One of the awesome things about being a modern day metal guitarist and musician is the ability to record your own music. But you may not know where to start or what gear you need.
In this post, I'm going to give you my complete home recording studio guide for metal guitarists (I guess this can work for country guitarists too...lol!).
You'll learn about every component you need to build your recording studio for recording metal guitars, bass, vocals, and I'll show you what I use for drums.
**I will update this post as I upgrade my gear, so save this post in your favorites!
**There are a ton of additional resources in this post, and you'll also see some links to purchase products from Amazon.
I am an Amazon affiliate and I do get a commission if you purchase through my link, so thank you for the support!
I only promote the products I actually use!
Home Studio Recording Components for Metal
There's 3 things you need to know about this home recording studio setup:
- It caters to metal guitar players
- It's simple - This isn't like a woman's shoe closet where there's like 10 pair of shoes for 50 different occasions...it's just a few basic high quality components to help you get started recording fast
- The gear in this post is my own studio, so you're seeing exactly what I use - pretty exciting, eh?
Why metal guitar players? Uh, because I'm a metal guitarist, and so are YOU! In all seriousness, I want to give you best hardware and software components for your studio that suits YOUR needs as a guitarist. You're not doing pop or country or whatever else. You're playing metal. So my studio is set up accordingly for that purpose.
Simple, basic studio setup - I'm somewhat of a minimalist and I encourage you to be as well. Do you really need 4 compressors, 6 preamps, 10 mics, and 50 guitars in your studio? Well, maybe you DO need 50 guitars! But I'd rather see you have a small handful of quality studio components than 100 pieces of gear that you have no idea what to do with.
Yes, what you're about to read is my own home recording studio! In fact, what you're seeing below (and there's also a video at the end of the post) is not too far off than what I started with when I first jumped into studio recording. I've just upgraded a few things since then, but the underlying components have no changed much.
Here's the video version of my Home Recording Guide for Metal Guitarists. But I also encourage you to read this entire post.
I've included some topics and gear in this post that I forgot to mention in the video. And I will also keep this post updated with my future gear!
Alright, let's breakdown all of the studio components, both hardware and software! I'm going to show you that you can build a simple yet extremely awesome studio and start cranking out your own recordings!
1 - The Ideal Computer for Your Studio
A question I'm often asked is:
'Jason, dude, do I really have to get super expensive jacked-up computer to record music with?'
The short answer is no. But there are some caveats to that. When you go to buy a computer, these are the 2 key things you're looking for:
- Is is powerful enough to run your recording software? This will revolve around the processing power and memory.
- Does it have enough storage? Studio files can take up a lot of space on your hard drive. But that's okay - if the computer doesn't have a lot of storage, just make sure you buy some type of cloud storage for your music files.
If your computer is outdated (or if you don't have one yet), this will be one of your biggest purchases for your studio. So it's crucial to get something that's going to run your software smoothly.
My advice is to talk to a rep and tell them what you need (aka ask them the questions listed above!). If you decide to go with Mac, your local Apple store is the best place for advice. Those folks have always been super helpful, and most of them like metal (at least that's what they tell me!).
*Learn more about the iMac here at the Apple website: https://www.apple.com/
What Computer I Use
On that note, I personally run my studio with an iMac, which you can see in the pic above. And of course you've seen this in my YouTube guitar and recording tutorials. If I weren't so lazy I'd go look at the specs, but honestly if you get an iMac, it won't matter. They're lowest model will run your software just fine.
But I didn't start with that. I actually started out with a Toshiba laptop. And I ran the same recording software program on that little laptop (actually it was kinda big) that I run today with my iMac. No issues, it worked just fine. And I recorded my very first album Apocalyptic Dreams with it.
For Studio Use ONLY!
DO NOT and I mean absolutely DO NOT use your studio computer for other stuff. Dedicate it solely to recording music! You don't want to bog it down with other applications and crap.
And don't go surfing all over the net with your studio computer! Don't look at...well, you know exactly where I'm going with that!! But yeah, music only!
Oh, and you can buy an iMac through my Amazon link here below. I get a commission for this, so if you decide to buy from my link, thank you for the support: By iMac on Amazon
2 - Recording Software
Here's where things can get a little overwhelming. What's the best recording software for metal guitarists and musicians?
