With the advent of new digital recording technologies, recording for aspiring artists has become much easier. Free plug-ins and DAWs have replaced expensive hardware in some respects. This isn’t to say digital technology is better, but for those looking to get into home recording, digital is a viable and convenient option.
I record at home myself, but being prone to procrastination, I’m always find reasons not to do it as much as I should. Over the years, I’ve found some techniques that will really help get the ball rolling and keep you motivated if you’re looking into recording music at home.
Dedicated Work Station
Audio equipment is expensive. I get that. Especially for a student who is weighed down with loans, textbooks, and rent to pay. But if possible, I would strongly suggest that you set up a dedicated workstation with a computer, interface, and mics.
For the longest time, my issue had been that I use my laptop for everything. I used it for school and for work and so when it comes time to record I had to go through the process of hooking up all my hardware to my laptop. This included external hard drives, license keys, interfaces, and mics.
All these take time to connect and take up quite a bit of space on a desk. I found myself spending 10 minutes clearing space to set up my equipment, another 10 to 15 hooking it all up, and by that time, the little spark that inspired me to record was fading.
The desire to record music can come up suddenly so having a station set up and ready to go the instant you want to record really helps with productivity. Not to mention setting up pathways for audio on your computer can be a little tricky, especially when you’re switching between playback devices.
Keeping a dedicated setup ensures you don’t have to do any pathway tweaking, and that your audio is always going to come out where you want it.
Jam With Friends
Sometimes, writing a song comes naturally. The licks and lyrics just seem to flow out seamlessly. But musicians get writer’s block too.
So many times, I’ve laid out a verse I like but for the life of me can’t figure out how to transition into the next part of the song. If you have friends who are also musicians, I suggest inviting them over and try to jam out the song together.
Everyone has their own musical tastes and inspirations and getting someone who isn’t as invested in the song to take a crack at it can often lead to a breakthrough in a particular part of a tune.
You don’t have to take their ideas, but music is often a collaborative effort, and having someone else to bounce ideas off of is a great way to suss out what is and isn’t working.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to songwriting, so collaborating with people who have strengths where you may be lacking is a great way to get the most out of your music.
Record, Record, Record
Practice makes perfect, no matter how sick of the saying you may get. Getting the hang of a new DAW or getting familiar with your plug-ins takes a lot of time. A lot of, often frustrating, time. But you must tell yourself it’s all in the effort of getting better. I’ve abandoned songs before because I just don’t like the way it’s turning out, or I can’t get the right sound. That’s the wrong way to go about it.
Even if you think your song sounds like a turd, polish that turd! Polish it until it’s the most beautiful sounding turd you can make it. You’re going to record a lot of songs you never share, but maintaining that drive to finish a song, even if you’re not a huge fan, is key to improving your skills.
Furthermore, recording a full-length song is a huge undertaking, from the writing to the final mix. It’s a lengthy investment, so a good way to work on your mixing and recording skills is to write some shorter songs. Try writing a 1-minute song and then work on mixing that. There will be a lot less material to focus on, so you can really work on making that 1-minute shine.
Try it with different genres as well. Record a short rock song, house track or a soft acoustic song. It’s like giving yourself a sampling plate of mixing. This also helps in determining what you want to work on in the future, and in what veins of recording your skills may be lacking.