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Member’s Success Story:

Hi Dec

I bought a Mac G5 to use totally for my recording.

Yes it was expensive (compared to a PC) but it was probably the best purchase I ever made.

It looks great, it records brilliantly (I use Logic) and the thing has never let me down.
It’s never crashed once.

Mac is the industry standard creative platform…..graphics and sound. End of……

Paul Hartley
 [Serious Writers Guild Member]


















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"Home Studio" 

4 minutes on the Net with Dec



A typical home studio [not mine!]


  The 2009 update on the best home studio thinking today?

How to have the professional standard in your home studio - the best, for the least cost


The idea sounds good?  A GREAT HOME STUDIO?  YOUR OWN HOME STUDIO? THE BEST HOME STUDIO?  But how much will it cost?  Mac or PC?  Cubase or Protools?  Dec gives you the latest low-down.

My take on all this home studio stuff is that you should get to know the equipment used in all major studios throughout the world and aspire to achieve that standard in your own home studio.   Don't compromise.  Research will get you this knowledge.  A wish list will hone your lust for the equipment and a keen sense of bargaining will get it for you at the right price ...  Ebay is king?

How much?  Well I would suggest you set your sights on the equipment below and aim to spend less than £3,000 ... in fact, well less than £3,000.  For that you will have a stunning, professional, home studio.

So ... learn from the best ... I have always worked that way …. Why repeat the mistakes of others in their home studios when you can learn from their mistakes and not make them in the first place?

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What computer in your home studio?

The Industry standard computer is the Apple Macintosh …. no argument … no discussion. Latest is G5 dual core/quad core/8 core. Running the Apple Leopard programme platform. G4 is quite acceptable and powerful for home use.…. I was running G4 until recently and now run G5 dual core with the latest Leopard upgrade in my home studio … I run two display monitors … one for edit and one for mixer display. [check Ebay to familiarise yourself with the pricing]

  Apple Mac G5 Tower   Freecom External Hard Drive

  Apart from knowing that you have the industry standard computer, Mac is just the easiest to work on and work with ... adding hardware is an absolute doddle ... even to me ... and working with it knocks a PC into the last century.

I should add that I run this computer solely for music … nothing else! I advise others to do the same. I have a 250GB external Freecom hard drive so after each project I clear out all the unnecessary takes from the session and store the final product [after mixing] on the Freecom … thus the Mac is clean and working to it’s maximum potential with no clutter in the memory. All the silly additional programmes have been stripped out. Only Toast Titanium is necessary for handling and sending MP3’s.

All members of The Serious Writers Guild can call Dec direct on his private phone line to his desk to discuss any points. 

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What Sequencing/Recording software in your home studio?

Protools is the most common professional standard sequencing and recording software right throughout the Industry …. Don’t even consider anything else …. It is standard through the world. A few use Logic 8 … usually for orchestral or dance music in their home studio.

No one of note uses anything else … only the amateurs and novices. You will always see on a sleeve note: “Protools editing by *****” …. You will never see “Cubase editing” or “Logic editing”?

The latest version is Protools 8 … just released [that is what I use in my studio]

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What Sequencing/Recording hardware in your home studio?

You have to use a DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] to interface between your microphones, guitars etc. and the computer software ... in other words, you have to plug into the hardware box and it converts the signal to a digital stream that the computer can interpret.

There are 3 popular methods to interface with Protools … HD [the massive Hard Disc system used in the major studios] … LE [typically though Digidesign 003 Rack] and the MBox [starter home system]

ProTools HD 96 inputs/ouputs

Digidesign 003 Rack Factory

Digidesign MBOX Pro front/rear

As a DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] interface I use the Digidesign 003 Rack Factory … 8 inputs, 8 outputs … perfect for professional home studio use … used by most successful music guys.

Go to the Digidesign site at http://www.digidesign.com … they make the most respected hardware packages for Protools .. right up to the mighty studio systems ….. HD [Hard Disc] … as I said, most top producers use 003 Rack in their home based studios [as I do] … MBox is the beginner's entry level interface.

