An introduction to home recording Jump to main content

An introduction to home recording

Musician Charlie Glover-Wright explains what you’ll need to start recording music at home.

A chance to get creative

For musicians, the worldwide pandemic and travel restrictions can provide a much-needed break from normal life and give you some time to do what you love the most. Since being stuck at home, I have been entirely consumed with getting my band’s demo list and songs up to scratch. Home recording has provided me with a welcome distraction, in a colourful and happily all-consuming private universe.

If you are frustrated with the lack of activities on offer during lockdown and wish to get some of those musical thoughts from your mind to the microphone - now is the time to start!

Recording on a phone or computer

Firstly, you should think about how seriously you want to take the recording process. With modern technology we now all have some form of recording apparatus. All phones and computers have small microphones built into them and often come with a recording app, such as the ‘voice memo’ app on iPhones.

If you are an aspiring singer-songwriter but have never played to an audience before, there is no better way to start than recording yourself onto your phone or computer. You can listen back, see what can be improved and then try again. It is a priceless tool in aiding self-improvement, and all can be done behind closed doors. When we’re all out of quarantine and gigs begin again, you can step out and show everyone the star you have become.

Equipment for a more professional sound

If you want a clearer and more professional sound, with a small financial investment you can get closer to a professional recording. There are two things that you’ll need to think about:

Firstly, gathering your equipment, which usually includes:

  • a computer or laptop
  • a music recording programme aka a DAW (digital audio workstation)
  • a recording interface (an external sound card)
  • a microphone
  • speakers
  • headphones
  • a jack to jack lead
  • an XLR lead

Secondly, developing a basic understanding of the science behind microphones and audio recording. For example, knowing where to position a microphone at an instrument or mouth will greatly affect the sound produced.

Choosing your recording software

There are several different DAWs to consider, from the fairly basic to the highly professional. These are the most commonly used:

  • Garageband: This is an Apple DAW for macOS and iOS devices. It’s one of the most basic programmes and can be easily used to start your bedroom studio. On the app you have access to a range of digital instruments which you can use to record with, and then build layers of audio on top. However, it has some restrictions, particularly if you want to record a lot of instruments.
  • Logic Pro: Also from Apple, Logic Pro is the step up from Garageband. It’s similarly easily mastered and contains the same access to digital instruments, but with an increased power for audio editing. ISM members can get 6% off pre-installed Apple software.
  • Cubase: From ISM corporate member Steinberg, Cubase is available for both PC and MAC. One of the original DAWs on the market, it includes a wide range of audio and MIDI tools for composition, recording, editing and mixing and is easy to use for beginners and great for those who are more advanced.
  • Pro Tools: This is the industry standard - it’s used by most professional recording studios and is the best for audio editing. However, it doesn’t come with the same variety in digital instruments and therefore wouldn’t be my suggestion for new starters.
  • Ableton: It’s fantastic if you write with musical loops (a drum beat, or melody that is continuously looped to repeat over and over) or if you’re into electronic and dance genres.

    Further reading

    There are hundreds of dedicated music engineering websites and books that will help you navigate and learn how to use the equipment that I listed above. My go to website for recording tips is Sound on Sound and in terms of books, I’d recommend Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio by Mike Senior and The Mixing Engineer's Handbook by Bobby Owsinski.

    Developing your skills

    Once you begin this musical recording journey, you’ll find yourself slowly learning more and more about the processes that enhance your music and creativity. Not only will you improve your sound, but you will also learn to use the recording process as an extension of your creative mind. You only need to look at the genius of great musicians like Brian Wilson or George Martin to see how much a good recording can positively affect the music you are trying to convey!

    Charlie Glover-Wright is the songwriter and drummer for north London indie rock band Weird Milk. You can follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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