot, preferably in a corner where two walls meet. You can create a cubicle as big as you are able to, by mounting two railings on the ceiling from which you can hang acoustic blankets, which are specifically designed to absorb sound.
You have just created an isolated space where you can control your audio and isolate yourself to a great extend from external noises. It is not ideal, but will provide a more than suitable environment within which to get creative with your studio setup.
87. Focus On The Recording, Not The Effects
Your original recording will always be your most important asset. Do your absolute best to enhance, clear up, balance and equalize your recording and the best out of it before even think of using effects and plugins.
Even when you start adding effects, do it sparingly. They can be a valuable addition to your production and play a big part in enhancing your recorded tracks. Just always remember your recording and vocals should always take central stage and your effects should only be used to add and highlight your center piece.
Just simple thing to remember, Your recordings are the most important part of your audio production, not your effects or virtual instruments.
(Obviously none of this applies to any piece that was entire created from scratch in your DAW with virtual elements created for everything, from melody to the beats. This something entirely different.)
88. Take A Break To Get "The Big Picture"
It is very easy get bog down with all the details. This not so much an issue during the recording process, especially if you did you planned properly. This is more common during the mixing process.
Obviously it is important to focus on the details and make sure you get everything sounding right, synchronized, and all flaws are removed or reduced as much as possible. It becomes a problem when you spend so much time focusing one every possible detail right, that you loose track of the project as a whole.
Stepping back every once in a while and measure and judge your work against the "big picture" of what you trying to create, will help you to keep perspective, stay on course and focus less on the elements that not that important at all.
I mentioned the use of reference tracks elsewhere in this article, and taking a break on regular basis and evaluate your work against these tracks, will also be very helpful.
89. Maintenance On A Routinely Basis
To keep your recording equipment functioning and operating consistently, develop the habit of getting into a fixed routine for general maintenance. Set aside a specific time (once a month or every six months for example) and stick to it.
Although you can never be 100% sure that everything will always work and always perform consistently, maintaining on a regular basis will lesson the chances of any unpleasant surprises.
90. Use Your Software's Shortcuts
Learning your DAW software's shortcuts, or even better, creating your own will be a huge advantage. Not only will you save a lot of time, you will also be able to work more productively.
Having a proper full-size keyboard is almost a must for using shortcuts, as its size will make it easier to quickly and accurately hit the right key when needed. Your DAW software also makes use of your Funcion Keys on the top of the keyboard which is also a lot more easy to access using a full-size keyboard.
91. Beware Of The Basement
No need to dwell too much on this one. Many users turn their basements into studios, which is fine in principle. There are two factors to always take into consideration when thinking about converting your basement into a recording studio though.
The first is damp. Elsewhere in this article I already discussed the dangers of damp. One thing basements are notoriously famous for is the presence of moisture and a lot of it. Just be prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to remove damp from your basement. (It may be possible that you will never be able to completely get rid of damp, especially when present inside your walls.)
The second one is not that serious. Most basements have a low ceiling, which is not ideal for your studio's acoustics. If you look at most commercial recording studios, you will notice they have very high ceiling. This is because low ceilings do not allow sound waves to travel very far before hitting the horizontal surface and bounce the waves right back, resulting in a very unpleasant reverberation effect. Luckily most of this can be addressed with acoustic treatment to the ceiling itself.
Just be aware of these two potential dangers when you consider your basement and make sure they can be addressed effectively.
92. Take A Break Before Mixing
It has been a long day in the studio. After an eight hour long recording session, you may just be more than physically tired. You are most probably completely mentally drained as well.
The worst thing you can do at this moment, is to jump in and immediately start mixing. Not only are you tired and as result unable to properly concentrate, you have also overworked two key assets you need when working on a mix: You ears and judgement.
Your ears have already been pushed to their limits concentrating on each take during the recording session. Like any other part of your body they need proper rest to function optimally. Getting a good night's sleep where your ears are also given a break and not exposed to any sources that will make them work, is always a good idea.
The same applies to your judgement. After a day recording in the studio, you have been listening to each session, judging what sounded right, what needs to be adjusted and what take should be recorded again.
There is no way you can move directly to mixing, thinking you will be able to think straight and make sound judgement calls. This is when you start making bad mistakes and actually end up wasting time, as you will probably listen your mix later on when refreshed only to realize how badly you judged and messed up your mixing attempts.
Do yourself a favor and go take a proper break after a day's recording. You deserve it.
93. Don't Get Back To Mixing After A Big Meal
Here's a small biology fact which many of you are probably aware of. Blood normally flows and concentrate around the area that needs it most at any given time.
When you exercise and you work a specific muscle, that muscles gets that "pumped" feeling after a while. That is the blood accumulating in your muscle to help repair and muscle damage and help with recuperation.
The same happens when you had a very large meal. Your stomach and digestive track is tacking a lot of strain and needs plenty of support. Which is where the blood rush to.
And guess where there is not a lot of blood flow present at that very moment? Around your brain where it is needed, where proper blood flow is essential optimal cognitive function. Ever wondered why you feel so sleepy and lethargic after a big meal? Now you know.
That is where there is no way you can do some effective and productive mixing after a big meal. Your blood flow needed around your brain, is now busy helping you digestive deal with all the newly arrived nutrients.
You just won't be able to concentrate properly and have a clear mind to make good decisions. Give yourself a short break until you feel awake and alert again to hit the studio.
94. Beats First When Recording Multiple Tracks
When you plan on recording multiple tracks, it's always a good idea to record your beat and melody first. This will lay a good foundation for recording your vocals, and will allow the whole piece to have a better flow and your complete track will sound more coherent.
