For the past 4 years, I have been slowwwly, meticulously curating my own home studio. Any well-informed current artist, according to Felix Snow, needs to be able to record him or herself.
Yet how does one go about it? Where do you start? After doing everything the hard way and making countless errors that have wasted time I could have used actually devoted to the music, I would like to break down a few guidelines to hopefully save you some of the same griefs that I was forced to experience.
1. Decide on a DAW.
DAW, or digital audio workstation, is necessary for any studio. At most prominent recording studios in major cities, they’re using Pro Tools. I recommend this if you’re planning on working your way up in the industry, becoming a well-versed engineer, or just want to record your own vocals well.
As valued as Pro Tools is, it can also be expensive. Some artists/engineers who are just starting out prefer a more economical version. Also understand that it is not necessarily the tool you are using as much as the knowledge of the user that defines a good product (e.g. an inexperienced engineer using a $10,000 console is still likely to crank out a whack record).
A couple of other DAWs that are currently popular are Logic Pro X, FL Studio (formerly Fruity Loops), and Ableton. Felix Snow used Ableton when he produced Gold with Kiiara, and Metro Boomin started (and still mostly uses) FL. You will need to consider what type of sound you are going for when choosing one of these secondary DAWs: In my opinion, the stock plug-ins (or sound samples) for Logic Pro lend more to EDM while in FL lend toward trap music.
2. Pick a computer.
Depending on which DAW you have chosen, you may be limited in what type of computer you can go with. For example, if you do decide to start out with Pro Tools, you more than likely with need an Apple computer to handle the software, as Apple products are kind of build for art programs.
Understand that this is an objective claim, considering that I would hardly recommend an Apple product otherwise, but I digress. You will then need to decide whether you need a desktop or laptop for you needs, depending on whether you will be more mobile or if you need more of a stable core for your work space.
I must mention here, as well, that if you are a producer starting out with FL Studio, you will need a PC, which is what the program was made for. It is possible to use a trial third-party platform converter for Apple computers, but I recommend using the software on the system that it originally was intended for. I have found some good articles recommending the best computers for running FL and have included one here:
Of course, the whole article doesn’t necessarily have to be studied, but it does include some valuable information, if not other than for the specs. The third brand listed, a Razer, is my personal recommendation, and Metro Boomin’s, for what that is worth. Also, a Fruity license is included with the puchase if you buy one new. Even as I say that, I am currently running Fruity on the El Cheapo Dell Inspiron gaming version, and haven’t had any problems with that either.
3. Select an interface.
Ok, so you have a computer with a good DAW. Now, you need some way to move sound from a microphone or instruments to your DAW. How does this happen? If you’re planning to make beats with a USB controller or just a solitary mic, you may be able to skip this step.
However, for us mere mortals wanting the option of recording 2 keyboards, some girls singing, and maybe your friend’s guitar, you’re going to need something that you can plug that into.
Enter the interface. Depending on which DAW you have chosen, there are interfaces made to work specifically with that DAW. For example, Avid (Pro Tools manufacturer) creates interfaces that come with a Pro Tools license. Depending on your recording needs, they range anywhere from a couple of I/O slots all the way to professional studio gear.
Whichever brand you’re going with, first consider type and number of microphones/instruments you will be recording. This will give you good parameters in your search.
With these first three basic items, you’re ready to add monitors, instruments, and microphones to your studio. But first, make sure that you consider the best DAW for your budget and the best computer for the platform. With an interface to link it all together, you can become a DIY hitmaker.