1. Technology

Before You Start Recording: Must-Have Accessories


Making the decision to start a home studio can be tremendously exciting -- it's a lot of work, but very rewarding. But after you've selected your room, installed acoustic treatment, picked an interface, gotten your favorite digital audio software loaded and running, and maybe even recorded your first track, you might make the same mistake that many others - including myself - are guilty of: blowing your whole budget before you've picked up some often overlooked essentials.

Let's take a look at a few things you need to remember to budget for. These aren't just luxuries -- these will make your job a lot easier!

In-Ear Monitors or Headphones

When recording multitrack style, it's generally in the best interest of isolation from other noises that you monitor on headphones while recording the individual part. That also allows you to use a click track without it bleeding onto tape. A good pair of headphones can be relatively inexpensive, or you can spend several hundred dollars. The standard of most commercial recording studios is well within the financial reach of any home recordist: the Sony MDR-7506 ($100). For in-ears, check out the extensive selection from Ultimate Ears, including the $499 UE-4 Pro.

Extra Microphone Stands

Yes, this list might seem obvious. Mic stands? I'm sure you already thought of that. Well, I didn't. And I suffered for it. Plain and simple, you can never have too many mic stands. You never know when you'll want to try a new mic technique that requires two stands, or when a stand will break in the middle of a session, possibly a paying one. Many outlets offer a bulk-pack of mic stands — sometimes 6 for $100. They fold up and store out of the way so you're not wasting too much space.

Drum Key

Drummers are unique. Ideally, they arrive to record and all is well. But sometimes you'll deal with a drummer coming in to record, and their drum tracks will sound dead and hollow. Instead of wasting hours of time, the easiest way to get a good drum sound is to re-tune the drums. A lot of outside factors can cause an acoustic instrument like drums to de-tune; temperature and handling conditions can both have a huge impact. The solution: keep a drum key handy so your drummer can tune.

External Hard Drive

Small, external hard-drives have plummeted in price in recent years. I remember the first external drive I took out on the road with me in 2003 — it weighed about 3 pounds and featured a full-sized IDE hard drive in an enclosure. Now, I carry three times the storage in a small USB key! At these prices, make sure you keep some external storage to help back up your projects. Get at least enough storage to mirror your entire primary computer in case you need a full back-up. Today, you can buy 1 Terabyte of storage for less than $100.

An iLok SmartKey

The iLok SmartKey isn't cheap -- it'll set you back $40 -- but it's invaluable. Many of your plug-in and software manufacturers now require an iLok in order to license your software legally. You simply download the license to your iLok, and have your iLok in your USB port while working. Better yet, if you need to change computers or bring your work to another studio, you can bring your iLok and use all of your favorite plug-ins without any hassle.

A Pop Filter

Stand in front of your favorite condenser microphone (without a pop filter) and record yourself saying "popcorn" and "seashell". Listen back to it. Did the "p" on "popcorn" cause a pop on the recording, and did the "s" and "sh" sounds on "seashell" cause a high pitched hissing noise? These phenomenon are called plosives and sibilance.

A pop filter is a piece of acoustically transparent material that blocks those noises from hitting your microphone, thus making it possible to record spotlessly.
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