How To Record Music At Home: First Steps
And thats how to record music at home. If youre new to this stuff, these steps will get you started.
Tips To Optimizing Your Computer Performance:
To get the most out of your computers performance, install your DAW, plugins, and VSTs on the main drive. Place your audio and sample libraries on a second drive on your computer or an external drive.
Use solid-state drives whenever possible. Your productivity will skyrocket. And again, get the biggest drives you can afford.
Here are some SSD drives worth buying:
- SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable SSD The new generation has sped up to 1,050MB/s which means your samples will load as fast as lighting. It also has a rugged enclosure meaning it wont break down so easily if you were to drop it.
- Western Digital 2TB WD Blue For desktop computers, the WD Blue SSD gives you space and speeds up to 560MB/s without costing too much.
Leveraging The Overdubbing Capabilities Of A Multitrack Recorder
Multitrack recorders are very versatile when it comes to recording audio. The latest generation multitrack recorders offer overdubbing capabilities that can help you if you plan to record your voice-over background music.
Although this is a possible option, especially if you already have a multitrack recorder, in my opinion, the first two methods mentioned in this article are much better because you can leverage the editing capabilities of a digital audio workstation.
Besides, it is much easier to work on a computer or smartphone to edit and mix the recorded project than with a multitrack field recorder as they are limited on what they can do for editing recordings.
Still, this is a viable option you can explore. In addition, the multitrack recorder comes with condenser mics you can use to capture your vocals.
A cool feature of multitrack recorders is that if you prefer to use a studio condenser microphone instead of the ones that come with it, you can. All you have to do is connect it to the recorder on one of the available channels, turn on the phantom power and press the record button.
This method would be perfect for musicians who create their background track using an instrument. For example, you can record the track with a guitar, then use either the internal or an external microphone to record your voice over the track.
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Home Recording Studio: The Definitive Guide For Beginners
Dusan is a versed musician with more than a decade of experience in the industry, including countless live performances as a professional DJ. He has a Bachelorss in Musical Theory and hands-on experience with all sorts of musical instruments. In addition to that, hes also a talented writer and content creator, with a passion for all things tech. Musical Training and Background Like most professional musicians, he too started discovering his love for music and instruments at quite a young age. His first love was the piano, which he played even before starting grammar school.
Consordinis articles are written by musicians who independently research, test, and recommend the best instruments and products. We are reader-supported. When you purchase through links in our articles, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Are you a musician, singer, or do you have dreams of being able to make your own music through music production?
Not sure where to start?
This guide is your one-stop place for learning how to set up your own home recording studio and get started making music.
Heres what you will learn in this guide:
Starting out as a beginner, you may have various questions about home studio essentials, how to make a home studio, or even just how to record music at home.
Obviously the biggest concern for a lot people who want to make a DIY recording studio is the price.
What Do You Need For A Home Studio Setup
Regardless of whether you want something more professional but still a simple home recording studio, or you just want to build a basic bedroom recording studio, the equipment you need remains the same.
I highly recommend you make a recording studio equipment list for things you plan to buy, and check items off of that list as you purchase them.
Below is a comprehensive list of ideal music production equipment for beginners.
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Buy Home Recording Gear
We have made this bit really easy for you by assembling some recording bundles which contain everything you need to get started in your home studio. Weve made bundles for singers, guitarists, singer-songwriters and more, so even if you were originally unsure about what recording equipment you need to buy, you can quickly and easily pick the gear that suits your needs.
All you have to do is check that the bundles will work with your PC or Mac. Pretty much all audio interfaces come with simple recording software, so our bundles are ideal for people who want to record themselves quickly and easily. If youre not sure if any of these are right for you, why not give us a call?
Connect Audio Interface To Computer
Your audio interface will usually have come supplied with a cable to connect it to a computer. This is usually USB or Thunderbolt. Locate a free port on your computer, plug the correct end of the cable into it , and plug the other end of the cable into the port labelled USB, PC or computer on the interface.
Some interfaces require AC mains power, while others dont. If yours does, dont forget to plug the supplied power supply into a free wall outlet.
