As an indie artist on a limited budget, you want to have a home recording studio and recording process that doesn’t break the bank or slow you down when inspiration strikes.
But is it really possible to be both efficient and cost-effective in a home studio?
Well, a lot of successful tracks are being recorded at home these days. It’s not uncommon for pop, electronic, hip-hop, and folk playlists to be filled with new songs that were created start-to-finish in a bedroom studio.
Of course this DIY recording trend isn’t entirely new. It’s been growing for years.
10 notable albums that were recorded at home:
- When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eillish
- For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
- The original version of Twin Fantasy by Car Seat Headrest
- Psychopomp by Japanese Breakfast
- The Glow, Pt. 2 by The Microphones
- The vocals for Blonde by Frank Ocean
- Ys by Joanna Newsom
- Hospice by The Antlers
- Black Sands by Bonobo
- Untrue by Burial
Just because a great recording CAN be made at home, though, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Keeping your costs DOWN and your productivity UP is a challenge. Which is why we asked the folk-rock duo Two Ways Home for their top DIY recording advice.
These five tips will help you create the best home recordings possible.
1. Spread your budget evenly across all recording essentials
Two Ways Home says If you’re looking to level up from just using voice memos on your phone, you can get a lot for a little nowadays. And investing in proper recording gear can help you make huge improvements in the quality of your tracks.
But it’s essential to spread your budget for recording gear evenly among all the essential studio items, including:
- audio interface
- mic stand
Two Ways Home recommends:
There’s an awesome package available at the moment for total beginners called The Focusrite Scarlet package, and we think you can get it for 169 pounds, and it has all of that stuff in it. But if you fork out and buy an epic microphone, you’re not going to get the most out of it if your interface isn’t up to par. So, our top tip is to spread that budget wisely.
If you want to explore some different studio gear, check out these low-cost options:
- Shure SM7B (less than $400)
- Audio-Technica AT2020 (less than $150)
- Rode NT1-A (less than $250)
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (less than $200)
- PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 (less than $120)
- Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD (less than $200)
- Universal Audio’s Apollo units (not as “affordable,” but absolutely amazing)
- Sennheiser HD280 Pro (less than $110)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x (less than $110)
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (less than $175)
You don’t have to spend a ton because studio gear is getting better AND cheaper at the same time. Lucky us. Just do a bit of research, spread that budget evenly, and start recording!
2. Do some DIY acoustic treatment
Want to make a boxy bedroom or echo-y living room sound like a decent recording studio? Then curtains, carpets, rugs, DIY acoustic panels, and soft furnishings are your friends.
Two Ways Home says:
Make sure you close the windows and pick a room that’s not too reverberant, unless that’s what you’re going for. Something as easy as a “clothes horse” (drying rack) with a blanket over the top can really dampen the sound.
Using a reflection filter such as the SE Electronics Reflexion Filter X can really improve your vocal recordings too. It’s priced around $120. Another affordable option is the Monoprice Microphone Isolation Shield, which you can get for about $80.
3. Choose the Best Sample Rate and Bitrate
When you’re recording, make sure you choose the best sample rate and bitrate for what you’re trying to achieve.
The sample rate is the number of snapshots per second that you capture when recording. Basically, the higher the sample rate, the higher the quality.
The bitrate refers to the dynamic range that you’re capturing. If you have a higher bitrate, you can have more detail to the audio you’re recording.
Two Ways Home says:
Higher rates mean better quality, but the trade-off is that it’s going to use a lot more space on your hard drive. We would recommend going with 48 kilohertz and 24 bits. This is going to give you a brilliant compromise between great quality sound but not eating up all of that hard disk space.
Just remember that different distributors require different sample rates and bitrates. CD Baby asks for 44.1 kilohertz and 16-bit recordings.
4. Learn Some Basic Mic Placement Techniques
There are many YouTube videos on this subject, but here are a few tips to get you started.
When recording an acoustic guitar:
You want a quick setup so you can get right to work, so pop the mic around the 12th fret, about six inches away, and aim it a little bit towards the sound hole. This is a great starting point, and you can move the mic back and forward to get the sweet spot from there.
When recording vocals:
Make sure you use a pop shield, placed around six inches from the microphone, and make sure it’s the right height for you to sing without your chin or neck straining upwards or slouching down.
Single Mic Technique:
If you only have one microphone, and you want to record everything “live,” you should invest in a quality large-diaphragm condenser microphone. Position the mic about a foot away from you and angle it so it captures both the vocals and instrument at the same time.
5. Worry Less About Gear and More About Songwriting
My favorite advice from Two Ways Home is to emphasize your song craft and performances more than your recording setup or sonic fidelity:
That’s right! So many great albums and songs have been recorded in people’s bedrooms or in random spaces. Take Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen or Billy Eillish’s first album.
Don’t get bogged down in obsessing over equipment or trying to achieve a “perfect” sound. Some of the greatest songs and albums of all time were recorded in less-than-ideal settings, and what ultimately matters most is the quality of your songwriting and performance.
Here are some tips for focusing on your songs:
- Take the time to craft great songs with strong melodies and meaningful lyrics.
- Workshop your songs by getting feedback from other writers.
- Practice and refine your performance until you can deliver it with confidence and emotion every time.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment, even if it means deviating from your usual sound or production tricks. Focus on what serves the song best.
Remember, the equipment is just a tool to help you capture your music. It’s the quality of the music itself that will ultimately make or break your recordings.
Check out the music and videos of Two Ways Home.