In the digital age, recording and producing music at home has become a much more viable option for musicians starting their own projects. Options for doing this range from plug-and-play USB microphones and free software to more expensive DIY recording setups, and triple j Unearthed spoke to a bunch of Australian music legends to suss out how you can get started:
How can beginners go about recording their music?
“You definitely don’t need a professional studio to make professional sounding music anymore,” says the Hilltop Hoods' MC Suffa. Forget big, expensive studios - thanks to huge advances in technology, making great quality home recordings has never been easier or more affordable. But a word from the wise - stay focused on the songs, rather than getting lost in the technical mumbo-jumbo. As Patience Hodgson from The Grates says: “A good song with shine through a shitty recording but not the other way around.”
Likewise, Josh Pyke recommends having fun over the fiddly stuff: “At the beginning, it's all about experimentation and figuring out what works and what doesn't. Later, when you've figured out where you want to go, you can start to refine your skills.”
As you progress, learn as much as you can from everyone around you, the internet, Youtube tutorials and by closely listening to music you love. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, challenge yourself and realise all this learning just takes time.
And when G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) kicks in (as it will), research and try before you buy, ask advice and be wary of investing in something that could become obsolete quickly.
What kinds of hardware and software can you use for recording?
These days, the combinations of hardware, software and audio devices are endless so it really depends on your budget, technical prowess and personal preference.
To get started, you’ll need at least:
- a decent computer
- some good speakers
- a microphone
- audio software
- an audio interface device (not necessarily essential, but recommended)
Gotye’s advice? “Use anything you can get your hands on! Don’t let access to gear be a barrier to learning and doing your own recordings.”
Many artists recommend Mac’s Garageband program for an easy introduction to editing and recording, but there’s plenty of programs out there including Audacity, Reason, FL Studio (formerly known as Fruity Loops), Live, Reaper and Audition (formerly Cool Edit Pro).
At the upper, more expensive end of the spectrum are programs like Logic Audio, Steinberg Nuendo and Pro Tools, the latter being pretty much the industry standard these days. Other artists like Gotye swear by Ableton Live (usually used by DJs playing live) which lets him put down tracks quickly and intuitively.
Realise early on too that these programs are complex and can take years to master, but that’s part of the fun. “It's a bit of a never ending learning process with Pro Tools,” admits Josh Pyke. “I've been using it for about 7 years, and every time I go into a studio with a real pro, i learn about 20 new things!”
Hilltop Hoods’ home recording guide
Tweakheads recording guide
FL Studio (ex-Fruity Loops)
Protools (US Site)
What about mastering?
triple j Unearthed spoke to mastering engineer Andrew Edgeson to get to the bottom of this critically important process. Head over here for all that hot goss.