Below is what you need to record from home, and how much each component will cost you. There are multiple options, but we’re only going to give you the cheapest option (that won’t degrade your sound), and the splurge option. If you have some extra money, spend it on the splurge. If not, the cheap one works just as well, but requires a touch more patience and elbow grease.
[WARNING: Trust us: its that easy. The recording part is not difficult–it's the 'making it sound good' part. We've already got that covered though... so don't worry about it.
Also, don't be afraid to dig around the internet further to find these same products for a cheaper price elsewhere. All our links are Amazon, because they are safe and we don't want you getting ripped off. Just use your best judgement and be careful. ]
Lets start with the solo artist recording flowchart. This is what you need to record and the order the equipment should be setup to record sound.
Solo Artist Recording Flowchart
ARTIST→POP FILTER→MICROPHONE→MIC STAND→ MIC CABLE→AUDIO INTERFACE/PREAMP→COMPUTER→HEADPHONES
Lets break it down for you:
That’s you, silly.
Cost: Free (hopefully)
I know we all thought it was funny when Dave Chapelle was screaming into this thing, declaring that his headphones needed to be turned up, but it’s actually pretty necessary: It is the black circle apparatus between your mouth and the mic that prevents air and spit and other noise from getting into the recording. It’s a small, cheap, but necessary piece of your recording arsenal.
Cost: >$20 anywhere. Do not spend more than that, or else you’re getting ripped off.
Or… you can make one yourself.
1) Go find a metal coat hanger.
2) Go find some pantyhose (preferably ones you don’t wear often).
3) Form the hanger into a circle.
4) Slip panty hose over the formed hanger.
5) Get a friend to hold it in front of your face while you sing. If you can’t find someone who wants to do this, do it yourself. Make sure to lock your door, so no one sees you do this.
As far as this method goes, I’ll just say, it will get the job done. If your stuff is really great, this won’t hold you back really at all. I think the $15 you’ll spend is worth having a reliable clamp, but if you really can’t afford it, just make one. Don’t use not having one as an excuse to not record.
Audio Technica AT2020
Hands down, the best bang for your buck. You can get it right now on Amazon for $62.30. The sound quality is good. Audio Technica has a five-year warranty. Which, by that time, If you work hard, you’ll have made it, so you can go all out and get a gold one if you want. Or, if you’ve got some extra cash laying around, upgrade and get the…
Audio Technica AT2035
Mel Gibsins Kids uses this one. The sound quality is better than the 2020–not by a huge, Mac vs AOL margin, but there is definitely a noticeable difference (at least to somewhat-trained ears). Right now it’s on Amazon for $117.
Double the price, but better quality. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. We think both microphones are good. It really depends on how much you (or your sugar-mama/daddy) have.
XLR CABLE (MIC CABLE)
This is the most simple of the purchases. Any brand’s basic10 foot XLR cable works.
The difference? 9 bucks.
When we find a big enough difference that warrant us spending more time writing about microphone cables, we will get back to you. For now, just go revert back to You Get What You Pay For.
AUDIO INTERFACE w/ PREAMP
This is the devil-magic behind the entire recording process. The AI/Preamp, in the simplest terms possible, takes the vocals you sing and turns them into these soundbytes that you can then send to so I can make you sound like something that wasn’t made at your house (remember, this is our secret)
This section is longer (and boring) because there are a few different ways you can skin this cat:
Mobile, easy to carry around. This shit is tiny and versatile. It’s like the size of a highlighter. It will get the job done…
To be honest, it’s kind of shoddy. It’s a small, hallow, plastic tube–which should tell you how long it will last. It isn’t very consistent. Artists we’ve worked with found that it sometimes wouldn’t hold their levels, or would crash on them, requiring a restart. Nobody likes a restart.
Why would you use the Blue Icicle?
You would use this if you are ballin on a budget. Its very inexpensive (available right now for $40). If you really can’t afford anything more than that, then this will work, and we will be able to get you to sound awesome.
This is just an audio interface two-channel preamp. It is more money than the Blue Icicle–by a wide margin–but the difference shows in the quality of your recording.
Simply: this will sound much much better than the Blue Icicle and any other preamp for that price. This will last you a long time, and will give your recordings a huge boost. Most preamps that do what the Saffire 6 does will cost anywhere between $300-$600. The Saffire is only $199. It seriously almost shouldn’t even be that cheap.
Cons:The only con would be that you can get a better sound–but you’d have to spend more money.
Why would you use the Saffire 6?
Peace of mind–knowing that you have a quality piece of equipment that will last you a long time. When I used cheap preamps, I was either worrying about it dying, or trying to fix it because it died. Simply put, buying a better Audio Interface has made me a much better recording artist because I have more confidence in my equipment, so I can focus my energies on the art of recording and not on my breaking equipment.
COMPUTER: Indulgence Priority- (High)
Although the Artist is the most important component, the computer is the heart of the recording process. Looking at the above flowchart, you can see that the computer is the hub of the operation. Although it’s likely that most newish computers today will be able to handle the recording process, the industry standard for recording is the Macbook. Now, if you’re anti-Macbook for some strange reason like you think it’s too hip, you might want to either change your way of thinking, or come to grips with the fact that if you don’t have one, you’ll be working from a slight—to sometimes severe—disadvantage. If you currently have a Macbook of any kind, you’ll be able to record without any major setbacks. But, I will say, If you think your computer won’t be able to handle it, chances are… you’re right.
Since we are an Internet based company, we’re assuming you have your own computer. But if you don’t have your own computer yet, have no fear, you can pick one up for fairly cheap. I’ve seen the most struggling artists using rented guitars, eating ramen, still recording on a tricked-out $2,000 Macbook desktop set-up in their mother’s garage. (You gotta admire someone who can’t afford shoes, yet has a $70 wireless mouse.)
It is unwaveringly important that your computer is fast enough to handle the recording software. The HIGH IP basically means a decent amount of the wiggle room in your budget (if any at all), should be spent on making sure you’re computer is up to par. As I said, this is the most crucial.
New or used, go for a Macbook.
HEADPHONES: Indulgence Priority- (Low)
Headphones are headphones. You can get the ones at the 7-11 or the airport for $9.99; or you can get the increasingly popular Dre Beat headphones for $199. Again, this is your choice. All you really need is a pair of over-the-ear headphones. I recommend just a cheap set of DJ ones—make sure they go over the whole entire ear. These are usually a bit better quality. As of this writing musiciansfriend.com has a pair for $10.99. That’s pretty much the lowest I’ve ever seen. I usually see them for around $20. These will suit most people’s preferences.
My first recording job after I graduated from Musicians Institute was at this small shack of a recording studio. We got all our jobs done with these basic Sony Over-the-ear headphones. You can find these at Best Buy for ~$20. Just remember, however much you spend, at the end of the day you’re still probably going to put them on and say, “Yo, turn my headphones up” like an idiot. So you might as well just go cheap, right?
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