6 - Becoming A Home Studio Ninja
The internet is full of advice on how to start and improve at home studio recording. Most of this advice delves into what equipment you need to buy and a specific way to use it. I want to ignore this for the time being and offer you some practical tips on how to make a start with what you’ve already got.
Just Get Started
This might seem like an obvious one, but taking your first step into recording is probably going to be your biggest. It’s all good having the intention to start recording but actually have the will power to sit down and start is a different matter. It’s the same dreaded ‘blank page’ syndrome that every writer gets when starting a new piece.
A great way to combat this is to make it a collaborative process. If you do it by yourself, you’ll most likely give up at the first sign of trouble. By involving someone else in the process and having them with you whilst you record, it adds an extra layer of collective motivation that will help you break through the initial barrier of starting.
Another way to improve the discipline of recording is to make it as much of a habit as possible. Try forcing yourself to record something for even as small of a time as 15 minutes per day. Even if you don’t have something specific to work on, plug in your guitar, fire up a synth and just noodle for a while. For one thing, you never know what ideas may come out of you and it’ll also help to remove your reliance on just sheer will power.
Don’t be afraid to seek help (don’t be an island)
As creatives, I think we all get caught in ‘the island’ mindset. There can be nothing more horrifying than the thought of someone else hearing your unfinished tracks, so you bury them away, never to be seen again if you don’t deem them as complete and utter perfection.
My theory as to why we do this is a lot to do with the fear of rejection and I totally understand where it comes from. You might fear that an outsider is going to tear down the song you’ve poured your heart and soul into... although, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Find the right people and they will be just as enthusiastic as you and constructive in their advice. I truly believe that you can’t thrive or be at your best by isolating yourself and working as an island. Be part of a community that wants nothing but the best for you and I promise it’ll make for the best results.
If you’re ever looking for a friendly, outside perspective on your tracks you can always drop me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org as I’d love to hear them!
Throw the rulebook out of the window
You’ll see a lot of information on the internet that says you “have to record guitars/vocals/bass” in this way. Well, I say f*ck em’. Experiment. Go wild. Do whatever the hell makes you want to start recording.
You’ll get lost in the weeds and hold yourself up to ridiculous standards of ‘legendary recordings’ if you don’t forge your own path. By all means, go and find advice and tutorials online but use them as an advice buffet. Take elements, try them and adapt them to your system. Getting bogged down will drain your motivation and inspiration. The most important thing is that you’re recording and having fun. I promise you’ll learn more about recording doing this approach than any other.
Who knows, you could be the next inventor or pioneer of an unfounded recording technique. Loads of incredible examples of damn right bonkers, but equally brilliant recording techniques can be found in Sylvia Massy's book, Recording Unhinged.
Track live as much as possible
This depends on the genre but try to inject as much live tracking when you’re just starting out. If you have multiple inputs on your interface, record drums and guitar at the same time. Get in the same room as your bandmates and capture a performance of the tracks as if you were onstage in front of an audience.
A lot of issues I run into when hearing people’s first home studio recordings is how ‘stale’ and ‘regimented’ they sound. It easy to look at the neat, grid-like layout of recording software and feel like you’re confined to stick it. Try to play the same way you would on stage when recording and the best way to capture that is to record with someone else at the same time.
Doing this way is also a great way to avoid the dreaded ‘red light’ syndrome (the fear of recording). Sitting in front of a computer and having your band mates look over your shoulder can be a tense and nerve-wracking experience. For a lot of musicians, this could be the first time they’ve ever recorded and the unfamiliar experience can sometimes really affect the recording. By performing the recording live with your bandmates, it makes the recording more of a familiar experience of rehearsing and playing live, hopefully eliminating some of those recording nerves.
I’d love to hear your experiences of recording in home studios. Drop me an email or hit the comments section below!
Your friendly neighbourhood mix engineer,