Matt McQueen started recording as a hobbyist several years ago. Because he was a guitar player and in bands, recording was a side hobby for years, but then he started to invite bands and artists over to his home studio to record, and soon he was busy enough to start recording full time. Now, he is in his own commercial studio!
Today, he is here with us to share his Top 10 Tips for a Successful Studio!
All of these tips are also available as a cheat sheet for you to download! Click here to download the Top 10 Tips for a Successful Studio here!
1. Get a workhorse pair of large diaphragm condenser microphones.
I am calling this a workhorse pair because you can use it on multiple sources and get good results, and it also has a a lot of features to be able to help you to engineer the sounds that you want to get. Personally, I recommend the Shure KSM 44’s. These microphones have tons of different settings and ways you can use them, so they sound great of a variety of different sources. They are also not so expensive that they would break the bank for most people, but not so affordable that you question whether or not they will be a good microphone.
2. Keep tools on hand to do basic guitar setups and simple repairs.
I keep a screwdriver kit and a guitar repair tool kit in my studio. If you take the time to learn how to do basic intonation and basic setup, you can really save a session. Sometimes you’ll have a guitar player come to your studio, and you’ll notice that certain chords are just not ringing out the way they are supposed to, or you may have a buzz in an acoustic guitar part or electric guitar part, which is the last you want ruining the part that you are trying to record. By having these tools on hand, you can really save a session and keep things progressing forward and not have unwanted noises from poorly intonated or badly setup guitars.
3. Keep items around your studio to show hospitality to your clients and take care of their basic needs.
You really want your clients to feel comfortable and show them that you care about their basic needs. I like to keep some basics like bottled water, coffee, and tea in the studio, as well as some typical over the counter medication, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and allergy medication. The allergy medication is one I have found is great for allergy season in Tennessee, so that I don’t have a vocalist that is extra stuffy that day! Basic things like these also make sure that your artist is comfortable, and therefore able to focus on recording and their performance.
4. Back up your projects to multiple devices. You should have 3 copies of any project you want to keep forever.
One surefire way to damage your reputation as a recording and mixing engineer, is to not properly back up your sessions. Storage is so cheap now, there really is no excuse to not buy enough hard drives to back up your projects at least 3 times. There are tons of options for hard drives out there, so find the ones that work for you and make sure you have multiple!
5. Get invoicing software or an app to track money from clients.
Having invoicing software makes it so much easier to stay organized and keep track of where your money is coming in and going out. The software I use allows me to send invoices to people and they can play with a credit card directly from the invoice they get. Or if clients pay by cash or cheque, I am able to track that in this system and attach it to their invoice. I can attach multiple bank accounts, store all the necessary client information, and just keep everything organized.
6. Headphone and distribution system to get a great headphone mix for artists.
Artists are inspired by what they hear. You want to make sure that they are comfortable and have everything that they need in order to help them relax and perform to the nest of their ability.
I have a hear back remote, which allows me to send one stereo and six mono sources, or 4 pairs of stereo mixes, to this device. It has two headphone outputs on it, and a couple of line outputs. I actually have 6 of these in my studio! They are great for tracking a band live, because then the guitar player and the bass player and the drummer, don’t all have to share the same mix, they can all get the mix that they want to. They can each get the mix tailored to their exact needs.
7. A chair without arms or with arms that can be moved out of the way.
You want to be comfortable for long sessions! Having a chair that swivels, and without arms that may get in the way is so important for having a good workflow. You will have to move round a lot and you don’t want arms bumping into things.
You may also have a guitar player hand you an instrument that needs to be tuned, and arms could be inconvenient for this.
8. A DI Box and a reamping box.
Normally you would hook up to your DI box and you would have your guitar going in and a cable going out to your interface and then you would use the through jack of the DI to go in to the guitar amplifier. I actually don’t do that. I set up an output on the DI channel that I’m recording into in pro tools and have that coming in to the reamping box. By doing this, I am simultaneously recording the DI and the guitar track, just like you would normally, but if I need to make a few edits, I simply unarm the DI track, make my edits, and then reprint my electric guitar track, with my edits in place. Then, by the time you finish tracking guitars are done, all of the guitar tracks are edited.
9. Integrate a patch bay and cabling into your studio.
If you are going to build a successful studio business, at some point, you are going to need a patch bay. What the patch bay allows you to do is you have all of your inputs and all of your outputs connected to those patch points. Now, without having to crawl behind anything you can make a short cable connection from the output of one device to the output of another, and then back into your interface. While you’re tracking, it can also let you get creative with things like parallel compression because you can easily switch things around.
10. Tuners of all kinds. Clip on and pedal for guitars, and drum dial or Tune-Bot for drums.
Having a selection of tuners in your studio will help you make sure that all of your instruments, whether they are electrified or not, are in tune. But I want to go one step further than that when we are talking about tuners for your studio, and I want to talk about the Tune-Bot. This is a clip on tuner that clips onto the side of your drums and the reason that I think this is so important is because drum tuning was probably one of my weakest areas when I first started my studio. Having drums that are tuned properly for whatever genre you are recording is a game changer!
Watch the video below to learn more about Matt McQueen’s Tips for a Successful Studio!