Obviously, you must have a complete understanding of your different tracks and how they will eventually all fit together. This task is also not that simple, so knowing your DAW software very well to seamlessly piece all the bits together, is a must.
(Needless to say, an artist playing an instrument while performing vocals are best recorded in one go.)
95. Remember To Leave Some Headroom In Your Mix
When you are mixing your audio, it is always a good idea to limit your dynamic range. Leaving your peak output at -6 dBFS, will allow the mastering engineer with enough head room to work to equalize, normalize and compress your mix for final output. Sounds confusing?
In plain language, your digital dynamic range of amplitude tops out at 0 dBFS ( This means 0 dBFS is the maximum possible digital level of amplitude/loudness that can be reached). Anything louder than this ceiling will cause clipping (the sound will simply be cut off and cause an unpleasant distortion.)
If you lower your mixing level to 6dB below this peak output, you're mixing at -6 dBFS. Luckily your DAW software measures and shows you your levels in real-time. You can always keep your eye on your mixing volumes to make sure you stay safely within theses limits.
96. Double Track If You Can
Double tracking is the practice of recording a specific track and then record the exact same track again. When combining is these tracks you get a much fuller and rich piece of audio.
Naturally, it is impossible to do this with every possible recording, and most of the time not necessary at all. Many instruments and vocals naturally sound full and rich, and as result do not require any additional work to produce a good quality track.
(Limitations on time and hard drive storage space also makes recording everything twice unnecessary and unproductive. Just be mindful of what you're recording and whether it really needs to be double tracked.
Sometimes you are recording vocals or an instrument that just sounds very "thin" for some reason, no matter how you record it. This is the perfect scenario where double tracking can make a huge difference and help you solve the problem.
97. Beware Of Too Much Bass
I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we all know and love how convenient and helpful bass can be. This low frequency sound adds a rich and full character to your audio that immediately makes it sound more dynamic with that "extra punch".
Sometime users go overboard and add too much bass. This may be a simple mistake or an attempt to mask some flaws in some of the other sound frequencies. The result is an overbearing bass that can quickly make your audio sound "muddy" and distorted.
Try and avoid this temptation and rather aim for a balanced sound. (If you are trying to mask a flaw in your audio, rather fix that piece of audio.) If your audio is naturally bass heavy, that is perfectly fine. Just don't add bass for the sake of adding bass.
98. Track Alignment Is Important
It should be very important to make sure all your tracks are aligned at all times. It sounds obvious, but for some reason often not enough attention is given to it.
When recording different sound sources on different tracks, they needed to be combined and synchronized in your DAW. Track alignment means these different tracks starts exactly at the right moment, stay synchronized and ends exactly where they should.
If your different tracks are not 100% aligned, even by milliseconds, it is immediately noticeable and just sounds very unprofessional. With DAW software being extremely accurate to make adjustments to 1/1000 of a second, there is no real excuse not to have and keep everything aligned. Most high-end DAW software have build-in tools to assist you with this as well.
99. Blankets And Curtains To The Rescue
What if find yourself on the road or on visiting family for the holidays? Some recording enthusiasts/artists always carry some portable recording kit with them just in case a "Eureka Moment" strikes, and you need to record before the idea and inspiration fades.
Unfortunately your hotel room or spare room you are staying in have horrible acoustics. There is also no big enough closet to turn into a makeshift recording studio. What now?
Time to get creative. One thing you most certainly will have access to is blankets and the curtains in your room. Make sure your curtains are closed to absorb as much sound as possible.
Next, get hold of as us much blankets as you can. (Ask the hotel staff or relatives for more if you don't have enough.) Hang the blankets over every piece of hard furniture in the room. If you have closets, open the doors and hang the the blankets over them.
The blankets will absorb much of the remaining sound and the open doors and exposed shelves will act as diffusers to scatter any sound waves reaching it. You will be pleasantly surprised with just how much these few changes to your room will enhance your acoustics.
100. Headphones First For Monitoring
The ideal situation to properly monitor your audio, is to have good pair of headphones as well a good pair of studio monitors. Only by using both can you get a clear perception of what your audio sounds like.
There may be a few reasons why you can only make use of one source to monitor with. (Budget restrictions, room dimensions and acoustics can all play a role).
Whatever the reason, always go for headphones first if you have to choose. Headphones allow you to capture the most amount of audio detail.
Also, if you can only afford one source, chances are you are restricted in terms of room dimensions and proper acoustics as well. This will make studio monitors much less effective to use anyway, purely from an acoustics point of view.
All this reinforcing the choice of investing in headphones first. (As soon as you are able to, add a proper pare of studio monitors/ speakers. You do need them both for the best results.)
101. Be Prepared For Change And Keep An Open Mind
Everything in the recording industry is constantly changing. Just look back at the past two decades and you will realize how much technology, software and even techniques have evolved. Ant there is no indication of it slowing down.
This means you must adopt a willingness to adapt and learn. And don't see this as a bad thing because it is not.
You are working in an industry where things are not stagnating and definitely not getting boring. Once you got the basics down, it will be easy to keep up with gradual changes in technology an other new developments.
Just keep an open mind and enjoy the journey!
If you made it through the whole article. Well done! This was one hefty bit of text to get through. You would have noticed that the tips and techniques followed no specific chronological order, like I mentioned in the beginning. And like I said, that was the whole idea.
Anytime you want, you can read through the whole article or just skim through it if you are looking for something specific. I am sure you will find something new or useful to apply to your home studio to improve your recording experience.
As always, feel free to leave me any comments or suggestions you may have, and I will respond and try and get to them as soon as I can.
Remember to join my Mailing List to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.
Catch you in the next article and happy recording!