Things have come a long way from the days of the cassette tape Fostex 4-track
It really is incredible how far things have come with home studios. Years ago, I started out with a small 4-track Fostex recorder that used standard cassette tapes, and I quickly learned the basics of multitrack recording - the world opened up. Fast forward to the Mac & PC era, and now we have serious professional-grade possibilities right on the desktop - or basement studio in my case.
I started out using Cubase, and eventually migrated to a Mac-based system using Logic Pro X as my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Over time I added enough preamps, compressors, various microphones and audio interfaces to record a full drum kit, installed soundproofing inside the walls and ceiling, acoustic dampening to the walls and finally a DMX lighting system to set whatever mood felt right.
Although it's not a large space, it is warm and inviting and has a very controlled sound - and importantly never generated a noise complaint from the neighbours!
I'm primarily a guitarist, so much of my instrumentation is made up of guitars and amplifiers - never a bad thing! However as I always wanted to write music in its entirety, I also picked up bass, drums and keys to flesh out my sound. Only very recently did I start doing vocal work, which makes me very thankful for my soundproofing!
By far my favourite instrument is my Fender Stratocaster, with my #2 being my Copperhead - a home-built guitar that is great for heavier guitar parts and leads. Amplifiers used on the album were a Mesa/Boogie MkIV for gain and cleans, and a Fender Deluxe Reverb for cleans. The bass is a Fender Precision, which goes direct to the DAW via a Radial JDI box.
Drums are programmed in MIDI with OCD-level detail (I sold my acoustic kit as it took up half the studio!) and I also use a Yamaha digital kit when I want to physically beat the skins. I also used a cajon on "Dreams"
As I mentioned above, I use Logic Pro X as my DAW system which is an incredible production platform at any price. But to be honest, the secret superpower of the studio is in the non-glorious area of the sound control - acoustic panels which make for a very manageable sound in the recording space, all of which allows for a professional-grade final product.
As I record my instruments acoustically, I use a range of microphones, each with their own areas of strength. Mic choice and placement is everything, providing the right EQ and tonal control even before the sound hits the recording interface. From there, setting gain levels, adjusting compressors and setting up monitor and headphone mixes with effects and reverb are absolutely critical to get inspired performances from the artist, and one area where I might have the most fun outside of playing the actual music - it really is an art unto itself!
For me, the mixing and production phase is an iterative process, integral to how I write my music. Although much of this work is completed after everything is recorded, I find the key bits that make the most difference are those that are done during the recording phase - write-perform-record-mix-repeat.
Sometimes I'll use upwards of 100 tracks within a song, with areas of overlap, little bits here and there with different effects and many, many layers of background vocals. The common element is always a solid base track section, comprised of drums/percussion, bass, and rhythm guitars. Once this is completed, I layer on all those necessary parts the song requires, constantly recording and deleting until I arrive at the final performance. This takes a huge chunk of time, not the least of which is going through everything I recorded to identify good parts, edit, delete, EQ, pan and mix them only to get to 95% completion and still not be quite satisfied.
And let me tell you, that last 5% to final production takes 95% of the effort!