Recording live music at home is quite possible thanks to the power of the personal computer and home music recording software. I have done it a few times and it did not sound too bad. Yet it is sometimes a frustrating experience because I lack the right equipment. At the moment the right equipment is too expensive for me to buy. Still, the feeling you get from recording and mastering your first piece of music or song is a rewarding experience.

So what do I use for recording music at home? I have a personal computer,  a soundcard, a multi-effects pedal, a microphone and some musical instruments such as an electric guitar, bass guitar and keyboard. I recommend that you use an external drum machine or drum machine software for recording your drum tracks unless you are so lucky to own real drum microphones and a real drum set. You may do an online search for freeware drum machine software, although they are a bit hard to find. I also have some cables and other digital equipment for getting the sound from the instruments into the computer.

If you do not have any money to spend on expensive recording software, I recommend that you download the Audacity software which is open source freeware. This means that you may use it free of charge and you may also edit the code or plugins if you are a programmer.

A mixer is another piece of equipment that is part of the recording process. It is better to plug all your instruments into a mixer where you can control the volume of each instrument. You can also do some basic equalization before the signal goes into the soundcard of your computer and into your recording program. However, you can get away with just plugging your instrument straight into the soundcard if you do not have a mixer.

If you need to record a singing voice it is paramount to have at least a basic quality microphone to sing into. There might be a problem with background noise when you record using a common dynamic microphone. This unfortunately adds noise to your overall recording. The Audacity software I already mentioned has a noise reduction plugin which you can use to remove most of the background noise. You will need to play around with the slider settings to find the right balance. I find that sometimes there are still some residual background noise left, but it does help to cut the annoying hiss.

You have all your instruments plugged in and your software is running. Now you need to check the sound levels of the signal. Usually I record the level at around -12 decibel, but you can use your own discretion in this matter. Hit the record button and the programme will start to record a new track. You can record multiple tracks separately. You can then quick mix the multiple tracks into one track before you master the song.

The mastering process may need a few basic plugins such as compression, equalization and hard limiter. These and a few other plugins are already part of the default version of Audacity. You can export your mastered track as a .wav file. If you want to export it into MP3 format, you will need to download and install a specific plugin. You can get more information about this and other topics at the Audacity webpage.