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Tweak's Guide
to Recording
Success

 

Introduction

For Noobs

MIDI Basics

Audio Basics

Studio Rigs

Studio Pics

Past Studios

Signal Flow

System Guide

Mac vs. PC

Audio Interfaces

Latency

Install Issues

Buy Gear 

Writing Music

Inspiration

Recorders

Keyboards

Controllers

CC Events

MIDI Routing

Mixers

Understanding your Mixer

Digital Mixers

Analog Mixers

Mixer Hookup

Control Surface

Microphones

Mic Preamps

Converters

Monitors

MIDI Modules

Effects

Sequencers

VST, AU, RTAS 

Soft Samplers

Soft Synths

Audio Plugins

Synth Prg Tips

MIDI to Audio

Cables

Impedance

Patchbays

Studio Setup

Room Acoustics

War on Hum

Quiet Room

Dual Monitors

DJ studio

Networking

16 vs 24 bit

Word Clock

Timecode

Build a DAW

Tracking

Record Vocal

Session Tips

Vocal Editing

AutoTune etc

Using EQ

Harmonizers

Guitar Tracks

Guitar Tone

Drum Tips

Drum Patterns

Hip Hop Beats

Cymbals

Sampling

Samplers

Compressors

Pan, Vol, FX

Mixing 101

Mix Methods

Mastering

Field Recorders

Archiving Songs

Make Money

Sound Dev Tips

Surround

Audio for Film

Podcasting

Publishing

Congratulations!

Final Exam

 

Reviews

Forums

JukeBox

Guitar Gallery

Store Links

Recording

Multitrack Recorders
Microphones
Mixers
Signal Processors
Monitors
Accessories
Studio Racks

Computer Music

Audio Interfaces
PCI
USB
Firewire
Computers
Software
Sequencers
Soft Synths/
Samplers
Plugins and FX
MIDI Interfaces
Control Surfaces
DSP Cards

 Keyboards

Keyboard Synths
Samplers
Keyboard Accessories
MIDI Modules
Groove Boxes
Sounds
Keyboard Controllers
Keyboard Amps
Expansion Boards

Guitars, Amps,
and Effects

Electric Guitars
Guitar Effects
Guitar Amps
Acoustic Guitars
Accessories
Classical Guitars
Folk

Drums

Electronic
Acoustic
Drum Machines
Drum Hardware
Cymbals
Accessories
Other Drums

Accessories

Cables
Bass Guitars,
Live Sound/PA
DJ

 

Welcome!  You have arrived at
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Tweakheadz Lab's

GUIDE to the
Home and Project Studio

How to put together a less expensive Recording Studio that Rivals  Professional Studio Sound

 

The TweakLab at DawnOK, so you are new.  You have an idea of making and producing your own music.  And you feel inspired.   Perhaps you are a seasoned musician, tired of paying someone else to produce your music.  Perhaps you are building a studio to record your band.  Or you are into producing audio for video, film, podcasts.  Maybe you have nothing more than a spark, the urge to create, a desire to fulfill a sense of artistic vision.  It's Cool.  You are welcome at the lab.  You have found the right place and good people.  We are here to help you build your own recording studio, your own laboratory for creative projects that works perfectly within your needs and budget.

All the rules have changed in the past few years for putting together a recording studio and they keep changing.  It used to be that you needed expensive multi-track recorders and mixdown machines, a  roomful of outboard gear and processors, and more cables than you would want to count. 
What is this Guide?
Consider the Guide as a classroom and each article a lesson.

The Guide is a series of articles.  It starts with the core basics of modern music technology and progresses through advanced concepts of studio production.    There are approximately 75 classes which you can see on the sidebar to the left.
 Of course, you still can make a large studio with tons of outboard gear (which sounds better than ever), or you can let computers and modern digital multi track machines replace hundreds of functions that used to require separate hardware units. 
 