At the Digidesign site:

Pro Tools HD Systems [the major studio stuff … price approx £10,000 before all the plug-ins]
To view compatibility information for a particular version of Pro Tools HD, select the Pro Tools HD version from the list under Pro Tools HD in the Support & Downloads section.

Pro Tools LE Systems [price around £800 for 003]
To view compatibility information for a particular version of Pro Tools LE for 003 Family, Digi 002 Family, Mbox 2 Family, and original Mbox systems, select the Pro Tools LE version from the list under Pro Tools LE in the Support & Downloads section.

Pro Tools M-Powered & Pro Tools Academic Systems [around £250 for MBox]
To view compatibility information for a particular version of Pro Tools M-Powered for qualified M-Audio systems, select the M-Powered or Academic version from the list under Pro Tools M-Powered in the Support & Downloads section.

N.B. I am advised that AVID, who seem to be the parent company controlling Protools, Digidesign and M-Audio [previously Midiman] intend to re-brand all products with the name AVID ... confusing at the moment when looking at Protools DAW equipment.

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting Why not Windows PC and Cubase, Reason, Cakewalk, Sonar etc. in your home studio?

Be aware that once you get talked into PC you will immediately be on a tread mill of spend, spend, spend to try and get the same results that you can get from a Mac and Protools straight away.  Straight out of the box.

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What keyboards?  Software plug-ins or real keyboards  in your home studio?

You can use software keyboards etc. but most pros use proper outboard keyboards, effects and compressors through a good quality mixing desk and onto a CD recorder.

The problem with software is that you are always limited by the CPU [computer processing unit] power of the computer …

  Typical CPU about an inch wide

The reverbs etc. are thus constrained in their quality and generally are not to the highest excellence.

I use Korg Triton as a main keyboard … this acts as the main mother keyboard linked to all the other keyboards and sound modules through MIDI [Musicial Instrument Digital Interface] … Yamaha Motif, Korg 05R/W, Roland U110, Kawai K1 are the most used …. The Triton, Motif and Roland have 6 outputs each … so I have massive Midi driven music power. [I prefer to run the Midi stuff live when mixing … it is cleaner and doesn’t take up sound recording space on Protools]

Realistically, any broken down keyboard can act as a sound module ... it is what is played that counts - not what the unit cost.  A better keyboard will not produce a better song.

N.B. Always use a powered Midi splitter rather than daisy chaining [from one unit to the next one] when sending MIDI information around your studio to different MIDI units ... otherwise the signal can deteriorate ...  Nexus and Midiman make good units.

  Korg Triton   Yamaha Motif Rack

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What Samplers?  Software or Hardware in your home studio?

I also use two standalone hardware samplers … I find them much quicker and easier to use than onboard computer sampling … although I use onboard as well … Akai are the most popular. S950 is the all time great workhorse and quick sampler [8 individual outputs] The S2000 [massively powerful but unwieldy to use].  These are picked up for pennies.

    Akai S950   Akai S2000

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What Mixer?  On screen or a real mixer ... analogue or digital in your home studio?

Yes, you can mix on screen but then you are constrained to the CPU power of the computer and the quality of on-board effects.

As regards mixing I use 2 X 24 channel Soundcraft mixers in my home studio …. solid, well built and ultra reliable.  I use two so that I then get 6 Auxiliary sends on each desk for outboard effects … making 12 at my disposal instantly. Don’t touch Mackie or Behringer [except the XENYX Eurorack series]


Two Soundcraft 24 channel mixers?  Pretty powerful and sensible.


All members of The Serious Writers Guild can call Dec direct on his private phone line to his desk to discuss any points. 


Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting Digital desk in your home studio?

Digital desks, in my opinion, have a little way to go so that all the manufacturers agree on a common operating system. They each have a distinct different methodology … this is annoying. I have been using the Yamaha LS9 recently and have been very disappointed in various aspects … slow in operation toward a comparable analogue desk and the plug ins [compressors, effects] are disappointing for a reasonably expensive desk [around £4,500].

  I am not impressed by the Yamaha LS9 mixing desk

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting Plug-in effects or stand alone rack mounted in your home studio?

