Thanks to digital technology, it’s easy to record your own song. You could be the next Justin Bieber if you wanted!
If you have a decent computer, you already have a good chunk of what you need to make good quality recordings. Here are 10 great tips if you’re wondering how to record a song.
1. Have Everything You Need
Make sure you have all the equipment you need to record before you start a session. Things like cables and guitar strings can break, so it pays to have spares on hand in case something goes wrong.
You don’t want to spend ages getting everything set up only to be stopped in the middle of your tracks by a broken guitar string.
2. Maintain Your Instruments
Certain instruments require maintenance to ensure they sound their best. For example, if you want to record guitar or bass, you might want to consider putting new strings on it. Strings can deaden over time, so you might not get the best sound if you record old strings.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, reggae bass players favor dead-sounding strings and might never change their strings unless they break one.
3. Consider the Microphones
If you want to record certain types of vocals or instruments, the right kind of microphone is a must. Different mics are better at recording different kinds of material.
For example, if you want to mic up a guitar amp, you probably want to use a dynamic microphone such as the SM57. On the other hand, if you want to record an acoustic guitar or vocals, you might use a condenser mic.
Pro studios will try various different mic configurations to get the right sound. Ideally, you should have at least one condenser microphone and one dynamic one.
4. Consider Monitoring
Whether you’re recording rap, Hindi rock, or metal, you need to be able to clearly hear what you’re doing. Unfortunately, commercial speakers or headphones aren’t ideal.
These will hype up certain frequencies to make your music sound good. This is great when you’re listening to music, but when you’re recording, you need a more accurate representation of the sound. You should use either studio monitors or studio headphones.
5. Think About Recording via DI
When you record things with a microphone, not only will it capture the sound of the instrument, but it’ll also capture the sound of the room. Pro studios are specifically constructed so that the room sounds great. If you’re recording in your bedroom, on the other hand, you might end up with a sound that’s less than desirable.
If you’re recording something like a bass or a guitar, you might consider plugging directly into the audio interface rather than trying to mic up an amp. This means you won’t have to deal with any issues related to the room you’re recording in.
6. Be Careful with Drums
Recording a drum kit is difficult. Properly micing one up is an art form, and that’s assuming you can even fit a drum kit in your recording space.
Since recording drums is so hard, a lot of people choose to use virtual drumkit software such as Superior Drummer or Addictive Drums. Be aware that if you program drums using your DAW’s piano roll or step sequences, it’s probably not going to sound very natural.
A computer will line up every drum hit to hit right on the beat. This will make your drums sound fake since a real drummer would never be that accurate.
If you don’t have the ability to record a convincing drum performance, consider using a drum machine or drum machine software. Drum machines already sound “unnatural,” so it’s easier to get them sounding good without a live drummer.
7. You Need an Audio Interface
In order to get the sound from your microphones or instruments into your computer, you’ll need an audio interface. Before you buy one, you need to consider how many inputs you’re going to need.
The more inputs the better, but you might not necessarily need that many. If you’re just recording vocals over a beat, you can get away with just a couple of inputs. But if you want to record a full band, you’ll need something with more input options.
For making rap or hip hop tracks, it’s not too unconventional to buy the rights to a beat and record your vocals over it. See more options with Shawt Beats.
8. Record at the Right Level
When you record any vocals or instruments, you need to make sure the gain level is set right on your audio interface. If you’re using a digital interface, you should never have your recording go “into the red.” This will cause the recording to clip and distort.
If you want to distort your recordings, do it with an effects pedal or a VST plugin. You should also make sure you don’t record at too low of a gain level either. If you record a part and it clips into the red, there’s not really anything you can do to save it; you’ll have to re-record the part.
9. You Need a DAW
A DAW is a digital audio workstation that you’ll record all of your tracks into. There are a lot of options out there, so take the time to research some of them.
Certain DAWs are better for particular styles. For example, if you want to work with a lot of samples, you might want to consider Ableton Live, which has a lot of features that make it great for chopping up samples.
10. Play to a Click Track
Generally speaking, you should always record to a click track or metronome. This ensures your song will match up to the grid inside your DAW.
However, not every recording out there was played to a click track; sometimes, a drummer might play down their drum track and feel the tempo. Recording in this way can make it difficult to make edits since none of your tracks are going to line up to the timings in your DAW.
If you’re just getting started with recording, you should use a click track.
Know How to Record a Song Correctly
So there you have it: 10 tips for how to record a song. The key thing is to be prepared.
Recording is as much of an art form as it is a science; your first recordings are probably going to have some serious issues. Make sure you learn from your mistakes and you’ll be recording quality tracks in no time.
If you want to read more about music, check out our blog posts.