How to Set Up a PC Recording Studio for $5.00 and STILL Record Good Quality Audio

I see guides all the time that purport to instruct new home recording hopefuls on the best equipment and software needed to start their home pc recording studio.  There is one thing these “how-to” articles seem to have in common, which is that they explain very well how to set up an intermediate home studio, not a starter one.

I remember how overwhelmed I felt when I first started recording my own stuff, mostly music, but then audio books, voice-overs, podcasts, audio-for video, etc.  That was about 20 years ago, and to be honest, there are STILL topics in the realm of audio recording that confuse me!  And I’m an engineer and producer!  So I’ve developed a rule-of-thumb for what constitutes “audio recording guidance for beginners” that goes something like this: If that guidance contains the acronym, “MIDI” (or any acronym for that matter), it isn’t for beginners.”   Why?

First, let’s look at why someone might want to start recording audio from home.  Guess what?  Not everyone is a musician!  In this multi-media, internet-dependent, YouTube-watching age, audio is everywhere; well, at least crappy-to-mediocre audio is everywhere;).  From podcasts to audio books, advertisement voice-overs to e-learning, and video narration to, yes, music, we consume audio just about every minute of every day.  So it is a mistake to assume that all, or even most, of the folks out there who really want good beginner advice on setting up and operation their own home recording studio are musicians.  There is little need to tell those folks anything about the musical the instrument digital interface (MIDI) protocol.

Second, let’s talk about musicians who have little-to-no experience recording.  A LOT of these folks are singers and guitar-players, garage rock bands or folk singer-songwriters.  In other words, they just want to get their music “out there” in the world in the form of recordings.  Musicians tend to be artists…yeah, I know, that’s a shocker, eh?  Well artists are not always fabulous with the hard sciences, like electrical engineering or computer science.  So even among the recording newbies out there, MIDI is not something they need immediately, if ever.

So now that I have described what advice for recording beginners does NOT look like, I suppose you’d like to know what it DOES look like.  Okay, here goes.  Download free audio recording software.  There are a few good ones out there that are open-source “freeware,” like Audacity for example. 

Total cost so far: $0.00.  Next, get yourself some headphones or ear buds.  If anyone in your house has an mp3 player, you already have at least one set lying around.  Total cost so far: $0.00.  Now all you need is a microphone.  Your beginner home studio only needs a PC mic. 

Thanks to on-line role-playing games and internet communication, most folks will already have one of these as well.  Total cost so far: $0.00.  If you don’t already have a PC microphone, you can get one almost anywhere for about $5.00.  So the most expensive beginner home recording studio so far is $5.00.  Once you have those things, you have your home studio!

Now I did promise in the title of this article to explain how to record good quality audio from a $5.00 studio.  So what do I have to say for myself on that score?  Only this: when it comes to audio quality, knowledge trumps gear.  If you understand just a few key principles of audio recording, you can produce better quality audio from your $5.00 studio than someone with a $500 studio who doesn’t know what they are doing!  I’ve seen/heard this all too often.

Oh now I suppose you want me to “reveal” those few key principles, huh?  Well, if you insist.  First, and most importantly, record as little “noise” as possible.  Second, be able to reduce and/or eliminate the noise you couldn’t prevent.  There will always be some, especially with the $5.00 studio.  Said a different way, record as much of what you WANT people to hear as possible, and minimize stuff you don’t want them to hear.

You can learn more about those key principles from the tutorials on the Home Brew Audio website.  The video tutorials there start out assuming you’re a beginner…a REAL beginner, and will show you how to set up the $5.00 studio and make your first recording in the first 5 lessons, which are FREE by the way;).  Come check it out.  I promise that “MIDI” isn’t even mentioned in the first several videos;).

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