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Home Studio Advice

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Evening,

I'm debating putting together a little home studio and I have no idea really where to start...

I don't have much knowledge in this area, and I'd appreciate some guidance on a half-decent (but relatively budget) set up.

I am starting from absolute scratch and have a clean slate to start from. 

What do I need? What's good? I only have a small space to work with so please bear that in mind! 

Treat me as an absolute newbie. :)

Thanks in advance! Russ.

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Posted (edited)

I've just gone down the same path.....

I have a 6 year old Windows 10 laptop - nothing posh.

You'll need a USB audio interface to get a bass/mic signal into the laptop - i bought this for £25 (it was an open box model) and it seems fine https://www.thomann.de/gb/behringer_u_phoria_umc22.htm 
Plug your bass or vocals straight in the front. USB out the back into your computer. The live monitoring button is useful. Focusrite, M Audio and Native Instruments all make them for around £80 but the Behringer ones are quite decent for half the price.

You will also need a DAW program on your laptop to act as a mixer - this will also let you play keyboards/samples/drum loops to add to your bass track. I started with free Waveform Tracktion which is pretty easy (i would highly recommend watching as many YouTube user guides to whichever DAW you end up with before you start pushing buttons and confusing yourself - i wish someone had told me that before i started). 

For drums i downloaded MT Power Drumkit to use in the DAW. It's free and lets you grab and build loops very quickly and easily https://www.powerdrumkit.com/download76187.php

That got me started and laying drums, bass and some keyboard bits down and was a lot of fun even though its a steep learning curve - there's a lot of stuff there that i've never done before and its easy to get confused with settings. YouTube is your friend here - every issue i've come across so far has been resolved via videos or help forums online. Do it in bite sized sessions and don't expect to become a recording genius in a few weeks. 

After a fortnight i got fed up doing drums and keyboards on the laptop keyboard so invested in a midi keyboard - you can get them for £50 upwards. I spent a little more (£85) and ended up with a Native Instruments M32. Most of the cheap ones are 25 keys and this one is 32 - it's kind of handy having the extra range on the keys and also has real knobs on it to control some stuff without using a mouse. It's less deep front to back than some and fits on the desk easily in front of my laptop. The other selling point for me was that it comes with a very good software package of hundreds of loops, synths and instruments, a fully contained management suite and DAW and also an extra free DAW called Ableton that is nice and easy to use https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/keyboards/komplete-kontrol-m32/

So, i've spent around £100 and got everything i need for the minute using headphones to listen with. If i stick with it i'll probably get some small active monitor speakers. There are loads of free VST's around (instruments, effects, samples and loops) so you can get very acceptable results and have a lot of fun very cheaply. I'm enjoying myself and gradually becoming more self sufficient every weekend. The biggest lesson i've learned is to pick one DAW and learn how to use it before you try another - i wasted a lot of time trying to use a few different ones but they all work a little differently and i was confusing myself more than i needed to. Reaper, Ableton Lite and Waveform Tracktion are the ones i've tried and i've settled on Ableton so far.

 

Edited by Mudpup

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I’m starting to put a very small recording set up together, based around my ipad. Not a cheap way but i already have th iPad, and its more powerful than anything I could afford in the laptop world (i have a PC but down want to use it).

I can plug my Helix Stomp in to it via USB and record using that. It handles my bass/keyboard/guitar etc. I recently got a Yamaha Reface DX as a note pad type of thing, but it works perfectly as a controller in to my ipad. The free GarageBand is great, although i have Laos started using Cubasis which is even better. 

Obvulsy the ipad can be substituted for my PC if i choose. No need for a USB interface if i use the Helix, although hi have a Scarlett 2i4 if i need it. 

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Posted (edited)

I'm in a similar situation. Social distancing has led to a couple of remote projects. I simply connect my Helix LT to my laptop via USB, and run Reaper - there's a free 60 day evaluation, then it's only $60 USD. The Helix works well as an interface, and my old Zoom B3 did too. So it's possible you may already have what you need to dip your toes in without spending anything.

I've no requirement to record anything other than bass, so this works for me. If you want to do more, I can also recommend a Behringer interface like the one mentioned by @Mudpup. My keyboard player has a similar model with two XLR inputs and it does a great job for both keys and vocals.

George

Edited by geoham

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Posted (edited)

There is a free version of Cakewalk available  from Bandlab’s website. Very well polished DAW. Been using the paid versions for years. 

Edited by dave_bass5
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Assuming you already have a PC, you'll definitely need a mic, a USB audio and/or MIDI interface, and a DAW.

You could add a multi FX for amp/cab modeling. Zoom do good, inexpensive products, like the B1-Four, but you'd also need to budget for it's guitar alternative if you're planning on adding guitars. You could look at something like a Line6 POD XT/X3 or HD/HDx that has both Guitar & Bass models (though you may need to budget for the Bass Expansion packs). Some, like the Line6, have USB connectors, and can act as your recording interface, and if used carefully, you can get a good vocal recording through them as well.

Which DAW package to go for though? Free is the cheapest, so that version of Cakewalk would be ideal. Some interfaces include bundled DAW's, like Cubase, again, great if you're buying an interface as well.

The downside to the software DAW's is learning to use them well enough that they don't get in the way of the actual recording process. Before you get down to any "serious" recording, I'd say that you need to spend a fair bit of time familiarising yourself with how to use the basic functions. You'll find the more familiar you are with the package, the better your results will be.

Decent headphones are a must, but also look at getting a way to link your PC to some external HiFi speakers, these are essential when you're mixing.

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34 minutes ago, Skybone said:

You could add a multi FX for amp/cab modeling. Zoom do good, inexpensive products, like the B1-Four, but you'd also need to budget for it's guitar alternative if you're planning on adding guitars. You could look at something like a Line6 POD XT/X3 or HD/HDx that has both Guitar & Bass models (though you may need to budget for the Bass Expansion packs). Some, like the Line6, have USB connectors, and can act as your recording interface, and if used carefully, you can get a good vocal recording through them as well.

Haven't you already got these with the USB interface or DAW package? Mine has Amplitube and a bunch of other stuff that does that kind of thing?

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9 minutes ago, Mudpup said:

Haven't you already got these with the USB interface or DAW package? Mine has Amplitube and a bunch of other stuff that does that kind of thing?

There's free and there's worth having.

I've not seen a free one that comes close to Neural DSP Fortin or Native plugins.

 

I've recently put a little rig together - pair of Yamaha HS7 monitors, an old Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 and Reaper as my DAW.

 

I already had a Helix so that allowed me to buy the Helix Native plug in at £99 rather than full price giving me a Helix in my PC as well. And as there was a spring sale I bought a couple of Neural DSP Fortin plug ins - the NTS guitar amp and the bass specific Parallax.

 

Sounds great to me.

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