After 21 years, I have a home recording studio update! In 2020 I decided to overhaul and rebuild my home recording studio completely. The overhaul includes new furniture, upgraded outboard gear, instrument upgrades, improved soundproofing, and proper room acoustic treatments for a better room frequency response. I am modernizing everything as my budget allows. The studio design will focus on editing and mixing first and recording second.
Studio Update – The Details
Acoustic treatments will achieve an optimal room frequency response. Improved soundproofing will keep our neighbors happier when the studio is in use. The visual aesthetics will change to make a more comfortable and relaxing environment. There will be no more blinding white walls that the studio had originally. The new look will have a fantastic, darker, psychedelic vibe with controllable LED lighting. I will write in detail about the studio rebuild in future posts.
Studio Update – Outboard Gear Upgrades
Studio Update – Computer and Software Upgrades
Studio Update – Instrument Upgrades
For my entire life, I owned and played only one guitar, a 1985, all-black, Ibanez Roadstar II, 6-string electric. A while back, I restored all the original electronics after I shifted away from my Heavy Metal phase. However, as part of my studio rebuild, I purchased a second guitar, a 2009 Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro. Check it out.
Home Recording Studio Update – Future Planned Upgrades
Here are some additional upgrades I have specified for rebuilding but still need to purchase.
Herman Miller Mirra 2 Chair – Tilt Limiter and Seat Angle, Butterfly Back
Lynx Studio Technology: Aurora 16 with LT-USB (AD/DA 24/196 16 channel Converter)
Gallien-Krueger: CX410 Bass Cabinets (2x)
Gallien-Krueger: MB Fusion (500W)
Gallien-Krueger: 1001RB Power Amp
7-string electric guitar… still researching.
Good quality vocal microphone… still researching.
GIK Acoustics: 242 Acoustic Panels for 1st-order reflection control.
Bass traps won’t be selected until a room frequency analysis has been completed, and the “trouble” frequencies are identified. Traps will be custom build to target those specific “trouble” frequencies.
Personal songwriting has always been on my mind. After my earlier experiences with tape recorders, 4-tracks, VHS audio, and all those projects for friends and friends of friends, I wanted to record my recording project. So I shifted my focus, and in the late 1990s, the journey began.
Personal Songwriting and Recording Project – My Time to Play in the Studio
I work full-time, have a wife, and have two children, one of whom lives with a disability. Therefore, if I was to work on my recording project, I had to stop accepting outside recording gigs. After clearing my studio workload, I could think about the CD without any other distractions hanging over my head.
Songwriting and Jamming with the Band
Me and my longtime good friend and drummer, Keith Ribera, set out to make our CD of original songs. Even though we had many songs already written from earlier years together, we decided to start from scratch. We had several songwriting sessions with another longtime good friend, bassist Jeff Curtis. However, we had a good time jamming, improvising, laughing, and coming up with catchy-sounding material, and we did all of this in our spare time.
I spent considerable time on my own, setting up the equipment with good mic placement, adjusting mixer settings and computer settings, etc., so that when the guys showed up, it was just a matter of tuning our instruments and playing. Below is a random multi-track recording of Keith and me, and I added the bass track later. Our motto was, “the stranger it sounded, the better it sounded.” Most of the time, it was a total creative free-for-all. We would make recordings like the one below and later pick out the good parts.
Personal Songwriting and Recording Project – Editing and Mixing the Songs
After a few months of playing, hanging out, and recording, I started selecting our best parts, arranged them into songs, and re-recorded all the guitar and bass parts from scratch. Jeff could not record the bass tracks because, at the time, his work had him on the road almost constantly. Therefore, I recorded all the guitar and bass parts with a click-track. Afterward, Keith recorded his drum parts. He made about 5 or 6 takes for each song, and then came the editing and mixing, which was my second favorite part of this process. Here are some early rough edits of our songs going into 2000. I’m not sure what genre you would fit these songs into, but we received a better response from other musicians than non-musicians.
Personal Songwriting and Recording Project – The Finished Recordings, Where Are They?
Around 2000, life got more complicated for Keith, Jeff, and me. Our families and other responsibilities took up more and more of our free time, and the recording project slowed down and eventually stopped. However, these life changes didn’t end the project because the songs were unfinished. To be continued.
My music interests and first home recording studio are as crucial to me as painting and art. Truthfully, the two are in constant competition within me because sometimes I love making music more than I love making art, and visa-versa. However, I make some money with my art, whereas I have yet to make a penny with my music. Therefore, making music has become a love I pursue solely for personal enjoyment.
Music Interests, Early Band Years, and Recording
It was during my mid-teen years that music became a big part of my life. When I was about 15 years old, my father purchased an Ibanez Roadstar II guitar (black) for me, and everything changed.
My earliest recordings were made on my father’s cheap multi-track recorder. They were horrible recordings because I didn’t know how to play the instrument, and during the “playback” of the tapes, I learned how bad I sounded. That was when I realized the way to grow as a musician was to hear myself playing after the fact, analyze what I was hearing, and LEARN what not to do!
In my later teens, when I started playing in bands with my brother Dan, I continued developing my guitar playing and recording skills. My guitar, amp, and recorder were there, and they always traveled with me. As a result, the recording became an obsession, and it was common for me to interrupt band practice to set up, reposition mics, or check cassette recorders. Eventually, around 1990, I purchased my first multi-track recorder, a Fostex X-26. Around this time, my musical tastes expanded beyond heavy metal and into everything that was instrumentally technical and complicated and sounded good to my ears.
First Home Recording Studio
As time progressed, I bought a computer, and in 1998 I became the proud owner of my first Digital Audio Workstation (D.A.W.), Samplitude Studio version 4.04a. Therefore, I made the switch from analog recording to digital recording. Over the next several years, I faithfully upgraded the Samplitude Studio software while keeping current with other digital recording technology, such as a Dman-2044 PCI, 4-channel, 16-bit DAC/ADC audio interface card.
Recording Studio Projects for Local Bands
Starting in late 1998, I began recording, mixing, and mastering small projects for friends and their bands. Also, I did this studio work after my day job as an electro-mechanical designer. Sometimes I would be up until 2 or 3 in the morning, editing and mixing tracks. The work initially consisted of taking cassette recordings, converting them from analog to digital medium, loading them into Samplitude Studio, cleaning up the audio quality, and finally burning the improved audio to CD.
After those early cleanup projects, I had an opportunity to do my first multi-track recording session for a friend’s band. However, things didn’t come out as planned, but I still felt good about taking on larger multi-track recording projects. In addition to further improving my recording skills, working with different musicians was a lot of fun. Also, some songwriting collaborations resulted from these connections.
As word spread about what I was doing in my studio, requests for more significant projects started. I re-mastered projects for several local bands. And, even though my gear was considered “entry-level” quality, my work was good enough to receive positive feedback on a local radio station that featured one of the groups.
First Full CD Recording Project for the Band “Room One”
My first big multi-track project was for a local band named “Room One,” In early 1999, I started recording their 12-song CD. Subsequently, every instrument had its track, and I put all my years of recording experience into the project. As a result, I always received positive feedback from the band. Also, the band was open-minded to making instrumental arrangement changes on a few songs at my suggestion. Additionally, they included a guitar solo I performed in one of their songs. The solo part I recorded during a sound check I conducted before the band showed up for one of their sessions.
The singer moved to another state in the middle of the recording sessions, and the CD never recorded the final vocals. However, an instrumental version of the CD was released.
My music interests and first home recording studio are a considerable part of my life. Because I love it, I will continuously pursue these interests to improve my playing, songwriting, and recording skills.