Free Recording Software Recommendations

There's a lot of bad free recording software out there, but in order to make good recordings you need something good, right? 

But what if you don't have the money to plunk down on a software program yet? Try looking at some free recording software. 

It's free, so you can try it out before you decide whether or not you need a better system. Hey, you might even find out that the free stuff does the job perfectly for you. Great! 

The software does not affect the quality of your sound. The mic you use makes a difference because it's analog. Your D/A converter has an impact too (just like anything else in the analog world).

The audio program simply takes digital audio and transcribes it to hard disk. Digital is digital, so it's not affecting it at all. 

However, if you use audio plugins like eq, reverb or compression, you will affect the sound. Remember, plugins you buy will perform better than free versions 

The Free Software

I recommend you try Audacity. It's an open source sound multi track recording program. It's widely known in the audio world. Open source means it's virus/spyware free. (Anyone can get the code to build it and inspect it.)

It's available in Mac or Windows, so you should be able to run it. Do a Google search for Audacity or go to http://audacity.sourceforge.net to download. 

Pretty much anything more than Audacity is going to cost something. That's what makes Audacity worth checking out.

Other software programs you should check out include:

These are just a sampling - there are more available. You can search online for them, but you won't need them - if you are serious about recording you will want to be thinking about upgrading to a good system like Pro Tools or Digital Performer. 

How to use your new software?

Using computer recording programs is a subject in itself, and I'll have to do a section on this site about it soon. 

Having problems getting some software working? Let me know, and I'll try to help. 

Event 20/20BAS studio monitors – make better mixes

It's true. Studio monitors help make mixes better. And nothing hits that sweet spot of a good speaker at an affordable price range better than the Event 20/20BAS studio monitor.

In my discussion about studio monitors, I mentioned that I use Event TR6 monitors. I love them. They are accurate, affordable, and do the job well. But you can't get them any more (discontinued). Bummer.

But there's good news. Event has a better set of monitors than the Tuned Reference Series (TR6 for tuned reference 6"). It's called the 20/20BAS.

20/20 for the frequency response - 20Hz - 20kHz. Standard fare. BAS for bi-amplified speaker - two amplifiers. One for the low end, another for the high. Again, standard.

But the quality is far better than "standard." Event studio monitors strike again.

The making of a great product

Event used to be a failing company. Their products were not that great. But then Rode bought them out - Rode is another sound company that makes great mics.

The first project was to totally revamp the product lines. Everything was discontinued. They spent millions of dollars researching speaker technology. The result was the Opal, a $2,000 monitor.

Today, you can get that same technology wrapped up in a smaller, affordable package. You guessed it - it's the Event 20/20BAS V3. It's gone over some revisions over the years, and they are at version 3 (V3 for short).

The good stuff

The V3 has all the power you'll ever need for a small studio. The amplifiers feed the speaker plenty of power: 130 watts for the low end, and 70 watts for the high end. Combined 200 watts. That's a lot of power for nearfield studio monitors.

Even with all that power, these monitors do not distort the sound. Studio monitors should give you accurate sound, not distorted sounds. With the Event 2020bas you get pristine audio at high volume (when you need it).

On top of that, there is no self noise in these speakers. Self noise is the little pffffff you hear when a speaker is on but not playing anything. Check out a regular set of speakers and try to hear the self noise. The 20/20 doesn't have that. Well, so little that you won't even think about it.

It is easy on the ears with a smooth response. It doesn't produce extra sound in the entire range, giving your ears a break to hear what's actually there.

The response is accurate and quick. As a mixing engineer, you need to hear exactly what's going on with the mix. The Event 20/20BAS lets you hear only what's there. Now you can focus on making the music better. The cone and dome are made from materials that act immediately on sound (mineral filled polypropylene, and silk). The music is clearer this way, because the materials are designed to be super quick.

I'm sure you figured this out by now, but let me say it clearly: the Event 20/20BAS is a really great studio monitor.

If you need to get a good quality monitor, but don't have the budget for high dollar speakers, this is the one for you. It's a stalwart - it won't let you down.

See more details at AmazonzZounds, or SamAsh. You can also get these speakers in a pair.

Discover how audio plugins will revolutionize your mixing

Audio plugins are where most of the magic happens in mixing, and using them well is essential to good mixes. They are the secret keys that unlock the door to becoming a better recording engineer.

