Lesson about Recording for the Complete Novice, lesson one: What do I need?

Alright, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to introduce a special guest. Let me bring him out here on the stage with me. I don’t think he needs much introduction but, if he does, it’s Chris from over at The Kilt Lifters!

Let’s give him a warm welcoming round of applause, folks. They’ve taken their time and written for us – in the first of the folks to screw up the courage and contribute!  There’s another, but she’s pretty busy and hasn’t had time yet. Patience, she’d tell you. Be patient. (Or you get no cookies.)

While you’re on his site, you can purchase the latest album here, or at CDBaby.com here.

He has no idea that I’m saying this – by the way. I’m plugging his album.

What I want you to do is head on over there and watch some of his videos. You can watch ’em run around in a kilt – and the ladies say it’s devilishly handsome. Sometimes, you can catch him in our weekly guitar thread and he’s in there playing with himself! Trust, me… When Chris plays with himself, it’s somehow family friendly. It’s impressive, actually.

So, go give him a visit and buy his album! Seriously! (Can you tell I’ve been on stage recently? I had to emcee part of the last one.)

He doesn’t tell you to shut up and play us a song. He’s nicer than I am. Without further ado:

Audio Production for the Complete Novice

As we frequently get a lot of questions regarding recording and audio production, I’ve decided to do a fairly short series to cover the basics. I realize that there is a mountain of great information out there, and feel free to consume as much of it as you can. For those of you who are willing to dedicate the time, I *highly* recommend the free course on audio production by Louden Stearns at Coursera.com. It’s very detailed, and the best and most comprehensive course for a beginner that I’ve ever seen.

Today, we’re going to cover the basics of what you need to get started.

  • An interface. An interface is a device that contains at a very minimum, a microphone pre-amp, a digital to analog converter, or DAC, and a USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt port to connect it to your computer. You’ll also want to make sure your interface has +48v phantom power to enable the use of mics that require it. There are many, many entry level audio interfaces that will be more than sufficient to get you started. If you don’t need more than 2 inputs, I often suggest starting out with something like the Focusrite 2i4.   I like this particular interface because the preamps are pretty honest and it has MIDI ports, which will allow you to connect external MIDI devices, such as keyboards and synthesizers. My first interface was a Presonus Audiobox USB, but I found that the preamps were a bit hot and tended to color the sound a bit, which is not my preference. If you think you’re going to be tracking with more than two inputs at once, you’ll need a larger interface right out of the gate. Personally, for my own initial scratch tracks, I rarely use less than 3 at once with drums, vox, and guitar each running into their own input. There are some companies, like Tascam, with budget interfaces with multiple ports. I cannot recommend them, simply because I have not used them personally. They may be fantastic, but I don’t have personal experience.
  • A computer. These days, you don’t need to have a top of the line PC for audio. PC hardware has advanced much faster than audio software. Almost any PC or Mac, whatever your preference, will be fine. I personally use a 7 year old Dell I7 laptop and have never had any issues.
  • A microphone and XLR cable. More on microphones in the next lesson.
    A digital audio workstation, or DAW. Every interface comes with an entry level DAW that can be upgraded to a more professional version, or thrown away and replaced with your preference as you grow. This is the program that you’ll use to actually record your music. Or your farts, or whatever you decide you want to record.
  • Headphones. You are going to want a pair of studio headphones for multi-tracking in isolation, click tracks, etc. You can get some pretty cheap cans that will get the job done for you. I had some very affordable headphones that served me for years. Headphones are one of those subjects that people tend to go to war over, so I won’t make any recommendations. Studio monitors are a nice to have, but you can get by without them initially.

And that is it! That’s all you need to get started.

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