Regardless if you’ve just begun rapping or already have invested a decent amount of time into your craft, one thing is for sure; you’re going to need your own recording studio at some point and time. And this guide is going to be the perfect blueprint on guiding you through how to accomplish just that!
You Don’t Need The Doctor
For many, the thought of having their own recording studio is daunting and quite intimidating. I mean, after all, isn’t that something only the professional gurus like Dr. Dre are supposed to have? And building your own recording studio is going to cost like 10’s of thousands of dollars right?
You see, once upon a time that was the case but now due to the evolution of technology in this “digital age”, the barrier to entry has drastically been reduced and it’s become the norm for rappers to have their own personal recording studios.
Here are a few of the major reasons why it’s important to have your own recording studio.
- Having your own studio gives you the ability to spend as much time as your little heart desires to work on your songs without the time restraints you would face recording at someone else’s studio.
- This also provides you with the freedom and flexibility to experiment with your voice to improve your delivery and get the best vocal takes possible.
- Recording at someone else’s studio can also make you quite nervous especially your first studio session which can negatively affect your performance. And to be quite honest, not all studios have good vibes and there is no place like your own.
- Also, the experience gained by recording in your own studio will make you more confident and comfortable if you decide to record in someone else’s studio later on.
Having your own studio can really boost your productivity in the following ways.
- As your working on your songs you can quickly record your vocal takes into your software of choice just to get your ideas down so you don’t forget them later. And later own you can come back to them to polish them up if needed.
- Using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) which is basically the software you will use to record your vocals, will also allow you to loop sections of a song that you’re working on so you don’t have to keep rewinding and fast forwarding the instrumental to get where you want to be.
- having your own recording setup will also make it much easier to collaborate with other rappers, producers, and musicians. Need someone to hop on that 2nd verse of your song? No problem! Simply export the current rough draft of the song and e-mail it to them. No more waiting for the engineer from the studio to “find the time” to send you a special version.
- Even if you’re not to the level of writing your own songs just yet, having your own recording studio can make practicing and developing your rap skills so much smoother and fun! For example, are you trying to learn your favorite rappers flow? Load it into your recording software and loop the section you’re trying to learn.
- Trying to nail down your 4, 8 and 16 count? Record yourself practicing over an instrumental and play it back to judge how well you did. Simple!
- Oh, one more major advantage of having your own studio…It can save you a lot of money! If you get good enough recording your own vocals, you can skip paying for studio recording time at someone else’s studio and just send your vocals off to be mixed. Or if you’re feeling courageous you can even try to mix your own songs within the software you used to record it! How awesome is that!
- Even if you still record the final version of your song at someone else’s studio it’s still likely going to save you money because you will be much more prepared for your session which will result in it taking you less time.
- Having your own studio can also make you money! You don’t have to be a Grammy-nominated mixing engineer, with a wall full of platinum plaques to charge a local rapper who’s trying to record their first songs.
Speaking of money, earlier I said that a recording studio doesn’t have to cost you 10’s of thousands of dollars. So how much total would it cost you to set up your own home studio? Drum roll please…… less than $150 bucks!
Now just for clarification, that price doesn’t include a computer. This setup is assuming you already have some type of computer.
But If you’re still a bit skeptical of that figure and think it’s not possible to have a decent recording studio for that cheap then I want you to remember this wise saying.. “What’s most important is not what you have, but what you do with what you have”. Remember that!
The Deception of Gear
I’ve recorded in studios that had around $80,000.00 worth of equipment that was churning out garbage quality recordings and mixes. You know why? Because the person working the equipment didn’t know what they were doing. In most cases the gear usually isn’t the problem, it’s the person operating it.
Here’s one last example and then I will end my rant; scouts honor. If I were to blindfold you and play you one vocal take that was recorded on two mic’s at the same time. One mic, being a $50 mic and the other mic being a $5,000 mic. I’m willing to bet you will struggle to identify which recording was done with the $5,000 mic because it’s not going to sound “$5,000” better. They will likely sound slightly different but they’re both going to sound great!
With this little setup, I’m calling “The Poor Mans Recording Studio” it’s 100% possible get professional sounding vocal recordings on a budget that is tight as spandex! Remember the key is learning how to work the equipment properly!
But here’s how you can pull it off with only getting the bare essentials of what you will really need without compromising any quality.