There are plugins for EQ, compression, limiting, reverb, and much more. We’re going to have a look at what they are, what they do, why we use them, and how to use audio effects to make our music better.

What audio plugins do

Audio processing plugins work on a simple premise.

  1. Take an input signal
  2. Work on the sound with various electronic gadgets
  3. Provide an output

The result is different than the input, and hopefully it’s better. 🙂

Plugin examples

Let’s look at a quick example you are probably familiar with, then at some ways you might use plugins in your mixing.

Think about the distorted electric guitar. That is not a natural electric guitar sound - it’s distorted from it’s original. That’s the key - the effects box (a hardware version of audio plugins) takes the guitar sound, distorts the sound, and feeds it out the other end.

Whenever you hear a song or movie where suddently it sounds like they’re talking on the phone (muffled or tinny) - they are using an EQ plugin to strip away parts of the original and mimic a phone sound.

A reverb plugin tries to make the input sound like it is in a certain kind of room, like a theater, cathedral, small room, or a bathtub. Sometimes on a movie or song it sounds like the singer or instrument is in a different room than where they actually are (in the movie) - this happens by using a reverb effect plugin.

Why bother with plugins?

Learning all about these things is hard work, so why should we even bother learning about audio plugins? It’s a fair question, and I have a few reasons why I think you should know about them.

They make the sound better

This is the basic reason you are reading this - to make your sound better, right? This is where audio plugins do their work. When you learn to use them beneficially, you can make it better. Your mixing will be so much better. Your music will sound like music (instead of a bad try). You’ll have confidence to do new things. You’ll feel good about yourself as a recording engineer.

OK, you get the picture. There is no excuse for not learning how to maximize your resources in recording and mixing. Audio plugins are tools, and some of your best, so use them well.

You can take something bad and make it good

For those of us who don’t get a good track the first time, audio processing gives us the tools to make it right. Let’s face it - no one is perfect. I’ll be the first to admit it. But here’s my secret - plugins are where I make up for it. If anything that I produce sounds good, it’s not necessarily because I’m a good engineer. It’s because I spent enough of time working with my EQ, compression, and reverb to make it better.

The only caveat here is mud - you can’t polish mud. You can sculpt mud. You can even sprinkle glitter on it. But you can’t polish mud.

That said, I’ve done some amazing things with audio processing - I’ve taken some music that I thought was mud and polished it up to something nice. That is the power of audio plugins.

Aren’t plugins for amateurs?

In choral and classical music, sometimes you see in the CD liner notes the fact that there was no audio processing on that recording. It basically went from microphone straight to CD.

This is admirable, if you can do it. But the people who do it have many years of experience. It requires that you do all your “mixing” when before you put the track down - by choosing the best set of mics, and placing them exactly. That is no small feat.

In my opinion, if you have tools (audio plugins), why not use them? Don’t overuse them, but make use of what you have. If it helps the sound, use it. If it doesn’t, please don’t.

After all, the sound is the final arbiter. All mixing and recording results in a finished product. Your goal as recording engineer is to make that sound as good as you can.

Kinds of plugins

Alright, now the fun part - we’ll look at what kinds of plugins are out there. I’ll split them up into two groups for easy thinking.

  1. Essential plugins
  2. Specialty plugins

Essential plugins

These are the core of the whole plugin world. They do the brunt work. Start here, before getting distracted by shiny objects (specialty plugins). They are:

  • EQ
  • Compression
  • Reverb

EQ divides the sound spectrum into frequency bands (groups), and works with them individually to change the character of the sound. To find out more, move on to the EQ page, or see some detailed info on parametric EQor graphic EQ.

Compression is a way to manage the dynamic range of the music. In other words, you can tame down some of the loud parts, boost everything, and thus bring up the quiet parts in relation to the loud. See the compression page for more (soon to come).

We mentioned reverb before, earlier on this page - it is a way to put the signal into a different room. For instance, a choral recording often benefits from a small touch of reverb added to what is on the track (this depends on how much is already present). More on reverb coming soon.

Specialty plugins

I would put all other audio plugins into this category. Why? Because they are all additions to the essentials - just work through EQ, compression, and reverb first before cracking out these.

