My Minimalist Studio

How much do you need to make a recording? These days the answer is simple – just a laptop and headphones. If you are recording something with actual acoustic instruments or voice then you need at least a microphone and an interface as well. But once you start down the path of building your own recording studio it is like falling down the rabbit hole of gear.

As a professional guitarist, I am no stranger to Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.). I have never been the guy who buys a new guitar every 6 months and hides it in an older case so the wife doesn’t find out but I have met guys who are like that. Instead I try to buy only what I need, so I haven’t bought a guitar in 14 years. In that time however, especially in the last 6 years, I have been building my recording studio. On my limited public school music teacher budget, I began researching all that I truly need to make the kinds of recordings I want too.

Over time I pieced together these items:

  • Full size Casio Electric Piano (bought new, midi controller and writing tool)
  • Parker Fly Deluxe Electric Guitar (I purchased new 18 years ago)
  • Classical Guitar by Alan Harold Chapman (I purchased new 14 years ago)
  • Marshall JVM410 Head (6 years old bought used)
  • Focusrite Pro 40 interface
  • (includes 3rd party plugins by Softube, Novation, and Focusrite)
  • AKG Perception 120 Microphone
  • Audio Technica 2020 Microphone
  • Audio Technica 2021 Microphone
  • Alesis Point Seven Monitors (bought used)
  • Alesis RA 100 power Amp (bought used)
  • Presonus Fader Port
  • Mac Mini
  • Two computer monitors on a rack.
  • Studio One 3
  • Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones
  • Sennheirser HD 535 headphones
  • 3 microphone stands
  • 2 pop screens
  • Cables

I look at this list and I am not so sure this¬†qualifies as Minimalist!! However,¬†it is simple and it is all that I need to produce high quality music in my home. I have spent time and money in a “pro studio” and I know how much more comfortable and efficient my “home studio” is. If I was only recording myself, it would be too much, but occasionally I record a full band and that is when the extra equipment comes into play.

A Minimal Mindset

If you ever look at the Sweetwater Pro Gear Catalog you can see the vast assortment of gear available and how much money you can spend on setting up a studio. What I have tried to do was recognize that a $3,000 microphone was not going to make my vocal performances sound $3,000 better than they do on my $99 microphone. I have sung on both and it is still me and my song. Michael Jackson cut Billie Jean on a $350 mic and Bono cuts all his vocals on a Sure SM 58 ($99). Certainly there are other considerations in the chain like preamps, compressors, eq’s, and the board itself. The internet is filled with forums professing the greatness of one piece of gear over another. But let’s face it, all of that is just more stuff and does not make your song a hit.

Instead, it is buying into the myth that if I own all of those things, then somehow that is the secret to recording a great song. It is the same trap that drives all consumer spending. This new device will make me sexy, smart, hip, and happy. I look at my studio as my instrument. It is a tool for creativity and expression. Being creative and expressive makes me happy. Is my studio the finest? No, but it is enough and I think that is more important. Instead of dreaming about the day that I will have The Gear to make My Song a hit, I write and release a new song every month and I love it.