Top 13 Music Engineering Tips For Home Studio Recording

When it comes to music engineering in a home studio, you might experience a steep learning curve. From understanding the best recording methods to acing mixing, the time and effort it takes to produce a track can be significant. However, knowing the best practices will ensure a faster, seamless, and more enjoyable song production process.

It’s crucial that you treat your room for fuller-sounding tracks. Additionally, ensure you use the right microphone and headphone combinations, as multiple are available. Also, create a mixing process that works for you to save time. And listen to your track on different speakers to ensure a cohesive sound. It’s also best to embrace your space regardless of your gear’s quality.

This post explores the top music engineering tips for home producers. First, look at the essential elements needed in a home recording studio.

Home Recording Studio Essentials

Setting up a home recording studio is easier than ever, thanks to technological advancements and the wealth of information online. Therefore, with a minor capital investment, you can be on your way to recording premium-quality tracks from your home.

Depending on your music style, you’ll need specific equipment. However, a few basics are required to set up a home recording studio. These include the following:  

  • A suitable room: The space you choose should not be susceptible to noises and echoes. Ideally, it shouldn’t have any windows at all. Also, a carpeted floor and solid wooden door will help dampen and absorb background noise.
  • A dedicated computer: Your audio files will have a large size. Therefore, you’ll need a suitable computer with enough storage space to save them. You’ll also need it for the DAW software.
  • DAW software: When starting, the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) brand you choose isn’t critical. After all, DAWs come with the same basic functionality.
  • A Digital Audio Interface: This converts your analog audio into digital form so you can work with it in your DAW. I would recommend you get one with two inputs and two outputs.
  • A microphone: You have three options: condenser, ribbon, and dynamic. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. However, industry experts recommend the Shure SM57 dynamic microphone if you can afford it.
  • A preamplifier: This often comes with most digital audio interfaces. But if yours doesn’t have one, purchase an external preamp.
  • Studio monitors and headphones: These will allow you to accurately represent the audio on playback.
  • A MIDI keyboard: While not vital, it’s helpful to streamline your workflow.

Check out our comprehensive guide for more insights on setting up a home recording studio.

Music Engineering Tips for Home Studio Recording

Musician with guitar recording music for the article: Top 13 Music Engineering Tips For Home Studio Recording

1.   Factor Acoustic Treatment into Your Budget

Acoustic treatment is an essential part of music engineering. It entails soundproofing your recording space with foam panels and other materials to draw in sound reflections that spring off the walls. This process ensures your recordings sound fuller, unlike when you recorded them in your home.

Treating your room isn’t cheap. However, you don’t need to break the bank. So, if you’re working with a tight budget, opt for a small set of square acoustic studio foam.

Remember, it’s best to experiment with acoustic treatment to see what works. Therefore, test the placement of foam panels and the other materials you use while recording a short clip. Then, playback each recording through headphones and choose the best arrangement.

Alternatively, snap your fingers when you’re testing new treatment options. This will help you gauge the sound reflections in the space. Also, try to create acoustic balance, meaning don’t add too much treatment to deaden the sound.

2.   Use the Right Microphones for Recordings

There are various microphones producers use in studios for music engineering. Each has its merits, so it’s worth knowing what to use when. Your options include the following:

  • Dynamic microphones: These are robust and can withstand more significant sound pressures. They're specifically used for recording instruments like drums and live stage recordings.
  • Condenser microphones: You’d typically find these microphones in music studios. They’re more sensitive to sound than dynamic microphones. Therefore, they’re great for recording vocals. And although they’re pricier, the clarity and detail they capture is worth the investment.
  • Ribbon microphones: These are similar to condenser microphones but are even more sensitive and pricey. As a result, use them to capture highly dynamic, high-fidelity sound. And to record brass instruments like trumpets and saxophones.

3.   Understand the Science of Mic Placement

Besides paying attention to the type of microphones you use for recordings, it’s also vital that you learn how to set them up. Each sound you record will require a different mic placement. Therefore, what works for vocals won’t work for recording drums.

Setting up a mic for vocal recordings at least 6 to 12 inches away from your mouth is best. If it’s too close, it’ll result in vocals with extreme bass. And if it’s too far, the voice will sound thin.

As for recording instruments like acoustic guitars, place the mic slightly higher than the fretboard level and slightly up the guitar’s neck. The mic should also ideally be aimed at the soundhole.

That position is a good starting point. However, you should still adjust the mic until you find the spot that produces the best sound.

4.   Mind the Headphones You Use

There are two primary headphones used in music engineering:

  1. Closed-back headphones: These trap sounds in the headphones, so they don’t enter the microphone you’re using to record. And they cancel external noise. Therefore, they’re used for recording.
  2. Open-back headphones: These allow more ambient noise to be heard because they’re not closed. As a result, they’re not ideal for recording. Instead, you’d use them for mixing/monitoring, and you can use them for extended periods.

5.   Use Pop Filters

Pop filters ensure you record top-quality sound by reducing the impact of plosive sounds like P’s and B’s. That way, you can have clean-sounding recordings. They also prevent any moisture or saliva from entering and damaging the microphone.

Therefore, use pop filters to save yourself the headache of cutting those sounds out digitally. Most are inexpensive. However, you can also make your own at home using a screen door mesh, spongy material, or pantyhose.

