Get Started With Home Recording
Before Home Recording…
A few years ago, the only way to get a listenable recording was to enter a professional recording studio and spend a lot of money to get your songs heard.
As computers, home recording hardware, and high-tech software decreased in price and increased exponentially in quality, it has become easy to make a high quality home recording using your own equipment and instruments.
With a few hundred dollars you can actually set up a pretty decent audio studio to start recording. There will definitely be a few limitations, but nothing that isn’t easy to work around.
First things first
When you get start home recording, one of your first decisions should be what audio interface and software you’ll use in your home studio, or if you’re planning on recording straight to your computer.
The good news is that if your computer was made anytime in the last few years, it’s probably ready for recording without much work. That being said, maxing out your RAM and hard drive space can’t hurt.
You’ll need an interface, a USB attachment to your computer that allows you to input your microphones and instruments into your computer. You’ll also need a software package or DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to mix and edit your audio files.
Once you’ve got all your home recording equipment you just need to hook it all up and install the software drivers. You’ll also want to install your DAW software and tell it to use your new audio interface.
You’re going to need to learn a little about mixing and working with your software. If you want to save some cash, go to your local library. You might actually be surprised how many books there are on basic audio mixing. They might be a bit out of date, but the principles haven’t changed much. You’ll also want to check out sites like Lynda if you want video lessons on specific software. It’ll cost you a little money, but you won’t have to pay much to pick up the basics.
If you need to record acoustic sounds or vocals, then you’ll need a microphone. But not everyone needs to do this—the sounds they use are already on the computer. This is especially true if you make music by manipulating loops and samples, or use virtual instruments (VSTs). These can generally be played with an external music instrument by plugging it into your audio interface.
Listening to your home recording
Finally you will need a set of Monitors (Speakers) or Headphones. This is one thing you really can’t scrimp on. You’ll need to hear what’s really going on with your recordings, and cheap speakers/headphones just won’t allow you to do that.
If you can stretch the budget, I recommend a pair of headphones like the Sony MDR-7506. You’ll find these everywhere from The Record Plant to Abbey Road and they’ll set you back around $200 but they’re absolutely worth it.
If you can’t afford that, plan for at least $50 on a pair of closed-ear headphones, the kind that cover your whole ear to isolate the outside sound. It’s also important to remember that preferences on audio gear can vary quite a bit. Most people have their favorites and there’s plenty of good stuff out there.