By the end of this week you will have recorded your own songs in your home studio.
Even if you don’t have a home studio setup.
This is the quick and dirty way to get your home studio set up on the cheap.
Your music will sound good.
It may even sound somewhat professional.
(Disclaimer: My focus is on recording guitar and vocals. Mostly recording singer-songwriter type of stuff)
How much money does it cost to record an album at home?
It could cost your tens of thousands of dollars (or more) to set up a home studio.
That’s out of my price range.
We’re going to set our studio up for less than $300.00.
- Computer: $1000.00
- Software: Free
- Recording Interface: $150.00
- Mic and Guitar Cables: $25.00
- A Microphone: $80.00
- A Mic Stand: $25.00
Grand total: $1280.00
That’s not cheap.
But if we take out the fact that you probably already have a computer, you’re looking at under $300.oo to get started.
The Gear You’ll Need
You’ll need a handful of things:
- Recording Interface
- Mic and Guitar Cables
- A Microphone or two
- A Mic stand or two
Now let’s go over each piece of gear.
What kind of computer do I need to record my own music at home?
If you want to record music at home on your PC or if you want to record music at home on your Mac… it doesn’t really matter.
Pretty much any computer that was made within the past 8 years will be fine (maybe even older).
If you don’t have a computer already, this is the first thing you’ll need.
I’m not going to recommend specific computers (it’s well out of my qualifications).
However, I will tell you how to figure out what kind of computer you need to record music at home.
First off, I use an older version of this MacBook Air.
Prior to that I used a MacBook Pro, an iBook from 2005, and a PC from 1999.
There are two things you need to consider when using a computer for a home studio:
- It’s storage space for storing your home recordings.
- It’s ability to run recording software.
For recording space, I recommend a hard drive with at least 128 GB of space. 256 GB would be better. More than that would be even better.
The more space you have for your recordings, the more recordings you can make without having to upload to external storage.
If you’re getting a new computer – you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that has less than 512 GB of storage. So you’ll probably be ok.
Now what about software….
What is the best (and cheapest) home recording software?
Just get it.
If you have a PC, check out this page to make sure your computer meets the requirements.
If you have a Mac, check out this page to make sure your computer meets the requirements.
If you haven’t purchased your computer yet – use those pages to help guide your decision.
I will throw in an extra recommendation for Garage Band.
If you have a Mac, you probably already have Garage Band installed on your computer.
It’s what I use for home recordings.
The most recent version of Garage Band is great.
It comes free with your Mac and it’s a little more intuitive than Audacity.
Either program will work really well for your home studio – and they’re both free.
Note: There are a ton of other programs available. Most will cost a lot more and take a long time to learn. While it will take some time to learn how to use Garage Band and Audacity, it’s worth the cost. If you have the money – go for ProTools or Logic Pro. But they aren’t needed at this time. In fact – a lot of bands have used Garage Band to record albums. Don’t get overwhelmed with software. Just get Audacity and Garage Band and move on.
What is a Recording Interface and which one should I buy?
So you’ve got a computer.
So you’ve got software.
But you’re going to need some hardware to hook your mic or instrument up to your computer.
You can’t just plug your guitar and microphone directly into your computer.
You will need a recording interface.
I use an older version of this PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 Audio Interface.
It has two inputs which can fit any combination of microphones that use an XLR cable (see below about cables) or a 1/4″ cable (e.g. a guitar cable).
It also includes it’s own Studio One software.
I’d still suggest using Garage Band or Audacity.
What Microphone should I buy for Home Recording?
For vocals – you’ll probably want a condenser mic.
These microphones tend to pick up a wide range of vocal types (meaning they’re good for everyone).
These used to be super expensive.
Nowadays you can get them fairly cheap.
I’d go with this MXL 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone.
It will make your voice sound better than any mic you’ve ever used (which at this point, is probably just the microphone on your headphones or bluetooth earpiece).
If you want to splurge, get a pop filter as well (or you can be super-bootleg like me and use a wire coat hanger with pantyhose).
But wait a minute… what about those USB microphones that plug directly into your computer?
If you’re recording vocals for something like a Podcast, they’re probably ok.
If you’re recording vocals for your music, they’re probably not the best choice.
Microphones are probably the most important aspect of this process.
If you’re going to splurge or invest in something for your home studio: put your money into the microphone.
Microphones are the first factor in determining how good or bad you sound.
You can’t fix a bad recording with software.
In other words: It’s important to get the best possible raw recording.
How do I Record my Guitar into my Computer?
There are two ways.
- Direct Input (DI)
- Mic the guitar.
If you’re recording an electric guitar, plugging it into the audio interface via a guitar cable is fine.
As an added bonus (if you’re using Garage Band) you’ll have tons of plug-in’s and effects to choose from.
If you’re recording with an acoustic guitar, you will need to mic the guitar.
In other words, you’ll have to use a microphone to record the guitar.
Using the Condenser Mic listed above is fine.
If you want to record vocals and guitar at the same time you may want to buy a separate microphone specifically for the guitar.
There are different schools of though about which style is best.
I’d probably go with this pencil microphone.
You go just as well get another MXL 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphone or something comparable.
Whatever you do – I do NOT recommend plugging your acoustic guitar into the audio interface (even if you have a pickup installed in your guitar).
It won’t sound as nice as an external mic.
You’ve been warned.
NOTE: Don’t forget – if you buy an extra mic, you’ll also need to buy an extra cable and mic stand.
What kind of cables do I need to record at home?
For your microphone you will need an XLR cable like this.
You should be able to find them for less than $10 depending on how long they are.
Don’t overthink it.
What kind of microphone stand do I need to record at home?
I use a version of this kind of boom mic stand.
The boom arm allows for flexibility and movement (which is nice to have in a small space – like a bedroom recording studio).
Again – don’t overthink this.
Is that really all I need?
That’s all you need.
Go order it on Amazon now and you’ll have it in a few days.
Here’s the list again just in case:
Recording at home on a computer can be very rewarding – it can also be very frustrating.
I am not a sound engineer.
I am a musician.
When I first started recording at home it was daunting and annoying.
I agonized over which gear to buy and how to use it.
Ultimately I found that the simplest setup was the most rewarding.
The easier it was for me to record, the more likely I was actually record.
A simple home recording setup also helped me focus more on my music – and less on my recording equipment.
As you get more comfortable recording yourself at home, you can start to upgrade your equipment.
For now – the stuff I listed here will help you get started.
(Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org).