How to Build a Home Music Studio. | Daniel Berkal | Skillshare

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How to Build a Home Music Studio.

teacher avatar Daniel Berkal, Consumer Research

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. The Building Blocks

    • 3. The Space

    • 4. The Computer

    • 5. Audio Interface

    • 6. Audio and MIDI

    • 7. Microphones

    • 8. Instruments

    • 9. Output

    • 10. Class Project

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About This Class

This class will present you with the simple basic building points to connect the right elements to easily build a beginner's home music studio.  We'll look at all the pieces of hardware you require, and discuss several ways you can affordably navigate your way to success.

It's the dream of most musicians to one day build their own home studio. But taking the first step can be overwhelming and challenging.  This class looks at space design, DAWs, interfaces, inputs and outputs.  It is designed for those who are interested in getting their feet wet.  

Meet Your Teacher

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Daniel Berkal

Consumer Research


Hello, I'm Daniel.  

I'm SVP and a partner at The Palmerston Group, a global qualitative research firm.  I've personally conducted hundreds of energetic interviews of various sizes, ethnographies, mystery shops and ideation sessions among consumers and professionals in North America, Central America, Europe & Asia.

I've had a stellar career working on some of the most innovative brands in business and have been best known for completely immersing myself in consumer environments in a creative way.  With projects featured in Fast Company and Forbes, I've been called "Hands down, the most unique, thought-provoking and game-changing qualitative researcher in the business. Period."  &nb... See full profile