  • Limiters
  • Multi-band compressors
  • De-essers
  • Combinations
  • Virtual instruments
  • Exciters
  • Bass enhancers
  • Noise reducers
  • Stereo imagers

They are all helpful, handy, and useful, but will not substitute for the essentials. They are often more complex - a multi-band compressor is somewhat between an EQ and a regular compressor. A de-esser is a kind of narrow, one band compressor. An exciter has few controls (probably just a more/less knob), but works behind the scenes with EQ type things.

Don’t let them distract you from the core audio processors.

Having said that, let’s talk about bundles.

Audio plugin bundles

For audio software plugins, a bundle is a very common way of packaging different plugins together, giving a nice kit. Waves is a company that I use, and they do primarily bundles. Check out their Gold bundle, and their Platinum bundle, which I use.

Other plugin developers with kits are McDSP, which comes highly recommended by a recording friend. See their Emerald bundle (Amazon), their biggest bundle, or their Classic Pack bundle (on SamAsh).

I recommend buying plugins in bundles to save money and expand your collection before actually needing them.

Hardware or software

Whenever I talk about audio plugins on this page, I mean software plugins most of the time.

Why? Because most people in the home recording world work with computers for our recording. Software plugins are more flexible:

  • They don’t take up physical space
  • You can use the same one for multiple tracks (can’t do that with hardware plugins)
  • They are far cheaper than hardware units

In short - software audio plugins are best for most people.

What now?

After that whirlwind tour of audio plugins for mixing, first take a deep breath. Now get started! I spent hours with EQ before getting to be even close to proficient. It’s a learning exercise. Start by picking up an EQ plugin that probably came with your computer recording software. Experiment with it, and kick your mixing into the next gear.

Computer Recording Software Simplified and Explained

Computer recording software is perhaps the most difficult part of home recording. There are so many audio recording programs available. They all do the same thing, or do they? And how do they work - how to use them?(Further down on this page.) Don't worry, we're about to find out. This page is designed to help you figure out what you need.

In short, computer recording software translates between you and your audio. It lets you do stuff with it. It mixes it. It applies processing to the audio. The audio recording program will work between you (with the screen, keyboard, and mouse) and your audio recording interface. It takes the sound from your audio inputs and records it to hard disk.

Choosing computer recording software 

There are many ways for music recording software to look, or design the user interface. Various programs aim for different functions. Some are designed for maximum midi integration. Others work well with loops or creating music through small samples that are repeated. When you look at the big players, they do it all.

In my opinion, if you are serious about recording, and want something that will serve you well, you will eventually go with a bigger computer recording software package. It's not worth it to keep trying to limp along on something that limits your creativity and makes you spend time on non-musical things.

But because you must get started somewhere, here are my free recording software suggestions. My advice? Use them to get a feel for things, then move on to a demo of a better product.

Some good options 

The gold standard in the music recording software industry is Pro Tools. Simply put, it is the most popular program available, and does it all. At my college, they taught Pro Tools to all the music tech people.

One that I use extensively is Digital Performer. It is a Mac only program, and it works very well. I find it easy to use and logical.

Steinberg Cubase includes both a Mac and PC offering. It is also in the top league of computer recording software programs. It offers all the normal - midi, recording, processing, you name it.

A unique offering is Ableton Live Intro. It is a limited version of their full level software, and is at a very attractive price point compared to the others listed here. This recording program is geared to the process a musician might have. It covers song writing and composing as well as recording and mixing.

In the end, you need to make a decision. Which of all the audio recording programs will work best for me? For myself, the decision was rather easy. I had already bought into the MOTU hardware audio interfaces (the same company who makes Digital Performer), and they offered an upgrade version of Digital Performer. But I did try other demos and options. That's what you must do. See what's there, and make an educated decision. Check out the options I listed above. Get the demo and give it a test drive. Then come back here, click through and order!

Audio plugins 

Don't forget about audio plugins for your software. Plugins work on the sound after you record it, giving you all sorts of interesting effects.

How do they work? 

It's all well and good to have the right program, but you have to know how to use it in order to get results. Recording studio software is often complicated to figure out, but I'll de-mystify it in short order here.

The basic building block for all audio recording programs is the track. A track can hold audio or midi data, and when there is more than one track, the software will mix things down. This is the beauty of recording software - it can hold as many tracks as you want. It's easy to start using a lot of tracks.

Various computer recording software programs present the options and the user interface differently, but they will all have tracks. Remember, tracks are fundamental.

