I've had a lot of people ask me about how to start dabbling in home recording, so I thought I would compile all of my thoughts and recommendations into one space.
I started home recording about 2 years ago, and I have been so amazed by how little you really need to get a quality recording. In fact, my EP, A Little Older, A Little Wiser was completely tracked in my house using the items below! *Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This just means that if you click them and end up making a purchase on Amazon, I'll make a small commission. There is no extra cost to you. This just helps with website maintenance costs and such. :)
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 - This is the audio interface I started with and loved how it was basically a plug and play! I did take advantage of some software downloads that Focusrite offers, but once you plug it into your computer, it's ready to start recording! Just make sure your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is aware that you want to use it, which you can find in your audio settings. With only 2 inputs, it's perfect for singer-songwriter tracking, or if you are going to record one instrument/voice at a time.
Audio-Technica AT2020 - This is the first microphone I bought to record, and I ended up buying a second one when I wanted to track piano (one for the low end, one for the high!). I use it for both vocals and instruments and have been very pleased with it's quality. You'll probably want a few accessories for it, including a mic stand, a shock mount, and a pop filter for vocals. If you are on a budget, I definitely think this is a well-rounded mic for anything you'd ever want to record with a microphone.
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK 3 - This is NOT a must-have for home studio recording, but I highly recommend this midi controller if you are planning to do any virtual instrument recording. I like the size because it fits neatly on a desktop, and it's perfect for any virtual instrument playing, maybe except for full piano. ;) You'll probably want a full size keyboard for that, or if you have access to a real piano, I recommend two microphones like a mentioned earlier, though, one will do the job!
You'll need microphone XLR cables and 1/4 inch instrument cables on hand as well. Maybe 1-2 of each should do the job!
Studio Headphones - I have a pair of studio headphones that I am not too crazy about, so I won't recommend them. However, I have heard great things about these. You can also search "studio headphones" and find some that fit your particular budget, but make sure to read the reviews. Also, DO NOT get bluetooth headphones. You want wired.
Studio Speakers - This is also NOT a must-have, but if you have some Christmas money or love to swipe your credit card, I recommend these studio monitors. I prefer mixing via speakers, but some people just use headphones and that's cool too!
So really, you just need an audio interface, a microphone, a couple cables, and some headphones and you are set!!
Which DAW should I use?
Great question! I use ProTools for two reasons:
I started learning on ProTools back in the day so I have just stuck with it out of convenience and comfortability.
Avid has an educator discount so it was worthwhile financially to me. :)
If you are a Mac user (which, in my opinion, Macs are the best computers for all audio recording), I definitely recommend starting out with GarageBand because it's free and already on your computer! This will help you learn the basics you need to know before you're ready to get fancy.
Then, if you really like GarageBand and you have $200, go ahead and get Logic Pro! The transition from GarageBand to Logic is pretty streamlined from what I hear, so that's a major plus! Logic is the Apple equivalent of ProTools so they do all of the same things.
You can also explore ProTools First, the free version of ProTools. It has some minor limitations, like only having 16 tracks and being cloud based, but if you are starting out and doing some basic acoustic recording, definitely give it a try! The free software is what you want to test the waters on before you make any financial commitment.
Those are the two DAWs I would recommend, but there are a TON of other choices, so spend some time researching what would work best for you and the genre of your music!
Ok, I have the stuff, now how do I do this?!
Home recording is a hands-on learning experience. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will get!
You can definitely find a lot of internet reading/watching on how to do everything in your specific DAW of choice, and that could be good enough for you!
I took home recording lessons for a little over a year and found that experience to be super helpful. My teacher was a full time engineer and was really great at explaining things and giving me feedback. If you can find a teacher near you, and you like personalized instruction at your own pace, I highly recommend lessons.
While I am certainly not a pro, I can definitely get you started! I am now offering a mini course:
Home Recording Jump Start!
This is a 2-session, one-on-one course that can be done in person or virtually over Zoom.
Here's what we will go over in Session 1:
How to set up your audio interface on your computer and with your DAW
How to set up new tracks to record, and explain the different kinds of tracks you can have in a session
How to set your recording levels correctly
Basic good house keeping and recording techniques
Basic overview on plugins for EQ, Compression, and Reverb
Session 2 will happen after you have experimented a little bit and recording something basic! We'll go over your song and discuss things such as:
Where/How to start mixing
Any troubleshooting you may need
How to enhance your tracks with various plugins if needed/not done already
After two sessions, you'll have a solid foundation of home recording!
If you decide you need or want further instruction or support, we can create a custom lesson package for you that will best suit your needs.
NOTE: Because I am most experienced in ProTools and GarageBand, those are the only DAWs I will be able to teach in this course.
Have questions about home recording and/or taking my mini course? Contact me! Or if you are ready to sign up, contact me!
I hope this post is a helpful resource to you!