To record music you need three things:
- An audio capture device (i.e. microphone)
- An input into your computer (e.g. audio in) and
- Editing/mixing software
My favorite microphone to use cost me $25 when a local music shop was having a big sale. It is not a super high quality microphone and I like that because:
1. It only picks up noise right in front of it because it isn't good enough to pick up "room noise"
2. I could afford it
In other words: You don't need to spend a ton on a microphone right off the bat. In fact, the lousy pickup range has been helpful when I've needed to sing and not hear the piano accompaniment.
What you want for starters is a Cardioid microphone. It's named this because of the upside-down heart shape of the signal pickup pattern. This is very versatile and great for vocals. It's also a sturdy mic design, so it won't matter as much if you accidentally drop it. You could get a good one on sale for $25, or a less expensive one for less than that retail.
The other thing to consider is the type of connector it has. Ideally you want an XLR jack--as that is the most standard--but depending on your audio in options, you may want to think about either a quarter inch or a mini plug...
Most computers come with a "line in/mic in" mini jack. The problems are:
1. Most recording devices don't have a 1/8" mini jack
2. The sound isn't very good because it is built onto the motherboard and will pick up noise from your computer's electronics
So you need to get something that will interface with your computer. You want something that is either Firewire or USB that will take both a quarter inch input and an XLR in. That way you can plug in both guitars and microphones without much of a hassle. If you can find a refurbished one, they will run you about $75... though they retail for $125-250.
Well, that's your whole budget. Sad times, because you still need software (this is assuming you already have a computer and all the other cables you may need).
Thankfully, there is a free option for your start into the world of recording. Audacity allows for very simple audio editing, but multiple tracks get tricky and aren't super nice. It's worth getting started with Audacity because other free audio editing programs require a lot more finagling.
I've also used my NLE to cut audio. If your software supports multiple audio channels, it can work really well as an audio mixing tool for early projects.
Before you spend your last few dollars, consider:
1. We recorded our first CD in the basement of our church using the church's equipment. That was pretty cool.
2. See if someone you know has some recording equipment, and if they'll help you put something together.
3. Come out to Colorado and record in my basement. I'd be happy to help you guys put something together if you ever swung by. (Call first, though, for my wife's sake <smile>)
So, that's the basic overview of what you'll need. Want specifics or suggestions based on what I've used? Let me know.
Your Media Production Mentor