There's no 'right answer' and I don't even know that there's a true best. At this point in time, they all do the same thing...record high quality music.
Let me simplify things. This is how recording software works for us guitar players...
- Click your studio icon to open your software
- Add new song (or open the one you're working on)
- Add new track
- Press the record button on track (and if you're using plugins for virtual amps and effects, make sure that's dragged over to your track...I'll get into plugins later)
- Start recording your guitar track
Yes, there's MANY features and options. But in all reality, you may use 1/3 of them. If that. So don't get hung up on features.
More so, research the ease of use and workflow practicality. Your goal is to keep your focus on writing and recording those metal guitar tracks, and you really don't need a lot of extra stuff for that.
Once you decide on software (and don't make this a 3-month long decision process), make sure you get 'plugged in' (ah, yes, the pun was intended) to the forums for your software. This is where I learned how to operate the recording software I use. That and YouTube, of course.
**Learn more about Presonus Studio One from their website: https://www.presonus.com/products/studio-one/
Programs I Recommend
I'm going to show you the 2 software programs I've used (1 of which I'm currently using, and have been for many years). I can't really speak for other programs because I haven't use them. But they're all pretty much relative, I would think.
Here's one of my 'how to' videos using Presonus Studio One Pro...
3 - Studio Interface
I remember getting hung up on this in the beginning and I just sat there for hours (or maybe just minutes) with a blank stare, mumbling...
"I've got my computer, and I just purchased recording software, but now what???"
I needed an interface (back then I had no clue what an interface was!). For newbies, the interface is what links your instrument, or whatever sound source you're recording, to your computer so that you can record that signal using your software. That was a mouthful!
Type of Interface You Need
If you're just getting started, it really doesn't matter what interface you use. The basic ones are all about the same price, and they all work the same.
If you're looking to step up to a more expensive interface, then you'll want to do your research to make sure it suits your needs as a metal guitarist.
The 2 key factors for choosing an interface are:
- Quality of preamps
- How many inputs
Even with the basic interfaces, the quality of their preamps are pretty good. You can record a professional album that you can be proud of with a simple interface.
Inputs will only matter if you're recording multiple instruments simultaneously (drums could be a challenge with only 2 channels, which is what these basic interfaces typically come with).
How to Connect Your Interface
Here's the basic steps to connecting your interface (and connecting stuff to it):
- Connect interface to computer
- Connect your studio monitors to the interface outputs (usually on the back of your interface)
- Plug your guitar or mic cable into the interface input (usually on the front of your interface)
There, you're all set!
Interface I Use
As I mentioned earlier, I started out with the Presonus AudioBox USB. This is a simple 2-input interface. Is was super cheap, and it also came with Studio One Artist recording software.
After 3 albums, I upgraded to the Presonus Quantum 2. There was 2 reasons for this:
- I wanted better preamps (the Quantum 2 XMAX sound really good)
- I wanted a digital interface
There's some other reasons, but I can't remember what they are and I'm obviously not using those features...lol!
**You can read more about all Presonus interfaces here: https://www.presonus.com/products/Audio-Interfaces
**And you can use my Amazon link to purchase this simple starter kit which includes a high quality Presonus interface plus software and more (this is a perfect starter kit, and similar to what I started out with): Studio One Bundle on Amazon
4 - Output Source: Studio Monitors
Here's where I see a lot of guitar players skimp - monitors! In fact, I've seen some use their computer speakers as monitors!
If you're serious about recording and producing the best mixes, you really need quality studio monitors.
Yes, it's another pricy component for your home studio, but you'll thank me later.
I've had the same KRK Rokit 5" monitors since 2010.
I guess I was attracted to that yellow cone...it looks cool and stands out! But I had also done my own research prior to buying these. And they weren't outrageously priced (I was building my studio on an extreme budget back in those days!).
I mention the above because if you start out with good monitors, chances are you'll keep them for a long time. So you don't have to spend your entire paycheck on studio monitors, but DO get quality monitors!
**Learn more about KKR monitors here: http://www.krksys.com/
What About Headphones?
I totally forgot to mention studio headphones in my video (you can watch that at the bottom of this post).
