Currently, more hip-hop artists than ever are achieving success through remaining independent. Artists like Brockhampton, Vince Staples, and Earl Sweatshirt are just a few examples of artists who started out recording their music at home and posting it online before being discovered.
The Internet has enabled anyone to publish their music online for free, through a variety of streaming websites, like Soundcloud, Spotify, and YouTube. In this day and age, if you have the perseverance, then you can easily get your music out there. Additionally, the Internet has also driven costs down on recording equipment so much that we’re at a point where you can easily purchase everything you need for a home recording studio for much lower prices than you could get anything for in the past.
In this article, we’ll outline exactly what you should look for in your home recording studio, with a focus on the equipment and specifications that every aspiring rapper should get familiar with.
The Must-Have Equipment
While keeping costs as low as you can, there are still some items that you absolutely have to have as a recording artist. Some of these are obvious, like a computer, microphone, or a mixing software like Logic Pro X. Others are less obvious, like a pair of high-quality headphones. While many of your listeners might be listening to your latest banger on a pair of ragged earbuds, it’s important that you as your own producer can hear every facet of your music, to ensure the highest quality of sound possible.
For your microphone, look at acquiring a pop filter. No, this isn’t a filter that’ll make your vocals sound like Billie Eilish – it’s a device that ensures your vocals don’t become distorted when using hard sounds like “P” or “B.” Oftentimes, a simple pop filter can make a big difference in adding a sense of smoothness and fluidity to your vocals, and you can find quality ones for cheap. They’re an inexpensive accessory that can make a professional difference in your recordings. A mic stand is something else you might not have thought of that’s pretty essential to the recording process – you might like the idea of holding a mic during your recording process, but there’ll be plenty of times when you’ll want your hands free.
Audio insulation is something else you’ll want to consider. If you have even slightly noisy roommates, neighbors, or just the occasional traffic outside, then you’ll want to consider investing in some sound insulation tools. You’d be surprised just how sensitive the average microphone is. Even with your bass bangin’ and your vocals layered, your mic still pick up a creaking door or footsteps downstairs. While background audio can help dirty up the sound of a lo-fi track, you still want the ability to pick and choose when this background audio is used. Egg crates, blankets, and foam insulation pads all make good cheap choices for audio insulation. Just be sure to arrange your home studio hub in a way that makes full use of your insulation choices.
Know When to Spend Money
As an independent rapper just starting out, it’s likely that you’re the one in charge of your finances. While you want to keep prices low, you need to know when it’s a good idea to invest funds. For your microphone, headphones, and your Digital Audio Workstation, it’s recommended that you spend a little more, as these are the three things that make the biggest difference on your sound. You can generally get away with a cheap keyboard, as a decent mixing interface like Ableton or Logic Pro can manipulate those sounds to reach a professional level.
When marketing your music, you can possibly get away with not spending much money, but generally only if you have a large following online. Through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Bandcamp, and Twitter, it’s easy to market your music to friends, fans, and followers alike. However, if you reach a wall when marketing in this manner, then you might want to consider investing in search engine optimization or becoming sponsored content on these sites. For a budget ranging from three to four figures, you could potentially reach an audience that numbers in the thousands, instead of the few hundred friends and family members you have on your Facebook.
Take Your Time
It’s not uncommon for home recording artists to spend weeks or months on a single track. You want to be able to listen to your music objectively, and with as professional an attitude as possible. Be honest to yourself when critiquing your sound – is it professional? Does it sound like you made it in your attic? Would the hook grab you if you were hearing the track for the first time? Is the sound unique to you, or is it reminiscent of someone else?
You need to be able to ensure that your music is ready to be released before you release it. When you’re a musician making your first impression on someone, it’s much more impressive to have one or two incredible tracks, instead of two hundred fixer-uppers. Make the music you want to listen to, and only release it when you truly feel it’s perfect.