Whilst the Protools onboard effects are Okay … I only use the Long Delay programme [you hear it on nearly every hit track today] … I prefer outboard effects … I have approx 13 from memory in my home studio …. My favourites are USA built … because you certainly hear them working … ART … Digitech … Multiverb … then Lexicon [the Industry standard for reverb] … Roland for its Roland RSS effects: throws the repeats and choruses right out past the left/right speakers … I also have a few Zoom 1201 and 1204 … very clean and very reasonably priced. I go by the sound not by the price. Being a brand snob gives ‘branditis’  - a debilitating disease among music guys that is hard to get rid of [grin!] I must have been immunised against this at an early age? Ears tell you the quality … not price … or brand name.

The on-board effects on the Triton and Motif can by very nice.

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting Self powered plug-ins in your home studio?

There is a type of self powered plug-in system which has it’s own CPU and thus operates independently of the computer. UAD are probably the best for these … I have looked at them and am personally not convinced that there is a benefit in using them. http://www.uaudio.com

The UAD series are reasonably priced but I have seen others with huge price tags ... I prefer to have the real thing!

  The UAD plug-in hardware - with it's own CPU - plugs into the Tower.

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting Compressors in your home studio?

Compressors are the unsung heroes of hit recording … not understood by amateurs and novices but the successful guys know compressors inside out …. My essential compressor for lead vocals is the TLA Audio Fatman 11 … stereo valve compressor used by all the top Hip Hop guys ….

  The incredible Fatman

You certainly hear it working … then DBX, Drawmer [these tend to be very transparent and not easily heard] … Behringer have raised their game and now have a huge reputation though their 'Composer' … standard in touring shows.  I use a few '4 in 1' units …. Four compressors in one rack unit. My favourite is LA Audio 4C ….  Behringer make a Multicom ... theory is good but I have been let down by one in a touring situation ... once bitten twice shy?

Again, I am not impressed by the compressor plug-ins although I have used ‘Bomb Factory’ in the Protools set up …. Yes, you can hear it working but I much prefer the outboard sound.

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting A dedicated drum sound module in your home studio?

I would consider a stand alone drum module … very quick, easy and handy to use … I have used the Alesis D4 very successfully for years and now use the Alesis DM5 as my main drum sound module … I always use drum samples, as well, to layer the sounds and get a perfect ‘for the track’, ‘new’, drum sound … then I sample that and keep it safe for re-use. Thus, my drum sounds are evolving with each project.



                                                               Alesis DM5 drum sound module

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What monitors in your home studio?

Monitors are the most important part of a studio set-up. All the great equipment is no good unless you hear it properly …
After sound proofing and insulating your home studio ensure that it is as dead sounding as possible … see http://www.makehits.co.uk/art019.htm for this advice.

The only monitors to use in your home studio are the ancient Yamaha NS10S …. Industry standard throughout the world, easily identified by their cute white cones and essential for mixing hit records … despite what the amateurs and novices say … and that is why you see them in every major studio … it is a constant, accurate, reference point right through the world. Hard to find but worth the search.

I recommend the Studiosound look-alikes SN10 to all Members of the Serious Writers Guild and have never had a complaint .. at £97? A silly price.

  Studiospares SN10   Yamaha NS10 - spot the difference?

Personally I use the NS10’s for all the listening work, and mixing … whilst checking the mixes on a pair of high quality domestic Hi Fi speakers [KEF Corelli and higher powered KEF Carina 11] … this gives me an accurate indication of how a domestic listener would hear the tracks. These kick out just under 100 DB SPL.  You could consider Bang & Olufsen .. pricy but very tasty.

Genelec have a good reputation ... as do Alesis, KRK.

For main, full powered, studio speakers I use custom built Nightfire speakers … 20Hz to 20KHz … 137DB SPL [Sound Pressure Level] … extremely loud … only used to finally check a mix or to check a suspected frequency mishap in the mix.  There are many main monitor speakers ... research them.  Starting with Altec.

