Hello there, if you’re like me then you’ve played music for years. Maybe you’ve even recorded it a bit, but it just doesn’t sound like you want it to. There could be a lot of reasons for this; bad equipment, bad technique (doubtful), or any other sort of unknown reason. The problem is most people don’t know how to get into recording or creating music on any sort of strong level.
Now that we are twelve years into the new millennium the technology is becoming smaller, more powerful and much much cheaper! The big secret isn’t the gear, it’s the knowledge. My first recording rig was a cheap desktop computer I borrowed from a friend.
Gone are the days when you needed a huge recording console worth hundreds of thousands of dollars just to record a few different instruments. Now you can do it with a laptop and a microphone. You can still pay for the high dollar stuff, but that isn’t the focus of this article. This article will talk about getting the best bang for your hard earned cash and allow you to be on your way to making great music and actually getting it recorded.
Without further ado I will proceed with the secrets.
The first thing in this modern age of recording you will need is a computer. A computer is the hub, central command, and digital brain of your recording project. There are many detractors to this but the truth is, even if you record your song with analog gear it’s going to end up digital anyway. Quite frankly you just can’t please some people.
But yes a modern day computer is your main piece of recording gear. Personally I use a Mac Book Pro. But you don’t have to spend that much money starting out. Before I was using the Mac I used a $500 Dell laptop. I was able to produce some really cool stuff that way.
No really, I’m serious. Most newer computers come with multi-core processors and lots of memory.
It’s more than enough for any beginning producer.
Now that we got command center out of the way, you’ll need to have something that most people don’t know about.
That is the audio interface. Since this is a complete beginner’s guide I won’t go into all the technical things but this is what you need to know first. Audio, (your instrument of choice) most likely creates “analog” sound. Now we need to get that sound and turn it “digital”, all those crazy ones and zero’s that look like they should be on a Keanu Reeves movie. We have to do this so that it can be understood by the computer.
All computers have this capability but it’s not really that good. Plus regular microphone cables and instrument cables really don’t go that tiny hole that well.
This task will call for something called an “Audio Interface”. These can range from something costing $100 to amazingly expensive depending on the quality level.
M-Audio is a brand that makes a great interface for a low price. I would definitely suggest the M-audio Fasttrack interface. It’s good quality and it’s relatively inexpensive. Also it is very easy to use.
That piece of gear usually plugs into your USB port on your computer. Some however use the firewire port. So it’s a good idea to make sure your interface connection matches ports on your computer.
The next thing we need is a microphone.
Now this is a huge subject designed for volumes and volumes of information. Basically to keep this article short and very basic, I will just make a suggestion.
My suggestion will give you quality and a good price.
I feel that using condenser style microphones is a great choice starting out. I still use an MXL brand microphone that I got for $40 for most of the recording tasks I perform.
You will need to make sure whatever mic you use has an “XLR” output as well. From there you will buy an XLR cable and plug one end from that into the mic and one end into the interface.
Sometimes you will want to record directly from a guitar or other electronic instrument such as a keyboard or electric violin (love those). For that you can use a simple instrument cable. They are just like a normal headphone cable just bigger. The end looks like the headphone cable tip but one forth of an inch thick. I’m sure if you have ever played an electric guitar you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Okay. Now that you have all your hardware lined up we will get to the most complicated part. The D.A.W. This is a set of initials that actually stands for: Digital Audio Workstation
It sounds like a nightmare, but trust me it’s not that bad. It’s basically a piece of software that allows you to mix multiple recorded sounds into an entire song.
You have several options for this. Now the industry standard is a program called “Pro Tools”. Some people hate it, some people love it. I have it but I don’t use it much unless I’m collaborating with another engineer or producer.
Picking out your D.A.W. is truthfully a matter of preference. Based on what you’re wanting to do with your music.
If you are doing Rock, Country Jazz or any of the so called “standard” genres, you would do fine with just about any of them. I can’t choose for you but I can list a few options for you to research and find your own path with. I will only list the ones I’ve used because I can’t vouch for anything I haven’t used.
We will start with my current favorite;
Apple Logic Pro Avid Pro Tools Cakewalk Sonar Cubase Ableton Live
These are the ones I’ve used but there are literally dozens of them on the market. I feel they are all pretty much great. A word of advice though. Apple Logic Pro only works for Mac computers. They stopped making it for Window’s and Linux years ago.
We’ll now recap. We need these things:
Computer $500 Audio Interface $150 Condenser Microphone $40 Mic Cable $20 Instrument Mic $20
Grand Total: $730.00
Not bad for beginning a journey that is a ton of fun and potentially has a great career as a reward.
I hope you found this article helpful, I wish you luck on all your musical endeavors. I hope to bring future articles on the use of these things to create a finished song!