Recording Your Original Music
Once you have all the gear you need, recording your original music with your computer is a matter of making the connections, opening the software, hitting ârecordâ and playing your tune. Depending on how elaborate your setup is, you can record one track at a time, or a live band with several performers at once. For our purposes, letâs talk about how to record a track at a time:
Home Studio Setup: Placing Your Monitors
Before you consider acoustic treatment, you need to make sure to organize your room in the right way.
Its easier to start with an empty room. This gives you a blank canvas to work with.
The main thing to consider when designing the layout of your room is the position of the speakers.
When recording, you are mobile . You can move the microphone around the room.
But once you set up your speakers, theyre gonna stay there.
Heres the ideal way to set up your room
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A Daw/audio Interface Combo
If you dont already know
The DAW is the software used to record, edit, and mix music on your computer
And the Audio Interface is the hardware used to connect your computer with the rest of your gear.
These two items can either be bought separately, OR as a combo. But your first studioI highly recommend the combo.
- Its one less item on your shopping list.
- Its cheaper than buying them separately.
- It offers guaranteed compatibility and tech support.
Plus, the companies that offer these combos are among the best in the business: Presonus, Avid and Steinberg.
Presonus offers a free copy of their Studio One Artist DAW with the following popular interfaces:
When youre just starting out, most of your time is spent recording .
Which is why in the beginning, all you really need is one pair of headphones.
For studio purposes, there are 2 very specific designs considered standard:
While open back headphones are considered more of a luxuryfor your first studio, closed back headphones are a necessity.
And in this post I reveal the best options for both:
- Sony MDR 7506
As a supplement to your headphones, I also recommend an extension cablesince standard headphone cables are always too short.
Personally, I like this one: Mogami Headphone Extension 25
The Process Of Recording Your Music At Home
Youve got all the equipment and software that you need, and its all set up. Its time to press that big red record button! This section takes you through the process of actually recording your music on your computer. Ill keep things quite general for 2 reasons
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Set The Recording Levels
Nows the perfect time to check your levels. You dont want your volume too high or it will result in clipping, which will sound nasty and ruin your recording. Try to keep the loudest parts to around -10 dbfs, as shown on your volume meter, and turn down the gain on your interface until you have plenty of headroom to avoid clipping.
Essential Item #4 Microphone Stand
The same goes here. Go for the middle ground.
You need one stand per microphone.
Be aware: these stands DO wear out over time. The cheaper you get, the more likely you will have to quickly replace the stand.
Id recommend grabbing the K& M 210 Telescoping Boom Stand.
Its lasted me a few years at this point, which is a great lifespan for a mic stand. Plus, its not as crazy expensive as some of the upper-tier models.
If you ever record vocals, you need a pop filter.
They arent expensive and will stop plosives from ruining your vocal recordings.
Id check out the Shure PS-6 Popper Stopper.
You have two options here: closed-back or open-back headphones for your studio.
Closed-back headphones are for monitoring when recording .
Open-back headphones are for mixing.
For your first pair, go for closed-back headphones. You can still mix on them .
I love the Sennheiser HD 280 headphones for an affordable first pair.
They sound great, and most importantly, theyre not thousands of dollars.
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Dont Spend Hours At A Time Mixing
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip.
The longer you spend mixing, playing your song over and over again, the more fatigued your ears will become, and itll be harder and harder for you to point out issues in your mix.
Mix for shorter amounts of time, like 30 minutes to an hour, and then take a rest and come back to it a few hours later or even the next day.
But Everyone Says Get The Shure Sm57
Sure, the Shure SM57 is a great dynamic microphone, primarily because its extremely versatile for recording different types of instruments. It also has a higher SPL level, making it better for recording loud instruments like drums.
However, youll never get that lush, full-sounding vocal with a dynamic microphone that you would with large-diaphragm condenser microphones.
A condenser microphone sounds more broadcast-ready, because of its warm, full-bodied sound. You can record voice-overs, warm vocals for your tracks, including acoustic instruments like violins and guitars.
Generally, a condenser microphone makes a good start because youll be able to tackle more audio and music projects with it.
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Choose An Audio Interface
An audio interface acts as the intermediary between the analog realm of sound and the digital realm of your computer.
