Home Recording- Just starting out..What Do I Need???

One of the most common questions people interested in recording at home asks is, What do I need to begin?

I thought we would back track a bit from the more technical aspects of recording with this article and cover this question. On the surface it seems quite obvious, yet the answer can become much more complicated.

It all depends on what you are trying to record. There are certainly some things that everyone needs to begin, but not everyone will need all of it.If, for instance, if you want to mix only dance music and primarily use pre recorded loops ITB ( in the box) or in your computer, then you likely will not need microphones or outboard synthesizers.

A Computer

Many artists want to capture their instruments or voices and for those people  microphones and the proper acoustic environment are crucial.

Unless you want to purchase a hardware recorder, you will need a computer and music production software. Buy as much computer as you can safely afford.An ideal setup with an intel chip on PC would be an i7 with a minimum of 8gb  system ram 16gb is better. Get a 7200 rpm hard drive.You can opt for an SSD or solid state hard drive. These have recently come down in price.  Disclaimer- (If you’re reading this 10 years from now things have changed.) If possible get two hard drives installed. This isn’t absolutely necessary in the beginning but it will save you some pain later if you use drive 2 to store anything that streams from the hard drive such as many software synths. A second drive is also a great place to store your projects, I have three hard drives. One for my operating system and music software,one for software synthesizer samples and one for completed works.

Most computer music software states a bare minimum that their software will run on. Don’t bet on this being enough computer unless you only intend to record a few tracks.

Most computers commonly bought at large retailers are loaded up with something called “bloatware”. Bloatware is the result of a deal between the computer company and software vendors to get you to try a sample version of their software in the hopes that you’ll buy the full version. Some computers come loaded with tons of it and it’s always bad for audio recording. It can choke the life right out of your computer. Music recording computers are stripped to a minimum so they can work efficiently. If you have bloatware remove all of it.
If you’re really serious about having a sleek running machine you can look online at tweaks to streamline audio. In my computer one tweak minimizes graphics. I took off all busy screen savers and automatic graphics programs. Anything that updates itself automatically should usually be disconnected in software.

There was a time when I would have recommended having a computer only for audio recording and used exclusively off of the internet. Things have changed. If you have the computer I mentioned above it will easily handle an email client and some other programs. Lets face it, we do a lot online. There is much more use of the internet and music now than there ever was, just keep it safe, don’t open unusual looking emails. It’s well known that sites on the trashier side of the internet are loaded with malware, gambling sites, porno sites, sites that cater to people who want to crack software or download free movies….stay away from these places. If they cracked 20 software titles what makes you think that they can’t get into your computer?

Once you get one of these bugs your entire setup can be threatened.The  use of virus and malware protection is important, yet it is also a serious drain on a computer so many users disconnect it when they aren’t surfing the web.
One of the more common problem encounters with virus protection  is you are recording, you’ve just laid down 16 tracks and all of a sudden your virus protection needs to update. You’ve set it to update automatically and when it launches it crashes your mix….no joy.

If you don’t have enough computer for the job one of the first things you’ll notice is crackling noises. This is when many people call a software or hardware vendor upset that their product has malfunctioned, when they simply don’t have enough computer for the job.

Not a techie? There are companies out there that will custom build a music computer to your liking. You will spend more money that way. I personally build my own computers. Apple computers have less issues with malware  and if you use Logic as your software then it has been adapted well to that platform.

On the PC side, Cakewalk with it’s Sonar Platinum program is probably closer to the heartbeat of the windows 10 OS than most. They have good communications with the people at Windows in knowing when changes will be made and what kind of changes there are.If windows makes a change to its OS Cakewalk is probably aware of it. They were the first to make use of touch screen technology in their program and Sonar Platinum is the primary program I use in my studio although I have several others.


You might say, can’t  I simply buy a middle range generic laptop and make music? You might be able to do so but I can’t absolutely guarantee you won’t experience issues. If you only record several tracks you might get by.If you have a laptop you can download free trial software and see how it goes.

An Audio Interface And Music Recording Software


So what else do I need  you say?

You need an audio interface…this is the thing that you put music into and it communicates with your music software. They come in all kinds and price ranges. I use Firewire in my studio but usb is more common. A decent interface can be had for not a lot of money. Firewire and usb use different digital protocols Firewire is great if you can make it work. For a beginner I suggest usb. Usb is usually easiest to set up and use. Firewire doesn’t always play well with all computers and this is only IF you have a firewire plug. Online music retailers will set you up with an audio interface.


Is that it?  No


Monitor Speakers

Monitor speakers, microphones,cords. ome music retailers offer a “recording package” that has pretty much everything you need except for a computer and maybe software.These are usually great beginner setups.

Recording acoustic guitar? Get a few decent SDC(small diameter condenser) mics. Recording vocals? Invest in a decent condenser microphone with pop filter. I recommend Audio Technica,Rode,Shure., but there are many others.

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