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I am wondering whether I can record a song on my own PC.

Specs:

  • Windows Vista 32-bit
  • 3 Gb RAM
  • 500 Gb hard drive

I really want to record a song (including vocals, & some instruments) that my friends and I made. What are the things that I should have to record the song in a good quality.

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Is your PC a laptop or a desktop? –  KronoS Sep 15 '10 at 16:16
    
de given specs are about my desktop, –  Vaisakh Sep 15 '10 at 16:20
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5 Answers 5

The simple answer is, yes you can!

However the main thing you should consider is how elaborate you want to get and how much money you want to spend.

If you literally want to record a single song just for the fun of it, I imagine you do not want to set up a full blown recording rig in your living room. However if you are seriously considering setting up a home studio you will want to consider your purchases carefully allowing for future expansion. If that is the case I would suggest you do a little more research before you buy anything.

But lets start with the basics. There are a few things you need to be able to record something onto your computer.

  1. Microphone(s) To be able to capture an acoustic signal such as your voice or drums

  2. Microphone preamplifier To convert the output signal of the mic to line level

  3. Audio interface Or a sound card, to convert the analog signals produced by a mic, a guitar amplifier or a keyboard to a digital signal

  4. Recording software To record the digital signal to your hard drive and allow you to edit and mix your recording(s)

All of these things come in many shapes and sizes and with price tags ranging from $20 to thousands of dollars. Many of these products also combine functionalities. For instance most sound cards or USB interfaces have onboard preamps and you can even get USB microphones which have both a preamp and an interface built into them.

If you are on a budget I would recommend the latter. Blue microphones and Samson both make several affordable and decent quality USB microphones. Combine these with a free software package like Audacity (or Samson also offers some of their mics bundled with a basic version of Cakewalk Sonar) and you have everything you need to do some basic recording and mixing.

However using a USB mic only allows you to record one track at a time so you will need to record all your instruments separately. Or you can just put the mic in the room while everyone plays their instrument at the same time but then you will not be able to edit or mix the individual instruments.

If you want to be able to record several things at the same time but still have them all be individual recordings you will need an interface with multiple inputs (note, not all "multi-channel" sound cards have multiple inputs, some only have 1 stereo in an multiple outs for surround). You would probably also need more than one microphone and obviously more cables.

Another option is to plug your mics into an outboard mixer, do your mixing on there and then record the stereo output of the mixer into your sound card. But again, this will not give you as many mixing and editing possibilities as when you record all the instruments to individual tracks.

One final thought. Whilst using professional equipment clearly has its advantages; the most important ingredient in a "good quality" recording is the person doing the recording and their ears. If you know what you are doing you can produce very decent sounding stuff using very little means. There is a plethora of information available online, countless free tutorials and many forums where professionals and experienced hobbyists share tips and tricks.

Do a few searches and spend some time reading up on recording and mixing techniques. Regardless of what hard-/ software you end up using, I guarantee it will improve your recordings!

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+1 great, thorough post, especially like the sijmple enumeration of what he'll need. Didn't know you needed mic pre-amping to bring em to line! –  imoatama Sep 16 '10 at 0:01
    
hey, i got 1 more doubt.. my yamaha amplifier rates an output of 150w, will it smoke off my ordinary sound card if i connect the output of my amplifier to the input of my pc... –  Vaisakh Sep 18 '10 at 10:51
    
Ok I see this comment has already been answered several times. But I would suggest you update your question. If you say exactly what you want to do (i.e. what kind of instruments, record a live performance or all instruments individually, multi-track or one track at a time) and specify what gear you have at your disposal and what you'd be willing to spend on additional equipment; it will be a lot easier for people to give you a focused answer. –  Dan Sep 20 '10 at 8:04
    
@imoatama: cheers! –  Dan Sep 20 '10 at 8:05
    
+1 to you, nice post. –  slhck May 3 '11 at 18:01
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If you have a proper input signal, all you would need is the software.

I would recommend Audacity, it is really good for audio production.

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

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can you pls. explain what type of input signal you are talking about. –  Vaisakh Sep 15 '10 at 15:51
    
Well depending on the quality your trying to receive. It can be from either a stereo 1/8 inch sound jack, or multi input 1/4 in(expensive). If you need more then one input you would need to purchase a special sound card. I manage to record decent quality with just 1 1/8 in for my church through a sound board; not studio quality for sure. –  Jeff F. Sep 15 '10 at 16:14
    
thx....so i'll be able to record with the sound card present in my pc right (single input). –  Vaisakh Sep 15 '10 at 16:19
    
Sure, as long as you have some kind of mixer outside of your system, like a sound board. That or take each track one at a time. –  Jeff F. Sep 15 '10 at 17:21
    
but my amplifier, rates an output of 150w, will it smoke out my sound card, if i connect it to my pc... –  Vaisakh Sep 18 '10 at 10:46
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Yes, though it's likely your soundcard supports only one channel in. To do what you want properly, you probably want a decent soundcard that supports multi channel, plus some good quality microphones set up to catch the sound from the voices and instruments.