We are not talking about a cheap, hissy, unprofessional sound, like we used to get with old 4 track cassette studios.  Those days are gone.  With the dawn of modern recording software (called sequencers), with their full-featured digital mixers built right into software, you can expect your sound to rival the big boys in the studios downtown.  Yes. It's true!  For a modest investment in microphones, preamps, audio interfaces and software you can be well on your way.  I'm going to tell you all about today's gear, tell you what you need and what you don't need, give you strategies for gear acquisition that are tried and true, and show you where you can save money and exactly where you should not compromise.

When you see this "TweakSpeak" Icon, you know important terms are defined or F.A.Q  are answered.

What is a Recording Studio?
A Recording Studio is a number of devices that allow you to capture different "takes" of performances and assemble them into a finished audio product.  It includes microphones, recorders, instruments, a mixer and audio processors.  With the exception of microphones, these may come in software forms as well as hardware.   
What is a Sequencer?
A sequencer is a computer application that allows you to record both digital audio and MIDI data and blend the sounds together in it's software mixing console. There are editing tools that let you control every aspect of the production down to very fine details. Effects and processors of high quality are increasingly being added to these applications.  The modern sequencer now can fulfill many recording studio functions that were possible only in expensive studios a decade a go.  
Cakewalk SONAR Home Studio (Windows)
Sonar Home Studio 7 is the easiest way to turn your PC into a full-fledged music production studio. From start to finish, Sonar Home Studio will help you capture your creativity and share it with the world. With Sonar Home Studio you can record live instruments, vocals, or any audio source. You can easily edit audio, MIDI, and music notation. The updated Loop Explorer gives you the tools to build backing tracks faster than ever.
What is a multi-track recorder
A multi-track recorder is a recording device that allow you to record audio directly to separate tracks.  Once all the tracks are added, they can be mixed down to a stereo master recording.  Today's digital multi-tracks have built in effects so you can add varying amounts to each track.  The major difference between a hardware multi-track recorder and a computer sequencer is that the sequencer can record and edit MIDI data and the multi-track cannot. 
 
Boss BR-1600CD 16-Track Digital Studio
The BR-1600CD Digital Recording Studio combines BOSS famous, easy-to-use interface with eight XLR inputs for recording eight tracks simultaneously. This affordable 16-track recorder comes loaded with effects for guitars and vocals; including COSM
What is MIDI?
MIDI is a form of computer data that keyboards and  computers can send back and forth that turn on notes.  You can write musical notes on a computer screen and the data turns notes on and off on the keyboard or sound module.  Likewise you can play notes on your keyboard and the computer will "record" these commands to turn on and off notes. 

 

But don't think just because you have the gear you will sound like a million bucks, automatically.  No, my friend, it does not work that way.  You need to understand music to write music and you need to know how to use the gear or software that you have as tools.  Talent is important, and there are many talents required to make a full production.  But that doesn't mean you need to know how to play an instrument, like the keyboard, with proficiency. 
 

Basically, we consider the studio itself to be a musical instrument.  Like any instrument, you get good by practicing, trying different things, experimenting, mimicking, tweaking, mixing....  After a while, it dawns on you that making music is a craft, the mixer is its workbench, and the studio is it's laboratory.  You supply the creativity, your musicality, your quest for musical beauty.  You capture your tracks then tweak it down to a work of art.  This process is the focus of TweakHeadz Lab. The goal of the studio tweak is to create art in its highest form of expression. 
 

The great masters of the recording arts learned their techniques by devoting their lives creating, capturing and tweaking sound.  These secrets are hard earned, and used to be passed down from the pros to their apprentices at big studios.  You would set up microphones, sweep the floor, run for coffee and take out the trash, then, one day they let you help them at the console. Those days are almost gone.  TweakHeadz Lab is the modern day equivalent of that apprenticeship.  If you read my articles carefully you will find many secrets of audio production.  Of course, I don't know everything, no person does. but I do know a lot.  Enough to get you on your path.
 

