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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 2012"




A typical home studio [not mine!]

The 2012 update on the best home studio thinking today?

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


This is a short update on all the latest 2012 thinking in studio design, equipment, software. My advice would be to check out my other articles on studios and soundproofing, acoustic treatment etc. as this is an update rather than a complete advice article ... go to LIST OF ARTICLES to see what you can learn from.

They say that knowledge increases by the ratio of 5 each year ... WOW!

Also, with that in mind, the improvement in equipment and studio stuff must improve by that much? Perhaps! But I don't think that happens in the real world. The equipment improvements are available but it would make sense for the manufacturers to just drip feed them to us?

Already, Apple almost compel us to improve our Mac computers almost every year. And I must say, the power increases are humungous. We drool over the power now available - but the cost?

I made a promise to the members of my Serious Writers Guild all those years ago, when we started, that I would look after their money ... in other words, I would show them how to "make the money not spend the money" ... so every bit of advice I give should give you the best 'bang for your buck'.

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

Still the same ... with no argument accepted. I just could not conceive of using a PC for all the recording and video work I do ... no way! The speed, reliability and sheer convenience of Mac is not negotiable.

The Industry standard computer in music is the Apple Macintosh ….

Latest is Mac Pro with a choice of 4, 6, 8 or 12 cores of processing power. Just imagine the power and speed?

Just be aware that Apple have always had a way of upgrading their computer systems ... G4 then G5 ... with programmes called all sorts of names: Tiger, Leapord, now Snow Leapord and going to Lion.

I hear dreadful tales of the Lion system ... my pals are simple reloading the ultra reliable Snow Leopard ... you have been warned!

Running two monitor screens is still the best way of working.

Apple Mac Pro  Apple Mac Pro Tower   Freecom External Hard Drive

The only change I would make from last year would be to have quite a few back up hard drives ... one for general backing up music files ... another for Time Machine, which is the dedicated Mac automatic back up system. Then, every album project I do has everything copied to an external drive specific for that album or project. They are so cheap today ... £30 for 250GB?

Finally, as Apple recommend, I have another Hard Drive in constant use using the on board 'Time Machine' programme which continually takes snaphots of the entire computer on an ongoing basis .... does a PC do all that? In my experience a pale imitation.

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 still 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.

In the last few years Sonar has got a foothold as it is very user friendly for disabled folk particularly partially sighted music makers.

The latest version is Protools 10 … just released but needs an Intel equipped Mac to facilitate it. Costs around £200 for the software.

An interesting innovation is the Avid dedicated keyboard which emphasises all the shortcuts rather than using the mouse .... looks good and should speed up sessions immeasurably CLICK HERE to view.

ProTools keyboard Latest Avid ProTools dedicated keyboard

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.

Recently Digidesign [or Avid as it is now known] have allowed other DAW makers to use ProTools software ... so the market has opened up to the likes of Focusrite ...

Check out the latest Focusrite units ... they look tasty.

This section is concentrating on the latest developments so please refer back to http://www.makehits.co.uk/art030.htm constantly for info on standard equipment needed.

N.B. I am advised that AVID, who are 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 6, FL Studio 9, Ableton Live 8, Reason 5 and Record 1.5, Cakewalk Sonar, Acid Pro 7, Adobe Audition 3, Magix Samplitude 11 Pro, Presonus Studio One Pro 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.

Once you get the first bite from a Record company for your home made music they will ask the immortal question: "do you have the ProTools files so that we can have a remix done?" You are then well and truly 'stuffed'.

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

The drift is toward plug-in software based sound modules ... all of a sudden they have become very, very useable and sound great.

***** in 2012 there is a huge move to on board keyboard sounds ....

There is also a huge move towards 'toys' as we used to call them. Korg, in particular, have cornered the market with their exceptional Kaossilator series ... these can be played by any kid with practically zilch knowledge of music ... just an ear for 'sounds' and relatively good timing ....

But the results are top of the range 'radio ready' sounds.

Kaossilator Kaossilator Pro Dynamic Phrase Synth

Just a a tiny part of the range - extremely useful for bringing your toons into the year 2012

Click on images to access complete range of these Korg 'toys'

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting What's this I hear about massive sample strings, choirs, vocals? Any good?

The majority of hugh classy TV music and Film music is being created with mega expensive 'too good to be true' sample based music.

East West and such companies are now selling high end sample programmes such as Symphonic Choirs ... a software which allows you to type in a phrase and yes, the choir will sing it.