Headphones are super important as for:
- Tracking live guitars
- Recording vocals
- Recording drums
You don't want any sound from your monitors bleeding into the tracks you're recording. And I often use headphones even when I'm recording with plugins (no live mic). Sometimes it's just easier to hear better and my guitar tracks will come out a little tighter when I'm using headphones to record.
I actually have the KRK 6400 headphones. They're not my favorite, but for the price, they're more than decent and work well when tracking guitars: KRK 6400 Headphones on Amazon
5 - Input Source: Recording Your Metal Guitars
Now let's get to the good stuff...recording your metal guitars at home! I'm still amazed by this ability we have today.
Many years ago bands had to go spend their life savings or donate plasma to record an album.
Now, you can just walk into your bedroom (preferably close the door to your riffs don't feed into whoever is in the living room watching Netflix), plug your guitar in and start recording!
It's just a cool thing!
I'm going to now go over our main input source, and that's our guitars! Well, actually the true input source will be 1 of 2 things:
- Mic to capture your guitar amp sound or vocals (or drums)
- Plugins (virtual amps/effects)
Miking Your Guitar Amp
One way to record guitar is the old school way of miking your amp. And for metal music, this is remains the preferred method by many guitarists and studio engineers.
How do you capture your amp sound into your studio software? In 2 easy steps:
- Mic your amp
- Connect the other end of your mic cable to your interface input
Now you're ready to open your guitar track and start recording (remember you want headphones for recording miked guitar amps - you don't want your mic picking up the sound from your monitors).
Some will connect a DI (direct) box between the interface and their amp. But I do not use a DI box for recording metal guitars, and don't feel you need one. A good interface will be more than enough to capture a great sound. Even the less expensive interfaces will work just fine.
Best Mic for Recording Metal Amps?
There's a ton of different mics you can use for recording guitar amps. But the most common for metal is the Shure SM57. Fortunately it's one of the cheaper mics.
The SM57 is great at capturing loud sounds, and also brings out the clarity of your guitar riffs and licks. You just have to play around a little with the mic placement. The basics are:
- Closer to the cone for a brighter tone
- Further from the cone for a darker tone
And you can mess around with how close the mic is to the screen (for the most part, the closer the better).
I personally like to record 1 rhythm guitar track one way, and have a slightly different tone for my 2nd rhythm guitar track.
So the guitar I pan left may be just off to the ide of the cone and the guitar panned right may be a little further away from the cone. This gives you a nice, full sounding metal mix!
You can pick up a SHure SM57 here: Shure SM57 mic on Amazon
**You can read more about Shure mics on their website here: https://www.shure.com/en-US/products/microphones
Guitar Recording Tutorial
Glen Fricker has a pretty awesome tutorial of recording guitar amps and how to mic them. This method is specific to metal!
Using Virtual Amp Sims/Plugins
Technology has brought us far into the future with virtual amps, and this has 'virtually' changed everything!
Recording awesome metal music no longer requires an amp or mic. So what exactly are virtual amps?
Virtual amps and effects (also called amp sims and plugins) are software that creates the sounds you would expect from playing through an amp (and/or effects). But without all the hardware.
Not only does this save space in your studio, but it's also super convenient in the fact that you can record your guitars at low volumes and not blast the neighbors or disturb everyone in your house.
Of course some still prefer to mic their amps, as I mentioned earlier. And there still seems to that notion that amps sims will never truly sound like a live amp.
Here's the thing...at the end of the day, your fans just want to hear good, quality metal music, and they want to know that you're actually playing your instrument, unlike most other modern genres. I don't think they care so much that you used a live amp or amp sim.
What Amp Sims are Best for Metal?
Now we get to one of the more debatable questions. Is there a best virtual amp for recording metal guitars?
Well, there are some amp sims that suck for metal guitars (they may be ok for country, blues, or whatever...but not metal). I won't mention those.
Rather, I'll mention just a few that work quite well for metal:
- Positive Grid BIAS Amp 2 and BIAS FX: https://www.positivegrid.com/
- Neural DSP Fortin Nameless and NTS: https://neuraldsp.com/
- Amplitube: https://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/amplitube4/
As you may already know, I've been using Positive Grid for a while now, and have actually recorded many albums with their plugins.