To understand a particular program, try to find the flow of a track. For instance, in Digital Performer, I crreate the track, and set the input and output of it. The input allows me to record from my audio recording interface. The output gives me control over making sure the sound comes through my monitors. This needs to be chosen because there are several ways to route sound through the software.

Once the track (or tracks) are setup properly, you can then record onto them with the following steps.

  1. Arm the track for recording. This means finding the little record ready button for the track. 
  2. Set the playback position to the correct place to start recording. 
  3. Record! 

It really is that simple. In fact, it is quite addicting and fun.

Once you have the audio recorded into the tracks, the fun of editing can begin. You can cut the audio up into sections, record over some of those, move them around, and generally have a lot of fun with them. Then you can apply processing with audio plugins like EQ and compression. This process is known as mixing

From there, all computer recording software programs will have a way to export the mixdown as a single audio file that you can burn to a CD or import to iTunes. Some will burn the CD directly from the program itself.

So this is what computer recording software does in a nutshell. Did I miss anything? I invite you to join in the conversation, and share what recording programs work well for you. How can this page be made more user friendly? Please add your comments to a special page below.

Have a Great Tip About Computer Recording Software?

Do you have a great tip or review about a recording program? Share it!

Digital Recording – Computer or Standalone Recorder?

Digital recording - do I need a computer?

The short answer - probably. But you can do digital recording without a computer, using a standalone recorder.

There are two ways to record digitally - with a computer, or with a digital recorder. Recorders are things like voice recorders, iPhones, and ADAT machines.

>> Learn more about what recording equipment you need.

Which way is best?

I think it's best to use a computer. Why? 

A computer is multi-purpose (you get more for your money). If you use a laptop, it is portable. It will go the places you need to go. But a computer is not the answer to all questions.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you decide:

  • Why am I recording? (To produce and sell? To give each choir member a copy? To get our band off the ground?)
  • What kind of studio will this be used in? (ie., project studio, commercial studio, garage studio, or bedroom)
  • Do I already have a computer?
  • Portability - will I be moving the recording setup a lot? (ie., my house and a friend's house)

Here are some advantages of a computer recording system:

Power

You have a lot more power and flexibility when it comes to add-ons and digital effects. There are a lot of powerful recording software programs available for computers.

With a standalone recorder you will have access to different effects, but the options are limited compared to those available to a computer. Reverb sounds cheesy. Mixing just is kind of weak compared to a computer.

Cost

Pricing varies a lot between the different digital recording systems. With a computer, you have the cost of the:

With a stand-alone recording device, you can skip the computer and interface. You still have to figure preamps and mics.

The price for a good digital recorder is right up there with a computer. (Check this mid-level recorder out.) So by the time you buy a good recorder, you're talking as much as a computer anyway.

Portability

This is where stand alone digital recorders shine. You just pick it up and go. You won’t have 2 million cables to unhook and reconnect at the right places.

When you have a computer, moving the system becomes a little bit harder. That means the whole recording system is a bit more stationary. Who wants to spend 1.5 hours moving the computer for a 45 minute recording session? OK, it probably won't take that long, but it's still a pain.

The music recording guys at college wheeled around a big cart with all their equipment - preamps, cables, etc. Inside was a computer with an LCD monitor - the ultimate portable computer. Is this practical for most people? No. But it worked for them. 

The Verdict

OK, what would I recommend? Computer recording setup is the best option because of the flexibility and upgrade-ability. It may cost you a bit more, but that tradeoff is usually worth it. Unless you need it for super-portable recording, ready to pick up and run in a minute.

Chances are, you already have a computer - there is most of your investment right away. 

There is a reason that most studios use Pro Tools on a computer at the heart of the system. It is powerful, flexible, and gets a good job done fast.

If you just want to get your feet wet, buying a stand-alone digital recording unit might be the way for you.

How does the whole recording process work, anyway?

Decca Tree Stereo Recording Setup

A Decca tree stereo recording setup involves three mics that mix together to give a pleasing, accurate stereo image. Half of the name came from the Decca recording label, who invented the technique, and half came from the how the setup looks - kind of like a tree. 

The first part of the Decca tree stereo recording setup is two omni-directional microphones, in a spaced pair configuration. They are usually placed between one and six feet apart. This provides the foundation of the stereo image for the recording. 

The second part is a third omni mic, placed in the middle of the first two, and slightly front. This mic adds clarity and a lot more placement information in creating a soundstage in the mix. 

