How Best To Use A Channel Strip In The Home Studio

2013 Aug 12, 2013

Do you know the biggest drawback of a typical home studio? The lack of a control room. This is my single biggest frustration when recording in my home studio to be sure. Why is that? Well, you can’t really judge the sounds you’re getting in your monitors because you’re hearing the instrument being played in the same room in real life.  Kind of obvious I know, and the solution is to listen back to your recording and make notes of what you’d like to change.

How To EQ On The Way In

But how do you handle this type of limitation when implementing an outboard channel strip? Perhaps you need to EQ out some annoying frequency and you’d like to use your channel strip for the job. That’s what you’d do in a pro studio with a control room. But in the home studio  you can’t hear it when actually tracking because, guess what? You don’t have a separate control room!
How silly is that?! All the outboard gear in the world is useless to you in the recording phase if you can’t actually hear what your tweaks are doing to your incoming tracks. What do you do? Here’s my work-around. I hope it helps!

You Start By Doing Nothing

You start by doing the only thing you can do: nothing. Simply do your best to get the sound you want with mic placement. It really is your best friend. I did this recently with a mono drum overhead. The sound I was getting was too harsh, so I angled the mic as best I could to still capture the kit but minimize the harsh hi hat cymbal. I even swapped out mics for a mellower sounding option.

In the end it helped a little, but I knew that EQ was the only complete solution.

The Simple Plugin Trick

The trick is to gain some helpful information from a plugin. I literally listened back to the drum overhead in my DAW (after all my mic placement tweaks) and then inserted an EQ plugin. I began searching for that problem frequency that was making my hi hat sound so harsh, just like I would do in the mixing phase. Once I found the culprit, I had learned something valuable: what frequency needed to be cut.

It might sound simple, but now I knew which frequency to go cutting on my channel strip’s EQ section: in essence giving me the same result as a the plugin but actually recording through that EQ curve on the way in. The result? A much more balanced sounding raw drum overhead track that will be a breeze to mix later.

Working Within My Limitations

By working out of a home studio you are signing up for a life of limitations. But as you should by now know, limitations are actually a good thing. So in reality, the home studio limitation of having no control room, doesn’t limit the amount or quality of music you can produce. It just means you need a different workflow. And that’s a small price to pay for pro sounding tracks at a fraction of the cost.

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