This is a frequently asked question by most beginners trying to record their music for the first time.
let’s face it,
music production and making music in general is no walk in the park often times you’ll hear about a lot of things that you need to learn and you might end up feeling overwhelmed.
sometimes you feel like people are throwing too much jargon at you and not really getting into the specific or the necessary details that can get you started in your music production journey.
I totally relate to that,
when I got started in music production,
I ignored the jargon and rants about
how music never pays, instead i focused on purchasing my gear and installing it to the best of my ability.
looking back, I wish someone had sat down to write a post like this, that could help and give necessary information as to how we could go about this journey.
So let me give it to you straight and to the point.
if you want to record your own music at home and have it ready for listening you need to get the right tools,
as in equipment that you can actually record with,
then you also need particular skills in music production; to put it simply you need to know how to record, mix and master vocals.
now that we have that out of the way let’s jump right into the equipment you will need for you to become a music producer at home.
you’ll need a computer for music production and it should almost always be the very first thing you consider buying before you buy anything else.
processing audio uses a lot CPU power therefore you have to get the right machine.
audio processing requires most signal and effect chains to happen sequentially.
therefore you need a computer that is decent enough to be able to handle this.
you also have to take into account the amount of CPU usage that Digital audio Workstations will take up.
that’s why it’s always a good idea to purchase a computer or build one with optimal specs in order for it to not give you headaches in the processing or recording and production.
you need a computer with a fast processor like the Intel Quad Core, or 8th generation Intel i7 processors, 7th generation versions are not so far behind and the can equally get the job done.
another aspect that you have to consider is your RAM which is your Random Access Memory.
typically with RAM you need anything that’s above, equal to and not less than 8 Gigabytes.
these will typically be windows based computers but Apple computers can also give you options that are equally good.
the next thing on your list should be a good Digital Audio Workstation or DAW for short.
this will be the software platform that you’ll install on your computer and it will be the one that you’ll use to capture all your recordings neatly,
and do your production (mixing and mastering) in.
make sure to purchase a DAW that you are comfortable working with, one that you have preferably used before.
for music production you’ll need a DAW that you can make beats in,
and another DAW that you can record in and add vocals to the beat.
it’s not always that you’ll need two separate DAWs,
some of them have functionality that enables you to make beats as well as record and process your vocals aswell.
therefore it would be cost effective to get one that has both functions,
in order for you to save some money to spend on other equipment that I’ll further discuss in this post.
these DAWs will have their own system requirements,
that’s why its necessary to have a good computer,
so that you’re not thrown off when you see them
for more insights on the best DAWs available on the market I have an article,
dedicated to the best of best DAWs with links that you can use to purchase them.
you can check out that post here.
third on this list is an Audio Interface.
an audio interface is simply a tool that allows you to plug in your microphones, speakers and head phones ,
it is a professional way to handle any digital recording.
one advantage of using an audio interface is that it expands the sonic capabilities of your computer.
make sure you check the product specifications of the audio interface that you choose to get,
because it has to have the necessary inputs that provide ease of to your equipment that will need to be plugged into it.
You definitely need and audio interface.
some microphones require phantom electric power transmitted through cables,
necessary for microphones that have an active electronic circuitry.
some audio interfaces through their inputs are able to provide this phantom power to your microphone.
further more most studio monitor speakers require an XLR input, which can be found on most audio interfaces.
usb inputs are great and all but nothing beats an audio interface.
this goes without saying, you need a good quality microphone for you to be able to capture your recordings easily.
microphones come in all shapes and sizes but in this case you’ll need a Condenser microphone since you’re looking to record vocals for music.
this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should get online and buy the first Condenser microphone you find.
you need to carry out some research and figure out which will be the best fit for you.
in a home recording setup you’ll need a microphone with low noise and good dynamic range.
therefore strive to get the best one you can get,
because technologies advance everyday and you don’t want yourself stuck with an outdated microphone that won’t give you the sort of quality you’re looking for.
I know your budget has to be put into consideration,
but if you want to do music professionally and seriously,
you have to put some effort behind your gear and the get the best you can.
Amazon has a wide range of quality Condenser microphones that you can check out, read some reviews and figure out which one suits you best.
as a way to provide value to you, I have an article on the best Condenser microphones on the market, you can access the article here.
headphones are one of the most used items in recording studios,
they are good for assessing the finer points in the mixsuch as the low end and stereo image.
this is quite related to buying studio monitors and it all comes down to the personal preference of the user.
for your recording studio you will need good headphones that you can use to mix and master a song properly,
such that when it is played on other systems it will sound as well as it does in the headphones.
it’s always a good idea to have two sets of headsets,
one dedicated to mixing and mastering and the other pair dedicated to the booth for the artists to use when recording.
in order for you to find the best choice,
simply round up of all the best headphones you can find and go through each one to figure out its strengths and weaknesses.
you also have to consider the budget you have,
assess how much you’re willing to put down on headsets,
and then start reviewing the ones in your budget range one by one until you find ones that you feel will get the job done.
