Music studio equipment can be very expensive really fast. I distinguish between just one home recording studio and one that is specially set up for recording and production of music. If youre a voice over actors or podcasts exclusively, you can move on with quite a bit in the way of studio equipment.
But that does not mean you have to break. Remember, my goal of writing these articles has been to help you create the best quality audio for the lowest amount of money, and its still true for peoples recording of music in their home theater.
To make this article most applicable to most, my example will be one or two people who create music on a computer using multitrack recording and audio editing tools. Things get quite different and different when you start talking about whole bands or orchestras. I will also assume for this example that the musicians already have the musical instruments that will be on the recordings. Oh, and I also assume that the person who signs in has a computer ... virtually any computer made in the last 10 years will do.
Okay, the basics are here: you play the music, which goes through a microphone and then to a computer that converts the audio into data files that can be heard and manipulated by your audio program. See?! How difficult is that? Ok yes it might be good to have some more information.
Lets start with the first music equipment you might not already have, the microphone. Lets also say youre a guitarist and singer. In the end, I would recommend two different types of microphones here, one for your guitar and one for your voice. But lets talk the least here. We go with a microphone, a large membrane condenser on USB-ilk. At this amazing time, its probably the most bang-for-the-buck you can get in audio recording a USB microphone. They cost a lot less than their traditional cousins, plus they do not need a special computer interface or microphone amplifier. Simply connect it to your computer and go. You can use the same microphone for your guitar as for your voice because we will record one part at a time. Guitar first, so singing, etc. You only need a microphone for it.
So what other hardware do you need? Uh, lets see. Something to keep your microphone while playing the guitar is about the only other thing you need. If your USB microphone is not already included, you can get a microphone from your local music store for cheap. Heck, if you need you can duct-tape your microphone to a desk or just put one on a pillow on a chair or something.
So if were done with hardware, what next? Yup, software. You need software that can record multiple tracks and mix them, which we call tracking and mixing. You also need audio editing features. Fortunately, there are recording programs out there that have both features, the lowest cost is free. Audacity is an open source freeware application that can record, mix multiple tracks together and edit audio. In fact, Audacity is the most incredible value on the planet. But because its free there are limitations, especially when it comes to musicians, as in MIDI functionality. So you may want something with a little more capacity. There are so many choices out there for so many different prices, that it can make head spinning. Personally, I use a program called Reaper, by Cockos for Tracking and Mixing, and Adobe Audition for editing, but in truth, Audition is one of the programs that can do everything.
And thats all! Yup, a computer, a USB microphone and some software you can get started with a very small budget. You want a pair of headphones too, but you can have a regular old pair of ear plugs if you have to. Then all you need to do is to record that guitar part, turn on save, add another track next to the guitar track, record your voice on the second track while listening to the first track on your headphones. Boom. You will carefully add another guitar or another voice or two for harmonies, etc. No problem; Just rinse and repeat, add traces as you go. Once you have everything recorded, use your mixer software to pan the instruments and the left, right and / or middle cast as a group would be on stage. This also creates a good stereo sound. Make sure nobody is too high or soft in the mix, tap Save again and you have a song. Now open only the song in your editors, check extra audio from the beginning of the recording. Fade the end out, make sure everything is high enough, save it, and you have a song that you recorded at your own music hall studio.