Music Recording

Becoming A Professional Music Recording Engineer: Starting At Home

By May 1, 2022No Comments

If you want to become a professional music recording engineer, it’s important to follow some crucial steps so that you can achieve the career of your dreams. By following these tips and tricks, you’ll have what it takes to make it in the competitive field of music recording engineering and production.


Sound mixer in a professional recording studio.

Become a professional music engineer.

Learning music recording has several benefits. It can be a new and exciting hobby, it can help you get your foot in doors at many studios as an intern, and if you hone your skills enough it may even become your career one day. Of course, not everyone is going to land their dream job from day one; how fast you progress depends on how much practice and effort you put into perfecting your craft. In order to succeed, you need to have a good foundation of knowledge about music recording before you dive headfirst into any studio or internship position. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a professional music recording engineer.

Choosing the right tools for you

A sound mixer in a professional music recording studio.

Research is key when it comes to gear.

When it comes to professional music recording, you need some serious tools. And by tools I mean software and hardware. While there are many excellent software options for recording & mixing music, Protools is probably the best option available in my particular opinion. It has all of the audio-editing and processing tools you could ever dream of. You can get a 30 day free trial of protools here . The other good news is that protools isn’t your only option when trying to record your own music on your computer. Garageband is an Apple product that allows you to record multi-track audio on Mac computers as well as edit and mix those tracks with ease.

  • A laptop/ desktop computer – Recording at home will require a laptop or a desktop computer. And depending on how ambitious you get, we recommend you invest in a high-functioning laptop that won’t slow down when you start learning how to start recording music and mixing your tracks.
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) – A DAW is a software that you use to record, edit, or mix your recorded tracks. There are many software choices available for both Mac and PC. Most DAWs offer free trials, which I highly recommend before you go ahead and invest some money in purchasing one.
  • Microphone – Most laptops have a built-in mic that you can use to start recording. A built-in mic can’t capture the best audio, but you can start with it and work your way to other professional models. For any type of professional level music recording, you’ll need to invest in a quality microphone and interface/soundcard combo. A decent “starter” mic should run around $200-$300 while a decent interface/soundcard should run around $100-$200.
  • A microphone cable – Your microphone will require a wire, which is usually an XLR cable. A longer cable will allow you a wider range of movement within your studio, and it’s also affordable at $10 to $20.
  • A microphone stand – You need a stand to hold your microphone. Any basic microphone stand will do. That being said for optimal flexibility get a boom stand, you’ll have way more flexibility when it comes to placement.
  • A Pop filter – usually a clip-on device to reduce/prevent plosives: that harsh “p” sound when a blast of air hits the capsule directly. I recommend a metal pop filter because they’re extremely durable and they’re easy to clean. My favorite option that I use (even on my Telefunken ELAM251 E) is the Steadman Proscreen XL Pop Filter.

    It’ll be the first and last pop filter you’ll ever buy. A good option for home studios or if you simply want to record ideas in the control room is a foam enclosure. An example of this is the MicFuns MF1 Filter. Note that it will change the microphone’s color a bit but usually it is very minimal. It’s definitely  a great tool when you need extra isolation (in the case of doing voiceovers or if you’re in a loud environment). If you want the least intrusive way to treat plosives then go for the traditional pop filter.
  • Audio interface – This is probably one of the most important tools of your entire arsenal. Audio interfaces usually define the sampling rate (the possible resolution for recording), as well include an I/O grid (input and output options) and a headphone amplifier with talk-back controls (so you can communicate back and forth with who’s recording).  If you’re just starting out and are on a budget, I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
  • Headphones: you’re going to need a good set of headphones. There’s many incredible options when it comes to headphones but since you’re doing a lot of different things in the same space you’ll definitely want some closed back headphones. Closed back headphones provide good isolation when tracking but it also helps if you want to do some work late at night or you don’t want to bother the people around you. I definitely recommend the Sony MDR7506, which are by far my favorite set of headphones.

How do I start recording music from home?

Happy musicians recording

Check out our Advanced Recording Techniques Module inside the platform.

Starting to record your own music can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have no formal training or experience, there are plenty of entry-level tools that make getting started easy and affordable. If you want to learn how to record music at home, you have to start by learning the craft.

Even though people know me for my professional work with Noisematch Studios and all the big sessions we’ve done like “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi or Daddy Yankee or Alejandro Sanz’s “La música no se toca” I didn’t start out in BIG STUDIO land. I started like anyone else: from home. The first thing I did was get some books on recording (Youtube wasn’t available at the time) in my local music store to understand how music recording worked on a basic level. After that I bought some basic gear and started slowly but surely assembling my first recording studio little by little.

