In late 2016, I began recording music for the first time in my life. Since then, I’ve released two full-length albums, two EPs, and a single. 25 original songs in total. And I did it all from home. Here is what works for me, and it might work for you, too.
There are some pretty important components to home recording. Without them, you just won’t be able to record anything.
First, you need a good recording space.
No matter what, you’ll need a space to record your music. It doesn’t have to be a fancy studio with a large mixing board behind glass, but it has to be something where you feel comfortable and the space is conducive to recording your music. Perhaps it is a space in your basement or even in your bedroom. Wherever it is, ensure that you have the space you need, both physically and mentally. Perhaps hang things on the wall that get you into the right mindset. Remember, you wouldn’t eat dinner in your bathroom, and you don’t want to record in a shitty place either.
This is what my recording set up looks like.
Second, you’ll need a good computer (or laptop or tablet).
Recording music takes a lot of computer memory. So much so, in fact, that I’ve crashed mediocre laptops while recording. That’s why you’ll need a good computer to run all of the programs you’ll need.
I use a Microsoft Surface Pro 7, which 1GB of RAM and a super fast processor. At more than $1,000, it is quite pricey, but it does everything I need for my day job and handles recording without any issues.
Some home recording musicians have a standalone computer that stays hooked up to their setups, but that isn’t reasonable for everyone.
You’ll also need a big monitor. Nothing sucks more than trying to squint your eyes while zooming into two milliseconds of recorded music and trying to splice together tracks. Make it easier on yourself. I recently got a ViewSonic flatscreen monitor that is awesome. I highly recommend it. Check it out:
Third, you’ll need a digital audio workstation.
First, you’ll need a digital audio workstation, what some people call a DAW. There are a number of them out there, but I use Sony Acid Pro 7, which was recommended to me by my friend Mark Riddick, who also records his own music in his home.
Acid Pro 7 has a number of features that I think are important for my style of recording, including the ability to simultaneously record processed tracks and dry input tracks. This is important because having dry input tracks allows audio engineers to manipulate the sound however you want it, by adding any number of effects, whereas if they have a guitar track with distortion built in, there is only so much they can do to the sound.
Acid Pro 7 allows you to zoom into milliseconds of tracks, and not every digital audio workstation allows that depth.
Additionally, the splitting, cropping, and fading features of track management are impressive.
You can download Sony Acid Pro 7 on Amazon.
There are others you can use, like Reaper, Garageband, and others. Most have free trials, so check them out and see what works for you.
Fourth, you’ll need a hardware interface.
Most computers, laptops, and tablets have a few HDMI and USB ports, but that’s about it. If you’re going to record vocals from a microphone, or guitar or bass guitar inputs from a 1/4 inch cable, or any MIDI files from an electric drum set or keyboard, you’re going to need a hardware interface that is able to process the signal from your instrument/voice and turn it into something the computer can understand.
If you are just recording one medium, you could keep it simple. For example, if you are recording only vocals, you could use an XLR to USB cable like this:
If you are recording guitar or bass guitar tracks, you might be able to use a 1/4 to USB cable.
But what if you have multiple instruments and don’t want to be plugging and unplugging multiple USB cables all the time?
That’s why I use a Line 6 POD Studio UX-2. It’s a small piece of hardware that has two XLR inputs for microphones, two 1/4 inputs for guitars and bass guitars, as well as two other 1/4 inputs, outputs for stereo monitors/speakers, and a headphone jack. It hooks up to your computer via a single USB. The top knobs control the gain for the microphone inputs and the volume for the headphones.
The hardware comes with a software package called POD Farm that you can install on your computer. It has literally hundreds of different tones you can use for recording everything and it integrates with digital audio workstations. I got mine on Amazon and have used it ever since.
Fifth, you’ll need some studio speakers.
Whenever you record, it’s really important to listen to your final product in a variety of ways, like headphones, mobile phones, and stereo speakers, so you can ensure you’re getting the full and complete sound you want. Ensure you have a good set of headphones. I use Sony’s recording MDR7506 headphones:
For my stereo speakers, I use M-Audio studio monitors like these:
These are pretty hefty speakers (which means they are built well with sturdy, quality wood).
Having quality headphones and speakers allows you to really hear the difference between the panning (the left and right sides) of your music.
Finally, you’ll need the motivation!
No matter what, just start recording. You might be scared or nervous or worried your music won’t sound good. And that’s okay. The only way you get better is through doing it…and the more often you do it, the faster you’ll get better. Do whatever you need to do to get in your home recording space and get after it!
My first album sucked. Four years later, I’m really happy with my most recent release, but I know I still have a long way to go. No matter what…keep going and keep recording!
Also, here is the backside of my recording desk/setup.