I recorded my first album in high school. At least I called it an “album.”
My gear list included:
- A basic home PC
- A “free” version of Cakewalk Guitar Tracks I got from a friend.
- That skinny little dictation microphone that used to come with home computers. (Remember those? It was a skinny little microphone about eight inches long, mounted to a cheap little plastic stand, plugged into the sound card at the back of the computer. See pic at the end of this article.)
This was my first foray into recording. If you’re wondering, I shan’t be re-releasing that album. Whew, it was awful.
Sound Card? Mixing Board? Firewire? USB? What is an audio interface?
Plainly speaking, an audio interface is any device that gets audio into and out of your computer.
Audio interfaces can be PCI cards that you install inside your computer. They can be outboard devices that you connect to your computer via USB or Firewire, or they can be some combination of both.
Every computer comes with a built-in “sound card,” or audio interface. These are fine for playing email sounds or YouTube videos, but they’re hardly suitable for recording and playback.
For this reason, home studio owners buy an audio interface. (more…)
Alright, so you’ve determined that your computer is up to snuff for recording music. Congratulations! The computer is oftentimes the most expensive piece of the whole studio (especially starting out).
You’re creating a DAW, a Digital Audio Workstation. Now that you have a computer, you need some recording software.
“What should I get?” you ask.
There are a ton of options, and many of them are free. If you’re not sure how serious you are about recording, you may need to start with one of the free programs. I’ve found Reaper to work well on the PC. If you’ve got a relatively new Mac, then you’re already off to the races with GarageBand, which is included for free.
Before you can even think about releasing your first quadruple-platinum album, you’ll need some way to record it. For years, big ‘ol tape machines ruled the recording world. I’ve got a buddy who laughs at how much much useless information from “the analog days” is taking up valuable space in his brain – things like like how to align a 2-inch tape machine.
While it used to take up to several hours just to set up the studio for recording (aligning tape machines, zeroing out the console, setting up the patchbay), now I can walk into my studio, flip on a power switch, double click on an icon, and I don’t even have time to make coffee before my studio is ready to start recording the next “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Thank God for computers.
There are hundreds of ways to configure a home recording studio. If you’ve had a home studio for a while, then you know what I’m talking about. Over time my studio has evolved and grown in all sorts of directions. If you’re new to home recording, however, this can be almost paralyzing! You’ve got a million different products, all of which claim to be the savior of the modern world.
Where do you even start? My goal here isn’t to provide an exhaustive list of everything anyone would ever think of wanting and then give you a comparison chart that covers every minute detail of every recording product ever invented. Rather, I’ll speak from my own experience. I’ve been recording music for years, and while I’m no multi-platinum award-winning audio engineer, I do have a lot of good experience setting up home studios.