The general rule of thumb for placing the third mic is not hard. Exactly in the middle between the outer two mics, and slightly in front. To determine how far front, take the distance between the two side mics, and divide by two. For example, if the left and right microphones are two feet apart, put the center mic one foot in front. 

This configuration looks and works a lot like a simple AB spaced pair stereo recording mic setup. The difference of the third mic adds precision in pinpointing the "location" of sounds when you listen over a stereo system. 

When you mix a the tree stereo pattern, pan the outer mics to hard left and right, and leave the center mic panned to the center. Remember, the rules are not absolute - you are free to modify as needed to suit your purposes. 

As with any spaced pair stereo recording pattern, you don't want to let the mic spread get too big. The further apart the omni mics are, the more "gaps" you will notice in the final product. If the microphones are just too far apart, the mix won't sound unified - it will seem disjointed and far apart. 

What microphones work best with a this recording setup? The only requirement is that they be omni-directional. You can use cheap ones, or you can use expensive ones. I use a pair of Earthworks QTC-40 omnis for the sides, and an Audio Technica AT4050 for the center. The AT4050 is switchable between omni and cardioid, so that works well for me. 

I really like the quality of recording that these mics give me when working in a Decca tree format. The stereo image is superb, and overall, it's just a lot of fun! 

In recap - the Decca tree stereo recording setup uses three omni mics, two sides, and one center, slightly in front of the sides. It offers a precision stereo image, and works with all kinds of omni microphones. Keep the setup close enough together, and you'll have great results. I love the sounds I get from my Earthworks QTC40s and Audio Technica AT4050. 

When You’re Recording Singing, Examine Your Singer!

This article is the first in a series of 6 parts on voice recording. The series starts here.

Ready to start recording singing? Great! Where do we start? For starters, let's talk about the first step in recording a singer, the singer to be recorded!

When we have a problem, we look back to see where it might be coming from -- not further ahead. To find out what happened, we need to see what happened previously.

That principle is a good one to follow in recording singing. When you get voice recordings that you don't like, don't spend hours trying to fix them, but try looking further back in the recording chain.

The furthest back you can go when you're recording singing is the singer. So, let's start there.

When you want a good voice recording, you need a good singer. That seems like stating the obvious, but it is very important in getting good results!

What all is meant by a good singer?

When I say a good singer, I mean someone who knows how to use their voice to communicate. That means their technique — how they sing & how they sound.

This takes knowledge and practice, just like playing an instrument. Someone who has never sung before won't be able to do justice to a Beethoven song the first time in the studio!

I can hear you saying, "What! He's telling me about the singer! I want to learn how to make them sound good!"

I know what you're saying, and I can understand. But remember the cake thing? If you don't make sure that the raw material (the singer) is solid in quality, you can't expect the finished result to sound as good as a Josh Groban CD.

Everything else you do to the recording after tracking is trying to fix what didn't get right the first time. You don't have to do that. Just leap frog everyone else by using quality singers!

But, what if I can't? There are many reasons that will give you less than desirable singers. Like what? Like the people who want you to record them. Say they aren't really good to start with. What can you do?

The most desirable thing to do is to tell them they need more practice. Go practice for a couple of weeks and then come back. Then they'll be practiced up, and the recording process will be so much easier and fun!

But sometimes that isn't an option. In that case, you don't have much choice. Let it to the producer or the singer to decide if it's good enough, but be sure to let them know what you recommend. 🙂

If you do get high quality singers to record, I can almost guarantee that you and your singer will be much happier and prouder of your work!

All in all, this is a very easy thing to overlook when recording singing. Why? You have your eyes set on the technical aspects of recording, not on the raw material! But remember this, if you want your singer to sound good, he has to be good!

So, don't skip evaluating the singer while recording singing.

What's after recording singing? Let's look at vocal mics...

Or, go back to the recording voice overview.

Audio Production School: Taking Digital Recording to the Next Step

3 Reasons to Not Consider an Audio Production School

Studying digital recording at an audio production school is not for the faint of heart. You must be dedicated to studying and daily improving your skills in the craft of digital audio recording. It requires significant dedication of time and resources. But, here are 3 reasons why you might NOT want to consider an audio production school.

1. No Desire to Succeed 

If you don't want to succeed, you will fail. That's actually a general life lesson, and applies to much more than music. But going to a recording school is a waste of time and money if you only want to try it. You can find that out on your own - just learn about it and do it at home, home recording, and you will soon discover if you want to go on.

