Which instrument ruins a song
Record music / record music
Do you want to record your own music at home, but feel a little overwhelmed by the many different options? This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. The first recording of music is a big step for any musician, but with the right approach, it can be achieved very easily.
Getting started with recording music made easy.
By Karim Bouayad
What you need to record music
Are you sure you are already set up? For the sake of completeness, this is followed by all the equipment needed to record music. Regardless of whether you want to record rap, vocals or an instrument, you should already own the following utensils or buy them. You can find more detailed information below on the subject of home studios.
- Audio interface or a good sound card
- Audio computer
Apart from that, there is tons of recording equipment. However, in order to make the entry into home recording as easy as possible for you, we limit ourselves to the essentials in this guide.
Also read: Setting up a home studio
The ideal environment for recording music
As soon as you have everything together, the individual components for recording music must be set up and coordinated with one another.
Since we assume that you want to record your music on your PC, it is essential to install a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) on your computer.
Whether it's FL Studio, Cubase, or a free program doesn't matter for your first recording. They all work in a similar way and make recording music possible in the first place. Tip: We recommend Reaper to get started (free to test).
Before you deal with the music software, however, you should first connect and install the hardware (audio interface, microphone & headphones). This is the only way that sound can go in and out of the computer.
Also read: The best DAW for beginners
Connect microphone & audio interface
In all likelihood you will have an audio interface with a USB port. After all, this is now the most common way of recording digital music. But even if you work with Firewire, Thunderbolt or even an internal sound card, the procedure always remains the same. A sound card would, however, be the most expensive option.
You connect the audio interface to your computer via the respective connection and install the associated drivers (if necessary). Then connect the microphone to the appropriate input on the audio interface (usually Input 1) using an XLR cable.
If you now speak into the microphone, the signal should be amplified in the audio interface and reproduced through the loudspeakers. If this is the case, you are almost ready to record your first song of your own.
If the interface has a sound meter, you can also read the input level there.
When recording music, use a singing booth or reflectors to block the sound if possible. This reduces background noise and significantly improves the quality of the recording. Alternatively, you can also put the microphone in a closet or something similar.
Also read: Keyboard recording made easy!
Set up the DAW to record music
In order to edit your music, it must be recorded in the DAW. This can be set up with just a few clicks.
First of all, you open an empty, new project in your DAW and create a new recording track. You can usually select this option from the top menu bar. You have to decide whether you want to record your music in mono or stereo.
Here you can see, using an example in Logic X, how you can create a new audio track.
Also read: Record Music: Tools & Instructions for MP3 & Audio
Music recording in mono or stereo?
You should only use mono tracks for vocal recordings, as vocals and rap are usually recorded with a single microphone. Vocals in stereo are very rare and are only used in very special cases.
An instrument, on the other hand, can be recorded in both mono and stereo, the latter variant usually providing a better or richer sound.
Always remember, however, that stereo recordings require two well-positioned microphones. Tracks for playing instrumentals, beats, etc. should also always be set to stereo.
When that's done, you can create as many tracks as needed. You should also name them and give them different colors. This helps you to keep track of things.
Reading tip: record mono or stereo
Record your first own song
Now that everything is installed and set up, you can get down to business and record your first song.
As a singer or rapper, you should make sure that the background music is on its own playback track and that you can hear it through the headphones.
In no case should you record without headphones, as this will also record the background music and ruin the quality of your recording.
You should also always use headphones when recording instruments in order to achieve the best possible results.
Record a complete song in just a few steps
The recording track must again be "armed" and leveled. That means it has to be ready for recording (a red R should be visible next to the track) and have a reasonable volume level.
You will need to experiment a little to find the ideal settings. Basically, the level for digital recordings should be between -24 and -12 dBFS.
In this way you make sure that nothing is overdriven and you still have enough headroom for mixing and mastering afterwards.
Now press “Record” in the transport window, position yourself in front of the microphone and wait for your mission.
It is advisable to start the recording 4-8 bars before the actual use - this gives you a short time to get into the right rhythm.
On this picture you can see a finished audio recording as a waveform.
When you're finally done recording, press stop. You will see the recorded track as a waveform on your screen. Listen to the recording and check for any mistakes or other problems.
If you are satisfied, you can save the whole thing and move on to further steps.
Maybe you want to adjust the volume, cut things out or record additional tracks or music - there are no limits to your creativity.
Your first music recording is in the box.
More on this: Record audio
Polish your music recording
When you listen to your first recording, you will surely get the impression that everything sounds a bit flat and thin. But there is nothing to worry about.
In fact, this is completely normal, because a single recorded track is far from being a complete song.
There are many different techniques that can be used to add body and sound to your songs. For the sake of simplicity, we limit ourselves to the simple methods.
Tips & tricks for recording music on your PC
So that you can put the finishing touches to your music recording, it is advisable to double the tracks and distribute them to the right and left in the stereo field. However, that doesn't mean you should just copy the track. That only creates problems.
Record your vocals or guitar solo two more times and mix the two new tracks with the first recording in your music program.
To make the whole thing sound wider, you can pan the duplicated tracks a little to the left and right. In addition, the duplicated tracks should be mixed around 10-15 dBFS (or more) quieter than the main track.
Another more popular trick used in vocal recording is called backing vocals, or AdLips. Instead of the whole stanza, only certain parts of it are taken up or emphasized again. Usually the focus is on the endings of a rhyme.
Here, too, two more tracks should be recorded and panned to the left and right.
Also read: Double tracks & vocals
Equalizer, effects and other plugins
So that your recording sounds really good in the end, the use of music effects is advisable. However, a detailed discussion of these would go beyond the scope of this guide.
