Recording music on your laptop computer has never been easier!
There once was a time that you needed a giant recording studio and thousands of dollars to record your own music. That time was the 90's.
This century, though, you can write and record your own music on the cheap and in the comfort of your own home - right on your laptop!
And the best part is that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars to get studio-quality sound. The magic of modern technology makes it super easy to turn your ideas into digital music, if you know what tools you need. This guide will give you just that!
Getting Starting With Music On Your Laptop
When you get down to it, there are two things to consider when making music at home: how you're going to make the sounds, and how you're going to record the sounds.
If you are trying to make electronic music, like techno or dubstep, then you're in luck! There is a ton of software out there, ranging from free to cheap to expensive, that combines both steps in a single piece of software. We'll get to that in just a bit.
But, if you're trying to make music starting from real-world instruments, like guitar, drums, bass, or vocals, then you need to figure out how to connect your instrument to your laptop.
Getting Music in to Your Laptop
Take a second and look around the edge of your laptop. Most laptops have a sound card with both a headphone jack and a microphone jack. The jacks look like little holes about 1/8" across with a symbol next to it that looks like a microphone or set of headphones. The jack with the microphone symbol is where you will connect your instrument.
If you have an instrument with a cable to it, like an electric guitar or bass, you can connect it directly to your laptop. Sometimes the plug on the cable may be too big for your laptop. You can get an adapter for this from a place like Radio Shack or Amazon. What you are looking for is a 1/4" female to 1/8" male adapter.
If you don't have an instrument with a cable, you will need to get a microphone and stand. You can get surprisingly good microphones from discount retailers like Target and Best Buy for under $50. I recommend staying away from using your laptop's built-in microphone. It works well for conversations, but you lose a lot of sound quality from musical instruments. Again, you may need a plug adapter.
Using Recording Software on Your Laptop
Once you have figured out how to get the music in to your laptop, the next step is recording it. And that means using the right software.
To get started quickly, Windows comes preloaded with a program called Sound Recorder. It is a very basic program that simply records sound directly from your microphone jack - no fuss, no muss. If you are trying to capture a quick musical idea or a single instrument without processing, this will do the job.
If you want to record an instrument and apply effects, you need an audio editor. You can find a number of free and low cost editors on the internet. My favorite is Goldwave, which has been around for over a decade and has a range of tools for novice and expert alike.
If you want to record several instruments, and then make them play at the same time (like, you know, a band), you need a program called a sequencer. Each time you record an instrument, you save it in a separate track. You can then adjust sound levels, apply effects, cut it, stretch it, and mix it down to a single track for distribution to your favorite record label. Again, there are a ton of options on the market.
A great place to start is Cakewalk's Music Creator 6. Along with being very accessible for beginners, there are a number of built-in loops and instruments you can use right from the start. Dubstep innovators, look no further!
As you can see, recording music on your laptop is as easy as 1...2...and that's it! Now, get your instruments and start jamming!