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1. Intro: How many of us dreamed years ago, listening to music. That one day we will be inside of a real record in the studio. Plane music recording with the professionals on the best equipment in the world. Well now it's possible in your own house, in your own home to record stuff that wasn't even imaginable. Ten years ago. Using really simple, affordable technology. In this class, we're going to talk about how to build a really simple home studio that will allow you to produce professional quality recordings at an extremely limited cost. This class is for beginners. This class is for those with a dream. Those who want to take simple elements, put them together, and make something that they can be proud of. Take this class if you're interested in learning more about how to set up a home studio. 2. The Building Blocks: There are lots of pieces that can make studio project really complicated. But only a very few number of things you actually need to record good music at home. There are lots of different routes to go on about this. And so in this class we will talk about one simple way to take whatever you're inputting, whatever music, whatever devices, whether it's your voice or your instrument. How to put it onto a piece of media. How to put it onto something that is storable. How to encode it, and then how to put it out into the world. Really simple steps. So this class isn't intended for those who want to master professional quality recordings or build a career in this, this class is for hobbyist, for people who really are interested in learning about the nuts and bolts of what you need. Building a student, isn't that complicated? It can be really simple. And in doing so, the first thing you have to think about is what kind of computer and we're going to use. Then you have to think about what are the audio interfaces I'm going to use? And how do I get the stuff that I want to record onto that onto that device will go step-by-step. Hopefully this will be really easy to understand. If you have questions along the way, please feel free to ask. And let's go and let's start talking. 3. The Space: The first thing you have to think about when you're setting up a recording studio is, how do I isolate the sound that I want to record from that which I don't. It sounds like a really easy thing. But all too often people will have in the recordings to hum of a street behind them or the noise of a child or a dog in the background. So the first thing you have to do is find a space in wherever you live or wherever you are setting up that is isolated as possible from the rest of the environment. It may not be convenient. It may not be something you want to do. But finding that right location will save you lots of money and time down the road and have an insulate and having to make things more, more secure in terms of terms of audio bleed. So in this house, I'm in the basement under the cold room. In a concrete room. There's very little dry wall. It's concrete. This is a concrete wall. And the carpet is very thick and can contain the noise. I can scream as loud as I want in this room. And there's very little echo. You want as few things echoing the sound as possible. In an ideal world, I would fill this with sound tiles. But my experience is that you don't really need that. Sound tile. Will those foam things you buy on Amazon, a sound tile will, will suck up the echo. But if you're in a small enough space, you probably don't need that sound tile. Also, if you're recording things that are digital or that are going through a wire, it's not as essential to have a soundproof room because there's very little kinda audio noise. They can bounce off things. It's very important for vocals. Anytime you want to record a word, a voice, either spoken word or a podcast, or you want to make sure that there's little, little echo. And so the smaller the space you're in, the better. This is a really small room. It really is only full the stuff that's in it. There's very little empty space and there's very little places for the sound to bounce off of vibrate. The ceiling in this room is extremely low. I'm touching it right now. So if you can find a small short mt room that secluded from the outside, and they can keep the sound that you want to have in. If you wanted to, you could buy one of those foam semi-circles that will allow you to isolate your sound that way. Or again, you can fill a room with tiles, you can fill with carport carpet. But you want as few loose items and as few areas for the sound to bounce off of as you possibly can. 4. The Computer: The medium which you record on is going to differ from person to person. But what's not going differ nowadays is that you're going to be using some kind of computer. It used to be the case where you'd have reel to reel tape or four tracks or eight tracks, or audio equipment that recorded things off a board. But now you don't need that. You can have that, but you don't need that. And the reason why is that most computers now have all the power for audio processing that you ever could want. I always try to find a computer with at least 16 gigabytes of RAM. More-is-better. And yet to think about how many virtual instruments you're going to be recording at once. Those heat up RAM. How much, how many tracks you want to have a once that also eats up memory. But in terms of storage, and you can store all the information you record externally on external hard drives as well. So you don't need to have that much internal memory necessarily. But Ram is important. And then the next decision you, you want to make is what kind of software? Well, I want to record on. There are lots and lots of things called Digital Audio Workstations. Daws, Dawes, and everyone has their preference. Some of them are very simple and quite good. Garage Band comes with every Macintosh. Every Mac computer you buy has GarageBand built-in. It's a really simple digital audio workstation. And it's just setting things up and trying to see if they work. That's not a bad way to start. But then you can go really complicated. And again, depend on the platform you use, depending on whether it's Mac or PC, is going to dictate which audio workstation