Home Studio

Home Studio – Tutorial part 5

Here is a concise tutorial, consisting of seven parts and therefore divided over seven individual posts, about the composing, orchestrating, and recording/production process of music. It is intended for beginner composers, orchestrators, sound-engineers, home-studio owners. And it is not intended merely for making electronic music. It is intended as a good place to start with music and to learn a few tricks that will save time and help them along the learning music composition.

Overview individual posts of this tutorial

  1. Introduction making Music
  2. Instruments
  3. Musical Synthesis
  4. Learning about Instruments
  5. Home Studio
  6. Mixing and Editing
  7. Really useful Links

A home studio nowadays no longer means a $100,000 mixing desk plus $1,000 of accessories. You need a computer with some good software, and a decent microphone and decent speakers (or headphones). Realistically, the quality of music produced in a home studio can potentially be no worse than in an expensive studio, however, that depends entirely on the person recording the music. To set up your own studio, or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), here is what you’ll need.

1. A powerful computer

PC or Mac? It doesn’t really matter. They are both acceptable in the industry. PC is better only in that if you want to upgrade it, it will be easy, while to upgrade a Mac is almost impossible. Other than that, they are both similarly priced, so the only difference is the software available to each. Mac has Garageband and Logic. In my opinion, Macs also look prettier.

2. Audio Interface

Audio Interface is a device which will convert analogue sound into digital sound. This is a very important, and many people overlook it. Without this component, your studio will lag, or fail to record sound accurately. Although you can get internal audio interfaces, I would definitely recommend an external one because it more portable and compatible with both Macs and PCs.

3. Mixer

A mixer is the in-between guy connecting your instruments and your Computer. Here you will control the gain and level of the input so that it is appropriate for the audio interface to accept. You can get mixers with built in audio interfaces.

4. Recording Software

As a Recording Software you use sequencer into which to record all your music, in which you can edit your audio and apply effects.

5. Microphones, Electronic instruments (electric guitars, keyboards, etc.), or a MIDI controller

There are 3 different types of microphones you can get:

  1. Dynamic microphones
  2. Condenser microphones
  3. Ribbon microphones

Dynamic microphones are cheapest and most resilient; they are useful in live situations and recording really loud or grungy instruments.

Condenser microphones are more expensive and quite fragile; they can get damaged if exposed to loud noises, however, the sound quality the produce is generally much better than dynamic microphones.

Ribbon microphones are ridiculously overpriced and are now mainly vintage microphones; they too are very fragile and are sometimes used for the warm sound that is achieved by using them.

6. Speakers or Headphone

To do a good job, you will need Studio Monitor Speakers, or Studio Quality headphones. Without an accurate representation of the sound that your home studio is creating, you will not be able to produce music that sounds good on different sound systems.

The Wonderful World of MIDI

So, say you can write all the instrumental parts, but can’t get access to musicians to play them. What do you do? Never fear! Musical Instrument Digital Interface is here! It doesn’t matter what MIDI is or how it works. What’s important is that it allows you to play a keyboard and sound like (almost) any instrument in the world. It probably won’t sound as good as the real instrument, but a lot of the time it will definitely do the job.

Furthermore, if you buy software like Kontakt or Hypersonic you will be able to produce music that sounds (in some cases) better than the real thing.

In the future, it is unlikely that we will need play real instruments to reproduce a real sound – as technology gets better, so do the people using it, which means that a good MIDI trumpet player (keyboardist) might sound as good as a real trumpet player.

Effects and Panorama

Effects are a vital part of making your mix coherent. Without them, the different elements of your mix will clash, sound flat, or recede into nothingness. Learning which effects to use in which situation is an acquired skill which you will master with practice.

This is only a brief outline of what each one does:

  1. Equalization (EQ) is used to boost or reduce certain frequencies in a sound. This is useful for removing frequencies that sound bad or clash with other instruments. Also, it is useful to boost certain frequencies which emphasize certain qualities of instruments.
  2. Compression makes the louder bits softer, thereby decreasing the dynamic range of the sound. This is useful if part of the sound is quiet and part of it is really loud, and you want them to be the same volume.
  3. Reverberation mimics the acoustics of a real room, making the sound more real, and can be used to make something sound further away.
  4. Delay makes the sound repeat itself again after a certain amount of time has elapsed. This is useful as a special effect. Also, it can be used to make things sound bigger, or further away.
  5. Chorus makes it sound like multiple instruments are producing the sound, giving it a rich, shimmering, quality. This is useful to make a single instrument sound like there are more of the same instruments playing, like a string section in an orchestra. It is also useful to make something sound bigger than it really is.
  6. Panorama is the positioning of a sound in the stereo image of the overall sound: from far left, to far right. Panning a sound makes the listener think it is coming from a certain direction. This is useful in re-creating a realistic representation of sound. Also, it helps to stop different sounds from clashing.

Ross Unger, www.rossunger.com

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