Recording studios have changed so much in the past decade alone, it's easy to forget that a 'bedroom studio' is a modern invention.
Would the Beatles have bothered to go to Abbey Road if Ringo had all the microphones and interfaces in his living room?
That's a rhetorical question. But the point is that you can now make high quality recordings quite easily by yourself in the comfort of your own home. The rules still apply, however, to making a good recording. We've compiled some hints and tips for you below -
1. The recording will only ever be as good as the source.
In a nutshell, it has to sound right to record right. Think of your ear as an independent microphone. If it sounds off to you, it'll sound off to the recording deck.
There are simple things you can do to make sure your instruments are sounding at their best before recording - proper microphone placement, new guitar strings, fresh drum heads, even singing or playing some exercises to make sure you're warmed up and ready to play. The first thing everyone should do before a take is tune up.
You can edit your tracks post-recording, but there's only so much a computer can take away and put back in. Things like tone can only come from the instrument itself, so make sure they're all in good shape.
2. Save well and often
There's no excuse with modern hardware not to save your work. There's nothing worse than a software problem, power cut or other interruption to your work when you were just about to finish off that 8 minute track. I speak from experience!
3. Always have a spare.
The last thing you need is a string breaking halfway through that killer solo - but it does happen. What's worse is if you don't have a set to restring it, which wastes time. By the time you get back from the shop, the moment has passed. It sounds a bit bohemian but it's important once you're in the groove to stay there as much as possible.
The same applies to drum sticks, cables, anything that might possibly break. Sods law usually dictates that it will!
4. Don't believe everything you read on the internet.
It's a great place to go for advice, but there's a lot of misinformed information flying around on there. Much of it focuses on the belief that expensive equipment automatically yields better results. This isn't necessarily the case - like point 1 says, if the source itself is of poor quality it doesn't matter how powerful your studio is, it will still sound awful. Things like microphones and instruments will obviously affect the sound, but your choice of software shouldn't make too much difference. Likewise you'll see many recommendations for addition peripheral hardware like preamps and mixers or plugins on your recording software. 99% of the time, what comes as standard with your equipment will be more than capable of producing a high quality recording.
5. Don't skimp on Equipment
While it's true you don't need to spend the earth on equipment, there are some crucial bits that can make or break your recorded sound. Chief of these is the microphone - the more you spend, the better it will be. Make sure you're buying one tailored to your needs. Condenser microphones are versatile and can be used for a majority of instruments, but you might get away with a dynamic microphone if you're only recording vocals. Make sure your cables and interfaces are of good quality too. What strings does your guitar have on? Making sure your tools are of good quality will undoubtedly help in the long run.
Without a control room - unless you're very lucky - all your recording processes will happen in one room. This can make monitoring difficult, since you're listening to the live instrument as it happens as well as the recording. It's worth, in this instant, doing a few testers to make sure you're happy with the sound. Just record a few bars, stop, and listen back. This way you can tweak the sound without putting too much work into something that actually didn't come off so well on the record, even if it sounded great to you at the time.
7. Don't Panic.
If it doesn't sound right the first time, don't give up. Try again and see what happens. Have a look at why it didn't work, and see if something really simple would fix it.
If you have a wacky idea, chase it. Nobody won any prizes for following the herd.
Also, don't worry about not having a proper studio - Deep Purple recorded Machine Head in the corridors of the Grand Hotel, Montreux, using a mobile recording studio parked outside to capture it. It took them so long to get in and out of the hotel to listen to their takes, in the end they just kept performing until they were happy. Drummer Ian Paice is seen below in some cramped conditions!