2. No Time 

Studying at the level of audio schools is time consuming for the course of the study time. It's like college, only focused specifically on recording. It will require a lot of time.

3. You Are Already Recording With Ease 

If you have already dedicated yourself to learn how to record at home, and are successfully doing it and love it, why go to the extra bother of spending the money and time? The point is, if you are enjoying it, you don't necessarily HAVE to study further. Self study goes a long way. After all, that's why you come to Bedroom-Recording.com, right? 

However, here are a few reasons you might want to consider an audio production school. 

Take Your Recording to the Next Level 

Studying something in a focused manner for several weeks on end (programs vary, some 12, some 42 weeks) with knowledgeable instructors is one of the best way to gain confidence and gather the skills and knowledge to master something. If you love recording and want to go further, this is a good way. 

Firm Desire to Succeed 

If you have the firm desire to succed in your recording endeavors (and even business, maybe), you are a good candidate for an audio school. The inner drive keeps one going when the "going gets tough." 

But what about money? Don't let that stand in between you and your dreams. Where there is a will, there is a way, and a lot of schools will offer some level of student aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans. Costs are not actually that expensive. Do your homework and check with several places, and look at the tuition costs. They will oftentimes post them somewhere on their website.

So, is an audio production school for you? The considerations above may help you make your decision. The choice is yours, and I wish you the best.

Return from Audio Production School to Home

Voice Recording – Prepare Properly For Success

Have you ever wondered how the pros get such good voice recordings? Where do they come up with the lush sounds? What are their techniques? Better still, how can you use them to get outstanding results yourself?

There are a few things that are necessary for your voice recording to sound its best. Think of it as making a cake. You mix the eggs, flour and sugar (plus all the other stuff) together and bake it. The cake is the finished product — a combination of the ingredients.

Suppose you skimp on the quality of your baking ingredients. Or, you just skip one all together. What would happen? The cake would flop! If you don't follow the recipe, you can't expect a prize-winning cake.

In the same respect, you need the correct amount of emphasis on each part of the recording process to make a masterpiece vocal recording. 

Don't skip any steps either. What would happen if you forgot to add flour to the cake? Instead of rising nicely, you would get a flat, hard chunk of dough – not really appetizing!

If you were making the cake, you would go to the recipe book and look for the one for a cake. But, there is no "recipe book" for vocals. How do you know what to do?

While there are no "recipe books" on this subject, I will help you come up with a strategy plan to achieve results that you are proud of.

To start, what are the necessary ingredients for a good voice recording? I would recommend these:

  • a good singer
  • a good microphone
  • a good preamp
  • good mixing techniques

In some ways, this is like the recording process outlined in another article. This one is geared more on the step of recording, but it would be good to check out this article on the recording process.

You can probably skimp on any one of these items and still make a vocal recording. However, by lowering the quality of the components, you sacrifice the quality of the finished vocal sound.

Are you all ready to start? Great! I am too. But before we begin, I need to let you know something.

All the suggestions and instructions are provided as suggestions. I can't guarantee that you will get stellar results the first time you record voice using these instructions.

Remember that recording, especially voice, is an art. There isn't a formula to get a good sound. However, there are techniques and tips that can help you get off to a good start.

Let's look at these suggestions for good voice recordings...


Bedroom Recording – Gotta Start Somewhere

Starting small - bedroom recording

Bedroom recording = the art of making a digital recording in a bedroom. One does not need a studio to begin recording, and what more available place than a bedroom? Family rooms, basements, and other rooms work just as well, but for this article, bedroom means any room in your house that will be used as a temporary studio. 

What are the things to consider when setting up a bedroom recording project? What will the challenges be? I've done some recording in bedrooms and basements before, so I'll share the things I learned. Among the things to think about are acoustics, noise, and monitoring. Let's look at these. 

Acoustics
Acoustics means the science of how sound works as it bounces off different surfaces, and of how materials absorb and diffuse sound. How does this affect us in bedroom recording? Plenty. The reason studios spend so much to put up treatments on the walls is primarily of acoustics. Nasty reflections make a nasty sound, and controlling those is part of how you can get a better sound. 

In a bedroom recording studio, we don't have the money or facilities for acoustic treatment, but that doesn't mean we can't do anything. Let's do a quick crash course in acoustics, then apply this to our bedroom. 

