Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Anyone can make music, here's how to get started

So, all these countless bands on Myspace, they don't all get studio time do they?

As I've said in a previous post, there are just too many bands out there. They all have music up on the Myspace player, sometimes good, sometimes awful. If you've ever wanted to know how easy it is to get some of your own music up there, here's how.

Firstly, take a look at Home Studio Corner. Joe Gilder is an absolute pro and once you get started, I can't think of a better resource if you want to really get into recording at home. Tell him I sent you ;)

But here is a quick guide.

You may have seen pictures of your favourite bands in top-dollar studios, with all that gear and the big mixing desk. Hundreds of microphones, cables and hired professional engineers. Lots of money, huh?

Not anymore.

All you need is a computer these days. The faster your computer, the easier it will be, although this goes without saying. I take my recording and production seriously, so I have a high-spec Mac Pro which is specifically for working with music. Don't worry, you don't need a brand new high spec computer, or a mac, to do any recording. As long as your computer isn't still running on Floppy disks, it should be fine.

Do you need a Mac or a PC? Generally it doesn't matter. Just bear in mind when you're shopping for software and hardware that its compatible with your chosen platform. You won't need to buy a new computer!

What you will need though, is an audio interface and a microphone.

Audio interfaces replace your computer's soundcard and connect via USB, Firewire or even PCI/PCIe. For basic recording a USB interface should do fine, Firewire is generally faster and PCI isn't worth worrying about unless you're going pro with this.

So why do you need to replace your soundcard?

Your computer's soundcard is fine for playing back computer sounds and mp3s, and taking the input from your gaming headset or a dictation mic that you use for Skype. When it comes to recording you want something designed for the purpose of recording, which won't slow down your computer and which will capture the audio you record in a good quality and without noticable noise.

When going shopping for soundcards/interfaces, the list of choices is literally endless, and can cost anything from £100 to £10,000. So which one do you want?

Have a look for ones that include software, as this saves you some small expense and is often a good indicator that the hardware will play nicely with the software. Popular ones are the Mbox range from Digidesign, which come with (and are required to use) Pro Tools LE. Pro Tools is the "Industry Standard" recording software and there are a lot of resources avaliable to learn how to use it. There's even a simpler Pro Tools Essential package from M Audio, which is cheap and has everything you need to make simple music.

Joe from Home Studio Corner is an Avid Pro Tools user, and can help you with getting started.

If you have a Mac, you already have recording software! Its called Garageband, and comes with OSX. All you need is a Mac compatible interface and you're good to go.

If you're wondering, here's what I use.

I run Logic Pro, which is Apple's main pro application - Garageband is essentially a smaller version of Logic. Logic is relatively cheap considering that you literally get everything you need to make a pro recording with it.

My Interface is the Apogee Duet, which is Mac Only but at a mere £300/$500ish gives you stellar sound quality and enough connectivity for the basic home studio. Apogee also make the Apogee One, which may appeal to those of you with a Macbook or similar.

So what about microphones?

If you want a workhorse that does everything, you can't go far wrong with a Shure SM58 or SM57.

I could post hundreds of good workable combinations of gear for getting started, but we'd be here forever. What I've posted is a bare minimum solution for getting your stuff recorded. If you want to get some music down, try my suggestions and see how you do. If you find you like it, head back to Home Studio Corner and learn a bit more.

Any questions, just ask. Especially if you want help with Logic!

This isn't really a music production blog, however my other blog is. I'll be posting more relevant stuff there soon.

Keep loving music,

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