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UD x Diamondz… The Studio A-Z

If you’re looking to invest in a home recording set-up or want to get to know more about studio life, then do read on. Our expert, Stefan ‘Diamondz’ Velichkov, a locally based producer, studio maestro and sound engineer, who can often be found working with the likes of D Double E, Mez and Triggz, lets us into his world and shares that all important knowledge. 

A is for Acoustics 

You can’t make good music without being able to listen to it in a good acoustic environment. Good acoustics are there to ensure the sound of what you are working on is accurate and not being affected by the room you’re in. This is achieved with the right acoustic treatment – usually bass traps, acoustic panels of sorts and different types of sound diffusers.

B is for Booth

The recording booth is a very special place in studios. This is where the magic happens and the artists record their performance, separated from the rest. A lot of home studios don’t have the luxury of space so the recording space is likely to be in the same room as the monitors and the control desk is. Whatever your booth is (fact – Mike Skinner aka The Streets used to record in a toilet cubicle), it should have a good atmosphere or at least good sound. For a short period of time, my booth was an empty cupboard padded out with acoustic foam and blankets  – Skepta recorded his verse for Nang in that one. 

C is for Computer

The Computer is the powerhouse in most modern studios. This is where everything is connected to and controlled from a Digital Audio Work (DAW) station. Needless to say, the more powerful your computer is, the better. A Mac running Pro Tools or Logic Pro is the usual weapon of choice. It’s important you know how to use this – thankfully there are tutorials aplenty available online and for free. Check refurbished laptop options if you’re on a budget too.

D is for DIY

A bit of DIY never hurt anybody. Most studios are very DIY (or at least in my experience). You need to know how most things work and what they do. The best way to learn that is to make and do as much as possible yourself. I like to think we have all been to a home studio with pyramid acoustic panels of different sizes and colours covering the walls and a mic in the wardrobe. A lack of funds shouldn’t stop you if you’re creative. 

E is for Experiment

Experiment. If you are in a studio chances are you are there to make music in one way or another. Get to work and don’t be afraid to mix things up. You need to test new ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. Experimenting is fun and also a great cure for procrastination. 

F is for Focus 

To get the most out of your studio session, have an idea of what you’re looking to achieve. Is it a new sound? A song? Setting yourself mini-goals and having a focus will maximise the time you spend in the studio (this is especially important if you’re juggling other employment and home life). 

G is for Glossary 

Music is a universal language but the majority of the time you still need words to communicate your ideas with others, especially when you work together. You need a good knowledge of studio and music terminology so you are able to easily and clearly communicate with your collaborators avoiding ambiguity. 

H is for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask your peers for help. Thanks to social media and forums there are a wealth of aspiring and established musicians willing to share their knowledge. Look to subscribe and follow dedicated studio pages to keep up with the times. 

I is for Interface

A good interface is very important for every studio – it is what translates the signal to and from the computer. In the most basic setup, the microphone is routed through the input and the output is for your monitors. The better the interface the better your sound will be. Choosing a good interface is crucial but your budget will likely determine your options. The studio standard here is UAD, however,  these come with a higher price tag and subsequently you have to pay more if you want to get UAD plugins to work with. If you’re on a budget, Focusrite has interfaces that are easy to work with and you don’t need to buy any additional plugins to use them to their fullest capacity.

J is for Jammin 

Sometimes it’s just vibes. It’s not always about getting the job done. Sometimes just listen to good music and vibe with each other. Explore your minds and find inspiration. Let it come out in a spontaneous and natural way. Bands are used to coming together and improvising for hours. Even if you don’t play an instrument you can still do this. The essence is coming together and creating a vibe out of thin air. 

K is for Keys

Pianos, Synths… a drum machine. It’s very easy to get inspiration from these instruments. Even if you are a complete novice, with a little guidance you might be able to come up with a semi-decent melody or a drum loop and this can get your juices flowing. Keep a keyboard around you if possible. 

L is for Lights

Cop lights, flashlights, spotlights, strobe lights, street lights… Well maybe not all of these lights, but mood lights always work well in a studio. Some cheap LED strips and DIY can work miracles in any room. Don’t go crazy. Soft lights usually help you relax as well as take away the pressure from your eyes which somehow makes your imagination – and your ears – work better.  