Acoustics Crash Course
Sound travels in invisible but audible waves of varying frequency (cycles per second). We say a sound is low pitched if the frequency is slower, or we identify high frequency sounds as high pitched. There are different strengths in different frequencies, ie., one frequency is not like another. The lower sounds tend to be stronger and will pass through materials much easier, while higher sounds will reflect off hard surfaces much quicker and will be absorbed by soft surfaces. This is why you can hear the bass but not the higher sounds outside a car - the lower frequencies pass through the frame but the higher ones are reflected around inside. 

Applied to the Bedroom Studio
Let's start with the easy stuff: the highs. Hard surfaces reflect highs while soft surfaces will absorb. If our goal is to tame high frequencies, we need to drag soft stuff around, like mattresses, sleeping bags, and blankets. I sang with a quartet (someone else did the recording... bummer) and we recorded in a basement. We set mattresses on end for the "walls" of our bedroom recording studio, and used blankets to fill in the ceiling and remaining wall. The mattresses are denser than blankets, so they took care of some lower stuff, but not all. It was quite a neat experience, and basically anyone can do it. 

The not so easy stuff is the low frequencies. They are much more powerful and require more elaborate schemes to control them. For a bedroom studio, probably old mattresses will be the most efficient things to use, because more control will require other treatments starting to cost more. For more about this, see the acoustics page.

Noise
Another problem we will have to deal with in a bedroom is noise coming in. Noise comes from many places, from cars and airplanes to air conditioners and refrigerators. The nasty thing about it is that it is often missed during recording. It's hard to control such noises, but proper planning goes a long way. 

Let's look at two different types of noise, uncontrollable, environmental noise, and controllable device noises. Uncontrollable noise comes in the form of passing traffic (cars, trains, airplanes) and weather. (There may be other sources, we'll just look at these two.) There is little to do about these noises sneaking into your recording. For traffic, you'll either have to work around it during recording (by stopping when it occurs) or schedule bedroom recording when the traffic patterns are lower (like at night or early morning). Controllable noises are much easier to fix - just turn them off! An air conditioner? It's gotta be off during recording (turn it on between takes or just sweat it out). Fridge? Turn it off. Computer noise? Locate the computer away from the mics, and put some sort of gobo between them. Neighbors? This is a little tackier - you could ask them to be quiet, or try to schedule a time to record when they are away. 

The biggest step in eliminating noise in your recording is also the first - be ready for it. Listen for it. Listen without headphones in the room where you'll be recording in. Learn to identify sounds and hear what all is going on. As I type, I can hear an air conditioner, an audio program playing downstairs, cups being put away from the dishwasher, a washing machine, and the keys of my laptop being typed. It is only when you can identify noises like this that you can work to eliminate (or minimize them). 

Monitoring
Another challenge in working with bedroom recording is monitoring, or listening to your material. You need some way of accurately hearing what has been recorded to make decisions about EQ, mixing, and evaluation. 

You might want to use a set of earbuds to do it, but I would recommend you get a pair of pro or semi-pro headphones. Earbuds are so very small, and the fit is usually not consistent, so the sound is not dependable. Besides, the drivers are so small in earbuds that lower frequency sounds are not reproduced very accurately. I would try something like the AudioTechnica M40 headphones. I've used my pair for years (and all but wore them out!) and absolutely love them. Or look at the Sennheiser 280 headphones. I've tried them already, and liked their sound. 

To go further in monitoring, consider a set of studio monitors. There are some affordable speaker systems that allow you to have a different perspective on your sound than headphones can offer. When I mix I use both monitors and headphones. The monitors are my main listening devices, but headphones allow you to get closer and listen for super small things. (Headphones work better for listening for noise in recordings.) The speakers I use and love are the Event TR6 Tuned Reference speakers. They are active, so you don't need a separate amplifier. 

Let's go a little further on the what gear you need to record. At first, everything feels so confusing (a mic and a what?), but really it's simple. Hop on over to Recording Equipment for a primer on what's available and what a small studio needs.

Well, hows that for a quick survey of bedroom recording? We talked about acoustics in the room, noise in the recording, and monitoring the mix. It's been fun for me to gather this information together, and think about it again. Even for those of us that have done it before, it's good to review. Reviewing and repeating is how one learns. 

Do you have specific questions you would like me to talk about in this page? Please let me know! Contact Bedroom Recording.