Audio interface – Behringer UM2 – $30.00
The first thing you need is an audio interface. Basically, your audio interface is the hub for your recording studio. It’s how all of your components such as your microphone, speakers, and headphones connect to your computer using one simple USB cable. Your audio interface also allows you to easily control your volume levels for all of these components as well.
Using an audio interface such as the Behringer UM2 gives you low latency monitoring. This allows you to hear yourself in real-time while you’re recording.
Latency is the delay between when a signal leaves one destination and reaches another. If you’ve ever used a USB mic, you may have noticed a delay when listening to yourself on the mic, that almost sounds like an echo. This is due to high latency. This can be very distracting when recording and cause your timing to be off when trying to nail those perfect takes. Using an audio interface eliminates this issue.
The Behringer UM2 will be perfect for your needs. It’s also going to power your microphone using what is known as “48V Phantom Power“. Basically, this is a built-in amplifier that’s going to give your high-quality microphone the juice it needs to perform. You need to make sure the +48V switch is turned on, on the back of your audio interface for your mic to work. Remember that!
It also has two input channels on the front. A Mic/Line 1 input for recording your vocals and an Instrument 2 input for either recording something like a guitar or you can even hook up a second mic to it using an XLR to 1/4 cable. You’re likely not going to need the second input but if you ever want to record a podcast with a guest this could be really handy.
This interface will also come with the USB cable which you will need to connect to your computer.
On the back are Red and White RCA outputs. This is for connecting speakers which you don’t have to have in order to start recording. So in my efforts to get you up and running while spending as little as possible without compromising the quality of your results, I’m leaving speakers off the list but don’t panic! I will include a suggestion for speakers at the end of this article in case you want to splurge a bit!
Microphone – Behringer C1 Condenser – $49.00
Next, you will need a microphone. There are many different types of microphones but the type of microphone you will need is called a Condenser microphone with a cardioid pattern. This is the most common type of microphone for recording vocals.
The cardioid pattern means it’s a directional mic. Basically, this means that the mic is only going to pick up what’s in front of it while canceling out what’s behind it. This is really important, especially because most of us are recording in our bedrooms and having this function on the mic will allow you to face the back of the mic towards anything you don’t want to capture in your recording such as computer fan noise, A.C. vents, windows that my leak sound from outside like traffic, or children playing etc…
With that being said, always make sure you’re recording into the front of the microphone. It’s a very common mistake for beginners to recording into the back of the mic and wonder why their recordings sound like hot garbage. Usually, if there is a logo on the mic, it’s on the front of the microphone so make sure you’re rapping into that side of the mic.
The Behringer C1 Condenser is the perfect mic for our “Poor Mans Recording Studio”. There are mic’s that are cheaper, but you can’t beat the recording quality of this mic in this price range. If we’re going to splurge on our shoestring budget it needs to be on a good mic! It’s going to be the biggest contributor to how well your recordings actually sound!
XLR Mic Cable – $8.00
Now we need to connect the microphone to the XLR Mic input on the front of the audio interface so you will need what is known as an XLR cable to do that. That’s pretty much all you need to know about this. Nothing fancy or sexy about it. It’s just a cable!
Mic Stand – $19.00
You are also going to need a mic stand. You likely already know what these are. There are many styles of mic stands but one of the most common ones used for recording vocals is known as a Tripod Boom Mic Stand. This mic stand will give you the flexibility to adjust the height of your microphone to fit your needs perfectly. Regardless if you wish to record while sitting down at your computer or while standing up, this mic stand has got you covered.
All you have to do in order to connect your mic to your mic stand is screw on what is known as the “Shock Mount“, which is small plastic piece that comes with the mic which screws on to the bottom of the microphone. It has a little “elbow/arm” looking thingamajigger that protrudes off one side which is what you screw onto the threads of the arm of the mic stand.
So you first connect the shock mount to the bottom of the microphone. Then you connect the elbow of the shock mount to the threading at the end of the arm of the mic stand. It kinda sounded like we’re building a human being for a moment there!
Pop Filter – $9.00
Something else you’re going to need is a pop filter. This is also known as a windscreen or a popper stopper. If you’re really scraping the bottom of the financial barrel and don’t mind being a domestic abuse victim then you could make one of these by stealing your mom’s pantyhose and using a close hanger.
But ain’t nobody got time for that! Go ahead and cop one of these which easily connects to the arm of the mic by a screw on dohickey so that the front of the screen covers up the front of your mic.