In your recording studio, you get to have three roles--musician (as creator and performer), audio engineer, and producer.  What stands between you and the masters is simply knowledge and experience.   Their knowledge translates directly-- the tools in the modern software studio have the same names and functions as the classic hardware machines in a pro facility and are used in the same way.  The big studios downtown have compressors, limiters, vocal processors, delays, reverbs, equalization, multi track recorders, computer automation and massive consoles that hook it all together.  If you have a modern software package or hardware digital multitrack, you have all these tools too.  They know exactly when and how to use EQ to clean up a track, when to use compression, the precise place to put reverb in the mix, how to record vocals, guitars, drums and how to level everything to make a stunning audio image.  I am going to be your guide to acquiring all these skills.

Tweak's studio at night 2009

Tweak's studio at midnight 2009

 

I will tell you the things that you absolutely must know for music production in a clear, simple, even entertaining way.  While much of this knowledge is technical, I'll avoid bogging you down with unnecessary technical details.  We are not flying to Mars here (except maybe musically), so we can have a little fun.  After all, our music is something we want people to enjoy.
 

Because you may be running your studio on a computer, we'll cover that too.  You need to know how to tweak your computer as well as you know how to tweak your musical score. Then there is the matter of Understanding MIDI and digital audio and how these work together (yes they ARE different).  This is a core concept underpinning how the contemporary computer-based home studio works, so we'll get to that first. 

 

 While knowledge is technical, results can be artistic.  Think of it this way, in your hands is the most powerful musical instrument human beings ever invented.  It is so powerful that human beings have only begun to tap into its possibilities.  You can do 100 track scores with hundreds of instruments playing together if you want.  Its as vast as your musical mind and has the capability of sounding better than your store bought CDs.  If you have musical inspiration and technical know-how, you have the boundless universe of musical form at your fingertips.  A dream?  Yes, but with effort and a good guide, it's a dream that comes true. 

 

Don't Just Read, Talk to People:

Browse down the left frame of this page to the topics you are interested in.  At any time you can jump to a forum specifically devoted to the topic.  At the bottom of nearly every class you will see a link that says:
 

Want to talk about this topic? 
Join the discussion at Studio-Central!  



Since this is the newbie topic the above link will take you directly to discussions among newbies.  The Mic page takes you to the forum on Microphones.  By jumping back and forth, you can read the basics here in the Guide, jump over to relevant questions and answers and learn really quickly.
 

How did I come up with these articles? 

Well, I have been asked questions on building home studios for over 15 years. I have answered thousands of emails and wrote these so I could direct people to these answers rather than write everything out again.
 

Who is Tweak?

That's me! I have studied music, philosophy and sociology and have a graduate degree in the latter. I've spent much of my life teaching by day and learning the recording arts by night.  I've been doing recordings on computers since the first sequencers came out and as you see by the list, I have a lot to show you.  I started this site back in 1996 and am constantly improving it, thanks to your support. 
 

Tweak's studio

Tweak's Studio Oct 2007

How You can support the TweakLab

If you like these articles and I have helped you out, may I suggest buying your gear at zZounds or SameDayMusic from my product links? Please enable your browser to accept cookies and I will get credit for anything you purchase at these stores. These stores only operate in the USA and Canada. People from other countries can support TweakHeadz Lab by paypal. TweakHeadz lab is an expensive operation in both money and time and needs your support to survive.  To those who have supported the TweakLab in the past, you have my thanks.  With your help, this site has become what it is today. 

Buying at zZounds or SameDayMusic is better than buying at many other stores.  They both have an easy return policy on most items too, in case you have trouble with what you buy.  What could be better?  You get a great store, the right price, EZ returns and you support one of the best user supported sites on the internet. 

OK Lets get started! 

Real Newbies with No Experience will want to
check out the "Fast Overview"
 

or if you think you can handle it
Go to the Studio 101 Class 

 

Best of luck in your studio enterprise!

 

I am,

Rich the TweakMeister

Cool Quote:

"Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable." Leonard Bernstein (1918-90) American Composer in The Unanswered Question