How to make music at home

So… it’s time. Time to make music at home. You’ve thought about it for months, you’ve written some incredible lyrics, you’ve found a melody that aches and darts; interspersed with the dark poetry that’s reflected in your deepest words. In fact, you might have even found your band, your little close knit-bunch of brothers and sisters who’ll help you share your vision with the world.

Decades ago, it would not have been possible to make music at home. Time in the studio was expensive, tape to record on was expensive, producers and manufacture costs were expensive. But all hail the digital revolution, and along with it the ability to produce and record from the comfort of your own home. So much so, that it’s now possible to rise to fame with music made from your very own safe space.

So, if you’ve got your mojo together, now is definitely the time to strike. And we’re here to help. We’ve set out our tip-top essential elements, that’ll enable you to make music at home. It requires that you invest a little, but you can’t put a price on artistic freedom, right?

make music at home - home studio

First, figure out your digital audio workstation

A digital audio workstation, commonly abbreviated to DAW, is software used to record, edit and produce audio files. So, it’s important you select the right one for your needs, as you’ll be confined inside the constraints of what it can do.

There are a number of options available to you:

  • Cubase – Cubase is the daddy of the gang. It was the first ever DAW, installed on the Atari ST computer in 1989 (if none of those words made sense, click here). Back in the 80s, you only had the one option, and Cubase has moved with the times to offer a powerful and dynamic workstation that offers a free trial and low purchase cost (under £100).
  • Logic Pro – Logic Pro then, is Apple’s answer to Cubase. It’s your one stop shop for absolutely anything to do with music and has advanced so far ahead of its competitors that you are able to perform functions that boggle the mind such as build your own drum-kit and fixes for if anyone is out of time. It is, however, expensive – the full version will set you back £199.99
  • GarageBand – GarageBand, on the other hand, is Apple’s stripped-down version of Logic Pro. Originally it was to aid podcasters and amateur musicians, however – mostly, we assume, as it’s free – it quickly outperformed the above to in popularity. Many big-name artists have since released their music with a GarageBand file, to encourage remixes. Whilst it doesn’t offer the in-depth features and mastering options given in Logic Pro; if you have talent and know your tune inside out – it is a comprehensive and valued alternative that avoids spending big bucks.

Next, you’re going need a microphone

Okay so, this is one area where you might have to part with a bit of money. Vocals are the only part of your music that you can’t easily synthesize with a DAW, so you’ll need them to have as much punch and sparkle as the rest of your track.

It’s a good idea to buy a USB microphone to make music at home. This will be slightly smaller from the one you use on stage, and – crucially, have a USB attachment, and output a digital signal. You should look to spend no more than £150. It’s a situation where the more you pay, the clearer your vocals will sound. It’s also a good idea to invest in a pop shield, to counteract the effect of the whoosh of the air against the microphone.

Below, we’ve listed two of our favourites:

  • Shure SM58 – the Shure SM58 has long held the title of “Most Popular Vocal Mic in the World”. It’s got an in-built pop shield and is designed to filter out frequencies that mastering removes.
  • Rode NT1A – The Road NT1A is your classic industry standard mic. It’s what you’d use if you were to shell the money out and go into the studio. Its gold plated, meaning your signal is clearer, and it comes with a ten-year warranty.

USB Preamp

Finally, we’re going assume that you already have a whole cacophony of guitars. As they output an analogue signal, you’ll need something to take this signal and turn it into a digital waveform that your DAW can understand; so, you can play your kick-ass riffs.

As with microphones, there are a number of USB preamps for a wide range of prices. Which one you purchase, depends on your specific needs. We could write a whole extra blog on the selection progress, but when you’re ready to start your research, this article is a good place to start.

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Also published on Medium.