There's a reason people set up studios, and there's a lot of reasons studio time ain't cheap.

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hey, about that one channel in sound card, i have the same thing, do you know what is the price of that multi channel sound card, & is it possible to record with a one channel in sound card.. –  Vaisakh Sep 15 '10 at 16:05
    
hey, will the product in the following link will do.shop.zapak.com/computers-accessories/pc-accessories/usb-ports/… or........... community.beatmixing.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/2291063351/m/… –  Vaisakh Sep 15 '10 at 16:17
    
No, neither of those products look any good. There are whole forums devoted to this stuff, if you are serious about home recording, I recommend you look at homerecording.com. Otherwise, just get yourself a mixer and record using your existing soundcard. Or if you want to be really ghetto, just set up a single mic pointing towards the performers and record them all on the one mic. It all depends on how serious you are and what quality level you want to achieve. –  imoatama Sep 16 '10 at 0:12
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These are the best sound cards on the market for recording audio on a PC http://us.creative.com/products/welcomenew.asp?category=237 They will come with far better applications than Audacity (audacity is good, but as far as mixing full songs with multiple inputs, it can be difficult for the novice). I recommend micing your guitars and drums, so you should have a sound board that can mix mic levels individually before inputing into the computer. You can always do some post-mixing as well (so a board that has a lot of pre-amp mic inputs is best). For good boards you can look at eurorack, mackie and alesis. If you want to spend the money, mackie and alesis have boards that have firewire connections that will put each input as a single track into a recording app on your computer so you don't even need to do a lot of pre-mixing before you record - http://www.alesis.com/multimix8firewire.

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hey, i got 1 more doubt..... my yamaha amplifier rates an output of 150w, will it smoke off my ordinary sound card if i connect the output of my amplifier to the input of my pc... –  Vaisakh Sep 18 '10 at 10:58
    
Technically, that is what that is for, a line out for an effects loop, so it won't kill the soundcard (it also won't be 150W), though you'll get better sound if you put a mic in front of the amp and record that way (make sure you get an instrument mic, not a vocal one). –  MaQleod Sep 18 '10 at 16:45
    
Generally, you can use the line out on the base though, a mic will not pick it up very well. I'd suggest one mic for each amp (usually 2), a mic for the vocals, a line in for bass and 3-4 mics for drums (these can be premixed in their own board first, before going into another board or sound card). Either way you need a minimum of 5 inputs and a sound card that can handle that (unless you want to do all the mixing first, then just do one channel to the card out of a board, or get a board that can input firewire into the comp). –  MaQleod Sep 18 '10 at 16:50
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The best budget option is to go for a USB or PCI soundcard (if you have a laptop then USB will work well, and be easy to transfer to a new machine in the future). Don't use the one built in to your motherboard as the quality is usually pretty bad. I would avoid Creative soundcards, they're pretty terrible for audio (I work on audio applications and I've had the displeasure of owning them in the past. They're better suited to games). There are a number of other options from M-audio, Roland, Terratec and others. The key thing is getting one that supports ASIO (almost all 'proper' soundcards intended for music will do this). You should be able to find one for under $150. Spend more if you want to record all members of the band at once.

The next step is to get a suitable sequencer. Unless you are wanting to spend absolutely no money at all then I would avoid Audacity. It's really just an audio file editor and just doesn't cut it as a sequencer. Lots of soundcards do come bundled with a sequencer of some description, so see what the options are there. Otherwise, I'd say go for what your budget will allow, but a sequencer is a good investment if you're wanting to make music. Options include Cubase, Pro Tools, Logic, Reaper, Record. Try out some demo versions to see what you like.

The PC you have should be adequate, though if you're wanting to use lots of effects then you may need something more powerful.

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hey, i got 1 more doubt..... my yamaha amplifier rates an output of 150w, will it smoke off my ordinary sound card if i connect the output of my amplifier to the input of my pc... –  Vaisakh Sep 18 '10 at 10:54
    
A note about laptops, they make pcmcia recording devices too, and they are usually higher quality than USB, but most USB recording devices are much much cheaper (ie $150 vs $600). –  MaQleod Sep 18 '10 at 16:52
    
@Vaisakh: Don't connect the speaker output of your amp to anything except a speaker. If your amp has a line out (not speaker out) then you can connect that, but why do you need to? If you're recording an instrument then better to connect that directly, or through a pre-amp. –  the_mandrill Sep 18 '10 at 22:15
    
@MacQleod: I've never heard anything about PCMCIA interfaces being better than USB. In my experience the better semi-pro audio interfaces are Firewire, which also means you can get up to 20 or more inputs –  the_mandrill Sep 18 '10 at 22:17
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