if you have been making music long enough, then you definitely know the importance of a good natural sound system.
you definitely need to gear up when it comes to studio monitors,
to avoid you having to come back to mixing songs again after you play them on another system.
it is a quite an annoying experience.
studio monitors reveal audio in its original pure form with great depth,
it is for this reason that you should use them instead of grabbing any pair of speakers,
before any mixing or processing, the true picture of audio will come with mistakes,
and you’ll be able to spot them because of the studio monitors ability to interpret sound in it’s natural unbiased state,
therefore you’ll know what to atleast fix.
the last thing you need are speakers that don’t reveal all the mistakes and have you coming back to re-mix songs that you had already mixed.
you’ll definitely need studio monitor speakers to effectively record your own music at home.
using these speakers will also make sure that you improve as a music producer because they’ll be able to reveal all mistakes.
therefore you’ll essentially get better over time and your clients will know because of the quality you’ll be able to deliver.
cables may not seem like a big deal but trust me they are.
what you basically need to know are the different types of cables and what they do and which ones you will need.
they are two types of cables namely analog cables and digital cables, they differ according to the type of signal that they carry.
therefore figure out what types of cables you’ll need for your equipment and your other gear.
analog signals are carried balanced or unbalanced,
then there are three levels of amplitude transmitted through these cables namely the mic level, instrument level, and line level.
and the three main connector types that you’ll find are XLR, TRS and TS.
therefore you need to understand that the mic level signals that come out of microphones are very quite and require amplification whilst keeping the noise level low.
99% of the time you’ll use XLR cables for microphone connections.
for instrument level the signals that come out are pretty loud and stronger but they are still not line level,
they need amplification to raise them to line level. you’ll often use TS cables in almost all cases.
then lastly for line level signals you’ll use TRS cables because you need to accommodate stereo signals.
the next item you should consider getting is a proper microphone stand,
the last you want is people holding the mic in their hands while they record.
thats unprofessional and will mess up your output.
certain microphone come with their own dedicated stands that are designed specifically for them.
therefore, while you’re researching a good microphone dont ignore the microphones that come with offers like a free case, free stand and a free pop filter.
it can be a good deal and one I recommend if you’re just beginning your journey in music production,
I have a list of microphones that are available on the market, and some of them come with cases and a dedicated stand.
check out that article here if you haven’t already purchased a microphone.
one thing to remember is to make sure you decouple your microphone from the ground,
therefore once you get a mic stand it’s better if you attach it inside the booth so your microphone can be suspended in the air.
if you insist on using a stand that has to be on the ground then you have to ensure that you at least put a mat, rug or mouse pads so that the stand is not directly on the floor.
a pop filter or a pop shield is a noise protection filter that serves to reduce or entirely eliminate plosive sounds that would would other wiser be recorded without a pop filter.
this is why you need to invest in a good pop filter, it will be essential when you record your vocals.
if you’re new to the world of recording music,
plosive sounds are what are the results of blasts of air that come from your mouth whenever you use hard letters in our speech patterns.
examples of these hard letters are B’s, P’s and T’s. and many others.
an example of a phrase like this would be something like “bake the cake”,
a phrase like this will cause a loud blast that will be captured by the microphone as a plosive sound which will in turn sound like a pop or a click.
one another advantage of using a pop filter is that it helps you get rid of the proximity effect.
the proximity effect is what comes as a result of a person being too close to the microphone therefore leading to the low frequencies being boosted.
therefore a pop filter is definitely an item you need.
the last step is studying the room you wish to record, mix and master in.
ensure that you appropriately acoustically treat your room in order for your mixing decisions to be based on factual evidence that you hear with your own ears.
before you even consider a DIY solution to acoustic treatment I’d advise that you read a lot on acoustic treatment,
this will gradually improve your decision making.
Now that we’ve discussed the necessary tools and equipment you need to get you started on the road of making and recording your own music in the comfort of your own home.
Let’s now direct our focus to you, since you will be the one recording, mixing and mastering the music.
You’ll need a good solid base of recording engineering knowledge that you can apply to your production,
if you don’t yet have this knowledge I’d advise you to get started right away and practice as often as you can.
On the other hand if you’re a pro then you can get started right away or immediately you acquire the necessary equipment.
Mixing is an integral part of music production therefore you’ll also need a solid base of knowledge in this particular area as well.
It is not a one off process and songs will differ, that’s why its important that you spend a majority of your time learning how to mix music.
You can easily find tutorials on which DAW you prefer on YouTube. So get started right there and put in the necessary effort.
On the other hand, if you know what you’re doing then you can get started right away provided that you have the necessary equipment.
Mastering is the last stage in music production and it is the process that will have your song ready for distribution.
In my opinion mastering is just an extension of the mixing process and it is equally involving.
Therefore invest in some good education and get yourself started on the road to mastering.
YouTube will give you good content on mastering and you can use your recordings as your practicing media.
On the other hand if you already have knowledge in this area and are confident that you can master a song to industry and commercial standards then all you have to do is acquire the necessary equipment and get started.