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Starting home recording

Posted by erstokke on Friday, October 19, 2007

There are several ways to go.


A: Software


1. Audacity is simple and is free. But Audacity does not handle midi (keyboards and arrangements from Band-in-a-Box), and you need to download a plugin to export to mp3. Audacity also use what is called "destructive editing", which means that it alters the sound files when editing. Garageband (Mac) or Cubase (PC and Mac) to name two use non-destructive editing. Which means that you always have the original sound files intact. 

2. USB mics and audio interfaces are often bundled with light versions of Cubase, Traction or other nice recording software. If you use a Mac, the excellent application GarageBand is already installed. If you want something more advanced on a Mac, Logic Express is the way to go.


B: Hardware options

1. Get an USB microphone, and a pair of decent headphones. Samson has both a dynamic and a large condenser mic with built in USB. There are other (better) USB mics as well.

Pro: Inexpensive, Con: You cant plug in electric instruments (electric guitar, keyboards etc. You cant record with two or more mics at the same time.


2. Instead of the USB mic, you could get a Zoom H2 or H4 which also will allow recording away from home. The H4 and H2 will also allow you to plug in electric instruments.


3. Get an audio interface and connect one or more microphones or instruments. They are also available with midi interface (for connecting keyboards etc). Pro: The most flexible and expandable solution. Often bundled with excellent software. Con: More expensive because you need both the interface and one or more separate mics

4. Get a separate hardware recorder/mixer. Pro: It is portable. Con: The small screen makes it difficult to work with compared to a computer screen. Max # of tracks is restricted (usually 4 or 8). Often no midi support.


Even more confused? Buy a Zoom H2 and download Audacity (which is free). Then use this setup to get some experience. If you upgrade your home studio later, the H2 will still be useful for field recordings.

If you want to listen to a recording made with the H2, listen to the song 'Bluegrass Jam No1' on my BHO music page. There is a lot to learn on

3 comments on “Starting home recording”

Joanchek Says:
Friday, October 19, 2007 @2:32:38 PM

Jan Erik, just as an aside, it's very easy to export to mp3 on a PC from Audacity.  Your readers might want to know this.

I record myself on a little iRiver mp3 player.  It's fine for my needs.  I do not like practicing in my office at all, so I enjoy the freedom of a separate piece of hardware for recording.  But the quality is, well, not good.  It would be better with a separate mic, and there is a line-in port to use one.  I just don't have one and really don't need to spend the money on one.  One upside to the iRiver is that it records in mp3 format, so it's a simple matter of drag-and-drop to transfer the files to the computer, and no file conversions are necessary.


erstokke Says:
Friday, October 19, 2007 @5:49:36 PM

When trying to save as mp3 I got an error message asking me to localize LAME lib. Eventually I found that here so now it works. The Zoom H2 and H4 can also be set to record in mp3.

DandyRandy Says:
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 @1:29:42 PM

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