Having decent mixing and mastering plugins will help you make your tracks sound better faster. And you’ll have a better overall production experience.

6.   Ensure a Good Studio Monitor Setup

Where you sit in your studio while working on a track plays a significant role in music engineering. This is because your perception of sound differs depending on your position.

Sound can reflect off any surface in a studio, from walls to tables. As a result, you want to avoid reflective surfaces influencing your judgement during the final song production stages.

I recommend placing your monitors along the shorter wall if you work in a smaller bedroom studio. That will direct the sound down the longer dimension of the room.

However, place your monitors along the longer wall in a larger dedicated studio, such as a basement or garage. That way, the sound fires down the shorter length of the room.

7. Invest in High-Quality Mixing and Mastering Software

When you start music production in your home studio, you might work with whatever mixing and mastering software you can use. However, as you become more experienced, investing in high-quality software is worth it.

Having decent mixing and mastering plugins will help you make your tracks sound better faster. And you’ll have a better overall production experience.

Now, you don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket to access industry-leading plugins. For a low monthly cost, you can use tools like Ableton Live and Avid Pro Tools, which professional studios worldwide use for song production.

8.   Establish a Mixing Flow

Having a process for creating a proper mix can save you significant time. I recommend you start by exporting all recorded sounds from your DAW as separate WAV files. Then, add the files into a new ‘mix session.’

Next, label each stem. Afterwards, arrange your stems logically. Consider building your mix like a pyramid, add your drums at the top, and follow up with your vocals. Add leads, chores, basses, atmospheres, and FX from there.

Once you have a logical order for your stems, color code each group. Afterwards, set markers for each section of the arrangement. Lastly, handle any audio routing and grouping to manage your sounds.

9.   Incorporate Panning and Pan Automation in Mixes

Panning can add movement and life to your tracks. Therefore, consider incorporating it in your mixes.

For high-frequency sounds like hi-hats and atmospheric layers, pan them away from the center. However, keep low-frequency sounds like kicks and sub-basses down the middle.

On top of that, you can add pan automation to create more dynamic sound movements. Remember to be light with these additions. You only need a little movement to help your song sound livelier.

Musician with headphones at mixing board for the article: Top 13 Music Engineering Tips For Home Studio Recording

10.    Add a Limiter to Your Vocal Group

Vocals are the trickiest elements you’ll mix during the music engineering process. This is because of the dynamic range of the human voice. Some words and syllables are soft, while others are louder.

That’s where adding a limiter to your vocal group comes in. It’ll catch the loudest vocal peaks, ensuring they don’t overpower the other sounds. Therefore, add a 2-3 dB gain reduction to your vocal tracks.

11.    Listen to Your Mixes in Different Spaces

Your home studio can color the sound of your mixes, especially if the room isn’t acoustically treated. Also, even if you have high-quality studio monitors, they can’t fully be trusted to project an accurate sound.

Additionally, mixing with headphones comes with its challenges. You can get ear fatigue, which makes your ears biased to sound. And you may end up boosting the treble when it’s not necessary.

That’s why you should listen to your mixes on different speakers in various spaces. This includes:

  • Your car (or your friends’ cars)
  • On a laptop and a TV
  • Through a smartphone
  • A quality Bluetooth speaker
  • A low-quality Bluetooth speaker
  • With earbuds

As you test different speakers, take notes whenever you notice trends. This will help you tweak accordingly.

At first, this process may seem tedious. However, your ears will tune into how your mixing environment influences your decisions and songs. As a result, you can refine your music engineering process to make better mixes.

12.    Use Tonal Balance When Listening to Mixes

Instead of listening to your mix on different speakers, you might try running it through Tonal Balance Control. This plugin includes tools like iZotope's Ozone 8 and Neutron 2 Advanced. And it’s handy because it lets you contrast your mix’s frequency to professional masters.

Alternatively, you can upload your own reference track to compare frequency curves. As a result, Tonal Balance Control can eliminate any issues you encounter in your listening environment.  

13.    Work With What You Have

When you first build your home recording studio, you might not have the best gear or your recording space might not look professional. Still, it’s essential that you embrace your studio.

Some of the most renowned artists started their careers in their home studios. For instance, Billie Eilish created and produced her debut album (‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’) in her home studio.

From filling your studio with inspiration to keeping it free from distractions so you get right into work, make your space work for you. You can even go as far as adding a kettle or a mini-fridge if your studio is far from the kitchen. Also, some mood lighting and a heater/air conditioner/fan can go a long way in making your space more comfortable.

All in all, your environment can directly influence the art you create. So, make your studio a place you’ll want to work in for extended periods.


While music engineering may require time to master, you can expedite your progress by grasping the essential best practices. From acoustic treatments to incorporating panning in your mixes, there are plenty of tricks to learn.

With dedication, practice, and a strategic approach, you can make significant progress in producing your tracks. However, remember also to follow your instincts and enjoy the process.

Once you’ve recorded, mixed, and mastered your track and it’s ready for release, reach out to Sugo Music Group. They have over 35 years of experience in music distribution and publishing. Therefore, their team has a wealth of knowledge to share. And they can advise you on how to have a seamless and successful music release.

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