and you end up working with. I personally like logic. I think that's a really good one. It's like Garage Bands, older brother or that has more power. But a digital audio workstation is going to be the backbone of all that you put together. And it's going to be the real piece of software that compiles all the audio or midi, all the instruments. It makes it organized visually. It allows you to see things track by track. It gives you a timeline. It allows you to mix in and mix out. It allows you to record so many details. And, and the the audio workstations have every kind of toil imaginable. They have affects from racks, they have audio processors, they have competitors. They have things you can use to tweak samples. And they have, nowadays they have lots of virtual instruments. So if you don't own, let's say a grand piano, you can tap into the software that will mimic it very well. And you can move the microphones in the software and you can model things analog lay. The, that's quite useful. So instead of buying a lot of gear, often your digital audio workstation will have all the tools of the trade you need to make Music effectively in one environment. The digital audio workstation you choose should be chosen for probably three reasons. One is ease of use. Choose something you're comfortable with. You're going to be spending a lot of time in front of that, that system. Choose something that is inexpensive. Because if you wanted to go expensive, you'd, you'd build a real studio. But if you want a home studio, you wanna keep it affordable. Choose something that the people you play with uses Well, many of the people I have play with for fun are used logic. And so it's really easy to just exchange tracks back and forth as WAV files, as midi files. And so you want to look at who's using this, how much it costs, how comfortable you are with it. And then you can decide to invest in that piece. So the digital audio workstation is going to be the backbone of everything you do. And it's the first thing you should think about when you're building a home studio. 5. Audio Interface: Alright, so you've got the workstation, you've got the computer, you know what kind of computer that you use and what kind of software you're going to use. Now you have to think about what are the things that are going to go into it and what are the things that are going to go out of it. And when I say things, I mean, what are the the notes, the music, the sounds that are going to go in. And how do you want to export it out to the world? And it sounds like a really complicated thing, but it's not. It's as simple as ins and outs. So what you need in order to plug in anything into a computer is you need an audio interface. An audio interface, a midi interface works as well. Sometimes you can just use a midi interface. If you have a midi keyboard and you've a USB cord opening on your computer. You can plug that right into your computer. And it will read all the data of all the notes you type, you press, and all the things you hit. But it won't record audio. And although your computer will have a microphone, It's probably not a very good microphone. So you're gonna want to record things a little bit higher quality. And in order to do that, you're going to want something that allows you to capture audio as effectively as possible. An audio interface can range from in the US around a $100 to several thousand dollars for ones that have many, many inputs and many outputs. So what you wanna do, your cost is going to be limited by how many things you plugging into it and how many things you plug-in out of it. And then what the sample rate is of the quality of recording. And you're also going to look about the space. Some of these things are quite small. Some of them are just little racks and they have one plug-in, one plug out. You can get audio interfaces is a plug-in to an iPad or the plugin to an iPhone. Even you can do all your recording of an iPhone. Um, I use the computer, and I find that if I use an audio interface that has at least eight inputs, I'm, I'm happy. Eights, quite a good medium number I find. But you can go that there are good audio interfaces or 22 into out. And so you plug two things in. So it can be, it can be a guitar and a keyboard, or a guitar and microphone in. And it can be a, and that can be inputs. But if you're thinking, hey, I have so many instruments, I want to plug all of them in a Once. You have to think about that because you might not want to plug all of them at once. If you're recording by yourself all the time like I'm doing, I really only need to have one thing at a time. I have an audio interface with multiple inputs because they don't want to plug things in and plug things out constantly. But if I did want to, I could. So on mine I have eight inputs. And the inputs are microphone. I have audio left and right for each keyboard. And then I have some guitars plugged in as well. And cable management you want to be sure of also because you don't want cables everywhere and they all kinda look the same. So you wanna make sure that you have various cables that are that you don't have said consistently plugged in and out, because that takes away from the creativity and the actual making of music. So I like things as simple as possible. I have one element, I keep it right beside the computer. Everything's plugged into it. And the outputs, I have a set of headphones. I've two speakers, a left and a right channel. And all the audio goes out of that. What I wanted to go out. And so what I could do is have eight things plane at once into the, into the interface, live and have all that recorded at once. But I rarely do that. I usually just do track by track. And the audio workstations are really good at figuring out what's in when and what's anyhow. And I've actually found that entire process to be relatively idiot proof. But I can see very easily how that can be complicated. So your audio interfaces, the second thing you'll think about it so your computer, your digital audio workstation, and then your audio interface. And again, when you're buying an audio interface, think about how many things you want to plug in at once and how many. And you don't want to go over that. You don't you don't