Since bass noises tend to travel close to the ground and are only filtered out by mass, the existing furniture (especially beds and/or sofas) in the room with the exception of the mixing position needs to be placed against exterior wall.. Ideally, the room will not be in the corner of the building so that it has two exterior walls. The other issue to deal with on an exterior wall is the window. Heavy, lined drapes will go a long way towards taming extraneous outside/outside noise. Depending on whether you have the dinero, ability and the permission to do so, adding another layer of drywall will help immensely in keeping outside/outside and outside/inside noises in check. Just remember to add a layer of a isolating material such as Green Glue between and under the sheets. Turning to outside/inside noise, interior walls are rarely insulated. This presents a problem for both the artist trying to keep noise out and the rest of the residents of the building wanting him/her to keep the music confined to the room they are recording in. A fairly inexpensive way to do this is to arrange two mic stands with boom extensions so that you can hang a heavy blanket over them in such a manner that they make a wall of sorts. By putting together a few of these, you can make a room within the room. Another way would be to line the walls with heavy, lined drapes that can be easily put up or removed.

      Now that we’ve got the acoustics handled as much as is possible considering the circumstances, we need to look at what we’re going to need in the way of gear. In order to do this, we need to define what we intend to accomplish. Since this is basically a studio for creating rough demos with minimal production, we need to keep things simple. The first choice needs to be whether we are going to use a computer based solution or a digital audio workstation (DAW). The simplest of DAW’s will do the job but lack the upgrade path of a computer based solution. A computer based system can be a little intimidating for people that are not computer savvy. Regardless of which system we choose, we’ll have to have at least one microphone for recording vocals. A good choice for this situation would be a Shure SM-57. It’s relatively inexpensive and  can be used as either a vocal or instrument microphone and doesn’t require phantom power.

      TASCAM'S DP-01FX/CD 8-Track Hard Disk Recorder with CD Burner , at $499, isn’t the cheapest solution but it combines a 8 channel, 40GB digital recorded with a CD burner. It features 2 channel simultaneous recording, a dedicated stereo mix-down track, dedicated controls on each channel for level, pan, EFX send and EQ (low and high only). It also has two 1/4”mic/line inputs in addition to 2 XLR inputs with phantom power. Also included is a low impedance input for guitars and basses. The inputs are on the front of the unit which is a user friendly feature.

      We’re going to assume that the user already has either a laptop or a desktop to use for our computer based solution. My recommendation in this situation would be Lexicon's Omega Desktop Recording Studio . It can record 4 channels simultaneously and has 2 XLR (with phantom power) and 4 TRS inputs. A low impedance, instrument level input is also included along with midi in and out connections. Cubase LE recording software is included along with Lexicon’s famous Pantheon reverb. The best part is that it’s less than $200.

      Whether you choose the DAW or computer route, you’ll need something to listen to what you’re recording as well as what you’ve recorded. Headphones are probably the least expensive route and perfectly suitable in this situation. Sony's MDR-7502 closed ear headphones for $49.99 will fit the bill nicely. In addition, we’ll have to have at least one microphone for recording vocals and perhaps guitar. A good choice for this situation would be a Shure SM57 . It’s relatively inexpensive at $80 or so, can be used as either a vocal or instrument microphone and doesn’t require phantom power. A couple of mic stands and a few mic and instrument cables and we’re ready to go. If we go the DAW route, the cost is somewhere around $700 or so. The computer based system will run about half that much, provided we already have a computer to use with it.


Next month—recording a band.

Putting together a Studio

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Digital Audio Recording





      This is the first article in a series on how to put together a studio. I’m going to start with the most basic set up for a singer/songwriter and end up with a studio completely set up to record an entire band.

      Most singer/songwriters have a spare room that they use for composing. Small, nearly square rooms are notoriously bad when it comes to acoustics. Standing bass waves tend to build up in the corners and disrupt the mixing process by making the listener thing there is more bass in the mix than there really is. In this situation, because the intended result will usually be a rough demo, we’re going to focus the room treatment on keeping the outside noises where they belong—outside. There are two types of noises to contend with. 1) unwanted noise coming from outside the building (outside/outside) and 2) unwanted noise coming from within the building. (outside/inside). Outside/outside noise is going to be mostly of the low frequency variety because the walls of the building will filter out most of the mid and high frequencies.