Let me tell you that almost every recording track needs an equalizer and that certain presets can work small miracles.
For example, a low cut filter can remove unwanted noise in the lower frequency range and make both vocals and instruments sound cleaner.
Further equalizer settings can in turn help to attenuate or amplify certain frequencies. The best thing to do is to take a look at our equalizer tutorials.
As far as audio plugins are concerned, both compressor and reverb / reverb are part of the standard repertoire.
The first is mainly used to give your music recording more pressure, but can also be used for other purposes. The latter, in turn, gives your voice or your instrument more space and ensures a more natural sound.
Also read: Audio Plugins & Effect Plugins
Conclusion on recording music
This guide only serves as an introduction to recording music, that much is clear. You have all the important information at hand. If you follow the steps, you can start your first music recording with little effort.
Are you still missing some information about recording music? Write us in the comments!
FAQ: Record Music - Questions & Answers
What do I need to record music?
If instruments, microphones and cables are left out, these would be the following devices or device combinations:
- Computer, tablet or smartphone + audio interface
- Mixing console with USB / SD recorder (see also the question after the next)
- Mixer with integrated audio interface + computer
- Portable recorder (see also the next but one question)
With method 1 you definitely need software - read on ... ↓
How can I record music on a PC / laptop?
Minimal hardware solution: Use the line-in or microphone jacks on the desktop computer or laptop. Much better quality and compatible with plugs beyond the mini jack: Use a sound card with a cable whip or - ideally - an external audio interface.
On the software side, every operating system offers a program for audio recording, but here too there are much better alternatives
- Audio editor (also: »wave editor«)
- DAW software (»Digital Audio Workstation«)
As far as the latter is concerned, there are often stripped-down, but at least initially completely sufficient versions of established DAW programs as an add-on when buying an audio interface.
Do you want to record notes and chords with a MIDI keyboard or other controllers? Then you either need an audio interface with an integrated MIDI input, a free USB port on your computer (some MIDI devices send / receive via it) or a pure MIDI interface.
How can I record music without a PC?
For example with a portable audio recorder. Line-level signals (from keyboards, digital pianos, synthesizers, drum machines, groove boxes, etc.) and sometimes the sounds from electric guitars / basses can be recorded directly. If something needs to be recorded by microphone, the integrated stereo microphone of the recorder may be sufficient. Otherwise the recorder must have a connection for an external microphone.
Mixers with a recording function are also becoming increasingly popular. It all started with Tascam's portastudios and Zoom's R-series compact devices. Today these companies have stepped up and PreSonus joins them:
If you don't call smartphones and tablets a »PC«, these would of course also have to be listed. If necessary in combination with an audio interface.
How can I record music without a microphone?
It depends what you mean by that. So:
1. Record electronic instruments & devices with audio outputs
On the one hand keyboards, synthesizers & Co., on the other hand electric guitars and electric basses do not have to be microphones. At least not necessarily (guitars are usually played through an amplifier / box). Therefore, a suitable cable connection from the source to the destination is sufficient. The goal can be anything mentioned above in response to the very first question in our FAQ about "Recording Music".
2. Play & record virtual instruments via MIDI
There are numerous virtual instruments - software that can produce sounds. These can be synthesizers, orchestral instruments, exotic instruments of all kinds, even artificial choirs and much more. This software either runs independently, as a so-called audio plug-in in a DAW software or as a so-called library for a sampler software.
The tones of such software instruments can now be played with a MIDI keyboard, for example. Record either just the MIDI notes or the generated sounds directly on a track in your DAW software.
How can I record music without noise?
Noise in recordings can have many reasons. Here is a checklist of the steps you can take to "record music without noise":
- Use device (s) with better preamplifiers
- More output level at the source
- Set the source and / or recording device correctly and make sure they are not decrepit or broken
If none of this is of any use, you can use a so-called de-noiser. Typically in the form of an audio plug-in for integration into the DAW software or an audio editor. Alternative: a so-called gate or noise gate.
How can I record and edit music?
You are probably aiming primarily at "editing" and thus at the software for recording and editing on the computer. To distinguish it from the next question, two chargeable and correspondingly powerful programs are mentioned here:
- Steinberg WaveLab
- Magix Sound Forge
Otherwise a) any DAW software is suitable for recording and editing and b) audio plugins for effects.
How can I record and edit music ... for free?
For example with one of these two audio editors:
... Or with a free DAW software or with your audio interface or other equipment as well as with free audio plugins.
Tip: Free VST plugins
How can I record and edit music?
Inclusion has been adequately explained in the previous questions. With exactly the same programs - any audio editor and any DAW software - music can also be cut and edited.
How can I record music with my smartphone?
Do you want to record through microphones, sounds from instruments and other external sources? Then you need an audio interface that is compatible with your respective mobile operating system. And for software, we recommend these apps, for example:
- Apple GarageBand
- Steinberg Cubasis
- WaveMachine Labs Auria Pro
- Intua BeatMaker
- FL Studio Mobile
- Audio Evolution Mobile Studio
Do you just want to make a simple mono recording with the integrated microphone of your smartphone? Or with an external microphone that is connected via jack socket / USB / Lightning? For example, to quickly record musical sketches and ideas, on the go or in the rehearsal room? Then there are a number of simple but good apps - search for “audio recorder” or “voice recorder”.
How can I record music that is playing on the PC?
This question keeps coming back to us, also in a similar form: How can I ...
- Record music that is currently playing?
- record playing music?
- Record music on Youtube?
As for Windows, take a look at this article: Record Windows Sound. On a Mac, everything is based on software like Static Z Sound Siphon.
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