They have 2 plugins, and if you want to learn more about how to use those, check out my post (there's a video in the post as well): How to Use BIAS Amp 2 and BIAS FX Together
The Fortin NTS is a beast for metal tones, and I've been using that one quite a bit as well. Here's some Fortin NTS tones...
You can also check out my full post with more videos here: Fortin NTS and Nameless for Brutal Metal Tones
6 - Recording Metal Vocals
We're going to venture a little further out from the world of metal guitar and talk about recording metal vocals.
I'm throwing this in because many of us guitarists also sing. And if not lead, we may at least sing backup.
If nothing else, it's not a bad idea to have your studio setup for recording vocals for your band's singer. It's just one less hassle if you can do most everything in your home studio.
4 Things You Need to Record Metal Vocals
Not counting the mic stand and cable (of course those are pretty important), there are 4 components I highly recommend for recording vocals in a small home studio:
You don't have to get the SM7B mic, but just know it's the go-to for countless metal singers. And it's also relatively inexpensive compared to other studio mics (these things can get up there in price!).
If you had to skimp on anything, it would be the additional screen. However, I deem this as a necessity for recording vocals in small home studios. It's the closest thing to being in a n actual pro studio vocal booth and does a great job at keeping sounds from bouncing all other the place.
It also helps add more clarity and depth to your vocal tracks. So...don't skimp on this if you unless you have a true vocal booth in your studio.
You can get this cool vocal package on Amazon: Shure SM7B with Cloudlifter
And here's the link for the Amazon link for the reflections screen (this is the cheaper, and the one I have which does wonders for recording vocals): sE Reflexion Screen
7 - What About Recording Drums?
I'll go ahead and admit I am NOT an expert at drums, and no nothing about recording live drums. So in this section, I'm going to share 2 things regarding drums:
- What I use to for drums to get my ideas and initial tracks down
- What (or who) I actually use for my album drum tracks
I find the recording process much smoother I record my guitar to drum patterns instead of a click track. For that I use Toontrack EZDrummer. I have their Metal Machine and Death Metal packs, and those provide enough drum loops for me to work with to get my initial guitars, bass, and vocals recorded.
For my recent album and projects going forward, I will always hire a REAL DRUMMER! I'll talk more about that below, and will also give you a valuable resource.
How to Use EZDrummer
Here's a short video I made on how to use EZDrummer for recording your initial tracks. I'm actually using their Metal Machine pack here (and I believe Andy Sneaps set).
I also own Superior Drummer from Toontrack, but I find for my purposes EZDrummer is easier to work with, so I just stick with that.
**You can read more about Toontrack's drum software here: https://www.toontrack.com/
Hire a Real Drummer (Best Decision I Ever Made)
If you're planning to release a professional album, I strongly urge you to record a real drummer.
If you're in a band and want to record your drummer, either expand your studio to support that, or fork out the cash to buy sessions in a pro studio to record him/her.
Or if you're like me, a solo artist who doesn't quite have the talent to play metal drums, I suggest hiring a real drummer. In fact, hiring a drummer for my latest album is the single best decision I've made for my music.
Here's the steps I took:
- Sent the drummer 2 tracks for each song - 1 with the EZDrummer drums so he could get an idea of what I wanted, and the other was the file without the drums so he could play along with and record his drums
- He recorded his drums and sent me 2 types of tracks - 1 mix with his drums, and then he sent me his stem files (he actually also sent me 1 file with the drums already mixed, and I ended up using that for my album
- Dumped the 'real' drum track into my studio and finished the process!
I regret not doing this for my first few albums, though they're guitar-based instrumentals. From here on, I will always produce albums with real drums.
Contact this Awesome Metal Drummer
Cameron Fleury recorded the drum tracks for my album Masterpeace, and I will definitely reach out to him for future projects. He brought so much life to this album it's unbelievable!
He's the best metal drummer I've ever collaborated with. And if you're a drummer, you has a ton of lessons on his YouTube channel (the below video is a double bass tutorial for beginners). You can also contact him here: Contact Cameron on FB
Start Recording Your Metal Music NOW
You're now ready to start writing and recording your own metal music! This post is probably worth reading through a few times. And make sure you save it in your favorites to refer back to, because I will update it as I make changes to my own home recording studio.
I hope you enjoyed this, and hope that it was helpful to you!
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions about the gear I use or the recording process.
Keep it Metal,