If you are, like me, a songwriter, musician or composer of music who has little technical knowledge but a desire to have full creative control over the recording process, you may find this simple and cost effective home recording set up particularly satisfying and creatively productive, with surprisingly high quality results. I have found it gives me so much freedom to create that the only problem I have is filling up my computer too quickly with new material. I have made several CDs and recordings which I have been able to sell at gigs through using this relatively inexpensive and easy to use alternative to a professional studio.
Things You will Need:
A Hand Held Wav Recorder
The first thing you will need is a good hand held digital wav recorder. I have particularly enjoyed using my Zoom H4, but there are other good ones on the market as well. Because I am not so interested in becoming a sound engineer myself, I have only learned the functions which have been relevant to me so far. I am learning fun, new things that this machine can do all the time. Basically it has two modes of operation. You can set it to record a one-track stereo recording or use the excellent 4-track function, which allows you to create instant audio multi-track recordings of yourself. I have had the most fun with this second mode, as I have been able to create multi-level vocal harmonies and improvisations. The speed at which you can set up each track allows you to really stay in the creative flow. All you have to do is press one of the 4 buttons along the side of the machine to indicate which track you want to record on.
The stereo mode of operation is also very useful for all kinds of situations. The condenser microphones which are part of the Zoom H4 are so good that if you place the recorder in the right place in a room, you can get an excellent live recording of a gig. You can also plug your Zoom H4 directly into the PA sound desk. If you have two recorders available, the best thing to do to get a great live recording is have one set centrally in the room and one recording directly from the desk. By mixing the two recordings together you can create a live album which has both the crispness and clarity of the PA sound and also the live ambience of the room. As well as my multi-track recordings, I have also gathered a large number of live recordings in this way, which have been useful for CDs and demos.
The stereo function allows you to choose MP3 quality, 44.1kHz (which I find is the highest quality I need for a CD) and right up to 96kHz. This means that you can also use the Zoom H4 as a memory aid when songwriting by choosing the MP3 option.
A laptop is the simplest and easiest computer to use because its light and portable, but this system of recording could be done with a stationary computer as well. It is important to have a computer which can handle reasonable speeds and which has enough memory. Most of the new laptops these days are suitable for this recording purpose, but do check before you buy one that it can handle the software you will need to install on it.
Audio Recording/Editing Software
The software I use is Adobe Audition and I have found it works really well for my purposes. As I mentioned before, I am only an amateur when it comes to sound engineering, so I have learned only enough to do the basics. However, I have found it an easy program to use and with it I can do the whole process myself from start to finish â recording, putting the recordings onto my computer, editing and mixing the tracks and then burning them to a CD for duplication. I know that the most recent edition of Adobe Audition is also particularly excellent for high end professional studio recording, as it has some pretty amazing functions on it. I have witnessed professional sound engineers being able to use this software to its full capacity and been impressed by the results. I know there are also other excellent audio software packages available, but my experience is with Adobe Audition and I can say it works well whether you are a beginner like me, or a more experienced professional sound engineer.
Putting it all Together
The fantastic thing about this simple system of audio recording and CD production is that within one day you can write a song, record it in interesting and creative ways, load it into your computer, edit it and put it onto a CD yourself. If you want something of the highest radio broadcast quality, then you will probably need to look to a professional studio, but if you want something which allows you complete creative freedom and the ability to make a CD to sell which still has a level of quality people can enjoy, this is a set up I can definitely recommend.