honest songs, honestly sung
singer and songwriter ben bruce

blog > Home Studio

Jun 16th, 2010

The problem with all that setup is it can take about twenty minutes to get everything ready and set to go. But a lot of times I only have about twenty minutes — mostly I do this late at night and I get tired — so the setting up of gear actually in many cases dissuaded me from doing any recording.

I put together a home studio (finally). I’ve been recording at home for years using:

  • a computer (both an iMac and a Windows machine);
  • an M-​Audio Interface (LOVE IT);
  • Recording Software (Generally Garageband, which came with our iMac, or Ableton Live, which came with the M-​Audio and maintains a free version);
  • and a Shure microphone.

It’s a pretty simple setup, but then I’m recording simple guitar and vocals-​based singer/​songwriter material. Over the years I’ve gotten a little better, and I’ve learned a few basic tricks along the way:

  • Don’t record shabbily. Even if you’re just playing, you are bound to capture something you like and if you also capture a hiss, you captured the hiss. This also includes always tuning before recording, and always playing to a metronome or a drum track (both of which have to do with continuing to work on the recording after the track — if it’s not in tune, you can’t ever be in the same tune again).
  • Be patient. As soon as I finish a track I want to have people hear it; but sometimes taking the time to finesse the recording is worth the wait.

One thing that happens, though, is that as soon as one says to oneself, “Don’t record shabbily,” one must always have everything set up correctly, which meant:

  • Taking out the M-​Audio, finding its cord and plugging it into the computer;
  • Opening the Recording Software and messing around with the Preferences to find the M-​Audio;
  • Taking out the Microphone and the Mic Stand and setting them up;
  • Finding the microphone cord and plugging it into the mic and the M-​Audio;
  • Getting out a guitar chord and plugging the guitar into the M-​Audio;
  • Unplugging the guitar and plugging into a cheap tuner;
  • Plugging the guitar back into the M-​Audio;
  • Creating a new track in the Recording Software;
  • Arming the track for recording, adjusting levels, etc.

The problem with all that setup is it can take about twenty minutes to get everything ready and set to go. But a lot of times I only have about twenty minutes — mostly I do this late at night and I get tired — so the setting up of gear actually in many cases dissuaded me from doing any recording.

Two things happened recently that spurred me on to this new project: I bought a fancy pedal tuner for my guitar, and I saw a pile of wire baskets in the attic. Owning the tuner made me feel like I wanted to have it set up permanently so I could easily tune my guitar while practicing; seeing the wire baskets reminded me that they used to be set up in the office behind the door (and could be again). I grabbed the baskets, attached them to the old metal framing that was still up behind the door, and all of a sudden I had some shelving for my music stuff (which until now has always been jammed in the bottom drawer of a bureau).

I took out all the gear I needed and set it up so that now when I want to record, I just go in, turn on the computer, and BAM! I’m recording. I also tweaked the computer so that it is optimized — it’s not really for anything except recording so it doesn’t need any of the fancy stuff that slows a computer down.

Last night I started in on my first recording with the new home studio. I still had to mess around a bit so I didn’t get much done but it felt good.

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