need something that has more than a certain number. I probably could have gotten by my studio with a two-by-two, but I chose to have more. It's eight by four. So I chose the more inputs and outputs just because I, I felt that it was easier not to plug things in and out. 6. Audio and MIDI: You're gonna hear two terms, audio and midi. Midi is Musical Instrument Digital Interface. And it's the language that instruments used to talk to each other. And all computers nowadays have lots of midi capabilities. And pretty much every keyboard are gonna find will have a midi output that will allow you to take the notes that you play and have them read on the screen and the read and the software. And they don't read as audio information. They don't read as noises. Instead, they read as pieces of data to the computer can reinterpret and always make things playback in the way that you intend to them to be recorded. The cool thing about using midi is that media allows you to change the, the, you can transpose things very quickly. You can, you can edit that, lets you play a wrong note. You can just erase it. Take that note out on the screen. You can just cross it off. You can just delete it. It allows you to speed things up and slow things down and allows you to lock things into time. It allows you to quantize so you can make things stay on a rhythm. It allows you to really maneuver and manipulate all the instruments that you are playing in a way that will sound. I'm not. It will sound as you intended it to sound, not as at the quality that you necessarily play in that some people are very good at music stuff. I'm not one of those people. I can do music to a certain extent, but with software, I can sound really, really good. And the reason why a lot of it is because I can just go through things after I've recorded them that I've recorded in midi, I can literally take notes that don't sound well and change them. I can manipulate the length, this speed, the tempo of the time. I can transpose things. You can do that with audio too, but it doesn't sound the same. Media is seamless. And so one recommendation I have is uses many midi devices as you possibly can, where you can, because you can't necessarily hear the difference in terms of the quality of output. But it, for editing, for changing things, for, for adapting and for making things fit. Mid-50s are really good language to let you play with the musical data in a way that was completely impossible a lifetime ago. And so you think about all the min devices you have and how you want to plug them in. And then audio devices are a bit different because audios are usually plugged into quarter inch cables or XLR cables. And the, they get recorded in a different way by the computer. They get sampled. So they get the, they get digitized and made into really a data stream that is that has that has all the properties of the audio that you're recording. And so when you record audio and I recorded acoustic guitar, It's going to pick up all the ambience of the room. When I record miti, it won't it will just record it right from the computer notes and looking at the mediate versus the audio and looking at the combination thereof is interesting. I like to think of most good digital audio workstations as software that seamlessly blends the two. That seamlessly blend. Median audio allows you to play it back on the same timeframe and make things sound really nice and allows you to manipulate that both ads a data in a way that will allow you to make things sound seamless. Midi is also good for transferring to other people, because the data files are much smaller. A midi data set can be in the megabytes, whereas an audio data set can be in the gigabits or, or bigger or for that matter. 7. Microphones: Much of recording goes around what? On microphone will pick up and held microphone's gonna record things. So in selecting a microphone and selecting a way of holding that microphone and presenting that microphone. There are a couple of things that you should think about when you're building a home studio. You could record things, just offer computer, but it's not going to sound grade the dynamics that depth, the placement of that microphone won't be a really good placement to allow you to record things in a way that sounds the way you want them to sound. The good news is that there are many microphones out there that are really inexpensive. And that allow you to record audio at a quality with depth and width. And with realism that is decent, that is quite good. Again, microphones, you can spend thousands of dollars on microphones. You can spend lots and lots of money on microphones. I find that with a few, let's say $200. You can buy a decent microphone. You go on Amazon, you can find a list of them and look at the reviews and find the ones you'd like. But most microphones made her podcasts are decent for home studios. They aren't bad. And once you buy a microphone, so you choose the microphone you want. Then you want to look at what the output of that microphone is. Is it an XLR cable or a USB cable? There's benefits to each of those. Then you want to look at how are you where are you going to place this microphone? If you place it in a place where it's touched, where it's physically touched very often, you're gonna end up with some problems because it's gonna record so well that it will pick up when you hit the table, when you hit the keys and all microphone, you want to pick up all the sounds you want to pick up, but none of the ones you don't want it to pick up. So getting the microphone stand is a very good idea that these are designed to minimize vibration, to maximize stability and to, and to make it into a really usable thing. Again, these standard, you can fight off Amazon for nothing, for, nothing, for like 20 bucks. But for a very inexpensive cost, the microphones usually will secure it into them. Then I like, I always will buy some kinda pop filter. And you can get ones that go on the microphone head. Or for a couple dollars, you get one of these. And they're great because every time you speak into a microphone, all of the noises of your mouth will pick up. And so a pop filter. I didn't really understand how it works, but it does. It takes the away the