Audio and Video Hardware

The Best Way to Record Music on Your Computer at Home

Image taken from Andrew Euell’s Flickr stream (andyzweb).

Recoding music on a home computer has become amoreaffordableandsimplerprocessthan ever before. However, getting a good recording still requires a lot of skill, and access to the right tools is a must. Although many computers are now packaged with free audio recording software and a built-in microphone, every budding musician should be aware of the dos and don’ts of creating his or her own digital recordings.

Using the right type of equipment when recording an instrument or vocal track is always necessary. Even the cables that are used to carry the audio signalscount,so be sure to invest in high quality shielded instrument cables. For recording string instruments, such as acoustic guitars, a single low profile condenser microphone will do the job. However, it is also possible to get good results with ambient microphone techniques. Drum kits are more complex and generally sound best when each drum and cymbal is recorded separately using the appropriate drum-mounted microphones.

Investing in a good audio interface, which is sometimes called an external sound card, is a necessity when recording audio. A dedicated audio interface will provide much better sound quality than the computer’s onboard soundcard.Select an audio interface that has enough inputs and outputs to support each instrument that will be recorded simultaneously, and avoid inexpensive units that have surprisingly robust feature sets. These units usually trade off sound quality for extra features and lower costs.Depending upon the type of computer that was purchased, it may come prepackaged with audio recording software, such as Garage Band or Adobe Audition. It is also possible to download other free titles, such as Audacity. These programs will work well for recording live audio and offer more than enough recording tracks for the average musician. However, audio professionals do not rely on this software and instead opt for titles such as Pro Tools and Logic. Though this software comes at a price, it will provide better plug-ins for mixing and mastering in addition to higher quality recordings overall.The effects that are used during each recording session as well as their placements within the audio chain are extremely important to the final production. To find the best placement for different types of hardware effects units, experiment with changing their locations within the signal path and listening carefully to the results. When recording instruments that are going through effects like a distortion pedal, it is also a good idea to split the audio signal with an audio splitter or through a mixing desk and record both a wet and dry (effected and non-effected) mix at the same time. This will provide the most control over every recorded track.

One of the most overlooked and important parts of the sound recording chain is the system used to monitor the sound. Never monitor recorded audio through PC or home theatre speakers. To ensure that a recording has been recorded, mixed, and mastered successfully, studio monitors are required, which generally cost upwards of $300 per pair for an entry level system.