During the past 20 years, home studio recording has become not just more affordable, but more practical. That means just about anyone who has a basic computer system and the desire can build their own home studio, with the right investment.
The best home studio recording software needs to provide great tools for recording, editing, and exporting audio for personal and professional use. The one system that continually stands out among all others is Pro Tools.
Getting Started with Home Studio Recording for Beginners
Getting started with a home studio recording system can take some time to get used to. There are plenty of free or basic home studio recording programs out there, but when you want a quality DAW (digital audio workstation), you should choose a system that not only has been around for quite some time, but is the preferred option for many who have a great deal of experience within the home and professional studio recording industry.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the various features that Pro Tools offers. Yet, because of their investment in research, design, and efficiency, it provides a great foundation for many inexperienced individuals to get started.
Why Pro Tools?
Pro Tools remains the industry standard for a lot of reasons. It has been around for decades as a home studio recording software program and that is likely not to change anytime soon. Because it is the industry standard, if you have any need to shift studios (for example, from your home to a professional studio for specific vocal tracks or another purpose), most will have P+ro Tools capabilities.
Another reason Pro Tools is such a top version to choose is the various hardware options available. Of course, building the right stability means spending more money.
Pro Tools allows users to open and utilize numerous tracks and plug-ins simultaneously, but that is certainly limited to the computer system itself. You also have great options when it comes to effects, editing, and versatility when using Pro Tools.
Consider the Computer System You’re Running
One of the most important things you need to consider when building your own digital audio workstation (or home studio) is the computer system itself. Don’t expect to get great results or options available to you, even if you go with Pro Tools, if you’re using a five-year-old basic laptop with 2.4 GHz processing speeds and 1 GB of RAM.
If you are going to be serious about building a home studio, you need to start with the traditional desktop computer system. Whether it’s Apple or Microsoft-based, make sure it has plenty of versatility and the ability to expand, if needed. A gaming system is not a viable option because too much has already been invested on the video interface (which is not needed and often uses up too much valuable processing speeds), and you need the right investment in audio interfaces.
A quad core processor is optimal. At least 8 GB of RAM (expandable to 16 GB of RAM) is a good place to start. If you have the financial resources, certainly go with maximum RAM capability and processing speeds.
Keep in mind that Intel processors will generally be faster than AMD processors, even at the same gigahertz rating, so it may be ideal to choose the Intel version rather than AMD, even if AMD is rated . 4 GHz faster.
When you start with a great computer system, Pro Tools can be utilized to its fullest effect.
Is Free Home Studio Recording Software the Way to Go?
Some people certainly will be tempted to download ‘free’ home studio recording software programs, and while these might be okay for absolute beginners, most of them are not going to offer great versatility, will not permit the creation of various filenames, and whatever you do record might not be transferable to other systems or programs down the road.
On top of that, almost every single free home studio recording software program out there is limited in its scope and capability. These are usually basic versions of a more complicated and versatile system and the manufacturers of these systems are focused on getting you hooked on their platform, getting used to their tools, so you upgrade to the paid version later on.
Pro Tools is so easy to use once you get the hang of it that there’s no need for going cheap or free right out of the gate. It does have a learning curve, but as a visual system, it is relatively easy to understand, so long as you start with the basics, such as recording and editing one track to get used to the basic features.
Can You ‘Upgrade’ Software Later?
As noted, many of those free home studio recording programs are minimal versions of more complicated programs. You can upgrade later, but not all of them can be transferred to professional studios or other editing programs because of the limitations of the filenames to which they can save their documents.
If you are not planning to expand your versatility or options into the future with this digital audio workstation you’re building now, then a free recording software program might be fine for you, which you can upgrade later, most likely at an added expense.
Keep in mind, though, that nothing can quite compare to Pro Tools for home and professional studio recording.
Start Slow, Minimal
When you first start using Pro Tools or any other type of home studio recording program, it’s important not to become overwhelmed trying to record multiple tracks and then mix everything down, adding effects, loops, and so on.
These programs, even the most basic, simple, free ones will have a learning curve. Start slow and as minimally as possible.
It is highly recommended to start with one simple track to get a basic understanding of the program itself. Record an instrument like guitar or a vocal track. Make it simple; nothing more than 15 to 30 seconds is more than ample.
Look at how the wave file appears. Highlight it, edit it, move it, cut something, and experiment.
Also refer to the user manual and take advantage of simple video tutorials when available. Because Pro Tools is such an industry standard, there are hundreds upon hundreds of video tutorials as well as simple blogs that can give you insight into how best to use this particular home studio recording package.
Don’t Worry So Much About Effects … at First
It is going to be tempting to dive in and start adding all sorts of cool effects, including delays, chorus, flanges, reverse patterns, etc. to your vocal, guitar, drum, bass tracks and so on, but the best advice when first starting to use any type of digital audio workstation is to avoid this.
Audio effects and other features are basically beneficial only when you’re getting ready to mix down and create your master finished product. Get used to the sliders, trim, wave files, copying files, editing files and tracks, and so on instead. The moment you begin getting bogged down trying to understand how to incorporate effects, you start altering the wave files, thus making it more difficult to truly discern what’s happening with real-time editing of those tracks.
Yes, Pro Tools is on the more expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to home studio recording software, but if this is something you plan to do for years into the future, it’s a wise investment. It is incredibly stable, versatile, and because it remains the industry standard, you’ll have no problem recording at a professional studio for certain tracks and then coming home to do work on your own, adding effects, tweaking sounds, and getting it ready for final mixdown.