pop, and it makes her vocals much more crisp and clean. You can fake that using software. But one of these costs nothing. And it's a great way of making sure that your microphone is isolated in terms of sound. In an ideal space, you, you do want to keep your vocals as tight as possible so you can buy those semi-circles that go around the microphone that allow you to have a little bit of a enclosed environment. And then you can add on echos and reverb through your audio workstation. The, when selecting a microphone again, there are different kinds. You can buy condenser microphones, you can buy pickup microphones, you can buy ambient microphones. But if you're just looking for a simple thing, any microphone good enough for a podcast is decent enough to record on. And we're talking to record at the level where you'll be proud to play it in your car. Not, not at the level of professional audio, but, but it's not far off now it is. And when the cable you used to connect the microphone to whatever you're connecting it to, whether it's the audio interface and the computer. You want to make sure it's a relatively new cable, relatively good cable. Because every, every element in the chain from the, the physicalness of your face to the microphone, to the, the way it's held to the chord, to the input. Every piece where things can go wrong will desegregate the sound has not what you want. 8. Instruments: Then there are the instruments that you plug into your interface. These counter be keyboards or guitars or bases, or electric drums, and they'll often be plugged in. There's an a quarter-inch cable, one of these. And it's amazing to me how different things can sound. With junk here, cables versus better cables. It's worth spending the extra $10 on a little bit better cable. It will have less feedback noise, it will have less of it will have less complications for real on the way. So again, every piece of cable you use every day and you shouldn't be using many, but everyone you do use, you want to make sure it is a decent quality, is something that that, that you can plug in and hold in one place. When you're plugging in things like guitars or bases or any kind of instrument that has a pickup, you wanna make sure that those pickups are in good shape. You, it's always best to look at whenever you've noise in your recording that you don't want, look at the weakest element of that chain and see where the noise is coming from. You can save yourself lots of money and time. Just finding the elements that are that are not up to par. But often a lot of the effects and sounds that have a tar has or that a base has. Use external petals and external things like that. You can do that in a home studio, but you don't need to because almost all of the audio software to digital audio workstations have those things built in. And so you can literally just plug in a guitar into, into a computer. And you have all the effects you would ever want. And all of the noise is null. The sounds that you'd ever want to use for an amateur recording at your fingertips. So you don't want to overwhelm yourself with a lot of plugs and a lot of things to look at. Your limiting factor often in any studio environment is going to be how many plugs do you have in the wall? How many power birds you using? Here I'm using to power bars. That's probably as many as I want because you don't. Otherwise, you're living in a spaceship and you're constantly plugging things in and it just doesn't sound like a good idea. I don't know nothing about electronics. 9. Output: The last thing you should think about when you're setting up a home studio is, what are you going to play the sound back through? And so if you go to any museum store, they're going to try to sell you any one of a number of speakers. I like to use the smallest monitors possible for the room I'm in. Just because you don't need to blow yourself away with the sound. And a good monitor or a decent monitor in a room should mimic the way that things sound in other places. And so I like to use just small casual speakers that are plugged in. I don't like just like finding dedicated monitors. I put them on speaker stands so there around the height where I want to hear things. And then I can play things back and they sound to me around how they probably would sound in someone's decent stereo. It would sound worse than a worst stereo, better and a better stereo. But that to me, it gives me a good sense of what the sound is like. But almost always, your best friend in a studio or your headphones. And the HDT two AD prose by a sanitizer. Who did. I have no relationship with? These are your standard decent studio headphones. They sound great. You plug them in to your audio interface. And they, they mimic what I would consider to be a good monitor system. And they're not expensive, they're, they're inexpensive. And often I find that when I'm mixing things are recording things. A headphone will give me a better read on what's going on than any pair of speakers ever would. But you don't need more than that. You need just simple things. So to a left and a right and a pair of headphones. And I think you're, you're, you're well on your way to listening to things. The way there'll be experienced in most environments. You're not going to be doing five channels sound or I mean, and if you are, you're probably not watching this video and learn anything about this. 10. Class Project: So here's the class project for this class. I would like to see your home studio setup. I would like you to start and put together all the elements you want to put together. And you can show me this in, in pictures. You can cut it out of magazines. You can take Internet clips and string them together, or you can build it yourself. But I'd like you to share with anyone else watching this. How do you set up your home studio? And if you'd like, give us some tricks of the trade that worked for you, that helps you, and things that help solve problems for you and make it easier. A good studio is something that you should enjoy to be in and some place that you really love. And that feels cozy and warm and honest. And so I'd like to see what's worked best for you. Thank you so much for taking this class. I'll see you soon.