Inevitably, I get asked by DIY musicians about what kind of gear they should buy for a small but effective home recording setup. These days, more and more recording projects are started in the bedroom and later transition to a traditional recording studio. Recording properly from the start with decent equipment is crucial to ensuring the success of your recording project. In today’s musical climate, even your demos need to sound polished and will be critiqued alongside productions with large budgets.
So, besides your raw talent and well crafted songs what is the most important piece of equipment you should own? …(drum roll)... your instrument. It doesn’t matter how expensive a mic you put in front of a shoddy acoustic guitar, it will never sound good. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on your instrument. There are quality brands out there that are affordable. The important thing is to find one that sounds good, plays well and represents your sound. If all else fails, borrow one from a friend or rent one for the session.
The second most important piece of recording gear that you can own is a good and versatile microphone. There is no mic out there that will do everything, but having one with multiple polar patterns or exchangeable capsules will give you a lot of versatility and the ability to experiment with different techniques. As with your instrument, it’s not about how much you spend, so don’t get lured into buying a certain piece of gear just for the name. Do some research, ask around and try some mics out before buying. You should like the sound it gives you for your voice or instrument.
I’m going to go out on a limb and skip the pre-amp and interface discussion and say the third most important piece of gear you should own is a great pair of reference headphones. Do not skimp here. You will likely be monitoring in the same room as your source so will not be able to have studio monitors active while tracking. You need to know that the sound you are hearing in your head is fairly representative of what is going on in the room. That being, a decent pair of monitors will help confirm what you are are hearing and should be part of your larger studio plan. And for god sake, please don’t mix solely with headphones.
When researching recording gear I recommend the following resources: