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Posted by on Oct 30, 2012 in Diymb Blog, Music Gear | 3 comments

How To Build A Recording Studio Part 2

 

Alright so here I am, back with the 2nd installment of building a recording studio. If you’ve missed the 1st part don’t worry you can find it here

How To Build A Recording Studio Part 1

I hope you find this post just as beneficial if not more than part 1. Please feel free to leave comments/suggestions and or concerns. So, without further ado let’s pick up where we left off.

6) Studio Workstation (The Studio Desk)

You need a good workstation (desk) to organize your gear on. Now as much as I love ordering online, I tend to go into the store (guitar center) and set up all the gear I have (or something close to it) on desks, just to see how it fits, how it looks and if it’s going to work for me.

I know, this may seem extreme, and piss some people off, but who cares? This is your future, this is your investment … Make sure the gear you plan to invest in work for you!

I’ve always liked the workstations made by “Studio RTA” & “Studio Trends”. You can find a lot of their desk’s setup at your local music store.

 

7)Midi Keyboards -Which One To Use

When picking a midi controller you want to make sure the controller feels nice to the touch. Some people like for the midi controller to feel like a real piano and some don’t. I personally like synth action and semi weighted controllers over full weighted keys.

The midi controller I’m using right now is an AKAI MPK49. I’ve heard a lot of people claim that this controller has a key malfunction (one of the C keys breaks easily). I’ve owned the Akai MPK49 since 2008, and it works just as well as it did the 1st day I purchased it (flawless).

– You just gotta take care of your gear folks (It’s not rocket science)

Aside from the midi controller feeling good (while playing), it must also have these features: at least 49keys, pitch wheel, mod wheel and it must be velocity sensitive – Velocity sensitivity is a must!

Now, let me just say that the midi controller doesn’t have to be 49keys, (get what you can afford) but it’s what I recommend if you plan on playing a lot of chords, they just have more flexibility than that of a 25key controller.

These midi controllers are fair in price and they get the job done

Maudio Oxygen 49 Key $99
Maudio Keystudio 49 Key $135
Akai MPK 49 Key $299.99
Maudio Axiom 49 Key $299.99

There are others out there but again, I only list what I’ve personally used. I kept this selection limited with budget in mind. I wouldn’t fixate on controllers that have a lot of bells and whistles, but if you have the money and feel they can be of some use, then by all means go for it.

 

8) Cables and Connections/Converters

I remember being in a studio session with a client (bass player). We had 2 hours to get some recording done and 3 hours to hand the project in (not a good spot to be in).

During the recording session one of the audio cables shorted. No big deal, it happens from to time, but the problem was I DIDN’T HAVE ANOTHER CABLE. I freaked, I was looking all around…no luck. I told the session player that I had to run out to radio shack and get another cable.

He went into his backpack and pulled out a few and said “always have back ups”. It seems minor, but he saved me big time, it was going to take 45 minutes to and back from the nearest hole in the wall radio shack (and that’s in decent traffic!)

I wouldn’t suggest spending any ridiculous amount of money on cables. I’ve seen people spend anywhere from $200.00 to $400 on simple through cables and to be honest, I couldn’t tell them apart from the standard monster cables.

Another issue I ran into was not having connectors, which come in handy for connecting and routing external gear. It’s always good to have RCA,1/4,XLR connection/converters, you just never know what you may run into.

 

9) Storage Drives & Devices

I can never stress this need enough. I don’t care how long you’ve been recording or how solid you feel you’re computer is, you’ll never be immune to a harddrive failure.

This is the number one thing that will bring a composer/artist or studio owner to tears. There is no excuse for not having work backup on multiple devices. A 1TB drive is $70-$100, flash drives are super affordable and CD’s are dirt cheap. Take my advice and make sure you have your work backup on at least 3 different devices.

If you’re charging people for studio time, and you lose their work you’ll be sued, and they will win. The damages for this aren’t pretty.

So please, take a little of that budget, and put it into storage devices!

 

10) Microphone Preamps – A Must For Me

I would have mentioned this along side “microphone selection”, but decided to go with a more modern/feature packed/bang for buck selection (Audio Interfaces).

I like dedicated mic preamps (channel strips) because they are versatile. Most people use them for recording vocals, but I like using them for sound character. If you have a good preamp you can use it to get that big studio console sound (that’s so popular).

The mic preamp that I use is the Joe Meek VC6Q. It’s an ugly green unit with a nice vintage warm vintage sound. I think I picked up when I was 16 or 17 years old and it’s been in my studio since.

I really love dedicated mic preamps for sound processing as well as vocal recording. If you have the money to get a dedicated preamp I’d suggest getting one.

This will not make or break your sound but it does help in the long run.

I’d suggest taking a ganders at the following mic preamps:

Studio Projects VTB1 $149.99 
Grace M 101 $685
Joe Meek Three Q $249.99
Art Pro MPAII $269

All 4 of the listed preamps will give you a nice sound warm sound. I tried to keep this listing within a reasonable price range.

 

11) Power Conditioners – Clean Energy/Gear Protection

Really? Clean energy…. Did I just go there right now? I know, it sounds stupid, but having clean vs dirty energy can make all the difference in the world when it comes to creating/mixing music.

You want to make sure you are getting the best possible signal throughout your studio. When I 1st started creating music I use to have a horrible ground loop. I didn’t know what it is from or how to stop it. I later found out that the home I lived in was not properly grounded and as a result, I’d have this annoying hum in my monitors. I did learn to work around that but it’s very annoying!

If your home is your recording studio there is a good chance that you have dirty energy flowing through your home. Lamps, Deep freeze, kids TVS, clippers, washer and dryer etc ..Then there is a good chance that you have dirty energy in your home.

The best way to clean up energy so you’re not getting a lot random hisses,hums and audio artifacts is to get a power conditioner. This filters the energy that goes to your music equipment.

There are different brands of power conditions and the brand I use is Furman. I have a Furman M-8X2, now it does do a little filtering, but it’s acts better as a surge protector. I love this little rack unit because it protects my gear from surge spikes and it was only $60. More expensive conditioners do better job (just needed to throw that out there)

You might be ok with the one I have or you might need to dump a little more $ into one. It really depends on your situation and living environment, some home studios don’t need much because they don’t run much within the studio.

Now, a question I get from time to time is “Can’t I just use a surge protector from Walmart??” Of course, you can use any surge protection unit you want. I personally just go with what I know and trust.

 

Well, that’s it for this installment, stay tuned for the 3rd, where I’ll be showing you how to actually hook up your equipment.

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3 Comments

  1. I really enjoy your article on purchasing studio equipment. I am not very young (52), but I have a desire to get back into music. I’d like to compose music for film, do some foley work. Man, you gave me some hope.

    • Hi Robert,

      I’m glad I could be of great inspiration. Get back into it as soon as you can man… IT’S FUN!

  2. Great post Greg. I can’t wait to see your video on on hooking everything up.

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