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Getting studio sounds in your front room
One of the joys of playing, writing and performing music is hearing your tunes back once you’ve recorded them. In days gone by, this used to mean either cobbling together a few microphones and a four-track tape recorder or booking in to a professional studio with all the expense and time restrictions that brought with it. Thankfully, the options open to hobby players are much more plentiful these days, as recording gear becomes more widely available and financially accessible. Anybody with a computer or tablet device can now approximate a well-stocked studio with just a few choice items. Here’s a look at a few things to start you off home recording guitar if you’re on a budget.
To start off, you’ll need a way of getting the sounds produced by your instrument into your recording device. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume said device is a computer, as opposed to dedicated recording devices like the classic BOSS BR units of yesteryear. Most people have access to a computer, and even the most basic feature-free laptops will be able to cope with a start-up recording rig.
The first thing to note is that while some computers come with a built-in sound card, unless it’s a dedicated music machine it’s probably not much cop. Step forward audio interfaces. These devices are effectively external sound cards, and come in a range of different sizes, each with differing levels of connectivity and functionality. Some are designed to capture multi-microphone setups which are ideal for recording a full band simultaneously, but for the lone guitarist these are probably a bit over the top.
Keeping things simple…
A two-in, two-out interface like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface (pictured above) or the M-Audio M-Track 2X2 C-Series Audio Interface (pictured below) will be all you need to make that connection between instrument and computer. It connects to the computer via USB and features two input connectors, so you can record two things at once, and two outputs so you can connect a set of audio monitors – more on these later.
Check out our handy tutorial, which guides you through the process of recording your first guitar track using a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface.
If you’re using a tablet device as your recording rig, then the hugely popular IK Multimedia iRig 2 would be perfect for you. These highly portable devices connect to your phone or tablet’s headphone jack and feed the audio signal into your recording app of choice. IK’s AmpliTube app – which we recently covered in our Guitar VSTs blog – is well worth checking out too; it effectively makes your smartphone or tablet into a portable studio, complete with guitar amps and effects so you can play on the move.
Once you’ve connected the guitar to the interface, you’ll need the right software to record into. It’s hard to look beyond Ableton Live for this; Live has been a firm favourite of bands and recording artists on account of its (relatively) low learning curve and ease with which users can gain amazing recording results. It comes in a few different versions, each with differing levels of included instruments, effects and gizmos, but for basic recording we’d wholeheartedly recommend Ableton Live 10 Intro. It’s not over-the-top expensive for what it is and gives you enough tools to begin your recording adventure without overwhelming anyone who’s not familiar with this type of software.
If, on the other hand, you’re feeling confident or you’ve done some recording before, the full version of Ableton Live 10 could be everything you’ve ever needed. Better still is the fact that Ableton regularly release quality updates, offering even more in the way of instruments and effects, for free.
So, you’ve connected the interface up, and the software is installed. One thing is missing. Ah yes, sound. Unless you plan on listening back through your computer speakers or headphones – and we wouldn’t recommend this as a long-term arrangement – you’ll want to look at a set of dedicated studio monitor speakers.
Studio monitors differ from the speakers you’d find with a traditional hi-fi, in that they don’t alter the sound before it hits your ears. Basically, hi-fi speakers will often sweeten certain elements of the sound to make it nicer to listen to. This is fine for simply listening to music, but for recording and mixing you will get better, more accurate results from a set of studio monitors which don’t colour the sound in any way.
The entry-level bracket is chock full of great quality, reasonably priced monitor speakers but we’d draw your attention to either the KRK Rokit RP5 set or the M-Audio BX5 D3 set. Either of these will provide the clarity, volume and sound you’ll want as you start recording.
Alternatively, you may want to keep things a little more personal whilst you’re laying down tracks. In this case you’re best off switching to a decent pair of studio headphones that provide a balanced frequency response and a comfortable fit.
Aside from gear, there are other more cost-effective things you can do to give yourself the best possible tone for recording. You should always ensure your guitar is in fighting shape, so new strings and a basic setup to remove any fret buzz or crackly pots will pay off in the final results. Our guitar maintenance section offers a range of solutions to help you keep on top of things. Don’t be the one with ‘all the gear and no idea’ – ensure that the basics are covered.
Think about the room in which you’re recording too. A cold room with wooden or tiled floors, or an overly large room, will provide certain characteristics to your recording which may not be desirable. We published a blog recently which will help anyone looking to adjust the space they are recording in, in an effort to improve its acoustics. These may not seem like the biggest deal, but they will certainly help you to make the best of what you have.
Now go and do it!
The whole process, from composing a tune to recording it and listening back, is among the most rewarding things we can think of. And, who knows? It could end up being the first step on a journey which lasts a lifetime. We hope you enjoy it! As ever, if you need any help or advice then our Customer Service Team are more than happy to help over the phone on 01925 582420. Our in-store specialists will guide you through the wonderful world of guitar effects, just pop into your nearest Dawsons store.
Quick recap of products featured in this article:
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface
- M-Audio M-Track 2X2 C-Series Audio Interface
- IK Multimedia iRig Guitar Interface for iOS and Android
- Ableton Live 10 Intro Software
- Ableton Live 10 Suite Software
- KRK Rokit RP5 G3 Monitors
- M-Audio BX5 D3 Monitors
- Sennheiser HD200 Pro Circumaural Studio Headphones
- Studio Headphones
- Gibson Guitar Care Kit
- Guitar Maintenance