My first rig

February 17, 2013 9:26 PM

Now that I've had a taste of what can be done in a home studio, I'm ready to dive in and get my own setup. Help me build My First Studio.

My needs are simple. I sing and harmonize with myself. I have an acoustic guitar with no pickup, and a ukelele with one, and a bunch of other random acoustic instruments (simple drums, a musical saw, recorders of different sizes).
I also want to be able to lay down simple bass / drums. My thinking is that I could do this using a keyboard to start. And I hope to have an electric guitar someday.

- Purchasing a computer is part of the plan. I'm pretty sure I want to just do everything with GarageBand. Laptop or desktop? It would have to live in the studio, so I imagine quieter would be better.
- Can I get away with just one microphone? What kind?
- What do I use to hook up instruments to the computer?
- Will my keyboard idea work? Is there a good small one that would do the job?
- What else do I need to know?

I know so little about this world it's painful to ask, so any advice would be helpful.
posted by rouftop (4 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

This is a great question.

You don't need a terribly expensive computer. Here is an example of a laptop that is relatively cheap and does the job with ease. One of my kids uses a similar model Acer to record and edit music and also edit video. (FWIW, Win8 is kind of kooky/quirky but once set up properly it does a great job as part of a music rig.)

How do you hook up to your using an interface. The M-Audio Mobile Pre I'm currently using is pretty simple but I think it's great. It's USB powered and has 48v "phantom power" which you'll need for your new mic.*

I use Audacity for my recording/editing. It's great. This M-Audio rig comes with ProTools SE which isn't bad either. I'm still toying around with it and it seems pretty damn functional.

*And that's a condenser mic. That's just a random sampling from Amazon to give you an idea.

I'm not recommending anything in particular, but those are the basic components of a home setup. You can Google away now and do some cost and quality analysis to figure out what you want.

Good luck and have fun!
posted by snsranch at 4:51 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here are some ideas:

A Good Modest Budget Setup
Mic: Shure SM57 - $99
Audio Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 - $150
PC: Pretty much any sub-$400 lappy will do.
Music Software: Reaper - $60
Misc stuff (cables, mic stand) - $50 - $100

Total = $650 - $800

A Really Nice (but way pricier!) Setup
Mic: Shure SM7b - $350
Audio Interface: Apogee Duet 2 - $600
Apple MacBook Pro - $1200 (base model)
Music Software: GarageBand - free (it comes with all new Macs)
Misc stuff (cables, mic stand) - $50 - $100

Total = $2200 - $2300
*This is very similar to my personal setup (except I use Logic 9, which is another $200 or so). It's a great setup but also more money!

With either of these setups you can use software synths or virtual instruments for your bass lines. You don't actually need a keyboard for those, but a littl MIDI controller, like an Alesis Q25 for about $50 will give you some nice control.

...and now for something completely different:
You know, since you already have a bunch of instruments and stuff, you could forego the computer thing and go with something like this:

1. Tascam DP-008 Portastudio - $150
2. Two Shure SM 57s - $200
3. Korg Monotron Synth (for bass) - $40
4. Misc stuff (cables, mic stands) - $100

Total = $500 or less, if you only get one mic

This would be a pretty fun setup! Really portable, you don't have to learn any software, so you can focus on the music. And you could get TWO mics, (that Tascam can record two tracks at a time) so you could sing and play at the same time.

Or, even simpler:
1. iPod touch - $200
2. iRig Mic - $50
3. GarageBand for iPod - $15, and you can do basslines with it!

Total = $265

If you've got the time and don't mind forum-diving go check out the GearSlutz (it's not porn, promise) Low-End Theory subforum.

This can be an expensive hobby. I've been goofing around with music production since high school and in 15+ plus years I've probably spent about *does some back-of-napkin math*...well somewhere in the range of $6000 - $8000 US dollars. Yikes, don't tell my wife...
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:55 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is something that I am currently investigating also. I have a hand-me-down Edirol AU-5 and I am trying to get to play nice with my MacBook Pro. I will get Logic Pro 9 also.
posted by Danf at 3:58 PM on February 22, 2013

FWIW the audio services director at my work also recommends the Focusrite unit. He said the ProSonus Audiobox USB was pretty good too, but the pre-amps on the Focusrite are warmer.

(He made air quotes when he said "warmer.")

I'm hoping I can get in to our recording stage during some down time and record myself singing using the house Neumann U87 so I can hear just how bad I really am.

(He also taught me the correct pronunciation of "Neumann.")
posted by infinitewindow at 9:59 PM on March 1, 2013

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