Home > home recording, music, Songwriting > Behind the scenes: Freep Studios Tour

Behind the scenes: Freep Studios Tour

Hello Freep Nation. I thought it was high time to offer a little behind-the-scenes glimpse at Freep Studios. It will make for a short tour, but if there’s anyone out there wanting to record at home and wondering what it takes to get started with a minimal setup, this post will provide a few insights.

My Strat and my $15 yard sale practice amp - three records worth of fun!

Remember, what your about to see is legendary – some (my mom) might even say hallowed – musical ground. Fearless Freep’s last three records, Fossils, This Island Life, and You’re Still You in Camouflage, were all recorded right here. Don’t touch anything inside, but feel free to take pictures, etc. Everyone have their tickets? Okay. The guided tour will take approximately 10 minutes. Don’t forget to hit the Fearless Freep GIFT SHOP on your way out. Enjoy!

I record in the bedroom of my apartment. It’s a one-bedroom unit, so space is at a premium. Anyone wondering if a den, apartment or dorm room is too small for a minimal recording setup needn’t worry. My setup is the size of a folding card table, literally. It takes up one corner of the room.

Below is the list of items you need to record at home (or at least the list of stuff that I have):

I use a Mac & Garageband. Great for beginners!

COMPUTER: I record on a MacBook Pro using Garageband. I’m pondering an upgrade to Logic, Apple’s pro-grade software with all the bells and whistles – 40 gigs worth of guitar effects, orchestral sounds, etc., plus super cool editing ability. For now however, Garageband is extremely versatile. Especially if you’re a beginner, I’d recommend spending the extra dough on a Mac and using the out-of-box Garageband software. I just upgraded computers and so am using Garageband 9 for the first time. It’s got lots of new features since the last version (or at least the last one I was using). You can jam along with a built-in ‘band’. You can record multiple takes in a single session without stopping and starting (great for soloing). If you’re a real beginner, there are built-in lessons, too. I haven’t checked them out – probably should!

One note: if you’re shopping for a computer and you’re even halfway serious about recording music with it, spend money on memory, i.e. RAM. You want, at the very minimum, 1 gig of it. I have 2, which was all I could afford (with a Mac). Get 4 gigs if you can spring for it.  Recording in real time requires mucho processing power, particularly if you’re stacking up tracks.

AXE: My guitar is a Mexican Fender Stratocaster, roughly 12 years old. The intonation is terrible, especially on the high E. I have to take it in for servicing, but that means being without for a couple days, so I keep putting it off. I have two acoustics as well, but the Strat is my favorite to play. Don’t ask me why – I know it’s a piece of junk, but I like it. Perhaps because I don’t have another electric to compare it to.

The Blue Snowball USB. Looks funny, sounds awesome!

USB MIC: I got the Snowball USB mic two Christmases ago. It was, I can assure you, one of the BEST Christmas gifts I’ve received recently. (Thank you Mom and Dad!) These retail for about $100 and are worth every penny, especially if someone gives it to you as a gift! It’s versatile and wonderfully simple. The signal is already digital, so there’s no need to convert from an analog mic – just plug and play. No software is required. I can’t speak for all programs or platforms, but the Mac recognized it and knew what to do with it upon first plug-in.

I’ve recorded three albums on this mic – both vocals and guitar. For vocals – this is ghetto, I know – I set the Snowball on top of an unused floor lamp. The round mic fits nicely into the hollow cone atop the lamp, and it’s the perfect height. The Snowball is, I should mention, threaded for whatever I assume is the standard setup for a mic-stand fitting. I’m just cheap. Didn’t I promise a minimal setup?

To record guitar, I set the microphone in front of my amplifier and then strum away. (Or, at least, this is what I used to do. More on that later.) The Snowball comes with a small tripod stand about 6 or 8″ high – good height for a small floor amp.

AMP: If you live in an apartment like I do, you have to worry about neighbors. This is especially true if, like me, you are not particularly good. I use a single 8″ practice amp that came from a yard sale. It gets loud enough to potentially annoy the neighbors, but not loud enough to rattle their flatscreen television off from its mounts on the shared wall.

My newest toy - a direct guitar interface. (Not solely for guitar, but that's what I use it for).

INTERFACE: I just got this puppy, and so have not really used it yet beyond a few hours of messing around. I can already tell it’s going to be a huge improvement. The guitar cable plugs directly into it, and it plugs via USB into the computer, eliminating the need to mic the amplifier. That reduces a lot of buzz, and you’re not reliant on the quality of your cheap, garage sale amplifier.

With this unit, I could record guitar and vocal simultaneously – there are two inputs. I say “could” because I don’t have an analog microphone – just the Snowball. But, should I decide to invest in a high-quality mic in the future, I’ll be ready to go. In any case, the other advantage here is that the guitar is not amplified at all; your neighbors, your parents, your roommate, your wife will have nothing at all to complain about. (Well, one less thing anyway).

HEADPHONES: This is essential. Your headphones are your monitor – letting you hear what you’re playing/singing in real time as you record. Mine aren’t studio-quality headphones by any means, but they are nice, noise-cancelling phones and work very well (I don’t use the noise-cancelling feature while recording; they’re just a nice pair of headphones that I happened to own for airline travel). Don’t even try to get by with iPhone earbuds. Not worth it.

So, that’s it. Thanks for peeking into Freep Studios. Now get out, because I have to get some sleep. Wondering what I actually do with all this stuff? Visit the Fearless Freep  GIFT SHOP – there’s even some free stuff in there!

Rock on!

C

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  1. Kim
    August 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I know you’ve explained this to me before but now I think I actually understand it!

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