It can be tricky when you don't have the budget of the professional studios but you still want to achieve that professional sound. Here are some tricks to help you get the most out of your home studio:
1. Make your own DIY pop filter out of a clotheshanger and pantyhose
While pop filters have dramatically dropped in price over the years, you can still save some money by making your own at home. They aren't nearly as effective, but they can still reduce those nasty "P-plosives" that can mess up the quality of a vocal recording. Simply take a wired clotheshanger, shape it in a circle, stretch a pantyhose over the circle, and tape the clotheshanger to the mic stand right next to the microphone (see picture above.) Make sure that the clotheshanger can reach the front of the microphone. If you decide you want to invest in a decent pop filter, you can get a great one for around $15.
2. Record at 24-bit
It doesn't matter which recording software you use, you just need to set the recording options to record the audio at a samplerate of 24-bit. I like to record at 24-bit, 48.2 khz, while a lot of pros even go as high at 24-bit, 88 khz or 96 khz. Whatever you do, just make sure to record at 24-bit. The tradeoff for the rising khz is that it uses more memory, so make sure you have enough memory on your computer. Which brings me to a nother topic...
3. ...Get an EXTERNAL portable hard drive!
This is extremely important. Do not underestimate getting an external hard drive! Not only is it good for backing up your data, but it can free up resources on the computer to process audio more efficiently, resulting in less freeze ups while recording and mixing.
4. Invest in a decent microphone
Nobody likes to spend money, but if you are trying to get results, invest in a decent microphone! Ideally, for the home studio, you'd be able to spend about $500 on a large diaphragm condenser microphone, but you can find great ones for $200 and under. One example is of a good versatile $500 microphone is the CAD E100S, while a great sub-$200 microphone would be the Blue Spark.
5. Get a decent audio interface
It's tempting to want to buy a $40 audio interface, but the sacrifice is immense. You NEED a decent audio interface with good converters and good built-in preamps, especially if you don't already have a decent separate microphone preamp. A couple companies that make great interfaces include Focusrite and Apogee, both known for making great converters and great built-in preamps at extremely affordable prices (each would only set you back a couple $100, as opposed to the tens of thousands professional studio interfaces cost).
6. Use new strings when recording guitars and basses
One of the easiest ways to improve the sound of a guitar or bass recording is to simply put new strings on the instrument. Any strings will do, as long as you're not using nylon or weird plastic type strings. In my experience, the Cleartone medium nickel-plated strings have given the best results for guitar, and the Rotosound 66 strings best for bass.
7. Record in different rooms, like a bathroom, to get natural reverb
If you want to get a different "echo" or "reverb" sound for a particular recording, experiment with recording in different rooms! You can even record vocals in the bathtub, guitars in a closet, or drums in a big living room. Sure, you can model these situations with extremely accurate-sounding digital reverb software, but there's nothing like the real thing!
8. Listen to your mixes in the car to balance low bass frequencies
Having trouble balancing those bass frequencies? Check your mix in a car stereo system! You can get a subwoofer for your studio, but if you don't have the resources, simply burning your mix to a disc (or sending mp3 to an iPhone) or checking your mix on your laptop hooked up to the "aux input" on your car stereo will help you to be able to discern the low frequencies. This is the ONLY reason I've been able to get good bass results in my home studio.
If you end up deciding on getting a sub for your studio, the KRK 10S is very good for the price.
9. LISTEN TO YOUR MIX in different rooms
When mixing, stand up and walk away from your speakers. Chances are, you will hear different problems in different rooms. If you walk into the kitchen while playing your music over your speakers, you may hear the vocals are actually too loud! Go back and turn them down a bit. It's all a game of compensation.
10. Have fun!
This is perhaps the most forgotten technique - to simply take a break and enjoy what it is you are actually doing. Recording and mixing can sometimes be stressful, so don't forget to lighten the mood by laughing at your own mistakes, and knowing that it's all part of a process.