HOW TO RECORD A SONG AT HOME
For as long as you can remember, music has been your life. You have your favorite genres, but you can appreciate the talent that goes into making good music no matter the style. And your Spotify playlists are legendary. You’ve learned a few instruments, can read and write music, and even written a few lyrics. Now it’s time to learn how to record a song at home.
Start getting those snippets out of your head and start recording. But it can be hard to know where to start. What kind of gear do you need, is your computer powerful enough, and how do you know what software is right for you are all acceptable questions. And now is the time to find the answers.
The Recording Process is Easier Than Ever
It doesn’t matter if you’re a PC or a MAC, a computer genius or novice, learning how to record music, work with electronic instruments, or create beats is more accessible than it’s ever been. Chances are, your computer has enough RAM and processing speed to work with simple apps, so you can start small and work your way up.
As you learn more about the process and understand what goes into quality audio or sound recording, you can begin to build out your home recording studio. You won’t need a wall of instruments, every type of microphone, or monitors lining your desk at the start. So save your money.
For now, take a look at a few of the basic necessities to record your music. (Take a minute to let that sink in–recording YOUR music.) You may find you’ll need an upgrade to your computer or to spend a few bucks on software. But we think the only way to see if you have what it takes is to dive in.
Building Your Studio
Thanks to modern technology, you don’t need to save up hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for a few hours of studio time. That can add up quickly if you’re still trying to find your sound. By learning how to record a song at home, you can record, edit, and re-record all you want, save money and travel time, and learn along the way.
WHAT YOU NEED
- A desktop or laptop computer with a fair amount of RAM, a good processor, and an audio card. The way computers are made today, you’ll probably be fine with what you have. But as your skills begin to grow, there may be a time when an upgrade is needed. Luckily, by that time, you’ll know exactly what you need.
- Digital audio workstation (DAW) software like Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton, or Reason. These are the DAWs the pros use, but there are plenty of other less expensive or free options on the market. Chances are, you won’t know what you’re doing at the start–so pick up a user-friendly free version, learn everything you can, and then upgrade to more powerful options.
- An audio interface unit allows you to record vocals, instruments, MIDI signals, and other audio directly to your computer. Most DAWs have instrument packs to work with, but if your music has lyrics, or you want to record live sound or hook up to an 808 kick drum, you’ll definitely need one of these. They vary in price, so look for a simple 2-channel box to begin with.
- A microphone if you’re recording acoustic guitar or vocals. Here’s where it may pay off to spend a little extra on high quality because the payoff is so much greater. Condenser microphones are great for lead vocals because they are able to pick up sound waves more accurately.
- Vocal isolation shields are an excellent tool for recording vocals when conditions are a little rough. The acoustical quality of your recordings will improve when in use, and they are small enough to put away when not needed.
- Audio cables to connect guitars, keyboards, or other electric instruments to the interface. You’ll also need MIDI cables if you’re using a keyboard to control virtual instruments on the computer, such as drums, bass, and other percussions.
- A room with good acoustics (or controlled acoustics) if you’re recording with a microphone. This is not mandatory to recording tracks, but it will definitely make your recordings sound better. We realize you may not have a lot of choices where you live, but there are steps you can take to optimize the space.
- Studio monitors or a really good set of headphones (not ones that boost the bass) are essential for really hearing how the music sounds. Like condenser mics, there is a wide range of quality and price when it comes to monitors, so you may want to find a good mid-range option.
RECORDING YOUR ORIGINAL MUSIC
After you have the required gear, it’s time to start recording drum loops, other instruments, vocals, and more. There is definitely a learning curve, so set aside time every day to work on your music. It’s a little more involved than just hitting “record,” although it’s much simpler to learn how to record a song at home today than in years past.
- Make the connections. The mic or instrument to the audio interface, the interface to the computer. Plug in the monitors or headphones, and you’re ready to go! Just make sure everything is powered on. Gear and computers should be plugged into a dedicated power strip surge protector or power strip power conditioner with a very high joule rating (see manufacturer’s specifications). Do not plug anything else like a fan or appliances, etc. into it as this can affect your recordings.
- Open up your DAW software. Concentrate on setting up a track first and learning the interface. If you’ve never worked with a DAW before, it can be pretty cool to see what you can do. Test the mic and other connections to ensure the connections are correct and registering.
- Click “record” and start playing. Keep doing takes until you’re happy with the performance. Don’t try to be perfect, and if you get stuck in a certain area, you can always come back to it. The beauty of digital recording!
- Repeat the process for all tracks until you have everything recorded. Another benefit of digital recording: Working on one track at a time.
- Mix the recorded tracks. Use plugins like reverb, EQ and compression to fill out the sound, if you like.
- Remember to save your work regularly! If you need more storage, there are external drives you can buy that will relieve your computer’s storage.
If you’ve never recorded using a DAW or other software, it can take some time to get everything just the way you want it. There will be a lot of hits and misses, but if you stick with it, working with digital audio workstation software will become more intuitive. Don’t get discouraged and don’t expect to be done with your first song after a few hours.
Give yourself time to make sure this is something you really want to do. And when you’re ready to really learn about making music, Recording Connection is here. We’ll give you one-on-one access to a mentor, a working audio engineering or music producer, in a totally immersive environment: A professional recording studio.
You’ll learn about the software, gear, cables, and instruments of course, but our programs are designed for much more than that. Learning how to mix and master your work and the work of others, how to work with artists, and what it takes to make it in the industry are all part of our six to nine-month programs.
But you have to really want it. That’s why we encourage you to give home recording a shot for a few months, to see if this is really for you. If you begin to wander away after a week or two, we may not be for you. We’re not here for the hobbyists–our mentors are training the next generation of music makers. Does this sound like you? Apply today to Amplify Your Life.