7 steps to setting up your own recording studio
Owning your own studio can be one of the most rewarding journeys you could ever take. In the process of owning a studio you will encounter a slew of personalities, create meaningful friendships, discover new music and finally contribute and continue the timeless journey of the profession that is called music.
Before you start your journey into audio production there are few steps you need to take in order to ensure you have the best possible chance of success. From purchasing the perfect computer to finding a DAW that fits your workstyle, be prepared to do an ample amount of research to begin your journey. Your microphone choices and production style will all play a vital role in establishing yourself as a professional engineer and lead you into creating profit for yourself with your recording studio.
So, with that being said, lets dive into the 7 steps into setting up your won studio below.
1. Purchasing a computer
The world we currently live in offers so many daily technological advances daily that it can be pretty hard to keep up. But because of cooperate competition and the need to be the best, technology has never been cheaper and more powerful than today. Finding the perfect computer isn’t as hard as a task as it was just a few years ago and finding that perfect machine is just a click away. Knowing what to look for will save you not only time and money but allow you the opportunity to create amazing radio ready recordings.
- Processing Speed:
- Hard Disk Size:
Typically, with technology a good rule of thumb is, you get what you pay for. This frame of thought will help you as you research your first studio setup. Be sure to look at the specifications above to maximize your possibilities of producing professional level quality recordings.
2. Finding your perfect DAW
This next part can be very difficult and intimidating because of the many companies that claim they offer the best setup for your productions. Before you even look at Digital Audio Workstations or DAW’s, you need to ask yourself certain questions:
- Who will I be recording when I get my DAW?
- What kind of music/genre do I want to produce?
- How many instruments do I want to record at once?
- How many individual tracks do I want to work with?
- Do I want virtual instrument that already come with my DAW?
- How many installs can I use at the same time?
These are just a few of the questions that you must ask yourself when doing the research for your very first DAW. I must say though, that if your ultimate goal is to truly become a successful studio owner where you will be recording bands for profit, your DAW goal is Pro Tools. Pro Tools is the most widely used and adored DAW around the world and for good reason. It truly is a great tool for recording and mixing music. Because of its widespread usage around the world it will also be easier to import, or export media created in Pro Tools from studio to studio. Most major record labels and to be frank 99 percent of the music you hear on the radio or Spotify was produced in Pro Tools.
Remember though, each artist and producer are unique. Research what each DAW has to offer, look at your price point and jump in. In the end, tracks that were recorded using the mindset of, “What I put in, I get out,” will ultimately be your deciding factor in how good your tracks sound anyways.
3. AD/DA Converter
After you’ve chosen your DAW and knowing you are on your way to recording your first song comes the AD/DA converter. AD/DA stands for: Analog to Digital/Digital to Analog conversion. This simply means that the information you send through your converter gets converted into a digital signal that the computer can read. Then the computer sends back the digital signal to where it is converted again into analog so the you can hear it on your speakers. Just think of it as the medium between your mics and computer.
Here is another example where you have to ask yourself certain questions.
- How many inputs will I initially need when I first start making music?
- Do I want to record bands or just myself?
- How many inputs do I want to use simultaneously?
- Do I want to use multiple headphones when I am recording?
- What is my budget?
Sound quality should always be your highest priority when setting up a personal studio. The AD/DA converter will play a huge role in how the instruments you choose to record will be translated into your DAW.
When I first started out, I knew I wanted to record full bands with big productions. So, I saved up until I could find an AD/DA converter that could handle my needs. This may not be your case. You may just want to record your own songs and put them out on Soundcloud. That’s perfectly fine. Always have in mind the level of productions you want to create when choosing an AD/DA converter.
4. Buying your first Mics
So, you’ve done your research and asked yourself what you want from your first studio setup. You know the amount of inputs you’ll need to create your vision. Now it’s time to get sound into your DAW. Choosing a microphone can be daunting because there are way more options for mics as compared to DAW’s and AD/DA converters.
