If you are reading this, then congratulations! You’ve taken the first step into the realm of home recording; this post can serve as a step-by-step guide on how to setup gear, or simply as a reference.
The first important thing you’ll need is an “Audio Interface” . This is an external sound card that converts analogue data into digital data, simply put, it turns the sound from the user into a language that computers can read and understand. For small home studios these are generally one or two input mixers with a USB connection built in, which is usually more than enough, but of course, the sky is the limit! To connect an Audio Interface to a computer, it really is as easy as plugging in the USB lead in both ends, this should prompt your computer to find the drivers necessary for it to work.
Once plugged into your computer you’ll need to connect speakers to your Audio Interface, this can be done in several different ways depending on your outputs/inputs on your speakers. For this example we will work with the Astounded special ‘Digital USB Home Studio Starter Package’ which features a Citronic Q-MIX2, and 2 ACT35 speakers. To connect these speakers, it’s simply a case of plugging the RCA cable into the output of the Audio Interface into the back of one of the connected speakers. This can be seen in the image below:
Next on the list of essentials is something called a Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW, for short). This is a piece of software that will allow you to record your input from your Audio Interface, and then manipulate it until you are happy with the sound. There are many to choose from, and each one has its ups and downs, so it’s usually worth considering what you will want/need from your DAW of choice. The most widely used are: Protools, Cubase, Ableton Live, and Logic (Mac only). Most of them are interchangeable for most users, but they each specialise in different ways. For the purpose of this blog post I will be using the freeware Audacity, since it is easy to use, and is of course, free to anyone.
The last piece of hardware is really up to you! This can be anything from a microphone, to a guitar, as long as your Audio Interface has the input to connect to; you can record it into your computer. It should be self-explanatory where something will plug into your Audio Interface, for now let’s assume we’re plugging in a microphone using an XLR lead, into the first input.
When you load up Audacity it should look like the picture below:
The first part to look at is the set of drop down menus circled in blue on the top right, they should look like they’re displayed here, making sure that the third one that says ‘1(mono) Recording’ as you will be recording on mono (in this situation, and most likely unless you wanted to record a stereo source like a keyboard). The two drop down menus that say USB should also be set to whatever your Audio Interface calls its outputs, but it should be easy to identify as they will more than likely be named something with ‘USB’ in the title.
Next step is to simply hit the record button! It’s easily seen as the big button with a red circle inside, it’s at the top right in this DAW, and is displayed closer in the image below, on the right:
This will begin the recording process immediately, the software will create a new track (which is what each singular recording is referred to) and begin listening for your input. You will be able to see your sound source displayed by a varying waveform on the screen, and will look something like the image below.
If you’d like to sing along to a backing track, or karaoke it’s simply a case of importing an audio source, which is easily done, just reference the picture below and import as many tracks as you like!
And that’s it! Now pat yourself on the back, and enjoy the fun of recording music in the comfort of your own home! There will be a more in depth guide on how to make more out of your recordings soon, but for now, play around, and most importantly… Have fun!