Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Home Studio- where to start

This blog is about my experiences in developing my home studio in the early stages. It tells you how I went about making those initial purchases,  and what I learned (sometimes painfully!) along the way.

Setting up as a Voiceover with a Home Studio was a scary business for me. I knew I wanted to do it, I knew I wanted to make that switch to being available to many jobs over the internet rather than solely relying on my Agent to land me a gig in a big studio in London or elsewhere in the country. So I was ready....

Being a total techno-phobe though, made decisions on what equipment to buy almost impossible. I mean, how could I possibly know the in-depth specifications of a particular microphone and pre-amp when I didn't know my USB from my XLR?! I had much experience working a studio where the wonderful, technical engineers took care of all of that. Until now, I had showed up, sounded pretty, never really taking any notice of the impressive gear around me - it just was a whole world away from my knowledge and skill-set.

Plus there was the cost involved. At the time I made my first purchases I was a full-time, stay-at-home, pregnant mum, wheelchair bound to boot. Extra household cash was usually allocated to new clothes, shoes and other stuff for the children, or for our family holiday. However, with me experiencing issues with my health, my husband and I decided that it was imperative that we made an investment in my future. An investment in developing  a 'something positive' outside of the family, and the responsibilities of parenting, and our preoccupation with my health. A 'something' that was a possible step towards expanding my career possibilities. And if all else failed, a 'something' that might just be an interesting thing to learn about whilst I was bed-bound during my difficult pregnancy.

I swotted up on all I could about Voiceover Equipment on the internet, but like I said, I am a technophobe. Also it was in the Dark Ages, when I had not yet discovered Twitter, or LinkedIn, or GooglePlus, or any of the other wonderful Social Network sites which now enhance my career (is it too sad to say 'my life'?!). So in the end, I bottled the decision making process after procrastinating for far too long, and went for a 'Voiceover Starter Pack' recommended by Gary Terzza. Gary is one of the UK's most familiar voices for his TV work on E4, among many others. He also runs, training and recording demo's for newbie's, and sometimes the more experienced VO's too. I'd had a few years out of the business for motherhood, and Gary helped boost my confidence to return to the business - many thanks to Gary.

I bought Gary's Home Recording Kit, which consisted of a USB Alesis Microphone complete with stand (which means you plug it straight into your computer, and therefore you don't need a pre-amp, mixer or audio interface of any description), a pop-shield (to prevent any extra wind getting to your microphone and ruining your recording when you speak, especially on plosives like 'p' and 'b'),  a basic set of headphones, and a disk of Audacity recording software to record and edit with (you can download this for free from the internet too). Plus there was a simple acoustic screen to help with noise levels in the room reaching the microphone. Nothing flash, all perfectly simple, and a great place to start. (I know Gary has updated the equipment now to make it suitable for recording to iPad. Have a look at

The equipment gave me a place to hone my skills, and allowed me to begin auditioning online with the likes of and, without the risk of a huge outlay for technical equipment. I hadn't the foggiest idea how to edit and produce simple audio, how to convert files to mp3 or wav, how to produce effects, how to cut out unpleasant mouth noise. But I quickly picked up some skills, and crucially a few small gigs, and grew in confidence rapidly. I lacked a 'proper' recording booth, but with encouragement from my new online Voiceover Community, I experimented with duvets, blankets, and room positioning to find the 'perfect-spot-for-now-while-I-save-my-pennies-for-better-studio-equipment', and found a great recording spot inside our old airing cupboard at the top of the stairs, which my husband kindly and enthusiastically converted for me.

Since those days I have learned so very much. Long gone is my USB mic, and many other fancy bits of equipment now grace my professional recording booth. But everyone has to start somewhere. Many Voiceover Artists are technical whizz-kids, and are extremely proud of their equipment. Some can even be more than a bit snooty about standards of equipment. Quite rightly so - it can make you sound a million dollars, and it costs a fair whack too. But I am a firm believer that all a client really wants is the voice they imagined in their head. And if you can do that on a basic mic whilst you are learning the ropes, then good for you, in my book. You probably won't book the biggest jobs for the biggest clients, but you may just get a few nice smaller jobs that boost your confidence, and your resume. Having said that, I'll not be making a return to my basic USB microphone any time soon, but I am grateful for the fantastic start it gave me to starting as a Voiceover Artist with a Home Studio!

In this blog, I have shared with you my thoughts and decisions when I was starting out working as a Voiceover from home. I hope it will inspire you to take a step.  How can you reach for the top in the VO world, when you haven't even begun on the bottom rung of the ladder? Make a decision on your first home recording set-up, and go for it. And to all you other established VO's out there - how did you get going in the beginning? None of us became experts overnight. What would you have done differently if you had been 'in the know'? Please share your stories and experiences in the comment section below.