Of course, it is essential to drive them with the biggest power amp you can afford [with no cooling fan] … I use an ancient Quad 303 for the NS10S … now can you find one of them? I also use a 1,000 watt Yamaha [with no fan … keeps the inherent noise down]

Some monitors are self powered ... making for a very efficient system.

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What microphones in your home studio?

Microphones are the easiest to choose … you need one good condenser mic. for vocals …. Neumann are Industry Standard but have a prohibitive price tag.  I use the Shure KSM27 mostly … a superb all round microphone that has featured on many of my huge selling tracks … the Shure SM58 is industry standard for vocals … and the SM57 for instrument and drum miking.

I am in  a lucky position where I get given a lot of new microphones to test and recommend ... quite frankly it is hard to tell the difference between any of them except for solo voice or choir recording.

N.B. The law in California states that any item that touches the mouth cannot be returned to a shop ... that makes testing microphones in studios impossible?

Shure KSM27

Shure SM58

Shure SM57 with the only
guitar equipment to use

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What earphones in your home studio?

The last requirement for a good home studio, to ensure a professional standard, is earphones.  Essential, when recording, as you will most likely not have a live recording space separate to the control room.

The Industry standard, just like NS10S, is Beyer Dynamic DT100 …

    used in every major studio in the world and in TV and Radio. They are modular built so any part can be replaced if broken or damaged. Very high SPL and comfortable to use … with padding to isolate the sound from microphones etc. when tracking [playing or singing with a track to record].

I use these for recording … through a Behringer Powerplay Pro which can deliver sound for up to 8 sets of earphones. Again, a product which Behringer have got right.

For general Midi music writing to computer and overall listening [after my self imposed 10pm cut-off] I use Sennheiser lightweight earphones … excellent quality but slightly lacking in SPL … this is a benefit as it makes me keep the level down from ‘blood dripping from the ears’ … which can cause long term ear damage. The softness of the earpieces is excellent for lengthy sessions.

Sennheiser HD400 and HD414 … classic earphones with soft, soft foam … http://www.sennheiser.co.uk

Beyer Dynamic DT150 have an extended bass frequency range … but I have never found that necessary for studio work.

You will notice I do not dwell on Pre-Amps … mainly because I have never found the necessity to use them … I consider the pre-amps on the Digidesign 003 to be fine … I never compress or limit when recording [only on mix down] … I intend to trial a few on my next major project … but until then … my thought is that they may be important for Andrea Bocelli or Celine Dion but not for the crash bang wallop music that tends to make the money … and that is what I do … make the money.

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting  So what else do I need to get started in your home studio?

A good pop shield in front of the microphone -  many are available and quite cheap.  Check out www.Studiospares.com

The incredible Red 100 from StudioSpares in the UK is a sensational microphone reflection filter that sits behind the microphone and stops any unwanted echoes and reflections from entering the back of the microphone.  Stunning.

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting  And finally in your home studio?

The CD recorder?

Which make?  I have never been convinced that one is better than the other ... I still use my very first recorder .. a Phillips ... must be twelve years old.  And then, I bought it second hand as they were horrendously expensive when they first came on the market ... and no one really knew whether the format would become Industry Standard.

Just a word of warning ... never believe the argument that MP3, or, worse still, Mini Disc, is as good as 41.4Hz CD ... it simply is not!


All members of The Serious Writers Guild can call Dec direct on his private phone line to his desk to discuss any points. 

So .....

Best of luck with your next project ... with the gear above there is no excuse ... oh, except that you have to know what a hit record is and how to write it and produce it .... where do you learn that?  The Serious Writers Guild ... membership simply by purchasing "How To Make A $Million From Your Music"

By the way, never master your own material ... bring it to the best Mastering Suite you can afford.  a home studio can produce stunning top quality results but the Mastering Suite is where the 'fairy dust' is liberally sprinkled.

      Regards from Dec


The idea for this article on home studios was from songwriting and music making members of The Serious Writers Guild.  It gives an idea of the benefits of belonging to the Guild.  You can join simply by purchasing the ten month programme 'How to Make A $Million From Your Music' at www.makehits.co.uk/swgappsecure.htm


This Article was written by Dec Cluskey

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