Building a Home Recording Studio

Building a home recording studio on a budget, and how to record professional albums at home.

Want to build a home recording studio? You can do it!

It's not as difficult as you might think, and certainly not as expensive as one might be lead to believe. Here's my experience, written on the off chance that someone out there just might be interested. Enjoy!

Let me begin saying that the world is a different place than it was 10 years ago, and alot of things that were true back then are obsolete now. Even the things I write here may be outdated by the end of the year, so it pays to stay informed, and the www is certainly the place to go. I has taken me 2 -3 years to come to grips with buying a computer and getting my recording gear set up to the point where I can now actually produce an album from A-Z in the basement of my home. The whole process was a journey, and you've got to be able to enjoy the journey because the results aren't immediate. I have had moments of complete despair coupled with euphoric breakthroughs that encouraged me through to the next challenge that always seemed to be just around the corner! I basically figured the whole thing out for myself but I did alot of research on the www and asked anyone I could find in a music store or anywhere else who would give me the time of day. At first I felt like a complete novice asking basic questions like "where do you plug in a microphone on a computer" and "why isn't there any sound coming out?" "What's the difference between an mp3 file and a wave file?" But eventually I learned the terminology and what went where, and if it worked I left it alone, and if it didn't I kept trying every combination of ideas I could think of until it did. But I'm a little ahead of myself............

Why a home recording studio?

I guess as long as I can remember I have always wanted to write songs. There is nothing more fulfilling for me than to write and record a song. A man will never feel right about himself until He finds the one thing he was made for. I never felt I was a particularly good song writer, but every once in awhile I received a little encouragement from somewhere and the desire was always there so I kept writing anyway. I remember the first time I sang one of my own songs in public. It was at a school talent quest. I was so nervous I couldn't look at anybody and sang the whole song with my head down and my eyes closed. Not a brilliant start to a music career, but you learn to get over these things. When I was 15 I wrote a song (more like a nursery rhyme I hate to admit ) and sent it off to an Australian singer who was very popular at the time and who I thought would be interested. I addressed the letter to "Rolf Harris, London." To everybody's surprise, the letter actually reached its destination and the manager responded with a polite letter stating that "unfortunately Rolf Harris is not currently looking for new songs." My first big "no." And there were many to follow. Success in the music industry is determined by one's ability to hear the word "no" and understand it to mean, "yes, but not right now" or "yes, but not this way" or "yes, but not with this song or album" !!!! In other words, if you don't hear a big YES on the inside of you with every rejection, you will never make it through all the "nos" you will encounter on your journey to fulfill your dream.

Failure in life can sometimes be one of God's spiritual "bumpers" to get you headed in the right direction. I had lots of spiritual bumpers, and eventually I found myself working as a rep for WORD records. I was with WORD for several years, and enjoyed being on the road and selling christian music to the stores. It was during this time my aspirations as a songwriter grew and I dreamed of recording my own album. That dream happened in 1984, and with a bunch of songs my brother and I scratched out we took a few friends of ours to a very basic studio to cut our first album. I think I could write a book on the experience.....but not here. Suffice to say, the project took twice as long as planned, was almost a disaster, and cost me the deposit my wife and I were going to put on our first home. It was an incredible experience, and I learned many things. One of the things I learned, after another 2 albums, was that I doubt I will ever use a recording studio quite the same way again! Don't get me wrong - I think the guys are great and studios are marvellous if you can afford them, but the pressure to perform under such time restraints and at such expense ( which is rarely recovered I might add ) just makes the whole exercise such a challenge.