M is for Microphone

Needless to say, a good microphone is very important in the recording studio. Make sure you’re on point in that department. Do some research on what microphone is best for what you are doing. If you can – do some tests. There’s a lot of information and comparisons online but nothing beats first hand experience. Without going into too much detail, condenser microphones are the go to type of microphones for recording studio vocals. There are plenty of options out there, but as a rule of thumb go for a brand that is trusted in making good microphones – Neumann, Rode, AKG, sE Electronics, for example. I’ve been recording rap/grime vocals extensively through a sE Electronics Gemini II and I love the way it sounds.

N is for Networking

Networking is important in every aspect of life. Connecting with like minded individuals exposes you to new opportunities, you exchange ideas which might help your success. Networking makes you more noticeable – for clients and for collaborators. Networking helps you create long lasting relationships and having good network channels can help you build your career. Why not become a UD member for starters?

O is for Organised 

Procrastination is great but have you tried ticking everything off from your daily TO DO list? 

You can’t spend your time well unless you know what’s important. Prioritise your activities. Set goals. Create a structure for your work. Being organised increases your productivity and efficiency and at the same time helps lower your stress levels.

P is for Plug-ins

You most likely already know what a plug-in is. Or maybe not… It’s an add-on piece of software for your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). There are plugins for analysis, for signal processing and plugins for sound synthesis. Usually they cost money.. Thankfully, you can get some pretty good online bundle deals with a bunch of plugins to help your music production that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Check Slate Digital, Plugin-Alliance and Waves

Q is for Quality

A quality product is made of quality materials. In other words, you only get out what you put into it, so make sure you put in some quality ingredients in your music. High quality samples, good sounding gear, great music and vocal performances.. you can still go wrong with all that in place but you definitely won’t get far without it. 

R is for Recording process

Make sure it sounds right. There is nothing more disappointing than hearing a great performance (let’s say a vocal) recorded poorly and subsequently trying to fix it. Make sure the recording process is on point. No buzzes or crackles coming from the equipment, no (or low) background noise and equally a good performance from whoever is being recorded. Sometimes it will be the job of the producer to hype up the vocalist to get the best performance out of them. Do whatever it takes. 

S is for Studio Monitors

These are perhaps the most crucial part of your whole music setup. You need a clear and accurate representation of the music you are working on and the aim of monitor speakers is to produce a relatively flat frequency response with an unbiased sound. Get a good pair of studio monitors in your studio – or two, or three… The more, the merrier. Especially if you’re mixing music. The KRK V series and Yamaha HS monitors are a good starting point for a budget studio and give you a good bang for buck ratio. 

T is for Talent House

Due to open in January 2022, Talent House is UD’s new home in Stratford, east London. A state-of-the-art studio complex, it boasts five recording studios, a live room, two vocal booths, a large flexible rehearsal space, a Mac and a tech lab. Did we mention the two dance studios, seminar space and shared area for members? Expect informal gigs in the central atrium and much more. Find out more about The Talent House here.

U is for understanding

Having a basic understanding of what you’re doing is crucial for your success. You need to know the processes behind music making and to know how things are done which will provide you with a better focus and a clearer idea for how to reach your goals. This determines how successful the output is going to be. Read books, watch videos, never stop learning. 

V is for vocals 

Vocals mean something different according to your genre of preference. Let’s say you’re not the best singer, well this shouldn’t stop you. Some of the best vocal samples are less than conventional. Whether you want to play with auto tune or go down the grunge/ rock root, don’t be shy with your voice. 

W is for World Wide Web

Basically what I am trying to say is use the internet. Have an online presence – this is your playground and like it or not – where everything is happening today. Get your socials on point. Make a website and showcase your talents. Draw on the internet’s vast knowledge pool while you’re at it. 

X is for X factor

You gots to have it. Whatever it is. 

Y is for YouTube

YouTube is an endless source of information. It is the easiest way to learn how to do something nowadays. You can get professional advice from seasoned pros on absolutely anything from wiring your studio to techniques for recording insects. It’s an endless source for DIY inspiration too. Comment sections are underrated – sometimes you can find great gems by scrolling down a few paragraphs. 

Z is for Zen

The definition of Zen is a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort. Become one with music, and manifest your spirit. Enjoy the journey! 

Words: Stefan ‘Diamondz’ Velichkov  

@stefanDMNDZ 

Hear Diamondz work HERE 

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