Be careful here when choosing mics. Prices can get high relatively fast for quality. I recommend starting out with the trusted brand names like Shure, Rodes, Sennheiser and Audio-Technica. There are so many options when it comes to mics but sticking with these will lead you in the right direction. You can begin to experiment with different companies and manufacturers when you get more advanced as an audio engineer.
Be sure to focus on the two main types of microphones. Dynamic and Condensers microphones will be the core of your mic locker for many years to come. Buying one of each will pretty much cover the frequency range and applications when you first start your own personal studio.
Buy 1 dynamic microphone: This will take care of all your instrument needs like recording guitar cabinets, drums and percussions and anything else with loud transient information.
Buy 1 condenser microphone: This will take care of your vocal recordings. Condenser microphones are very sensitive mics that are capable of capturing the highly dynamic voice very easily. These mics are very sensitive and should be used on instrument with sensitive transients like vocals, acoustic guitars and room sounds.
Investing in one of the both mics discussed above from the beginning will get you well on your way to capturing the dynamics that your studio will produce. You will be able to capture pretty much any kind of sound source having one of each of these mics from the get-go.
5. Gaining experience with friends
Finally, you have all that it takes to begin recording in your own personal studio. My advice to you is to record as much as you can by yourself then make the transition into recording your friends. Invite your musician friends to stop by and lay down some ideas they have. Create quick demos for them. You should be slowly working your way into recording a full band. All this experience that you will be gaining along this journey with your fellow musicians is priceless. You will be unknowingly learning the recording process from the ground up. You will begin understanding the order you should be recording in, the importance of microphone position, the importance of DAW organization and workflow and most importantly you will begin to understand how awesome it is be a studio owner.
This was the part of my journey that I truly found the most inspiration. As I gained more and more experience and my recordings slowly began to improve, my love for the art of recording grew exponentially. I found myself anticipating the arrival of my friends on recording days. I couldn’t wait to track and start mixing. It was a great time in my life that unknowingly led to a career in music.
6. Learning how to mix
When you eventually have no problem getting musicians to show up and record for you, you really need to focus on learning how to mix during this time. You need to start learning how to achieve that radio sound from the get-go. You should be less focused on creating a name for yourself as an audio engineer and mixer and more concerned about turning tracks into something someone would enjoy listening to.
Follow the list below:
- Focus on how your DAW’s workflow can allow you to achieve the sound you want
- Learn all the shortcuts to speed up your output time
- Ask more experienced mixers how they would mix a track
- Watch YouTube videos on certain mixing techniques
- Try different plugins and learn how they work and how they affect the signal chain
This part of the process will be the most rewarding and inspirational. Take advantage of your ignorance and explore and research to your heart’s content. Every new trick learned, or technique applied will be leading to the next step of your journey. The ultimate step.
7. Charging for studio time
The first time you are able to charge a band or musician to record in your studio will simultaneously be nerve racking and joyful at the same time. An artist is giving you the privilege to produce their dream and trust me, it’s their dream. Every musician or artist wants to be famous. Because of this, they will take their craft and songs very serious when it comes time to lay it down and record it. But because of all the hard work you have put into the previous steps, you will be ready to charge and be commissioned to create an artist’s dream. Run with it! Have fun with it! This is the ultimate goal that every aspiring engineer strives for when they start their own studio.
I remember how excited and happy it made me to be entrusted with an artist’s vision. This not only pushed me to put my heart and soul into the recording process, I began to see that I wanted to be a part of this journey called music. This was my way of contributing to music. I had a true passion for it. I went from charging just a few dollars per recording to creating and working with budgets that rivaled purchasing a car.
Setting up a recording studio can be daunting and difficult when first starting out. Following the steps listed above will help guide you and lead you to your goal of creating music much faster. It will clear up confusion and create confidence in your purchasing. Because you have an outline and the necessary questions to ask yourself, setting up your studio will be exciting rather than discouraging.