To do a studio album you need:

1. Lotsadollar
2. Lots of patience with unexpected factors that are as unpredictable as musicians and totally beyond your control
3. Talent. A desire to be the next name in neon lights is not a good enough reason.
4. Large blocks of time where everyone involved is free at the same time ( if you're a band )
5. Talent. Like, some REALLY good songs - "it all starts with a song". If you ain't got nothin to say, don't pay a whole heap of money to say nothing. Nothing said very professionally and at great expense still amounts to nothing. People don't pay nothing for nothing, you won't recoup costs.
6. Some very understanding and patient recording engineers/producers - these guys can make or break your efforts. I was fortunate enough to have some great people to work with. I would hate to imagine what it would have been like working with people less accomodating. When you're under pressure, everyone feels it, so the studio guys have to be "cool".
7. Talent. Like, some greaaaaaaaat musicians - or lotsamore money for the session musos you need to hire.
8. A very understanding family. There can be great sacrifice in all this. Time, focus, energy, can all be very demanding. Make sure everyone is in agreement and the timing is right.
9. The conviction that this was MEANT to be. Bright ideas come AND GO. You'll need more than a bright idea to see this one through to the end.
10. TALENT. Ah....have we heard this one before? You mean I gotta be good at something? Don't they just make you sound good when you get to the studio?
11. A marketing plan to recoup your incredible run-away costs in booking the studio. And no, don't expect the shops to be interested. They won't be. And no, don't expect distributors to fall all over you because they won't. And yes, your mother and grandmother and fav auntie may show some interest .... but how many relatives you got??!!
12. The incredible ability to take NO on the chin, and still believe in your dream.
13. TALENT - well, these days maybe talent is expecting a bit much. How about......... a valid reason to record, like a REALLY unique sound, or style, or just such a passion in what you do that it commands attention. You get it? Something has to validate your reason for spending so much time, effort and money into this thing. Which brings us back to the topic..........

Why a home recording studio?

Because you don't have to have all these things to still fulfill your dream. You can be LEARNING to write songs, LEARNING to sing and play well, LEARNING HOW to arrange a song and produce an album WITHOUT ALL THE PRESSURE AND EXPENSE involved in using a professional studio. You can get it WRONG and it doesn't cost you $$$$$$$thousands. You can at least get STARTED on the path to fulfilling your dream because the leap of faith is attainable. ( Many never fulfil their dream because the leap from where they are to the recording studio is just so great ) Almost ANYONE these days can buy a simple computer and a bit of recording software and have a go. One leg out of the boat, the sweet taste of success, and before you know it you're walking on water, doing the impossible.

The benefits of recording at home

Even if you were going to do a studio album, you would still want to do a demo of the songs first anyway, so it makes sense to get together some sort of home studio for this purpose, regardless of which way you finally end up going. Besides, the thought of having to make a professional sound when you're starting out is pretty scary, and you might never get started. But if you think "demo" then you have an excuse for a less than perfect sound - "hey, this is only a demo" - and it releases you to get started without the fear of failure holding you back.

Doing it yourself at home also frees you for all sorts of possibilities with the project. You can decide to release an EP, or keep some songs back for a later project, or decide not to finish recording until you have some better songs, or better gear, or wait until your guitar mate comes through town and then get him to add his brilliance to your album. You can drop a song, or try a song. There are no time constraints - you can get it right the 100th time and not worry about how much this is all costing. You aren't paying $100 /hour studio rates which forces a compromise in artistic integrity. And your wife will be happy because you're not mortgaging the house to do it. And the kids are happy because they still get to wear shoes like everybody else.

Then there is the all important aspect of artist performance. We all know what it's like to have good days and bad days performing. Then there are creative days and not so creative days. Recording at home means you can wait till you've got that feeling it's going to be a great day in the studio, and off you go. If you get tired and the inspiration starts to wane, take a break - one hour, 2 hours, a day,a week - it's just great!

If you're a praise and worship artist like myself, then there is one essential reason why home recording is so important to the end result. When I record my albums they are in partnership with my Friend. Without Him, I can have the most brilliant sound, but without His sound on the album, it's just another album. It has no power. Unless His Voice is recorded with mine, I have nothing to say. I have no power to turn hearts. Prayer is a very personal thing, and the process of recording for me involves much prayer and personal communion with Him. This kind of intimacy is virtually impossible in a public setting. '"Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit" says the Lord." The anointing, His presence, is everything. If you are recording spontaneous, prophetic songs as I do, there really is only one way to do this ....... in the privacy of your own home.

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