The Beginners guide to Recording

Everything you will need to start recording your music, today!

The beginners guide to recording

So many of us have, at some point or another tried to record our music from home with varied results. To be fair, I am referring to myself using two tape decks back in the late 80’s recording one take with the built-in microphone on the tape deck and then the second take onto a new tape with the second tape deck playing the first recording loudly in the background giving me a maximum of three or so recording passes with less than desirable result… but hey, you did what you could back then…

Some of you may be able to relate but for the vast majority, this struggle will never truly be understood as recording from home has become more accessible today than ever before. The best part of all is that great quality home recording equipment is both readily available and more cost-effective than you may think and don’t for one second think that affordability means diminished quality. In fact, some of today’s biggest hits were recorded from home using very similar products to the gear I will discuss in this blog post.

So, sit back, relax and get ready for a guided tour to the absolute beginner’s guide to home recording.

What will you need?

Before we get down to business I want to quickly dispel a popular misconception that “You need really expensive gear to make good music” that is simply not true! So now that I have gotten all the “Red Tape” out of the way, here are the bare essentials you will need to start recording music from home:

Something to Record to:

Now I’m not going to get into the whole MAC/PC debate, but truth be told as technology improves more and more people are using mobile devices like tablets/iPad’s and even mobile phones to produce ridiculously good quality recordings, so I will end it by saying this, for a home recording studio you would need a MAC or PC. This is the heart of your recording studio and by today’s standards, even entry-level MAC/PC’s are more than capable of getting the job done whether it be Laptop or Desktop.  

An Audio Interface:

Aside from a Microphone, this is without question one of the most important pieces of hardware you will need to get your home recording setup going. This is fundamentally the piece of gear that will get your recordings INTO your computer. Simply put the Audio interface is the hub that you will connect everything from your Microphone to Studio Monitors to. The bottom line is to start with you just need something that can at very least connect a Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone and Guitar at the same time. Perfect for any signer songwriters needs. Below are a few cost-effective solutions to start you off on the right “Track” 😉

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Presonus AudioBox

Behringer U-Phoria

Audio Interface

A Microphone:

Keep in mind that this Blog is aimed at getting you started so I won’t be discussing the more technical aspects of microphones but rather what you would need to start recording quality tracks on a budget. If you would like to know more about what the different Microphones do and what makes them special, check out the article Understanding Microphone Polar-Patterns.

I believe in the 2K rule. Generally speaking, any Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone exceeding R2000 will be more than adequate in most situations from recording Vocals all the way through to an Acoustic Guitar or even drums at a push. The point that you need to take here is that you just need something that will accurately capture your performance and a Large Diaphragm Condenser will almost always work. Below is a few suggestions that will be more than sufficient to start your studio off with, it also won’t hurt to get a good dynamic microphone and the Shure SM57 is an inexpensive industry standard that won’t rip a hole in your wallet.

Blue Spark

Behringer C-3

AKG P120 

Microphone, Headphones and Pop Filter

A Midi Controller (Keyboard):

Is a MIDI controller essential? Well, no, not if you are only looking to record audio. Let’s say you are a singer-songwriter who only plans on tracking acoustic guitar and vocals then you could skip this step without much loss to the bigger picture but… If you want to use virtual instruments (and in today’s recording environments, practically everybody does because of the fact that almost all DAW’s ship with virtual instruments prepacked) to create things like piano or synth parts using something like Native Instruments, a bass line using something like the incredible MODOBass by IK Multimedia or create a drum track using virtual instruments like Superior Drummer 3 to round off your creation then a Midi keyboard controller is a must.

If you already own a digital piano or keyboard, then all you may need is a Midi Cable or USB Cable to connect your digital piano or keyboard to your computer (this depends on the model you have). If you don’t already have a digital piano or keyboard I have listed a few options below that would be perfect to get you started.

25 Key

Novation Launchkey 25

Novation 25 SL

49 Key

Novation Launchkey 49

Novation 49 SL 

A Digital Audio Workstation, more commonly known as a DAW:

Yet another controversial topic among professionals in the recording industry is that of which DAW is best? It is generally accepted that Pro Tools by Avid is the “Industry Standard” but again by no means is it the only solution and the fact is that any solutions out there today will do the trick, provided you know how to use the software. Other than that, choosing a software solution is a very personal thing but you really can’t go wrong. Below I have provided you with a few links to some of the more popular options out there. Also, as an FYI most if not all Audio interfaces come bundled with some form of DAW right out of the box be it a trial or a limited version, but you will have something to start with as soon as you open the box, at least in most cases.

Pro Tools

Cubase

Ableton

Headphones and Studio Monitors:

Once you have got the audio captured on your computer, you need to get it back out again! I mean what good is creating the perfect track on your computer if you can’t hear it right? And because you are working in a Studio Environment (Even if you are just starting out in a Home or even a Project Studio) you will need to invest in some good quality flat response studio headphones and if not right out of the gates, sooner rather than later you will also want a good pair of studio-grade monitors (Powered Speakers).

Why Studio monitors? In short, Studio monitors provide you with a clear uncoloured representation of your recording, so you can mix your track more accurately without overcompensation for things like bass or high-frequency build up. That said, even a decent pair studio monitors are not “cheap”, so if you are on a tight budget, it may be best to invest in a quality set of headphones and add Studio Monitors to your setup a little further down the road. Remember this is the beginner's guide to recording after all. Below I have listed a few great options for both:

Headphones:

KRK KNS 6400 Studio Monitoring Headphones

Sennheiser HD 6 MIX

AKG K240 MKII Professional Studio Headphones

Monitors:

KRK Rokit 6 G3

Yamaha HS7

Tannoy Reveal 802

Cables, Stands, and Accessories:

There are a few essential cables you are going to need to get everything connected properly:

An XLR mic cable, to connect your microphone to your audio interface and to stop things like plosives (P’s T’s and Sh’s) you are going to need a Pop Filter to ensure you get the best possible vocal recordings in your environment. You may also want to step the whole production facility up a notch by adding an Isolation Shield to curb unwanted reflections from creeping their way into your mixes.

A pair of cables to connect your Monitors to your audio interface (Not a requirement if you are using headphones) here you are also going to need to look at buying a set of Studio Monitor Stands to correctly isolate your monitors from your workstation to optimise the range of sound you hear as well as avoid any unwanted “distortion/degradation” of the sound you perceive while mixing your song.

A mic stand is an absolutely “must have” especially if you will be recording using a very sensitive Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone. It’s not the best idea to try and record with a dynamic microphone in your hands while attempting to operate the recording software at the same time. I assure you the results will not be pleasant.

Studio in a Box:

If you would rather take the guesswork out of it and get everything you need to get going all in one box, a great not to mention cost-effective solution is getting a “Studio in a Box” Focusrite make a great all in one solution in the Focusrite Scarlett 2I2 Studio This studio bundle gives you an audio interface, Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, and Headphones along with all the cables you will need in one convenient box.

So where to from here?

Hopefully the above gives you a good basis for what you would need to get started with your first home recording studio venture.

As well as helping you to make great recordings, there is no question in my mind that if you want to learn to play an instrument like piano or guitar the process is so much faster if you make use of home studio equipment not to mention a whole lot more fun.

If I can leave you with one thought that I really want to sink in, remember it is about the music more than anything. Having expensive gear is a “Nice to have” but without a stellar performance no amount of equipment in the world is going to give you a great result. So basically, don’t forget to play for the love of playing, the better you get the better gear you can legitimately warrant buying 😊

Keep an eye out for future posts discussing subjects like tracking techniques and mixing to help you get the most out of your gear. Until Next time,

Play More.

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