Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Audio Recording: Equipment

You've got a band and you want to put together a little demo CD for people. You don't have a DAW, or a recording studio, or even an amplifier. You're also missing the fog machine. Somehow, though, you've managed to scrape together $100, and you want to use that money to break into the music industry... or, at least put something together for YouTube.

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.

Cardioid Microphone

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...

Audio In:
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.

Recording Interface

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.

Other Options:
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.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1 comment :

Home Recording Equipment Recommendations said...

Microphone is the most important equipment in recording. Instruments are also very essential in recording, but in other software, there are already virtual instruments.