It’s perfectly possible to make very high quality recordings at home with today’s computer technology. However, you will need to spend a fair bit of money on software, and hardware (such as high quality microphones and soundcards) in order to achieve this. BUT DON’T WORRY! It is entirely possible to make recordings at home that are very respectable in quality whilst spending only a relatively small amount of money! Even better news…it’s all pretty easy to do!

I like to think of my home recording set-up like an artist’s sketchbook. It’s somewhere to play around with my ideas, record a few vocal takes, put down a basic bass line, some simple drums and maybe a guitar track behind it. It’s then that the magic really starts. On pretty much all music software you can just copy and paste individual parts (or whole sections) around, just like you would do in a word processor. This makes it really easy to swap verses around, try a new drum beat on a different section…anything you can think of really.

Home studio software usually has a good selection of instruments built in, so you can add piano, strings, brass, synth and many more sounds to your songs. If you’re an accomplished keyboard player you can play all these different parts in via a (music) keyboard. If not, you can just play the notes in on screen (and you can change them really easily if you play a wrong note).

Like I said, if you want to do this all at a really high (studio quality) level, then you’ll need to think about investing some serious cash. But most software and hardware manufacturers have realised that there are loads of people like you and me out there, and have produced some really good ‘Entry Level’ cut down versions of their studio quality kit.

What you’ll need to get started.

At the most basic level, all you need for recording at home is a microphone, a sound card and a computer running some recording software. Lets look at the hardware first.

Microphones

You can use the same microphone you would use for live shows for basic home recording (the Shure SM58 is a tried and tested classic), but you’ll want to think about getting a studio quality condenser microphone if you want to record higher quality vocals.

Pop Shield

Pop shields are an inexpensive device that attaches to the mic stand, and stops loud blowing and popping noises from reaching the microphone. Singers make these noises mostly when singing ‘P’ and ‘B’ type sounds. You can make basic pop shield by stretching a pair of tights over a wire coat hanger! It won’t be as good as a professional one, but it will do the job pretty well!

Sound Cards

The majority of sound cards that come with computers are not designed for use with music programs. If you try to use them for recording music the quality will be much lower and you will experience large delays which will make recording impossible. If you want to do home recording then you will need a soundcard that has been designed for this purpose.

There are several different types:-

Internal Cards – If you have a PC that has a spare internal card slot, then you can get a relatively inexpensive sound card that can be used for home music production. If you know what you are doing you can fit them yourself, but if you’re in any doubt then please (for your own safety) get someone who knows what they are doing to fit it.

USB / FIREWIRE – there are some great sound cards that attach via USB / FIREWIRE. They usually cost a little bit more, but are really easy to transfer between computers if you use more than one.

Another thing to consider when you are buying a sound card is whether or not it will directly accept the signal from your microphone. It will almost certainly tell you this on the package / website where you buy it from, and may say something like ‘Mic Preamp’. If it doesn’t then you will need to connect it via your mixing desk.

Now lets talk about the software

On the most basic level, the software works by recording each channel of music (e.g. Vocals, Guitar, Drums etc). You can then alter the volumes of each of the different tracks, just like you would do live on a mixing desk. Each separate channel can be chopped up and moved around (just like you can copy and paste text in a word processor). This is what makes recording on computers much more powerful than old style tape recordings. Finaly you can add effects like compression, reverb and delay to individual tracks (or to the whole mix) then your track is about finished.

I’ve always used software from a company called Steinberg. It’s very powerful software and it’s pretty easy to understand. Steinberg produces a very high quality studio program called Cubase 4. They also produce a cut down version for the home user called Cubase 4 Essential, and another piece of software aimed at total beginners called Sequel. There are several other companies that also make great quality, affordable software for home recording.

Once you’ve got the basics set up, you just need to get recording, and try out new things. Make sure you read the user manual to get full benefit out of these powerful pieces of software.

Good luck, and above all, enjoy your music!

By: Gemma King

About the Author:

Gemma King is a Professional Singer, Songwriter, Vocal Coach and artist Consultant. She regularly writes for her newsletter which is a must read for both amateur and professional singers alike.

Gemma has also written a book on ‘How To Become A Singer‘ which is available on her website now.

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Posted in Music Software by: Hip Hop Diva

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