6 factors for hassle-free recording setup

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The importance of the 6 factors

What factors are essential in analog and digital music production for a hassle-free recording setup? Whether it’s recording a demo, the next studio EP or the final mix-down. The entire recording setup needs to work smoothly so that yourself don’t get interrupted in your creative process. It’s fundamentally important not to be annoyed by computer and/or software problems. Of course, you should also not let yourself be negatively influenced by your own equipment and the environment.

But one thing should be said – the perfect system unfortunately does not exist 100%. There will always be problems, in the best case only small problems. But these should only occur very rarely. If you are also prepared for possible solutions, you no longer have to worry about your recording setup.

Which parts belong to a hassle-free recording setup?

  1. The environment or location
  2. The sound source (instrument / voice / yourself)
  3. The microphone in case of an analog source
  4. The outboard equipment (if not present in the interface) like mixer or preamp with eq, compressor, effects and all the cables that go with it
  5. Digital layer – the interface / the software / the computer
  6. The listening facilities, like speakers or headphones

If you can control these 6 factors and make sure there is little room for error in these points, you will have an excellent recording setup for your music production.

1. The environment

What is meant by an environment for good music production?

  • Free from external noise, possibly from street noise, neighbors, or even roommates/family members. With my own band I rehearsed in a band room that vibrated every time the band from next door was rehearsal at the same time. They played hardcore metal with deep tuning, massive bass and the double bass drum was like rifle fire. So this was not a good environment to reasonably rehearse or even record in.
  • The acoustics within the room should also suit you. For a studio room or music room, flutter echoes and any buzzing should be eliminated. It’s better to have a little too dry room sound than too much reverb that you can’t control later after the recording. Often it is the lower bass frequencies that are difficult to control without a lot of effort.
  • And you should ensure a noise-free environment yourself by disregarding your mail program, not answering WhatsApp, and maybe even setting your phone to airplane mode so that you can fully engage with the music.

2. The sound source

Be it your instrument or your voice: Only if they are functional, you can practice properly, be creative and record your performance stress-free.

For the instrumentalists

  • Regular instrument care not only preserves the instrument longer, but also allows it to be played longer without problems
  • You also build up a different relationship with the instrument if you treat it with care and attention
  • A possible resale value is always higher for a well-maintained instrument, regardless of its quality.
  • Put on fresh guitar strings or new drum skins…preferably the day before recording.

For the singers

  • Train your voice constantly and regularly. Rather shorter, but daily or every two days.
  • Rest your voice the night before a long rehearsal or recording session.
  • Warm up your voice thoroughly with exercises before you really get started
  • You can’t buy new vocal cords, so you should take special care not to “break” them.

3. The microphone

Choosing the right microphone for the particular sound source is more crucial than the microphone quality. Even though I call a microphone in the three-digit price range my own (and I wouldn’t want to miss it in any case), but I fully agree with the opinion that you can achieve excellent and professional results with inexpensive and proven microphones.

With a vocal microphone, it is important that it supports the singer’s voice. That’s why studios have several different vocals microphones on hand to choose the right microphone for the recording situation. And you don’t always have to choose the high-end microphone.

4. Outboard-Equipment

Preamps should first and foremost amplify the signal, preferably without noise and far away from the background noise. If they then contribute a deliberate “coloring” to the recording signal, that’s great, but already a specific characteristic. Whether or not the preamp contributes this coloration is not critical to a stress-free recording.

And the same can be said at this point for all outboard equipment like compressors and equalizers. These must be functional and properly operated or adjusted for their use. So the price range doesn’t play a big role here either for the time being.

5. Digital level

The interface should convert the signal as faithfully as possible from analog to digital and not produce any dropouts or errors during the conversion. The interaction between the interface, the software (DAW) and the computer is crucial. And this is where the biggest problems often arise, since a lager number of factors influence each other, to which the user is often helpless. A stable digital system – a music computer that is preferably only available for music and is equipped and configured accordingly – is worth its weight in gold. And once you have achieved this “golden system”, you should keep the line „never change a running system” in mind from time to time.

The way you use the software has to suit you and meet your needs for your music production. So it doesn’t matter who the manufacturer is, if it is/was the industry standard or if it feels like everyone else around you prefers a different DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

If the software gives you problems that you can’t fix yourself, find a new DAW. If you don’t like the layout or the way it works, get used to it or find a new DAW. Don’t let your creative streak be influenced by software!

6. The monitoring situation

How do you want to judge your recording if you can’t create a reasonable listening possibility. This area includes the monitoring boxes, if you want to use them or can use them at all due to your own (domestic) environment. Here your room plays an important role, but also the correct placement of the speakers, aligned to your own listening position and of course according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

If you use headphones additionally or exclusively, then they should also meet certain criteria:

  • Optimal fit on the head and ears, also designed for a longer listing time.
  • For recording, rather closed headphones, so that the signal from the headphones is not transmitted into the recording microphone. If you hear the “click-track” quietly in the background on the vocal track, this is often a sign of the wrong headphone choice.
  • Semi-open or open headphones are more suitable for monitoring, since they do not shield you completely and the bass range in particular can be better assessed.

If you can control these six factors and eliminate potential sources of problems beforehand, you’ll have taken a giant step toward a „hassle-free recording situation.”

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