Get a setup based on what you need

If you're like me, then you read a lot of recording articles and watch a lot of recording / mixing videos.  I've found that there are 2 basic categories out there with these.  The "go small home studio" and the "go big or leave it alone" studios.

Man is there a BIG divide here!  The small studio guys are super minimalistic, while the big studio guys apparently don't know what most home interiors look like.  In life, I've found that many times when there's such a massive divide, it's not because there needs to be.  Rather, there's such a massive divide because of over reaction.

Build your studio based on your needs.

There's some common sense for ya.  But sadly, it's something you won't read or hear in to many other audio blogs / videos.  Take a moment and think about what you're really planning on recording.  Is it just you?  Or are you planning on recording others as well?  One/two thing at a time?  Or will you maybe need to record more?  If you plan on recording drums ever you'll need more like 8 - 14 inputs.  (If you've never done drums, that sounds pretty stupid.  But it's not uncommon to do 2 kick mics [one in and one out], 2 snare mics [one top and one bottom], a mic on every tom, 2 overhead mics, sometimes 2 room mics, and then sometimes 2 ambient mics.  That's 12-14 right there).

I've found that with what I do, an 8 channel interface and another 2 channel interface works most of the time.  To be perfectly honest though, there's another 8 channel interface that links with mine (it has a compressor built into each cannel...sweet) that I really want to get too.  16 channels would be perfect for me and my setup.  I basically have 2 rooms to record in, and put drums in one and everyone else in another and we're good to go.

If you're only recording yourself.

Then you have it made!  A 2 channel interface, 1-2 mics, a pair of headphones and you're good to roll.  The trick is that you are the one pushing the buttons to record and the one playing / singing.  But in most DAWs you can set a click intro :).

This setup might not work if you're planning on recording others though.  Other singer songwriters...yes, bands...no.

If you're recording others.

Things are a little trickier, and more expensive here.  I love the concept of the minimalist approach, but it just doesn't work if you plan on recording others and want good quality.  Especially with the mics.  If you can drive to a Guitar Center (GC) then you can try some mics out before you buy them.  This is huge!  Finding a mic that works well with your voice is important.  But think about that for a second.  If it's important to get a mic that works with your voice, that means that not all microphones work with all voices.  CORRECT!

Not all microphones work with all voices or instruments.  Which means...you need to have a few to choose from.  And it's a good idea to have a few dynamic mics too, as they seem to be less picky with voices.  But you're not going to impress the person you're recording with most dynamic mics either.  I currently have 7 condenser mics (6 different models - meaning one pair) and 5 dynamic mics.  Some will tell you that's too many to have as a choice.  But I know their sonic profiles (what they sound like) and have a basic idea which mic will work with which type of vocal.  So I typically try 2 maybe 3 for each singer, and pick the best...unless none of those work well.

Not only do you have to have more mics, but then you need more cables, and probably a bigger interface.  All of this costs more money.  Graham just came out with his $300 studio setup challenge...which would work great for a single person / singer songwriter.  But you'll never get great sounding (acoustic) drums with it.  It's a single microphone, a 2 channel interface, a pair of headphones, and the free DAW that comes with the interface.  Record one piece at a time, which is fine, but that mic might not sound good on any of the vocals or the instruments.

My advice.

Here's my 2 cents on this topic.  It's easy to go overboard with your setup.  But quite often it seems like we all tend to get too small of a setup for our needs.  I started there too.  I recorded a full band on a two channel interface (and yes, the drums sounded like crap - but thats another story - and they actually sounded better than most people expected) but it didn't turn out too well.

Take some time and be honest with your thoughts on what you're going to record.  If 99% of it is going to be you and your guitar/keyboard, then a minimal setup is probably best.  Pick out a mic that works with your voice and instrument and get recording :).  If you really think you'll be recording others pretty frequently, then you might want a 4-8 channel interface, a small selection of mics (a mix of dynamic and condensers), and a couple headphones (which might require you getting a headphone mixer as well).

My advice is to be honest with yourself and your thoughts about what and who you'll be recording.  Then get what you need, and not go overboard with the things you want.  Don't just spend money to spend money.

Go and make something you love.

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