A Few Tips For The Garage Band
If you are a new and upcoming band, you have thought of a Recording studio setup. Starting your own band is an awesome adventure but the thrill of actually writing enough songs to create your own album and to start your Recording Studio Setup is even greater. This is the point in time you have been working for and once you have completed it, you will be able to send the results to prospective music industry executives, radio stations, freinds, internet sources, etc….
You want to make sure the sound is perfect and is completely representative of what you are hearing. This way you can showcase your music to many industry representatives and feel a sense of pride when they give you a ring. Let’s face it, it is the representatives who will make or break a record deal. Your demo needs to be perfect right? The next thing you are going to say is, “I can’t afford to make it perfect. I am a starviing musician you know! I don’t have the cash for a studio time in one of the big name studios”.
Don’t worry, you can get the same results by creating your own recording studio setup, at home. It definitely takes some time and you will need to learn a few things, but it is far more cost effective.
Before I start giving you some tips, let me give you a brief description of what I have done as musician.
I have been playing and recording music for 40 years. I play guiatr, bass, drums, keyboards, and various other instruments that I have picked up along the way. I am also a vocalist. During the past 40 years, I have gone through all kinds of forms of recording music and recording studio setups. These setups ranged very small to mid size setups. I also spent 7 years of my life on the road touring with bands and making a living from doing nothing but playing music.
Where did my recording studio setup start? Well, like any kid at the age of 12, I lived at home with my parents and had no money so I scrounged up whatever I could in order to get the job done. My first setup was a cassette tape recorder with a radio shack microphone. This meant I had two tracks if I recorded things right! That means, the left and right channels of a stereo recording, so in those days, we did things like recording both tracks then splicing cables in order to bring the two tracks back into a mixed single track. My instruments were comprised of an old guitar, missing a couple of strings, and a standup ashtray as my drum set. Pretty basic but I managed to actually record some stuff and get my song ideas down. 🙂 The studio itself, was my 12 x 12 bedroom. Here is my first setup:
Where is my setup now? It is far more advanced than it was in those days. Trust me. Currently, my basement of my house is my studio. This area is approximately 28 x 50 and is complete with sound proofing, baffling, dampers, and sound clouds, all positioned where they should be. My recording studio setup is Cakewalk Sonar X1 Producer expanded, on an i7 based computer with 28 Gigs of RAM and solid state drives. My control surface is the VS-700 which handles everything from simple tracks to full blown surround sound and video composition. I have many plugins to Sonar that I use and one of my favourits is Guitar Rig. I also have midi controllers, various synthesizers. In addition to this, I have a set of Pearl drums, a 1968 Gibson SG, an American Special Stratocastor, an American Special Precision Bass, a Ovation Acoustic Electric six string, a Epiphone Acoustic Electric six string, a Yamaha RGX Shredding guitar, a Kramer electric guitar, a Mesa Boogie guitar amplifier, and a roland bass amp. I also have a PA system that we use for the nights we like to just jam. Never use you recording studio setup for a plain old jam session. It is sure fire way to fry your console. In addition to all the above I also have quite a few different types of microphones that I use depending on the situation.
As you can see, things have changed a lot from the days when I first began. However, the common theme is the fact that it all started as a home studio and has continued as such to this day. I have created some great music over the years with these setups and I am sure there is more to come.
Now, here are some tips for you crazies just getting into this stuff. Welcome to a life time committment! 🙂
1 – Correct Acoustics: You need a room with the correct acoustics. You will need to experiment with setting up various things like egg cartons in specific places on the walls or creating bass traps, which can be done relatively inexpensively. I will get into this in later articles. This will take some time but it is extremely important that you get this right. The acoustics in your room will have a direct impact on your sound and there is no tools that can hide a bad room. Additionally, you will want to thnk of sound proofing at this stage as well. If, after setting up the room, you can hear very loud music outside of the studio, you may want to consider using headphones when recording so that you can hear the acoustics properly and then figure out where the sound is leaking. The fact is that if you can hear the tunes outside the room, then you can hear sounds from outside, within the room as well.
2 – Trust your ears: If something sounds off within your recording studio setup, then you can be sure that when it is recorded it will sound far worse. This can be something as simple as an echo or slap from a bass drum to the instruments being out of tune. Also, please be sure to be using fresh strings and drum heads during a recording session. Nothing records more like mud than dead strings or drum heads.
3 – Save Your Work: One of the biggest mistakes people make, and I have done it as well, is fogetting to save their work. I can’t say how many times I have laid down a track and then tried to improve upon it and realized that I liked the original one after all but only found out later that I had not kept that recording. Inevitably, you cannot reproduce that track and you become frustrated. Save your work after every recording. Within your recording studio setup your software should have the ability to auto-backup everything. Make sure it is turned on. If you are using tape or disc’s, make sure you have multiple tapes or disc’s and keep every track until the session is complete and you are satisfied with the mix. I even keep them after that. 🙂
4 – Extra’s: Don’t forget to always have extra strings, drum heads, sticks, microphones, cables, etc…. around. There is nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a session and something breaks and you have to stop the session because you don’t have a replacement. It completely messes with the creative juices and also leads to a very long and drawn out session.
5 – Keep it Simple: This is far more important than a lot of people realize. keep the engineering simple. Play it like you would live. The purpose is to represent what you want others to hear. If you have layer upon layer of vocals, the vocals will eventually become muddy. If you cannot duplicate it live, then most likely the industry executives are not going to be all that interested. If you are engineering for film scores, you may have an argument against this point, but for a garage band or up and coming artist. Simply record what you know. That’s what everyone wants to hear anyways.
Good luck with your sessions and watch for more articles.