Recording music is a fun and rewarding hobby, but to get more serious you have to make a sizeable investment in your equipment. This guide outlines the basic necessities of start a home recording studio.
Picking the right room for audio recording is important since the acoustics from that room will be heard in the music (if you use a microphone). General consensus for a good recording room is a rectangle-shaped room. Set up your desk so that it is about 1/3 distance of the room length away from one of the smaller sides.
Insulating Your Room
Sound is basically big, bouncing waves that like to reflect off of everything. By putting up blankets and other types of softening material you can reduce the reflection.
There are also professionally made sound insulators called bass traps that you need to look into. While it may cost a little out-of-pocket, it will save the improve of your recording immensely.
Computer and Software
Assuming you are doing everything digital, this is the next step. You need to get a computer that is screaming fast and can handle the heavyweight recording programs that eat processing power for breakfast. Windows or Mac will work fine, professionals use both.
The software needed for recording deserves a whole article dedicated to itself. There are tons of options and recommendations flying around on the internet. The industry standard is Pro Tools HD and will probably be too expensive when you start. Consider using cheaper, yet effective, software like Cakewalk, Frooty Loops, or Pro Tools LE.
The audio interface takes the signal from the microphone or cable and converts it into something a computer can understand. Usually made for USB, but firewire is also a more expensive and faster option.
A lot of times an audio interface comes with an editing program already. If you like it, you're in luck. Often times they bundle inferior software with the audio interface to try to sell more, but every once in a while you find a program you like.
The type of music you are recording will depend on if you should invest in real instruments (guitars, bass, drums) or just make others bring their instruments.
I say it never hurts to have them around, so get them if you can afford the cost.
Microphones And Cables
Another section of this article that deserves its own page. There are many types of microphones but I will only cover two: dynamic and condenser.
Dynamic microphones (Shure 57) are great for recording instruments and amps. The Shure 57 is an industry standard and you can pick it up at most places for $99.
Condenser microphones (MXL 990) are great for recording vocals because of a "warmth" they have in their natural sound. You can pick up a MXL 990 for $80.
Those are just recommendations. You need to go out and ask around what other people are using. If you like a certain producers sound, figure out a way to ask him what microphone he used. Odds are that he or she will be ecstatic that somebody noticed their work.
As for cables, there are 2 main ones you need to know about: XLR and 1/4". XLR is a locking connector and is usually used for vocals and direct boxes. 1/4" cables are usually for instruments. You'll need both for a successful recording studio.
There are a whole bunch of other things that you will need to have lying around. If you use real instruments, have a couple tuners and some 9 volt batteries around. If you have an explosive singer or rapper, get a pop filter for the microphone.
Keep in mind that you should never let something you don't have stop you from making music. It's easy to fall into the trap of always wanting something better but don't forget the real reason you started recording, the love of music.