Home Recording Studio Essentials

RESIZED 560

Two years ago, my “home recording studio” consisted of two things: a 13″ Macbook and a $12 Logitech microphone.  Though it wasn’t fancy, it did the job, considering I was simply recording music therapy songs for the students at my school.  But the more songs I wrote and the more interested I became in home recording, the more sophisticated my setup became.

Now that I sell my self-recorded music (in addition, of course, to my studio album) both in my own store and on larger platforms like Songs For Teaching, I have a much higher standard of quality.  That comes with a need for higher-quality equipment, which is the topic of today’s post.  The picture above gives you an overview of my home studio, but I’m going to break it down for you even further.  Let’s go!

The #1 most important component in my setup is my computer.  My 15″ Macbook Pro powers the software I use, which is Garageband.  This program is included with the price of the computer, and for entry-level software, it is really quite powerful.  Although I’m sure there are great recording programs for PC, I am most decidedly a “Mac person” and simply love the intuitive interface, ease of use, and integration of Garageband with iTunes.

Pictured on the right is my M-Audio USB MobilePre Preamp, which I use to record my acoustic-electric guitar and monitor my sound input.  I wrote a detailed post about the preamp earlier this year.  The Sennheiser headphones I use are awesome; they cover my ears completely, are crystal-clear, and have a long coiled cord that reaches from one end of my studio to the other.

This 24″ Dell HD monitor was a birthday gift from my husband, and for someone who spends so much time in front of the computer, it has truly been a game-changer.  The wide screen view is especially useful for Garageband; when I’m tracking instruments and vocals, it’s nice to be able to see big chunks of audio at a time.  The monitor is connected to my computer with an HDMI cable and adapter.

Next is my M-Audio midi keyboard, which I use to record keyboard and other instrument sounds.  It connects via a USB cable, so basically, all I have to do is plug in (Garageband immediately recognizes the MIDI input) and then I’m ready to play.  I have a super duper deluxe model at school, which has so many features I haven’t even learned half of them yet.  That will be a project in itself when school starts!

The piece of equipment that I’ve had the longest (December of 2008) and that I recommend to anyone who asks is my Blue Snowball USB Microphone.  I get lots and lots of emails from people wanting to know what I use to record my vocals, and I delight in telling them that it’s a simple USB mic that costs less than $100.  I have a ringer shockmount attached as well as a pop filter.

My speakers are relatively new, and I’m head over heels about them.  These Logitech Omnidirectional USB Speakers are inexpensive, loud, and high-quality.  They also look really nice!  Although I listen to all of my recordings through headphones, I also want to make sure they sound good through speakers, since that is how most other people will be listening to the songs.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ve noticed that 4 of the pieces of equipment I’ve covered connect via a USB port.  Any Mac user knows that the computer only offers 2 USB ports, which is why I use a Rocketfish USB Hub to power my entire studio without plugging and unplugging anything.  It only takes up one USB port on my computer, and the best part is that it has a suction cup, so I can attach it to the backside of my desk in order to hide the spaghetti factory of wires and cords.

Two last pieces of equipment to mention, and then I promise I’ll end this insanely long post :)  These are crucial if you use an external monitor: the Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse.  As you can see in the first picture, I record my vocals relatively far away from my computer and monitor, so instead of walking back and forth in between takes, I can bring my keyboard and mouse over to control things remotely.

So there you have it: the Listen & Learn home recording studio.  There are definitely things I’d like to add to it over time, but for now, I’m quite happy with it.  I’m also more than happy to answer any questions you might have about the equipment I’ve mentioned, or just home recording in general.  Let’s tackle them in the comments!

Kids With Cats: This Song is For You

Writing a song about dogs came quite naturally to me, since I’m a dog owner and have always considered myself to be a “dog person”.  But I have nothing against cats (that’s my mom’s cat, Izzy, in the picture) and since many of you let me know that you’d like a feline version of the song, I was happy to oblige!

C – A – T, my C – A – T,
My cat’s a part of my family.
She has such soft and pretty fur,
I love to hear her meow and purr.
C – A – T, my C – A – T,
My cat’s a part of my family.

People ask me questions, like
“What’s your cat’s name?”
And this is what I say: __________
They also want to know,
“What kind of cat do you have?”
So I answer in this way: __________

C – A – T, my C – A – T,
My cat’s a part of my family.
I give her water, food, and toys,
Luckily, she doesn’t make much noise.
C – A – T, my C – A – T,
My cat’s a part of my family.

People ask me questions, like
“How old is your cat?”
And this is what I say: __________
They also want to know,
“Can I pet your cat?”
So I answer in this way: __________

C – A – T, my C – A – T,
My cat’s a part of my family.
She likes to chase her toy mouse,
‘Round and ‘round and ‘round the house.
C – A – T, my C – A – T,
My cat’s a part of my family.

I used Izzy as an example in this version, but just as was offered when I posted “My D-O-G”, I’ll record a special version for your family’s cat if this is a song your child might enjoy.  All you have to do is send me an email, and be sure to include your answers to the questions asked in the song!

Time to Sing Hello Hits the Airwaves

Yesterday I got into my car, headed to the grocery store, when I heard a familiar voice on the radio. It was mine! The interview that I had recorded earlier in the week aired throughout the weekend on 5 different local stations, and I got lucky enough to catch it on my favorite one (WDBR, for local readers).

This is the second time that I’ve been a guest on Bob Murray’s Focus program, and I was super excited to be invited back.  I had the opportunity to talk more about my work as a music therapist, the new album, and even share two of the songs from it.

Please excuse the wavering in my voice during that last song…the interview was recorded very early in the morning :) Thanks for sticking around to listen, and if you have any questions for me that I didn’t cover in the interview, feel free to ask them in the comments!

Sunday Singalong: You Are My Sunshine

Happy Sunday! Singing this song (in any one of its many forms) always puts a smile on my face. Good thing, because I sing the calendar version in almost every music therapy session, both at school and in my private practice. People always ask me if I get tired of singing the same songs over and over, and while the answer is sometimes yes, this song does not fall into that category.

It does, however, fall into the category of the ever-popular “piggyback” song, which involves taking a familiar song and changing the lyrics, but keeping the melody the same. It’s a common practice among music therapists and educators, and although I enjoy composing my own melodies, piggybacking does come in handy from time to time.

If you search the Listen & Learn archives, you’ll actually find quite a few. What are your favorite songs to piggyback on? Please share them in the comments!

Friday Fave: A New Officemate

Last Tuesday was a sad day in the Music Therapy Connections office/studio.  It was the day I laid to rest a sturdy old workhorse, my HP DeskJet 940c printer.  I’ve had this printer since my first day of college (all the way back in 2001), and it has sat on 4 different desks in 4 different cities since then.  Not bad, considering I’ve been through 4 laptops in that time!

I owe my deceased DeskJet for all of my PECS cards, homemade visual aides, printed sheet music, and so much more.  It worked hard right up until judgment day, when despite trying several new ink cartridges, it spewed out blank paper.  Could it have been resuscitated? Probably.  But I knew it was time to let go.

The HP OfficeJet Pro Wireless 8000 and I got off to a rocky start.  But thanks to the intervention of a very sweet HP technical support person, our relationship was mended and now we’re working in harmony.  Its wireless capabilities, 2-sided printing (save the rainforest!), and high quality printing have all but made up for the loss of old DeskJet.

But this isn’t the only new officemate around here.  Last month, I added a couple that I still haven’t gotten around to posting.  I will do that soon.  In the meantime, have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend.  See you back here in a couple of days for my new “Sunday Singalong” video!

Pin It on Pinterest