Sunday, May 31, 2009


a quickstart guide to home recording: 5 steps - instant success

Online tutorials are usually unprofessional and lame, and this one is no exception. If you already know what you're doing, I recommend you to find something proper to read from the all artists-section. But if home recording is something you'd like to try out and don't know where to start from, you might get some ideas here. Rememeber that if there was only one way to make music, the whole art wouldn't be any different from simple sports like running or swimming.

Okay, let's assume your budget is somewhere around 0-50 $ / € / £. And even if you have money, let's pretend you don't, because expensive equipment + no practical skills nor ideas = just sad. This principle leads us to the first step:

1. You need an idea

It doesn't have to be artificial or anything that you could write down. You have to understand that ideas - good ones - are rarely conscious... You just have it somewhere in the dungeons of your head, and you get a vague feeling of wanting to create something. Don't confuse this with inspiration. Consider that ecstatic feeling as a positive side effect that comes after working (mentally or manually) until you get results. You can control your inspiration!

Then you should start channelling your creative urges somehow. For some people this might be hard since there's an ocean of possibilities here. Would it be a man and a guitar? Just a cappella? Or maybe a traditional power trio? Maybe you already play some instrument and want to build your stuff around it... Or you've just bought a sampler.. This is only how the music will be done and won't take you far, a tool won't do any work for you.

Exploring new areas is always interesting, but you don't have to be any artsier than you are. If you want to build your music strongly on traditions, remember to fill it with meaning. J.S. Bach himself was considered oldfashioned when he lived, but now he's the cornerstone of western classical music. One can be good and progressive in so many ways.

2. Get some recording equipment

If you've found an old 2-track reel to reel recorder or a cassette 4-track, smile and take good care of your gear. Maybe you've seen photos of five meters long mixers and huge monitors (=speakers) and think that's where you should be going... Forget it. Guided By Voices recorded their classic album Bee Thousand with a 4-track-recorder, Animal Collective recorded Campfire Songs with three minidisc recorders etc.. I'm not telling this to make you imitate them, but keep in mind how little this whole thing is about the gear. If you have a machine that is so simple that you forget it and concentrate on music, it's a good machine.

For those not familiar with the terminology: track recorder is a machine that makes it possible to overdub, so that you can, for example, first record drums, then bass and guitar so that you hear them playback simultaneously, as if a band was playing.
If you don't find anything from ebay or want to use computer anyway, there is some free software available for this purpose: Audacity, for instance.

Basically you need a recorder and a microphone.. If you want to do everything live (with no overdubs), a regular minidisc recorder or even My first sony will do - the latter has a mic and everything!

3. Make music and record it

Try out different things. Record without planning, plan without recording.. Record alone in your bedroom and with your friends... Record record record. See the big picture; what will the song sound like if I start it with drums and percussion? Or add them later like the Flaming Lips did in The Soft Bulletin? Play, record, listen, re-record and repeat this until you are satisfied. I'd emphasise word you; you don't have to be someone else or make music for anyone else. This is where the true independency is, you can make music with its own conditions... I've noticed that many people have almost an opposite understanding of the word 'independent'.

This is kinda what you should be doing all the time. Routine is not always bad, it is vital that you know your equipment and musical vocabulary just like you know your car. Travelling is the point!

Don't stop when you feel like there's something you don't do right. Make a sketch of the whole work and go to details later. If you get stuck with one song, leave it for a while and work on another one.

4. Mix and master

You know, there are people who make their living just by mixing or mastering.. So they are not just any phases, but really really important parts of creating music. But if you have good ears, vision and stamina, you have no worries.

Mixing is basically like positioning elements into a photo collage so that one can see every detail but still enjoy the whole picture. Distorting the picture into an ambiguous mess is one option too. (My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is a good example) You can move tracks from left to right (pan) or put some gain on any frequency (eq).. Control the volume, add some effects etc.

As a home producer, mastering would be same as moving your music into your computer in stereo format. You can still adjust the volume, eq etc, but it will effect every instrument. You can't control the little objects in the collage anymore, it's like a one big jpg now. Compressing is one of the most critical and important things in both mixing and mastering, be careful with that! (This is a subject you could do a bit studying on instead of learning by making mistakes) Maybe it's a good idea to compare your master recording to any good sounding album. What's different? Usually pro masters sound loud and bright.

5. Share

Myspace isn't as bad as some people say. Could be better, but making demos that don't get sold is an expensive hobby, and via Myspace you can reach random people, not just your friends or the ones that come to see your gig. If you don't need a profile or just want to share your music with friends, a mediafire downlad link should do.

Have fun! And oh, you can send your creations to Mikael. (

I mean, who knows?