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BellaOnline's Musician Editor

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Home Recording - Before You Setup Your Studio

Guest Author - Allan Harris

Have you ever dreamed of having your own home recording studio? If so, where do you begin?

The hub of most studios is your computer. But what kind? Simple enough question, but it may not be the right one to ask. Here’s why…

Suppose you walk into a car lot and a salesman says: “I’ve got just the thing for you, a super-deluxe new Katmandu, with a 12-litre roto-tilled extra special lubricated veeblefitzer.

“This beauty, with its chrome mounted galactic splines, cruises at 350 kilometers an hour, and includes (you guessed it) the finest Italian-made backseat toaster, automatic pancake-maker and a new ham and baconator.”

“I’m a vegetarian,” you say.

“No problem,” replies the salesperson. “This car has a V8.”

Ah, finally something that makes sense. A car with a V8 motor.

“Yeah,” says the salesman, “with the new vego-tuned slice-o-matic V8 juice-maker you’ll never get thirsty again.”

Sound silly?

That’s about what you’re likely to hear when you ask a computer salesman what you need for a home recording studio setup.

So let’s start from the beginning – step one.
List your reasons for wanting a home studio.

First, decide what you want to do:

- Record a demo of your band to give to prospective employers?
- Make a sample CD of your songs to send to publishers?
- Record music for game companies?
- Make worksheets with audio examples for your music students?
- Record or edit audio for your web site?
- Record tunes that you can sell on the internet? Etc.

Second, decide what kind of software you’ll need to do what you want:

- Read internet reviews.
- Talk to friends about what they’ve been using.
- Post your questions on BellaOnline’s Musician forum and see if other people have already done what you’d like to do, and how they did it.

Third, go to the software manufacturer’s site and look up system requirements:

Once you’ve decided what you want to do, and what software does it…

- Find out what computer and operating system the software needs.
- Find out how much memory the software will need.
- Find out the kind of sound card it’s compatible with.
- Find out if you need any special interface (electronic box) so your keyboard or instrument will “talk” properly to your computer.

This third step is crucial. Only when you finish your fact-finding, will you know what kind of computer to get.


A Real-Life Example

Let’s look at a real life example; something that happened to me:

First: I do a lot of work for people who need songs recorded, so they can sing on them and send them as demos to publishers and record companies. Some people want strings, horns, woodwinds or other instruments added to what they’ve already recorded. I also do tracks for films that need to sound like a real orchestra was playing. So I wanted software instruments that would give me the most true-to-life REAL sounds, as well as the usual synth sounds.

Second: I researched software sample libraries, and read reviews on the web. What were other composers using? Why? Which libraries did people in the record industry like? Why?

I listened to sound library demos and went to manufacturers’ web sites. One piece of software had great sounds (keyboard, harp, strings, etc.) but would not run on a Mac. Apparently, it worked only with a particular operating system, and only with certain sound cards.

The second piece of software I wanted would run on the same computer and operating system, but needed a different amount of memory and a special interface box.

SO HERE’S WHERE I SAVED HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS. I found out if I bought a certain sound card that worked with both pieces of software, I could eliminate that interface box entirely!

I could only have found that information by looking on the manufacturers’ web sites. Then, once I had the “recipe” for building the computer I wanted, I gave it to a computer builder and got exactly what I wanted.

Did I go for the super-deluxe 12-litre roto-tilled extra special lubricated veeblefitzer? Not really. Some things in life are wants. And others are needs.

Start by figuring out what kind of software will do what you want. Then look at what kind of computer will run it. You’ll save yourself a lot of money.

All the best,

- Allan
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Content copyright © 2014 by Allan Harris. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Allan Harris. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Sabira Woolley for details.

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