Today I wanted to share with you all an example of someone who is doing exactly what all of us are trying to do: make a great album from home. One of my friends from college, Brandon Walker, contacted me a while back saying he was recording a new EP in his home studio and wanted me to mix it. When I first got the raw tracks to mix, I was super impressed with the recording quality and it made for some great mixes (and made my job much easier). So first, take a listen to one of his finished tracks so you get an idea of the quality of this project and then I’ll briefly show you what he used and how the process went for him.[audio:FoggyWindow.mp3|artists=Brandon Walker|titles=Foggy Window]
What He Used
Brandon’s studio weapons of choice were Reason and Sonar. Being a keyboardist, he tapped Reason for all piano, keys, and auxillary percussion sounds, and then tracked all the audio in Sonar in his bedroom apartment. His audio interface was a Presonus Firestudio Mobile and his mic of choice was the M-Audio Nova (one of the $100 microphones I recommend), using it for the vocals and cello. Acoustic guitars were miked with an AKG Perception 170 pencil condenser, and bass and electric were run direct.
How He Did It
To get a dry vocal sound Brandon recorded in his closet with a ton of clothes hanging up. He even threw in some sleeping bags to absorb some of the sound. For drums, Brandon (now living in San Francisco) had one of his friends back in Baltimore track the kit in his basement. Brandon monitored the recording over Skype! Amazing what technology allows these days.
Here are, in his words, some of the other home studio challenges he faced during this project:
The big challenge I faced had to do with outside noise. We have a lawnmower man who comes to tend to the lawn almost every day. I don’t understand it, but he does. And my spare bedroom has a window facing the lawn and a street. So I would have to stop when the lawnmower man got too close, or when a noisy truck came down the street. Other times I just let it go and kept the background noise in the recordings. Ultimately, you can’t really tell they’re there.
There are some important lessons we can learn from Brandon’s experience recording at home, but I think the biggest takeaway is the fact that his focus was not on what gear he needed (or wanted) to make this happen, rather it was on how to capture the best sound possible with the given tools and recording environments. And that my friends should be our goal. Beyond the basic tools we need to capture pro quality recordings, we should pour every other ounce of our energy into capturing a great performance well!
If you liked what you heard of Brandon’s new EP “One Step Behind”, head over to www.brandonwalkermusic.com and download the whole thing right now. It’s great!