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How to Save Money in Your Home Studio

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This post is part of a series called Creative Session: DIY Guides.
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Studio equipment is expensive! If things keep breaking, replacing them can rack up quite a cost. If you're like me, you want to make every cent count. Here are a few tips about cutting costs.


1. Consider Second Hand Gear

It’s amazing how many people won’t buy second hand gear because they have to have the "best". They want something brand new and shiny. This train of thought will cost you a lot more money in the long run - money you might not have to have spent.

Second hand gear can be just as great as new gear. Only it’s been used before and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper! Why do most people sell their gear? It’s usually because they’re upgrading, not because there is something wrong with it.

Think about it. If you upgrade your console are you really going to keep the one you never use, or sell it and make some of your money back on the ridiculously expensive piece of new equipment you bought?


2. Take Care of Your Cables

Cables just cost a couple of pounds or dollars here and there right? But are they costing you more than they should be?

Inside your cables are thin copper wires that are very delicate. Bending the cable one way and then the other will and can break cause breakages. These things are delicate and need to be looked after. If you have to replace them every other week you’re going to spend most your income replacing them.

There are proper coiling techniques that can be learnt that will save you a lot of money in the long run. Don't wrap them around your elbow! You will also want to buy some cable ties so they don’t keep uncoiling.

But if you’re more of the DIY Person you could always bulk order the materials and make your own cables, I’ve known people to do this and they save a lot of money for that little extra work. If you're interested, check out Glynn Davies' article.


3. Make the Most of Your Space

Drums

We know drums are LOUD, and they take up a lot of space. If you’re struggling for space and can’t soundproof the room there is an alternative: drum samples.

Yeah, drum samples can do a great job on a track. Of course they're not as flexible when trying to get the sound you want like you can with a real drum kit, and they will probably sound somewhat artificial. But if you’re on a budget I guarantee these will do you well!

And you can probably find some cheap or freeware samples around the Net.

Amps

Amps take up a lot of room as well, and if you really want a small cheap setup these are the way to go. You can pay out a lot of money for expensive amps, or get yourself a amp simulator/plug-in. For example, Amplitube 3 is a great piece of software.

Again, these can sound quite artificial at times, but not always. And again, it's not as flexible when trying to get the sound you want compared to owning your own amps.


4. DIY Equipment

Do vocal booths and pop shields cost too much? Looking for an alternative? Do it yourself! I warn you these things are not pretty if you’re looking to make a professional studio. But they do the job pretty well.

Pop Shields – Tights

Yeah, that's right. Go steal a pair of your girlfriend's, wife’s or mother's tights. You can make a pretty good pop shield by stretching them over a coat hanger. Be creative - they may do a good job.

Vocal Booths – Foam or Two Couches

Who would have thought? I have known people to lie two couches on their side and put them together with a microphone inside. If you manage to stuff your singer inside you can apparently get quite good results!

Or you could just put a large piece of foam behind the microphone. This does a good job if your low on cash.

Again, be creative and use anything that you can get your hands on that will absorb sound. Carpets not worth bothering with - I’ve known people who've tried.

Cables – Build from Parts

This solution isn’t so improvised: as I mentioned earlier, buying parts in bulk and putting together your own cables can save you a lot of money if you’re a DIY person.


5. Get the Most from Your Computer

Computers are an important part of any studio, and you need a good one to run all your programs and plug-ins. There are a few ways to cut costs here, but not many.

Make sure you know what software you want to run before you get your computer, as some software only runs on certain operating systems. I prefer Mac OSX for Logic Studio, but that’s just me. You might be perfectly happy running Cubase on your Windows computer.

Upgrade

Your computer will need a lot of processing power to run all these programs and plug-ins, but instead of buying a new computer when your old one starts to struggle, take off the case and upgrade some of the hardware.

A better processor and some more RAM should do the trick. And as we know WAV and AIFF files are large, so a bigger hard drive is important.

Converting your files to the smaller MP3 format is not recommended - it is a compressed file format that will ruin the quality of your audio files. I would recommend getting an external drive to put all your finished work onto, freeing space on your hard drive. And keep a backup in case your computer decides to break down on you (as they do).

Track Freezing

If your computer's starting to struggle and you’re a little low on cash, you can freeze tracks on most digital audio workstations (DAWs). This will write your plug-in details as audio, and save you some of that much loved processing power. Read more in these tutorials by Björgvin and Sean.

Well, there are my tips on saving money in the studio. Feel free to add to them in the comments.

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