1) A Powerful Computer
Before you can record anything, you're going to need a computer. Anyone with a computer and a USB microphone can record a few tracks, but what you can do with those tracks can be quite limited if your computer does not have the processing power necessary to run the recording software and any of the many plug-ins (software audio effects editing tools) you may want to use to bring life to your tracks.
So what computer should I get, Michael? I'm glad you asked! In the audio world, there are many opinions about whether a PC or Mac should be used. The real answer? Both are fantastic options. The main things to keep in mind when choosing between a PC or Mac are 1) the type of interface you will be using (this is next on our list) and 2) the kinds of plug-ins you plan on using. There are an abundance of free and third-party plug-ins available online, and often these plug-ins will only run on either a PC or a Mac. It's important to note that you will pay a premium on Macs, and you can often get the same specifications for a way better price by opting for a PC.
Once you've decided on a which kind you want, the next thing you'll need to do is decide on the specifications. For recording purposes there are 3 things that are especially important: hard drive, processor, and memory. Recording audio takes up a good bit of storage space. I would recommend getting at least 500 GB. While flash storage is usually a tad faster, it is not necessary and a bit more expensive. However, a spinning disk of 7200 RPM will definitely outshine a 5400 RPM one. I would also recommend an Intel processor from the i7 line or higher. While I currently run a 2.6 GHz processor, you can get away with less. As for memory, 8 GB will get the job done (but more doesn't hurt). It's important to be realistic with your recording goals. If you're not going to be recording more than a single-digit amount of tracks, you won't need the world's most powerful computer ever, and something much cheaper will work for you.
2) A Quality Interface
What is an interface? An interface is a device that you plug your microphones and/or instruments into that brings the sound into the computer. It also acts as the sound card for your computer while it is in use. Without it, recording quality audio is a pretty difficult task. There are many different kinds of interfaces out there, and as I mentioned before, some will only run on a PC or a Mac.
Before you select an interface, it's again important to dwell on your recording goals. Firstly, you'll want to think about how many instruments you will be recording simultaneously. If you're only recording a voice and guitar or a couple of each, a 2 or 4 input interface will be all you need. If you're recording drums or a full live band, 8 inputs (or even 16), may be necessary. Once you decide how many inputs you'll need, you'll need to decide how high-end of an interface to get. The difference between an 8 input interface that's $500 and one that's $3000 can be huge, especially to a trained ear. Where you want to go with recording should determine which kind you purchase. Two interfaces I would recommend that sound amazing are the Apogee Quartet and the Universal Audio Apollo 8p.
Most people's natural instinct towards buying quality microphones would be to go and buy the best mic out there for an outrageous price. This is not the best tactic. Rather, it is better to build an arsenal and invest in a few good mics. There are an insane amount of microphones to choose from, three main types (condenser, dynamic, and ribbon), and testing and learning about all of them is something that could take years. Luckily, much of the work has already been done for us, and over the years, there are some mics that have been found to consistently do the trick. Below I've arranged a list of microphones for different kinds of typical rock band instruments.
- Vocals - I've found that many different condenser microphones from Audio-Technica work very well for their price. Read through their descriptions and you'll find the one for you.
- Guitars - If you're recording acoustic guitars, the condenser mics are again the way to go. However, if you're recording a speaker from a guitar cabinet, an industry standard microphone is the Shure SM57. Picking up a couple of these will serve you well.
- Drums - When it comes to drums, a few different mics are needed to cover the bases. For snares two very recommended mics to consider are the Shure SM57 or the Audix i5. For the toms and kick, Audix's D line works great. Use the D2 on smaller toms, the D4 on larger toms, and the D6 on the kick. The Shure Beta 52A also works very well on kick drums. As for overhead mics, a pair of condenser mics will work well. If you're willing to spend a bit, one mic commonly used in professional studios is a pair of AKG C414's.
Thanks for reading! Questions or concerns? Contact me!