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Home Studio Setup And Demo Recording Tips

To record a demo at home there are a few basics that you are going to need. This a short guide to setting up a home studio and recording a simple demo.

Firstly you are going to need a PC with a soundcard that will act as a digital recording device and a few other pieces of equipment and some software.

Microphone – To record your voice you are going to need a mic. For the best results don’t use the one that comes with the PC you need a high quality one. There are many on the market that can do the job and are not as expensive as you might imagine. A Shure SM57 or SM58 are both good dynamic mics that are rugged in design. Ladies will find the SM58 better as it reduces sibilance (excessive esses)  and guys can choose both versions. Both are available at Amazon for under £100. While you’re at it make sure you have a good mic cable and a stand to hold the mic. This will ensure your recordings are clear without any handling noise.

The PC soundcard preamp is usually pretty poor and too noisy so you would be best to invest in a mic preamp or a small mixer. A small mixer will also give you the flexibility to add other mics, cd players and other recording and playback devices. The mixer will also give you the ability to mix the sounds going into the recording.  Behringer have a range of mixers and can be bought for a few pounds or a few hundred depending on how much you want to invest.

Next you’re going to need some good speakers and headphones. The PC speakers are ok for listening to the basic recording but for the final mix you really need a good set of speakers to listen to your work through. Remember that when recording to turn off your speakers and listen through headphones or you will get feedback when the microphone is turned on. Make sure the headphones are closely fitting to avoid sounds leaking out and being picked up by the mic.

So we have the equipment all set up now we need something to record into. Again the rage of recording software can be bought for £100 to thousands. Software that gives you the ability to lay down different tracks is a must. This gives you the ability to record the voice then add other items such as a music track, special effects, location recordings and sound effects etc. A few packages I suggest are Adobe Audition, Audacity or Sony's Sound Forge Audio Studio.

Soundproofing or at least a quiet room is needed to ensure your recordings are clean and clear. There are acoustic screens that are available that can shield the mic and reduce sound waves bouncing around the room. Alternatively a room with heavy curtains (closed preferably) or a walk in closet can make an ideal recording booth.

Now it’s time to connect everything and see that it’s all working. If using an external mixer this is usually connected via the PC’s USB port. Turn everything on and open the mic fader. Your voice should be peaking at 0 (zero) on the level meter as anything over this level will start to sound distorted. In your software select your recording source this is usually line in and adjust it’s volume. Usually this is set to full and you can then adjust the levels using the external mixer or preamp. The recording quality is usually set to 128kbps 16bit and 44khz sampling rate as this is CD quality.

To increase the quality of your voice recordings make sure that you are close to the mic. Further away and you will increase echo and the noises from within the room around you. Closer to the mic will also accentuate your voice and make you sound more powerful. A rough guide is 3 to 4 inches away and position it high up pointing down so you are not talking down into it.  If you can, try to position the PC as far away as possible to reduce the chance of the mic picking up a noisy fan. Most voice over artists like to record their work standing up as this means they are not squashing their diaphragm and can give the work better delivery.



Speak slowly and clearly, you can always adjust and tweak elements in the editing stage.  If you make a mistake don’t start again just go back to the last sentence and start from there. The bits that are wrong will again be taken out during editing.  You don’t have to try and do everything on one take. You may find doing it 2 or 3 times and then taking the best bits from the three recordings will provide what you need.

It’s always good to listen back to what you have recorded and decide which bits will stay and which bits to get rid of. Does it sound good? are the levels right? are there any back ground noises you didn't notice at the time of recording? If anything is not right go back and have another go at the bits that need fixing. Check it again and repeat the process until you are happy with what you have.

Editing is much like using a word processor. On screen the software usually displays the audio as wave patterns and you can see where the sentences and when zoomed in the individual words start and end. Just like a word processor you can highlight sections and delete, cut and move or copy to other parts of the recording. In the edit session make sure that you take out any coughs, noises, wrong words, mistakes and anything else that is not needed. Find the best takes if you did multiple sessions and bin the poorer quality ones.   

It’s best to listen back when editing on your speakers and not the PC speakers. This will give you better sound quality and you can critically evaluate the mix as it’s being put together. After the first edit it’s a good idea to leave it and take a short break for a coffee and come back later with a fresh set of ears. Have another listen as you may now notice something that you didn’t previously. To liven up your recording don’t forget to add in some music and sound effects. Most software lets you import music via ripping it from a CD. You can also download music files if you set up an account with music companies on the web such as itunes or Napster.

When making the final mix don't be afraid to play about with the settings to get the best results. The software will give you the ability to reduce the music levels to ensure that your voice track is not drowned out. When you are completely happy with your efforts save it in a format that you need for instance WAV or MP3.