Home Recording 101 by James Lissette
I have always thought that after you learn to play your instrument and then played a gig or 2 then the next thing to do is record your music. Now if you are not fortunate to live in Palmerston North where we have cheap recording studios like the Stomach and the City Library (yes we have a studio in our library here) the cost of going into a studio can be a bit daunting.
Professional studios certainly have their place for people who want to go in, pay their money, play their song and get a CD … but for those of you that like to DIY and learn about the process … then it’s an amazingly fun and enjoyable ride.
What I am going to talk about here is the basics of what you need to set up a small and productive studio for yourself. Further blogs will advance and expand upon this. This one here is just a bit of an introduction and explains the basics of what you will need. Later on we will get into Mics and setups, monitors and headphones.
You can take over the garage, record on your bed or just have a small setup in a cupboard.
So what are you going to need?
Despite computer stores saying that their system will run just about everything … computer recording has some specific requirements and the newest, hottest, fastest PC on the planet … may not be ideal for recording.
So what to buy a laptop or a desktop? Well from my own experience if you want to move about a bit, you should buy a laptop. A laptop allows you make your studio portable, take it on holiday with you, or take it to the band room etc. The smaller screen can be a hassle sometimes and it pays to remember that a lot of laptops have slower speed drives than desktops. Desktops are the business for at home and if you want to separate the computer away from were you are making music so you don’t hear the fan noise or any hum etc from it. You can also have a large monitor (or two) with a desktop. I mostly use a laptop as I can take it to band practice and set up for gigs easy as, and I have found it suits what I do.
When you are researching your computer, one of the most important things to consider I reckon, is what software you are going to use and then get a computer to suit that. Check out programs like Pro Tools, Logic Audio, Record and Sonar. Most software comes with recommendations as to what processor and RAM it needs and it is very important to get a computer to suit this otherwise you will just get errors and a sore head from hitting the table in frustration. If you’re not sure, make sure you ask one of our staff before you purchase the computer to make sure that it will do what you want it to.
You will find once you start recording you can fill up a drive quick so get a big one and also a portable drive just for backing up. A 1TB (that’s 1000 GBs) drive is very cheap today and is becoming more common in computers.
Inputs / Outputs / Interfaces
Is it just you and your accordion or do you want to record drums etc as well? Perhaps you want to record your whole band at once?
The reason to think about this is that the next most important thing to get is an interface. These connect to the computer via USB or Firewire. This is what you plug your mic and/or instrument into. To get an acceptable quality of sound, you can’t use the default MIC input on a computer. It also plays your music back out of the computer into headphones or speakers so you can play along with what you have recorded (this is what multitrack recording is). My good hint here is to think about how many inputs you need, two will suit most people but if you want to record a few things at once then get one with 8 inputs. Remember, that multitracking allows you to record many tracks alongside other tracks so you may be able to just use two.
The difference between 2 inputs and 8 inputs is a few hundred dollars, so it’s worth considering if you are working to a budget
Digital Recorder / Workstations Based
What these machines are is an all-in-one recording device with mic and instrument inputs and have a fantastic sound. The BR1600 features 8 mic inputs!!! They have effects and amplifier simulators in them and record to an internal hard drive like a computer does. Some of the larger models in the BR series have a built-in CD burner with mastering software which means you can go from playing to recording to mastering to burning a CD - on the unit. They are easy to use, as portable as a laptop and very creative.
Some models having drum and bass sequencers in them as well. This allows you to program up drum beats and bass lines (very useful if you don’t have a band). They have faders and are a very “hands on” machine.
James Lissette is the Hi Tech Guy and Branch Manager at the Palmerston North Rockshop.
He has been making music and recording it for far too long. Starting out with a tapedeck he then got a 4 track reel to reel before progressing to using a computer.
Being a little over the top he has a rather large garage studio and has also taken over a room at home.