Your choice of an interface must factor how many inputs you need or how many sources you plan to record at once. Audio interfaces vary primarily in terms of the number of inputs and outputs. More inputs mean more sources can be recorded simultaneously.
What about outputs? Most people only use a single pair of studio monitors. Two outputs are necessary. Nevertheless, mixing engineers may need multiple reference speakers and/or outboard gear in their setup. This mandates an interface with at least 4 outputs.
If you only plan to record one or two sources at a time, for instance, a singer-songwriter playing guitar and singing simultaneously, 2 inputs will suffice. Most interfaces in the entry-level category have 2-input and are geared towards small recording studios.
The EVO 4 are both solid options, sound great and wont cost the earth. If you plan to record a drum kit or a full band, you need more inputs or a good interface with ADAT expansions .
Create The Ideal Recording Environment
Most people donât have an acoustically treated, soundproofed room or vocal booth at home, so room reflections can sometimes be a bit of an issue.
However, as long as the room youâre recording in isnât covered with giant mirrors or windows, and doesnât have ceramic tiled floors, then you should be able to find a spot in the room that works, but do try out a few different positions. Oh, and also make sure your washing machine isnât switched on!
Youâll also need a Pop Shield to stop your âPsâ and âFsâ from muffling your recording. Theyâre not particularly expensive, but if you donât have one, then try a pair of tights stretched over a coat hanger, thatâs what I used to do!
Pop shields are cheap, easy to use, and essential for recording vocals
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The 2 Recording Approaches
When you are recording at home, there are essentially two approaches, or mindsets, or attitudes you can have.
One is the songwriting approach this is where you are recording as part of the process of writing your song. Here, you are aiming to get your ideas down as quickly as possible. If you dont play a part perfectly, sing a note or two out of tune, or are a bit out-of-time with a part, that is perfectly ok. You are writing and developing your song here, not recording it for release.
The other approach is the tracking approach. You have already written your song and you know what the parts are. This time when recording, you are going to try and get everything as good as you possibly can. These are the parts that will go into your actual mix, and ultimately be released as the final song. If it takes 35 takes to get that guitar solo just right, then so be it!
I regularly use both approaches, including a hybrid mix of the two when appropriate.
Do I Need To Buy A Microphone Or Audio Interface
If you need to record sound from the outside world, then youll need an audio interface, and possibly a microphone. But not everyone needs to do thisthe 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. These can generally be played with an external music keyboard by plugging it into a USB port on your computer.
If you want to make music with digital sound sources, these articles will get you started:
But if you want to record vocals, guitars, drums and pianos from the real world, youll need an interface to convert the sound waves into digital information.
Just about every computer today has a sound card with a headphone jack and line and mic inputs. But these cards are too noisy and inaccurate for pro audio work. You need to buy an audio interface.
There is a large range of audio interfaces, so youll need to do your homework. The following two articles are a good starting point:
An Alesis MultiMix16 audio interface with mixer.
Do you need a microphone or two as well? If youre just plugging your guitars and electronic instruments straight into your audio interface, you may get away without one. But if you want to capture vocals or acoustic instruments, a mic is a must.
Choosing the right microphone for your situation also requires some homework. Get started by carefully studying these articles:
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In All Signal Paths Go For Transparency Over Color
When it comes to gear, the goal is not mojo or warmth, but cleanlinessa low signal-to-noise ratio and a clear/present sound are more valuable to the production than all the harmonic saturation in the world.
Priorities are also different when it comes to your high end: a vocal with soaring trebles may be perfect for an RnB recording, but for an audiobook, a podcast, a commercial voice over, and other similar media, trebles need not be so awe-inspiring. High, whispery tones can become distracting and hard to listen to in a spoken word context. Youll notice this if you ever compare a podcast recording against a vocal in a piece of music.
Here Id like to highlight the signal path iZotope included in their at-home recording device, Spire Studio.
The preamps are fashioned by Michael Grace, a designer well-known for his ability to secure a transparent signal chain. The clarity and pristine nature of these preamps shine. Here is an example I recorded with Jesse Willard, who was mic’d on an SM57 going through a Spire, while I was micd with a much more expensive microphone in a treated room: