How to Record Music on the Computer
New technology has made recording music accessible to everybody. Even if you've never learned to play an instrument, it is still possible to make music on the computer. Whether you're an amateur musician who wants to dabble or you want to make pro-quality recordings, computers have revolutionized how music is recorded.
Things You'll Need
- Recording software
- Recording interface
Set your computer up as a Digital Audio Workstation, called a DAW. Download digital recording software onto your computer. Programs out there for PCs and Macs include Audacity, Adobe Audition, Cubase, Garageband and Pro Tools, to name a few. Pricing in 2011 for these programs range drastically from free (Audacity) to nearly $2,000 (Pro Tools). Make sure your computer has the right processing power to support whatever DAW you decide on. At least one gig of RAM is recommended for most DAWs.
Get a recording interface, also called a sound card. It should include inputs for guitar, microphone and headphones. A firewire interface is recommended; it plugs directly into your firewire port with no need for an AC adaptor.
Get a keyboard. A Midi controller keyboard plugs right into your computer's USB port. It cannot make sounds on its own, but triggers software sounds on the computer. If your keyboard isn't USB compatible, you can purchase a separate Midi/USB interface. Your keyboard needs to have a Midi out port to trigger software instruments.
Purchase a condenser microphone for vocals and acoustic guitar work. Good quality headphones are also a must.
Install the driver software for the recording interface and keyboard (if necessary). Configure the interface per the individual driver and keyboard instructions to communicate with the recording software.
Play around with different software instruments and loops. Loops are prerecorded tracks, such as drums, synthesizers, strings, etc., that can be integrated into a song. Loops are the main way beginning musicians sound closer to pros.
Configure your recording software for the particular recording session. Set the input level for the instrument and/or vocals, left/right balance, hit "Record" and go for it. Don't expect a masterpiece right away. It can take some time to become familiar with a software program. Experiment with different settings and sounds until you find the balance that is right for you.
Tips & Warnings
- Be sure to get a recording interface with no latency problems. Latency is the amount of time it takes for you to hear a note in your headphones after it has been played. A significant delay can make recording very difficult.
- If all you want to do is record a few tracks, get a simpler DAW. The amount of features on a full-scale DAW can be overwhelming and very expensive.
- Drummers can buy a separate drum machine, or play and record live drums, instead of playing the drums directly on the keyboard.
- Buy products with good customer support: you are bound to have questions.
- Keep the volume on your headphones low. Prolonged exposure to loud music can lead to hearing damage.
- Only plug a firewire device into a computer that has been shut down. You could risk blowing out the firewire port.