At Home Recording/Writing Cheat Codes
Updated: May 9
If you're a musician, songwriter, or producer, you know how important it is to have a home recording setup that allows you to capture your creativity and ideas at any time. With so many options and techniques out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out the best practices for home recording and songwriting. That's where this article comes in - I'm here to provide you with creative, helpful, and insightful advice for improving your home recording and songwriting practices.
The majority of the artists that I do mixing and mastering work for send me stems that they recorded at their home studio, or they end up recording at some other small home studio type setup. For years I've been offering advice on recording/editing tips to help achieve the best overall mix. I decided to put as much of that knowledge as I could into this article for you!
Setting Up Your Home Recording Studio
Choosing the Right Room
Before you start setting up your home recording studio, it's important to choose the right room. Look for a space that is quiet, has good acoustics, and is away from any distractions. A spare bedroom, basement, or garage can all work well for a home studio. Make sure the room is big enough to accommodate all your equipment and that you have enough space to move around comfortably. Setting a vibe is integral to coming up with great ideas.
In my experience, an evenly square room is ideal. I started out in a square bedroom and achieved some incredible results without even having any acoustic treatment. I've always heard that having a room where the back wall is curved is the best in terms of sound treatment, but if you're reading this then I'm going to assume you don't have some room in your house that is magically built for recording music like a pro studio would be.
Once you've chosen the right room, it's important to consider the acoustics. Most rooms have hard surfaces that can cause sound to bounce around, leading to unwanted echoes and reverberation. Adding acoustic treatment to your home studio can help to reduce these problems.
Acoustic treatment can include things like acoustic panels, bass traps, and diffusers. These products are designed to absorb or scatter sound waves and can help to create a more controlled and balanced sound in your recordings.
In the event that you decided acoustic treatment is out of your budget... I'm going to share a little
secret with you that can help you get around it. 😉
Go ahead and grab a graphic equalizer and pop it on your stereo out channel. Make it the last thing that any audio is going through. Everything in your session should go through your master bus, and then into this eq. I personally use the Fab-filter Pro-Q 2 and I highly recommend it.
You're going to use this Equalizer to balance out your mix visually. In the image below I took a screen shot of a mix I was working on for a death metal band from Canada. When I'm mixing I constantly opening this EQ to check my levels and see how things look.
I ask myself questions like...
Is the low end pretty level with the high end of the spectrum? how am I seeing the bass and low end of the electric guitar interact with the low end punch of the drums? When the vocals are playing, what area of the frequency spectrum are they filling in?
As depicted below, the first photo shows how the mix looks when all of the instruments including vocals are playing. Notice how the low end, mids, and high end appear evenly balanced across the spectrum.
In the next photo, I muted the vocals to show you the space I carve out in the mix for them. This is useful because I refer back to this eq while mixing to see that I'm leaving this space open for vocals to shine. Notice the dip in the mids and high mids:
If you have the budget to get some nice acoustic treatment you should do it, but doing this practice with an EQ will help you start to learn how different elements sit in the frequency spectrum of your mix. Although most advice you'll find online will tell you never to mix with your eyes, this practice can really help you to develop your ear to what sounds balanced and even overtime; especially when working in a less than ideal room. It's also part of how I learned to achieve a solid mix every time when I first started!
Now that you have the right room and have addressed the acoustics, it's time to equip your home studio with the essential equipment. Here are some of the things you'll need:
1. A computer
2. Recording software
3. Microphones and headphones
4. MIDI controller
5. Audio interface
6. Studio monitors
7. Cables and accessories
Microphone placement is a crucial element in home recording. You want to make sure that you place the microphone in the right position to capture the sound you want. Here are some tips:
Place the microphone about 6-12 inches away from the instrument or vocalist.
Experiment with different angles and distances to find the best sound.
Avoid placing the microphone too close to the instrument or vocalist, as this can cause distortion and unwanted noise. (Especially if there are a lot of dynamics in the parts you are recording.)
When tracking (also known as recording) instruments, it's important to consider the room you're recording in. Here are some tips:
Choose a room with good acoustics and minimal background noise.
Use sound-absorbing materials (such as blankets or foam) to reduce echo and reverberation. As silly as it may sound, a tall blanket fort works great.
Position the instrument in the center of the room to capture a balanced sound.
Vocal Recording Tips
Recording vocals can be challenging, but with the right techniques, you can capture a great sound. Here are some tips:
Warm up your voice before recording to prevent strain.
Use a pop filter to reduce plosives and sibilance.
Position the microphone slightly above your mouth to capture a clear sound.
One of the biggest challenges for songwriters is finding inspiration. However, inspiration can come from anywhere, and it's important to keep an open mind. Here are a few tips to help you find inspiration:
Listen to different genres of music
Read books, poetry, other artists lyrics
Watch movies and TV shows
Take a walk or go for a drive
Keep a journal to jot down ideas
Utilize your notes app to write down ideas
Keep it simple. Don't overthink it. The best ideas are often the most simple.
Lyric Writing Techniques
Use imagery and metaphors to create vivid pictures in the listener's mind
Write from personal experience or observations of other peoples personal experience
Focus on the emotions you want to convey
Experiment with different rhyme schemes and song structures
Edit and revise your lyrics to make them more powerful
Melody Writing Tips
The melody is the heart of a song, and it's important to create a memorable and catchy melody. Here are a few tips to help you write better melodies:
Start with a simple melody and build on it
Experiment with different chord progressions
Use repetition to create a memorable hook
Try singing your melody over different instrumentals
Collaborate with other songwriters to get fresh ideas
The Power and Creativity Unleashed by Writing with MIDI Instruments
Using Software Instruments to Inspire Ideas
One of the biggest advantages of writing with MIDI instruments is the ability to use software instruments. Software instruments are virtual instruments that can be played using a MIDI controller. They are incredibly versatile and can be used to create sounds that would be impossible to achieve with traditional instruments.
Not only do software instruments give you access to a vast library of sounds, but they can also inspire new ideas. When you're stuck in a creative rut, experimenting with different sounds can help you break out of it. Try playing around with different instruments and effects until you find something that inspires you.
Using Loops to Inspire/Build Upon Ideas
Another way to use MIDI instruments to inspire creativity is by using loops. Loops are pre-recorded musical phrases that can be used as building blocks for your own compositions. They can be found in most digital audio workstations (DAWs) and can be easily manipulated to fit your own music.
Using loops can be a great way to jump-start your creativity. Start by finding a loop that you like and build your own music around it. You can change the tempo, pitch, and rhythm of the loop to fit your own music. This can be a great way to come up with new ideas and build upon existing ones.
Overall, writing with MIDI instruments can be a powerful tool for songwriters and producers. Whether you're using software instruments to experiment with new sounds or using loops to build upon existing ideas, MIDI instruments can help you unleash your creativity and take your music to the next level.
Home recording and songwriting can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for musicians of all levels. By following the best practices outlined in this article, you can create high-quality recordings and songs that showcase your talent and creativity. Remember to invest in quality equipment, set up your recording space properly, and take the time to experiment and explore different techniques.
It's also important to stay organized and focused throughout the process. Keep track of your ideas and progress, and don't be afraid to take breaks and step away from your work when you need to. Collaborating with other musicians and seeking feedback from trusted sources can also help you improve your skills and grow as an artist.
Finally, don't forget to have fun and enjoy the process. Home recording and songwriting can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating pursuit, but it can also be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. With hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow, you can create music that you're proud of and that resonates with others.
Feel free to reach out and share your ideas/demos. I'm always looking to help great new artists develop!