Some of the best portable recording options for a touring musician
When writing music, the Muse strikes when it feels like, not when you want it to, so you need to be able to get ideas down as quickly as possible when inspiration shows its face. If you’re a touring musician or producer, you’ve likely kicked yourself at some point as you’ve forgotten to quickly hit the record on your smartphone or write down those lyrics you came up with a few hours ago.
Portable studios are a great idea, especially if you spend a lot of your time travelling, in hotel rooms, or just want a quick and easy set up to capture those moments of inspiration. We actually covered what you need to create a portable studio in a previous blog which you can read here. But for those who want to be able to effectively record anytime, anyplace without too much fuss, read on as we’re going to show you the best new portable recording equipment so you can record at home, on the road or in your hotel room.
Let’s start with the vocals. If you’re a vocalist or singer/songwriter you’ll need a few items to ensure you’re ready to capture both quick ideas and higher quality vocal takes at any moment. Touring schedules can mean the writing process is tight and as the saying goes “you have a whole lifetime to write a debut album, but 6 months to write the 2nd album” so be sure you’re logging all those moments of inspiration quickly. When your smartphone decides to run out of space, you need a reliable and portable hand held recorder that is both easy to use and record at a high enough quality to listen back accurately.
If you want a ready-made recording set up, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio Second Generation Recording Package is a great option. Focusrite just get it right when it comes to crafting interfaces, microphones and headphones that provide studio quality recordings for those who record at home or on the road. The Focusrite second generation includes a Scarlett Studio CM25 microphone, the 2nd generation Scarlett 2i2 interface and a set of HP60 headphones to give you an accurate representation of your music.
Unfortunately, you can’t load a huge vocal booth into a hotel room with you and the hotel owners tend to frown upon using the mattresses to create one. So you need a portable option that cuts out all of the unwanted noise when you’re singing your heart out. Fortunately, you have a few options. The SE Electronics Reflexion Filter X Portable Vocal Booth is a budget friendly and professional quality vocal booth that is lightweight and easy to transport. It reduces room ambience and turns recordings in an acoustically untreated room into top quality studio sessions. The Essentials range also offers a slightly cheaper option too. Either way, these really help you record vocals on the go.
Whether you want to practice and actually hear what your guitar or bass sounds like or record directly, you’ll be surprised at just how many great options there are. Electric guitarists, and especially those with active/hot pickups will love the fact that the Scarlett 2nd Generation series has actually been designed to accommodate these better.
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo Second Generation Audio Interface for example features super low latency at 2.74ms, more even gain structure and an instrument input redesigned for hot pickups to give you one of the most accurate representations of your guitar work available. It even comes packed with a software bundle that includes Red 2 & 3, Softube Time and Tone, Ableton Live and Pro Tools First featuring 12 free plugins – more than enough to keep you going when you’re on tour.
Bass players will appreciate the Ashdown MiBass Interface that connects easily to MAC, PC or iOS device. The ABM app on iOS (AmpKit+) gives you that unmistakable ashdown tone you need whenever, wherever. You can even use headphones with it to ensure silent practice without losing out on a real world sound.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with the trusty IK Multimedia iRig 2 Guitar Interface For iOS and Android. Since this little interface was released, it has become one of the most useful tools a guitarist could ever hope to use. It’s compact, robust and comes bundled with AmpliTube software so you can record straight out of the box on your iPhone or Android smartphone. They also do an acoustic option too, aptly called the IK Multimedia iRig Acoustic Guitar Mobile Interface.
Recording Keys and Synths
Transporting heavy synths and keyboards to hotel rooms is definitely not recommended, and with the myriad of awesome options available, there’s really no need to be stuck with cumbersome controllers or keyboards.
As far as keyboards go, you really can’t overlook the quality and portability of the Yamaha Reface series. You have 4 great options to choose from in the Reface collection, such as the CS Analogue Synthesizer, DX FM Synthesizer, Reface CP Electric Piano (pictured) and YC Electric Combo Organ – all of which can be used at home, in the studio and live. These are definitely not toys as they have been crafted with the professional musician in mind able to deliver superior quality sounds straight out of the box.
The ever popular Teenage Engineering OP-1 Portable Synthesizer needs a mention here, as it is an absolute powerhouse that can be used anytime, anyplace. Not only is it a powerful and quirky synthesizer, but it is a 4 track tape recorder with variable tape speed with a built-in 24 voice instant live sampler to capture desired audio sources. Their pocket operators are also great fun for those moments when you’re bored in the tour bus or hotel room, but don’t think for second that they are a toy – these pocket operators are extremely awesome music making machines.
As far as samplers and sequencers are concerned, the Pioneer Toraiz SP-16 Professional Sampler and Step Sequencer, which incidentally has been designed in collaboration with legendary synth creator Dave Smith is a great portable option for DJs and EDM producers who want a sampler and step sequencer, production and performing tool all rolled together.
So there you have it – a complete suite of great recording options for those who need a portable studio that can be rolled out on the bus, at home or in the hotel. Check out a huge range of recording equipment over at the Dawsons website.
Lee Glynn is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Liverpool, England. After moving to the UK from Perth, Australia, Lee enjoyed a successful career as guitarist in Liverpool based rock band Sound of Guns.
After releasing two albums, a myriad of EPs / singles and touring extensively around the world for 6 years including stops at Glastonbury, Latitude Festival, as well as the coveted Reading & Leeds Festivals, Lee decided it was a time for a change of scenery.
Utilising his experience in music journalism, Lee now works within the web team at Dawsons Music, where he can still relay his passion for music by producing great content for the Dawsons blog and social media. Lee is still an avid guitar player and writer.