Home Recording, Demo and DIY CDs
Recording a demo is one of the best ways for a band to make their mark early on; not only will you have something to send to labels, booking agents and publicists, you'll also be able to sell your demo at shows or via your website. It's an amazing tool with which to gather a broad fan-base.
But more often than not, bands find themselves balking at the idea of shelling out the bucks to record a demo at a studio, especially if they anticipate spending a lot of money on a future studio recording. This is where the concept of home recording comes in; thanks to new technology and fairly cost-effective equipment, anyone can record a professional sounding demo at their own home studio. You just need the right recording equipment.
If you're planning to record into your computer (which is usually the most cost-effective choice, as someone in your band or someone you know is bound to have one), you'll need to understand how to make your system home recording ready.
Macs: The favored for choice for creative purposes, Macs are all but designed for home recording. If you've got a G4 or G5, you're probably set as far as space and speed is concerned, but if you're running on an older G3, you'll want to install as much RAM as you possibly can within your budget. 256 MB is the bare minimum, but 384 MB or more is highly recommended. You'll also need a USB or FireWire audio interface, as newer Macs don't have serial ports.
Window PCs: Though setting up a home studio with a PC used to be next to impossible, Windows system updates have in recent years made home recording a lot easier. You'll need a Pentium 4 processor running at least 2.6 GHz. 512 MB of RAM with 60 GB of hard drive space is the bare minimum, and you'll want to update to the newest version of the Windows operating system (currently, Windows XP). The audio interface issues are the same with PCs as they are with Macs; just double check that the interface is designed to work with a Windows system.
Software: Most of the best recording software is now cross-platform, so it's unlikely that your choices will be limited by the type of computer you own. Pro-Tools is by far the most widely used audio program by industry professionals, but it tends to be extraordinarily expensive; Cubase or Digital Performer are less costly choices, though they don't have as many features. Reason and Ableton Live work well for electronic music, and Frooty Loops, though very basic and sometimes not very functional, is very cheap and a decent choice if you're making something for your ears only.
Remember, using computer-based software for home recording is extremely cost-effective, even if it doesn't seem like it on the surface; they include on-board mixers and preamps, as well as a host of effects and compressors. You can, of course, buy separate mixers and preamps to create a cleaner sound, but for demo home recording, using the ones built into the software is usually the best bet.
Mics and Lines
The first step in setting up a home studio is finding the right equipment to actually record the sound itself. For this, you'll be using both microphones and line inputs.
Microphones, as you well know, are used to amplify acoustic instruments (drums, some guitars, pianos) and vocals. While most of the larger studios use several mics geared toward various instruments, those just starting out with DIY recording really only a multi-purpose mic like the Shure SM-58. You can use this mic to record just about anything, though you'll want to have several on hand when it comes to recording drums (one for every piece of your kit, unless you choose to record drums by simply using an overhead mic).
Line inputs are responsible for recording anything that doesn't need a mic and can plug directly into your recording source. You'll probably be using the same inputs for both mics and lines, so you'll need a converter to smooth the process. DI's, or direct injection boxes, are the best choice and can be found at any pro-audio store.
They may seem a frivolous expense, but a fantastic pair of headphones are absolutely vital to any home recording set-up. Every member of your band will use them while recording, and you'll find yourself relying on them during mixing to pick out details. You'll need a closed-back pair that doesn't bleed sound and expresses the fullest range of frequencies. MDR 7506 or MDR 7505 tend to work best for home recording purposes, but discuss this aspect of recording equipment with your local pro-audio shop. They'll be able to provide something spot-on perfect for your DIY recording needs.
Like headphones, a good set of monitors is vital to your home recording set-up; you want to accurately hear the sound you've recorded, right? You'll need a set with 6.5 inc h woofers or larger, which ensures that all frequencies are represented. You'll also want to find a pair that are designed to be heard in a small room, or at a close range; chances are you won't be setting up your home studio in a huge space, so you want something that represents your sound at the closest range possible. A good rule of thumb for setting up your monitors is to space them about three feet away from each other and position yourself dead center and three feet away from the speakers. Of course, this might not be possible while you're working with your system, but when listening back for accuracy of sound, always keep this space equation in tact.
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