The purpose of a pop filter is that it greatly reduces what is known as plosives. Plosives are basically large bursts of air that’s generated when you say words that begin with “Puh”, “Buh”, “Duh”, “Huh”, type of sounds. If you’ve ever heard wind noise being picked up on a video camera’s audio recording it’s essentially the same thing.
A simple pop filter will greatly reduce any plosives from sneaking their way into your vocal recordings and it makes a huge difference in the quality of your vocal recordings. Don’t skimp on this! Trust me!
Headphones – One Odio Closed Back Headphones – $30.00
Now, how in the world are you supposed to hear anything if I’m not including any speakers on this list!?!… headphones!!
First, you need headphones in order to record your vocals because you need to hear the instrumental and your voice at the same time! But the mic needs to only be recording your voice.
If you were recording your vocals while playing the instrumental in the background over some speakers then you’re going to pick that up in your recording which is going to sound like trash! Don’t do that! Please don’t ever do that! It’s a cardinal sin of home recording!
Recording using headphones eliminates this issue! Also, what’s dope about the One Odio headphones is they are “Closed Back“. Which basically means that the back of the headphones are closed off which drastically prevents audio from escaping out of your headphones and leaking into the microphone.
We’ve Got A Bleeder!
If you’re recording your vocals with the headphones cranked up really loud you likely will hear the instrumental bleed a little bit into your recording but it will be very faint and unnoticeable once your vocals are plaid back against the instrumental. If you ever find Acapella recordings from songs recording in the “Big-Boy” studios you will likely hear this as well.
But if you were recording using what is known as “open back” headphones which is more popular amongst DJ’s then it would basically sound like a speaker was playing in the room.
So remember closed back headphones isolate sound from escaping the headphones and open back headphones lets the sound run wild!
Another reason the One Odio headphones are dope is they come with two different sized cables and connections. A 6.3mm for connecting to your audio interface and a 3.5mm for connecting to your smartphone.
And one last thing I love about these headphones…I just think they look cool. And the outside of the speakers reminds me of vinyl which I think is so Hip-Hop! These are high-quality, closed back headphones, with multiple connection options (cables included), that look dope for only $30 bucks! Shut up and take my money!
Audacity DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) – FREE!
The last and final piece to completing your “Poor Mans Recording Studio” is your DAW. This is basically the software you will be spending all of your time in recording and working on songs.
There are many different DAWS out there such as Pro Tools, FL Studio, Studio One, Logic, Reaper, Reason, Cubase, Sonar, and the list goes on. And honestly, they’re all great!
There’s only one problem with these for our “Poor Mans Recording Studio”. They all cost money! And all you really need to be able to do at this point is capture high-quality vocal recordings into your computer.
- And Audacity is perfect for this! It’s compatible for both Windows and Mac and has all the core functions you will need which are but not limited to…
- Recording your vocals
- Import, edit, and combine audio files
- Compatible with 3rd party Vst plugins
- Easy editing with cut, copy, paste, and delete, with unlimited amounts of undo in case you mess something up!
- Comes bundled with all your basic fx you will need if you try to mix your own vocals such as, compression, limiting, eq, reverb and delay.
So that completes everything you will need for the “Poor Mans Recording Studio” to start laying down your own songs with professional equipment in the comfort of your own space without breaking the bank!
The Total Cost of Everything!
Behringer UM2 – Audio Interface – $30.00
Behringer C1 Condenser Mic – $49.00
XLR Microphone Cable – $8.00
Tripod Boom Mic Stand – $19.00
Pop Filter – $9.00
One Odio Closed Back Headphones – $30.00
Audacity – DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) – FREE
GRAND TOTAL = $145.00
Edifier R980T 4″ Powered Studio Speakers (Pair) $70.00
And in case you’re feeling a little boushy and are wanting to splurge on some studio monitors (speakers) I’d recommend the Edifier R980T 4″ Powered Studio Speakers. They are great quality and at this price point, they can’t be beaten!
RCA Studio Speaker Cables $10.00
You will also need two RCA cables which one side will plug into the back of the speakers (PC) port and the order side will plug into the back of your Behringer UM2 Audio interface.
What’s Tha Move?
I hope that this guide is not only helpful to you, but I hope it also encourages you to not be afraid of trying to get your own recording studio setup. Everyone deserves a proper workspace that nurtures their creativity and serves as a bridge to transport your ideas and creations with the world at large!
Are you thinking about taking the plunge of setting up your first studio? And if so are there some questions you may have about it? Let me know in the comments section below!