Although there is a tonne of information for DIY home studio type people like you and me all over the internet; websites, podcasts and Facebook groups for example, and as useful as these have been to me, I am still a huge fan of the good old fashioned printed word. I’ve read a number of books about music, home recording, song-writing and more. Here’s a breakdown of the five home studio books which I consider to be the most valuable home-studio related books I own.
UPDATE: You can now find a growing list of recommended DIY Music books about all kinds of things in the DIY Music Bookshop. (This article still covers my top five though so please read on).
Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio
by Mike Senior
Mike Senior’s book is a fantastic guide for those starting out in the home-studio game. As the title suggests, it is a mixing guide written with the ‘small studio’ in mind so you won’t find yourself wasting time reading all about large-scale professional studio equipment you couldn’t afford, let alone fit in your spare bedroom. Thorough and detailed, yet easy to understand, Mike Senior takes you through the necessary stages from setting up your room, through preparing your mix, to all the juicy mixing tips. I’d recommend reading Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio through from start to finish but also keeping it on hand as a reference whenever you need to refresh your memory on certain concepts. This one actually lives on my desk in the studio, rather than in a bookcase in my living room.
Guerilla Home Recording: How to Get Great Sound from Any Studio
by Karl Coryat
The subtitle (No Matter How Weird or Cheap Your Gear Is) definitely caught my eye with this book. Most of my gear is fairly cheap and some of it could definitely be considered a bit weird… So this book seemed perfect. And I wasn’t disappointed. In many home studio and mixing guide books there is going to be a certain amount of duplicated information but I consider this to be a good thing, because it shows you how reliable this information is. You will find some basic concepts being re-established in this book if you’ve already read the first one on my list, but you will also find much more new information on actual recording as well as handy production tips such as how to humanise drum and MIDI parts, how to deal with crappy singing and miscellaneous techniques. The great thing about this book is that it is written with the assumption that you do not have access to high-end equipment and therefore has more relevant tips and tricks for non-pros with limited budgets like you and I.
Zen and the Art of Mixing
by ‘Mixerman’ (Eric Sarafin)
Of all the books in this list, this is the one I’ve read most recently. It had been sat on my shelf for some time and I guess I didn’t read it sooner because I didn’t think it was going to be a particularly helpful book in the studio; I had assumed it would be more autobiographical. I was wrong. Whilst it isn’t a detailed technical guide to mixing, it is certainly a fantastic insight into how you can think about mixing. As Mixerman writes in the introduction, “If you change how you think about mixing, you’ll be well on your way to learning how to mix.”. And I definitely found the first three chapters to be very inspiring in terms of how to approach the task of mixing music. I did find the chapter on ‘gear’ a little disheartening as the author is a professional mixer and talks about the kind of equipment he believes you need to achieve the pinnacle of audio quality in your mixes. As such he talks about analogue equipment and expensive converters that I won’t be adding to my arsenal any time soon. I picked myself up by reminding myself that I’m in this to create music, not necessarily achieve perfection in commercial audio, and I’m definitely not getting paid the kind of money a pro would for mixing a track, so I shouldn’t worry so much that I don’t have that kind of set-up. I would also say the the author’s tone is quite aggressive and he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy you’d particularly want to spend an evening down the pub with… That said, I still found the book as a whole to be a valuable eye-opener which has definitely changed the way I approach a mix for the better.
Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science
by Bob Katz
The author, Bob Katz, is a pretty big name in audio (I can say that now… I didn’t know that when I first bought this book. In fact, I didn’t really know what ‘mastering’ was when I bought this book!), and he knows what he’s talking about. This is the most technical book on my list and, to be honest, is a lot more technical that you or I really need for our humble little home studios. It deals with the whole area of mastering, which is the final, essential, stage before music goes to press and is something you’re unlikely to be doing yourself if you’re doing all the writing, recording and mixing but hope to release music commercially. However, it’s absolutely important to understand this end-game if you want to attempt to produce great quality music and this book is considered to be the most complete and reliable source on the subject. And there is plenty of information that you can take into consideration when recording and mixing at home. Also, I actually do master a lot of my own stuff (although it’s not recommended) precisely because it’s not intended for commercial release and my audience is smaller and more forgiving of a less than professional sound. But still, having a resource like this can help you edge closer to that high-end result you may be striving for and will be invaluable if you intend to go professional some day.
Writing Better Lyrics
by Pat Pattison
My last essential home studio book isn’t really specifically a home studio book, as you probably guessed from the title. I’ve included this one because I’m sure most of you, like me, got into the home studio game because you were songwriters and musicians who wanted to record your material. And then you fell down the rabbit hole… Now you’ve found yourselves drowning in information about software, plugins, mics, amps, desks and everything else the internet tells you that you definitely need in order to get those ideas from your brain onto a CD for people to enjoy. And home recording is a wonderful world which I absolutely adore. However, there is a danger that all this stuff can pull you away from the reason you got involved in the first place. The songs. Sitting in a room full of gear is actually less conducive to creativity than just sitting on your bed with an acoustic guitar and a notepad. This is one reason for my post about finding inspiration, which you should also totally read. But back to the book… My point is that you can have all the gear in the world but without good songs, it’s all useless. And I found myself lacking in this area after immersing myself in audio technicalities for a year and a bit. So I turned my focus back to song-writing and discovered Pat Pattison. Look up some of his videos, they really get you thinking about your lyrics. This book gets into the thought processes that will help you on your way to writing really great lyrics (not that I think I am doing that just yet) with deep insights, real world examples and actual exercises to get you thinking and working on those words. You’ll also learn about about what you should avoid when writing if you don’t want to embarrass yourself with clichés and such. Definitely worth adding to your bookshelf if you have any involvement in writing lyrics.
So there you have the five books I’ve found most useful so far in my home studio journey, for a variety of reasons. All the links on this page should take you to the Amazon Associate pages for the relevant books. I hope you find this list useful and I’d love to hear your feedback, maybe you can recommend more reading for me?
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