Setting up a home recording rig can be a daunting task. With so many products on the market ranging from budget to professional, it is hard to know where to start. Not to worry, here at MME we are ready to get you started on your home recording journey.
First things first, we need to discuss the basics, and go over some terms. For this discussion we are going to focus on recording guitar or bass through a combo or cabinet with the same speakers. We will keep things simple and just use a Shure SM-57 which is an industry standard condenser mic. To start out you will need an amp, a microphone (SM-57), XLR cable, mic stand, audio interface and a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), and studio monitors.
The Mic: As previously stated, we will use an SM-57. The reason for this is because it is an all-around excellent mic with a balanced sound when recording. When placing your mic, I suggest you start at 1 inch away from the grille and a little off the center of the cone. Using a flashlight can help you see through the grille cloth to the cone. Do some testing and move the microphone in small increments until you get the sound that you like.
Audio Interface: The audio interface is what will serve as the middleman between your analog mic signal to digital signal for your computer. There are a ton of these on the market ranging from under $100 to over a $1000. When just starting out I suggest getting an audio interface such as the PreSonus AudioBox 96k. At $100 this interface has some great features such as dual mic input, monitoring, independent volumes, USB, Midi In and Out, and headphones/speaker out.
Connect your XLR cable to your SM-57 and your PreSonus Audio Interface. Connect your audio interface to your computer, either PC or Mac via USB. Now it is time to set up your amp with the desired volume and sound that you want to record. Once you have your amp set up, start monitoring your audio interface. Don't just play lead licks, but throw some cowboy chords and power chords in as well, play heavily. While doing this, monitor the clipping LED on the volume that corresponds to your mic input. If the clipping LED is hitting red, turn down the volume for that mic. Once you are in your sweet spot, it is time to move on.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): The DAW is the most technical part of setting up your home recording solution. Some DAWs are specific to Mac and some specific to Windows, and they range in price from free to a Custom Shop Strat. I recommend starting out with PreSonus Studio One Artist. It is free with every purchase of a PreSonus Audio Interface, easy to use, and a ton of videos and guides exist to help you. Once you are ready you can move to paid options such as PreSonus Studio One Professional, which allow for more bells and whistles, plugins, post processing, etc.
Now that you have installed PreSonus Studio One, connected everything, and tested, it is time to record. There will be a lot of trial and error here, a lot. Not only do you have to worry about your input gain from the audio interface but you also have to worry about the input gain from your DAW. So, take your time, record some sample tracks, and adjust what needs to be adjusted to get that perfect tone that is crystal clear, even when your amp is dimed.
Once you have laid down some sweet tracks, export the file and share with your buddies.
Studio Monitors/Headphones: Here is where most folks cheap out in their home recording, however, it is the most crucial part of your sound. Your studio monitors or headphones are specifically designed to recreate the sound of your recording to its truest form. A $15 set of Logitech computer speakers will not work. If you like headphones, I recommend the PreSonus HD7 or HD10, available at MME. If you are more into speakers, the PreSonus Eris E3.5 are a great budget option at $100. You can connect your monitors or headphones straight to your audio interface to monitor your input while recording, you can also playback what you have recorded through your audio interface, and of course you can use the audio interface and your monitors/headphones to playback so that you can record a solo or rhythm track as well.
Now that you have purchased everything and set it up, you are ready to lay down some smoking tracks and put what is in your head to a recording.
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