I spent years learning by trial and error and most of the times I didn’t know what I was doing. It wasn’t until I started to enroll in audio classes and receive mentorship from professional recording & mixing engineers that I truly started getting some amazing results. You have an incredible advantage in today’s day an age as you won’t have to waste all those years like I did.

In order to shorten the learning curve I assembled probably the most comprehensive professional recording course online called: Advanced Recording Techniques. In our Advanced Recording Techniques module inside of MusicMastermind.TV, we cover everything from basic audio principles to acoustic recording techniques for almost every instrument family available. In addition, we also study console signal flow using the SSL Duality and the different approaches for hybrid analog/digital audio recording. If you want to get access to it, just click here.

Let’s dive into the journey of setting up our musical HQ.

Setting up your recording space

Home recording setup

Understanding the layout of your room is crucial.

Before you can hit record on your first song, you’ll need to set up your recording space. This is known as a project studio and it’s generally soundproofed in order to keep outside noises out of your recordings. For example, if you live in an apartment building, noise-canceling headphones for recording vocals is a MUST. In a professional studio setting you usually have 2 spaces: a live room and a control room. The control room holds all the recording equipment and the liveroom is an acoustically treated room that is designed exclusively to record all of your sound sources. When you’re starting out & recording at home you’ll only have one place to do it all. This means your room will be both a control & a live room. The challenge is that it needs to sound good enough to reproduce music and record it. The most critical aspect of setting up a recording setup at home is defining where you’re actually going to record. If you’re just doing vocals, find a place where you can isolate your vocals. In an ideal scenario you should record vocals in a nice & open room that is not  too live or too dry but that is not a luxury you will have in a home setup. If your setup is relatively quiet you can get away with recording close to it with a device such as the Micfuns MF1 filter. But you have noisy units like AC units, heating units  or just noisy computer gear, you might have to turn them off during the recording period or find a quiet place to place the mic (usually people go for a closet). Just keep in mind that you will need to run headphones and the XLR cable to the interface back and forth so keep that in mind. The only downfall of the closet is that the engineer and artist can’t see each other. Once all that prep work is done, it’s time to build a home studio on a budget! In addition to some basic gear (such as microphones, cables, an interface), try to accomodate the room to be comfortable and with a “vibe”. You’re going to spend tons of time there so make it a place that’s enjoyable. And again, since you’re working from home home, it won’t cost much to make tons of music and polish your chops for the pro studios down the line.

The Importance of Acoustic Treatment

Acoustic treatment—also known as soundproofing or sound absorption—reduces background noise and reverberation in rooms. If you’re wondering how to build a professional music recording studio, one of the first things you’ll need is acoustic treatment. Good acoustics are vital to producing quality recordings, and they can be particularly useful when using Protools because it reduces outside noise levels and prevents bleed over. It also keeps excessive reverb at bay, which results in cleaner tracks (you can also use reverb plugins). To learn more about what makes good acoustics for recording, read our guide on How to Record Vocals Like a Pro. You can also check out our post on What Makes an Ideal Recording Room? The perfect room should have thick walls, few windows, and no distracting sounds coming from outside. The most important thing to remember is that your room doesn’t have to look like a live concert hall. In fact, some people prefer home studios with very simple furnishings–just enough to support basic mixing capabilities. With just enough acoustic treatment around your microphone and mixer area you’ll find yourself sounding better than ever before!

Understanding your gear

You don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear to start getting professional results. You can create a high-quality, pro-sounding record with just your laptop, some free software and cheap, but quality microphones. Yes, you’ll have to upgrade over time—don’t let that scare you off! If you get in early enough and stay on top of equipment trends, music production is relatively affordable. The key is choosing affordable equipment that works for what you need it for. Don’t feel pressured into buying top-of-the-line gear right off the bat; in many cases, cheaper products are more than sufficient if they do what they say they will do. A good rule of thumb is to buy something when you know exactly how you’re going to use it. For example, if you want an interface for recording vocals and guitar simultaneously, buy one that has two inputs instead of one. It may cost a little bit more up front, but as long as you plan accordingly, you won’t be wasting money later on by having too much or too little gear.

Tips on microphone placement

Microphone placement is very important in professional music recording studios. Here are some tips: There are four main areas where you can place microphones for professional music recording: The Floor (Bass), The Ceiling (Toms), Overhead and Close Mic’ing of Instruments (Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, etc.). There are many more types of microphones that can be used as well, but we will stick with these main 4 for now. For floor miking (bass) it’s typically good to have an omnidirectional microphone such as an Audix D6 or Shure SM57 placed about six inches off of the floor on a stand facing down at around 45 degrees angle.