Likewise there are Vienna Strings bringing orchestras right into your computer ... there are Steinways and Bosendorfer pianos with facilities for having the sound through variously positioned microphones.

But all of these come at a cost and also a requirement for huge memory space ... typically 35-40 GBytes per programme. So a studio kitted out with a selection would have 600+ Gigabytes of memory with super fast retrieval speeds ... talk to me about these.

With a Mac simply buy an extra Hard Drive for your tower ... then load the sample library/libraries onto the new hard drive and tell the programme to find it ... simple as that.

The new generation of USB2 and USB3 standdalone hard drives should do the same but I have not had good success ... the extra built in Terrabyte hard drive works best for me.

Good useful information at HERE to make sure you get the right Hard Drive for your Mac.

Another factor in the equation is the huge learning curve involved when it comes to the massive programmes ... you simply have to put the time aside to learn how to use them well.

  Typical CPU about an inch wide

The reverbs etc. are, to my mind, still constrained in their quality and generally are not to the highest excellence because of the CPU problem.

I still 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 is also still the other keyboard and sound module of choice.

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?

Almost all sampling is done through the recording software ... but for speed and convenience a few die hards, like myself, prefer the convenience of hands on hardware samplers.

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

My advice still remains the same although Digital mixers are becoming more and more accepted. 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.

On a side issue, lots of venues now have digital lighting consoles as the mainstay of their lighting control. I have never ONCE been in a venue [outside the big theatres and hired in lighting rigs] where anyone knew the first idea about working the lighting control desks ... unbelievable but true.

They simply leave it set to flashing old-school disco flashing although the capabilities are limitless ... sadly, each manufacturer has differing protocols so it is quite impossibe to get them to work without a week of studying the manual ... most venues cannot even switch them on!

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 are gaining in popularity and it is your choice, after all, whether you want the learning curve?

Again, there is no standarisation ....

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

My experience still tells me the same story. I just like the bigness of quality outboard FX units ... I have never heard a digital effect to compare.

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?

Still the same .....

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 still the TLA Audio Fatman 11 … stereo valve compressor used by all the top Hip Hop guys ….

  The incredible Fatman

You certainly hear it working …

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?

Yep ... the advice is still the same....

I would consider a stand alone drum module … very quick, easy and handy to use … I use the Alesis DM5 as my main drum sound module … but am also using the on board ProTools stuff. The latest DM10 is a wonder ... check it out here: Alesis DM10 Demo




                                                               Alesis DM10 drum sound module

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

No change ...

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.

Still 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?

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.

USB mics are beginning to make an impression ... used straight into your computing recording with USB ... I use a Monacor DM-500USB for talking stuff ... quite tasty.

I was with Gordon Giltrap the other day at the funeral of Bert Weedon ... also nice to see the 'good guys' of the guitar world there ... Brian May ... Joe Brown .. Chas McDevitt.

The genius that is Gordon giltrap The genius that is Gordon Giltrap ... my pal!

Gordon has just developed a phenomenal idea for holding a microphone in place while recording acoustic guitar .... this is what he says:

"I am currently working with Rob Aitchison of www.exploraudio.com to promote a Signature GG H clamp, a wonderful device for use in live performance and recording. The H clamp fits securely to most acoustic instruments and will accommodate most microphones. It allows movement whilst recording, thus maintaining a chosen mike position for ones instrument. There are H clamp’s to fit most instruments including cello and double bass as well as percussion. A beautifully engineered product, and made in England!"

Personally I cannot wait to use this ingenious idea.

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

Still 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].

Free|tips writing acting|music|producing|songwriting PreAmps?

You will notice I still 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 … for the type of commercial money making productions I do.

But you could look at Focusrite .... then examine your wallet closely!

The business?

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 Red 100 reflection filter

This idea is now used for drum recording ... miniature versions of the big one ... great results. Watch the video:

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

The CD recorder?

I prefer to use a standalone CD recorder for final mixes ... yes you can use the onboard CD recorder if you mix on screen.

I have recently upgraded my recorder and now use Teac .... good and easy to use ... does not have a knob for recording level [a knob makes it easier to wind down to 0 at end of mix for total quiet]. I can still wind down but it is not as quick as a knob.

Benefit of the latest recorders is that they will use any old Data or Music disc ... but I still use top of the range Music blank CD's.

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 [email me?]


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


Get Dec to look at your recording skills, writing skills..... show you the quickest way to stardom.

A full day's Consultation with Dec ... he will show you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong ... this is a total short cut to fame and fortune.



This Article was written by Dec Cluskey

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