If you’re a creative who likes the sound of your own voice, this is for you.
“Recording in 3… 2… 1…” I said and then hit the record button on my PC’s Audio Software. My announcement lead to an uneasy silence in the Living Room as my daughter realized that any movement from her might mean another take. I hit the play button on my keyboard and the music started. My mic picked up the raw audio coming out of the keyboard’s speakers. Then a biker revved his engine down on the Main Street and the recording was ruined. Time to change this setup I thought.
Back in the days of cobbling bits and pieces to my PC to record with whatever I had to hand, it was excruciatingly difficult to get a decent recording. I’ve burped, farted and sneezed my way through take after take and even recorded heavy breathing as a result of concentrating so much on keeping quiet. The fact is you need to invest in the right equipment to get a quality recording. Surprisingly, it doesn’t cost that much. I guess it also depends on whether you’re a podcaster or a band or anything in between. I’m a blogger, podcaster and composer. Here’s the basic building blocks which I use.
- PC or Laptop
- External Mic
- Musical Instrument/Keyboard
- Recording Software (Which manages Audio and Midi)
I haven’t found the need for any mega spec machine to be the hub of my studio. I bought a basic spec Lenovo home PC a few years ago and it has supported anything I’ve plugged or loaded into it since. Of course the PCs mic is not that great a spec for any kind of professional recording.
At this point I would agree with a lot of the Podcasters out there who say that you can get a decent recording through the mic on most mobile phone headphones. This is what I used for ages and the only headache was converting the M4A files that a mobile records into the more usable MP3 format. This conversion can be achieved through freeware or an app either on your PC or your phone.
Eventually however, I bought a pro mic with all the trimmings. I bought the economy grade, so I only paid around £43. For this I got a mic, an extendable mic stand which bolts onto my desk, a shock mount and a pop filter. There was an option to plug it into either USB or the 3.5mm Audio jack in the PC. I chose the audio jack.
All I can say is the vocals are amazing through this set up compared to previous and, of course, I can now record live without any file conversions. You can hear the quality in my podcast below. (I also recorded the music in this Podcast) If you like it, click Subscribe to get the new weekly episodes of the Podcast every Monday. It’s also available on most Podcast Players.
If Podcasting is you’re thing, I’d say your studio is now set up. Composers and musicians however, read on…
The two building blocks for making decent music recordings on your PC are your instrument (Musical Hardware) and the software which manages it’s input on your PC. For me, I have a midi enabled keyboard, cabled via a standard USB Cable into my PC and managed by Midi Software.
Simple Midi Input Keyboards can come in as low as £30 and may be all you need if you know what you’re playing and can work around the delay between hitting a key on the device and hearing the note from your software. For me, I compose so I need a keyboard you can play without the software. I’ve opted for a basic model and use a Yamaha PSR-S670. It has a good range of instruments and a few catchy features such as live controls if you’re into creating and working with loops. I mainly kinda just play piano.
You can use midi software to play the instruments and manage the features to arrange it. The better the software, the wider the range and more authentic the instruments and the more you can do with the samples you record. Previously I had used Cakawalk and I’m currently working through a trial with Abelton.
Below is my song, Crush, which I recorded using Ableton (with the vocals recorded through my new mic 🙂 )
So there you have it. A recording studio that people can generally relax much more around and produces a decent quality of recording without breaking the bank.
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