Common mistakes to avoid when recording audio

The biggest mistake is not having enough space between instruments. If you’re in a small room and there isn’t much space between instruments, try moving them around or use some soundproofing foam to isolate them from each other. Another common mistake is not using enough microphones for certain sounds. For example, if you’re trying to record an acoustic guitar and it’s really loud in your room then try using more than one microphone on it (if possible). This will help keep all of its natural sound without adding too much extra noise from surrounding instruments or noises in your room. Also, make sure that you have enough microphones for all of your other instruments as well! It can be difficult to mic drums so make sure you have enough mics and that they are placed correctly before hitting record. A third common mistake is thinking about how things should sound instead of how they actually do sound. It’s easy to get caught up in what we think something should sound like instead of listening closely to what it actually does sound like when we listen back through our monitors or headphones. So when recording something, don’t worry about whether it should be louder or quieter, just focus on getting a good take while listening carefully so you can hear exactly what’s going on with each instrument/voice. Finally, don’t rush things!

Mixing and mastering tips

Mixing and mastering is an art that takes practice, patience, and talent. Learning how to mix music will help you transform raw tracks into professionally produced music tracks that sound great on any stereo system or device. Mixing engineers can make or break a record, with their signature sound being applied to nearly every single hit song of today’s top artists. While it may seem like mixing and mastering are synonymous, they are actually two different processes. In fact, many musicians do not realize that there is a difference between mixing and mastering at all!
The following tips will help you understand what each process entails: Mixing – Mixing is about combining all of your tracks together into one cohesive song. It’s about balancing and blending different elements together in order to create a clear, well-defined mix that sounds great on any stereo system or device. Mastering – Mastering is all about polishing up your mix and preparing it for distribution by creating a professional sounding product with enhanced dynamics, punch, clarity, and balance. While mastering can be done at home using software, there are many professionals who specialize in taking mixes from their rough state to a polished master.
The next step is deciding whether you want to learn how to mix music yourself or have someone else do it for you! If mixing and mastering are new concepts to you, then consider learning how to master music yourself as an investment in your future career as a mixing engineer. This will allow you to understand what each process entails and help you develop your signature sound. However, if you don’t feel confident enough yet in your abilities to mix on your own or if time is of the essence, then hiring a professional may be a better option for now.

Tips on using an audio interface

Here’s what you should know before buying: An audio interface (or sound card) is an electronic device that enables computers and other devices to record and playback sound or music in real time. While they’re primarily used for consumer applications, many audio interfaces are compatible with professional music software, including Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Final Cut Pro X and more. Here’s what you need to know before buying one—and tips on how to save money if you decide that all-in-one, plug-and-play sound cards aren’t right for you. The most important thing to consider when choosing an audio interface is its sample rate—how often it records and plays back sound. As a general rule of thumb, if you want your recordings to be of CD quality (16 bit/44.1 kHz), then choose an audio interface that supports at least 44.1 kHz recording and 48 kHz playback. Most home studios don’t require anything higher than 48 kHz at present, so I recommend going with a 24-bit version instead of 32 bits, as there isn’t much benefit beyond 16 bits. Sample rates are also referred to as Hertz (Hz). For example, 44100 Hz refers to 44100 samples per second while 96000 Hz refers to 96000 samples per second. If you plan on recording multiple tracks simultaneously, it’s worth investing in an audio interface that has enough inputs to accommodate them. You’ll also want to make sure that your computer has enough processing power to handle multiple tracks. If you have a laptop or desktop computer, look for an audio interface with built-in drivers and support for ASIO 2.0 or WDM (Windows Driver Model). That way, Windows will handle processing tasks related to inputting and outputting sound data rather than using up CPU resources from within your DAW program. Other features to look out for include phantom power, which allows condenser microphones to operate properly; MIDI In/Out ports; S/PDIF connectors; headphone outputs; and word clock connections. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you’re planning on using any external instruments or effects processors along with your audio interface, then those items will likely need their own dedicated USB ports. When it comes to selecting among different models from different brands, price is always a factor. But here are some ways you can save money without sacrificing performance: Buy refurbished products – This can give new life to older models that were discontinued by manufacturers but still perform just fine otherwise. Check for a warranty – Some audio interface manufacturers offer extended warranties that cover product replacement or repair for an additional year. Look into financing options – Online retailers like Sweetwater, Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend offer financing options through third-party lenders like Synchrony Bank. A wide range of payment plans are available to help you spread out your payments over several months. Check user reviews online to see if anyone else had issues with your desired model and read product descriptions carefully. Keep in mind that recording gear may contain various acronyms, but they’re usually pretty easy to decipher once you get familiar with them.

Alex J

Author Alex J

Alex J is an entrepreneur, music producer & artist based in Miami, FL USA. He is the Founder/CEO of The Noisematch Group: Noisematch Studios, Noisematch Films, MusicMastermind.TV and NM digital.

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