How to Record a Song at Home: Step by Step Instructions for Recording At Home

Recording a song is not need too much technical. In this guide, you will learn exactly how to record a song at home from start to finish.

by itsaboutmusic | Updated: May 13, 2021

Recording songs at home can be a fun and exciting process. There are many benefits to recording music at your own convenience in the comfort of your own space, but there is also a bit of work that goes into it too. In this guide, you will learn exactly how to record a song from start to finish, which includes the necessary equipment and instructions for setting up for success. 

Building A Home Studio 

Building a Home Studio

First, make a list of the essentials to create a home studio, which may include: 

  • A computer (or laptop) for recording and editing software 
  • Audio interface or soundcard with microphone preamp 
  • Studio monitors, speakers, or headphones to hear the audio you're working on  
  • Microphone(s), XLR cables, mic stands, and a pop filter if planning to record vocals  
  • DAW of choice: Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, etc.  
  • Musical Instruments: MIDI-Controller, Drumset, Guitar, Keyboard,etc. 

As well as any other instruments you plan on using in your studio sessions. If possible, invest in quality equipment so that you can get the best sound out of it!  

Also, make sure not all items have similar features by purchasing from different brands because this will also affect how they interact with one another when used together.  

For example, do not buy a guitar amp from the same company as your microphone and mic preamp because they will most likely have similar sounds, which will result in an unbalanced mix. 

Ok. Now you have your equipment and have already done set them up. What's next? 

It's time to record, obviously! 

How To Record A Song At Home

How to Record Songs 

Once I have completed setup your home studio then I'll see which instruments need more attention (such as vocals) but like everything else needed for home recording session success these steps should take place prior to starting up the equipment: 

  1. Space considerations: Make sure that the space you are recording in is well lit, has plenty of room for setting up microphones and your equipment (such as a keyboard)   
  2. Setting Up Your Equipment: Identity which items will be used to get started with the recordings. This means anything from an acoustic guitar or electric guitar to various types of keyboards-and if there's any other type of instrument involved then it should also be taken into account including drum machines, basses, etc. 
  3. Mics & Placement: Once all of the instruments have been identified then decide on which mic(s) need to go where so they can record each sound source individually without interference; this includes identifying what kind of mics are needed because different kinds capture the sound in different ways. 
  4. Recording: There are two main methods for recording, each with its own advantages and disadvantages; these methods are the "live" recording and the pre-recorded performance. 

Prepare Your DAW 

Choose one DAW that fits you the best. 

My top favorites are Logic Pro X and Ableton Live because they allow for quick recording sessions with a more intuitive interface.   

But it is up to you and how you record it live or pre-recorded. For Live recording, I prefer to use Logic Pro X because it has more options for live recording. 

Prepare your DAW by loading in any plugins or presets required for the project as well as configuring all inputs and outputs correctly. This is important because if something goes wrong during a recording session thing will get hectic real fast-just to ask anyone who has had this happen before! 

Take some time to go over this process. Such as when plugging in mics and connect to a computer before beginning your recording session so it doesn't interrupt the flow of creativity. It's also good practice to always be organized at home, so use labels for all cables and power cords. 

Make A Beat 

When live-recording, it can be a bit difficult to beat while recording vocals at the same time. So preparing the beat elements from the start is very important for the live recording as the singing part will be the last element and is quite prone to mistakes. It is normal to have to re-record it many times. 

We will be focusing on the pre-recorded format in this guide. 

Create a BaseTrack From Sheet Music

Create a BaseTrack From Sheet Music 

From your idea, it's time to create a soundtrack to tune your music. Think about how many musical instruments are needed for the song, how will you record it, and what will be the melody, rhythm, bassline, etc. 

 

It's helpful to work with sheet music as you can hear how it would sound on the violin or guitar before committing to an idea for your composition. 

If you are using piano chords in your song then start out by playing them on a keyboard and transcribe them into notation form so that they can be played at any time without having to think about where all of the keys are located. 

Rhythm Section Recording 

After all the ideas and preparations, this is where your work really begins. 

The rhythm section of the song is made up of drums, bass guitar and electric guitars. You'll need to start by playing each instrument separately in order to hear how it sounds on its own and then together with other instruments. 

It's also a good idea at this stage to record all of your ideas for drum patterns or any changes you want them to make as they might not be practical when played later once everything else has been added.  

Next Is To Prepare The Harmony Part 

Next Is To Prepare The Harmony Part

The rhythm is done, and now the harmony can be a symphony of various instruments that complement the rhythm section. 

It's also a good idea to have an overview of all the harmony instruments and their parts during this stage in order to avoid any overlaps or sounds that clash with one another (e.g., guitars playing two different rhythms).  

You can record as many tracks for each instrument as you like, but be aware that if there are too many it'll take much longer to mix your song down later on.  

Create Melodies 

Melodies are often the most interesting part of a song. It's where all your creativity and soul is put into this one small aspect that can make or break how people feel when they listen to it. 

So take time with melodies while you're writing them, not just in terms of how long each note lasts but also what notes sound good together. A simple melody might only have three different notes sounding over an eight-bar period; however, more complex chords will likely include many more than that (e.g., twelve).  

After you've written one or two melodic ideas for your recording session, try playing around with instruments until you find ones that complement these melodies well enough to use on the track as well! 

Vocal Recording 

Even if you're not a singer, the quality of your voice is an important factor in creating good recordings. The sound that comes out when we sing can be affected by many things: the shape and size of our mouth, head position, humidity levels, vocal range...  etc. 

If you don't happen to have perfect singing chops but still want to record vocals at home then try using instruments as well! Instruments like guitars or basses with richer frequencies are usually more forgiving than lighter sounds from percussion or keyboards for example which might accentuate any imperfections on a recording track. 

Vocal Recording

You should also make sure there's enough space around your mic so it doesn't pick up too much noise or echo inside your room - this is especially important with vocals. 

Take care of your microphone. With whatever type of voice you have, you'll find that there are several types of mics that are right for you - it can have a huge effect on the way your voice is pronounced. 

We recommend the Audio-Technica AT2020, Neumann TLM-102, or the Blue Microphones Snowball. 

Besides recording the main vocals, the accompaniment and background vocals also need attention. That will add more color to the song. 

Color And Effect 

If you feel your song is too monotonous, you can use effects to add color and bring some life into the song. To add color to the song you can use little things that give the main tracks a special flavor such as:  

  • Slight echo 
  • Reverb 
  • Delay. 
  • Percussion fills 
  • Piano fills 

In order for these types of enhancements not to sound forced, they need to be tastefully used - don't go overboard with them. 

This is a major reason why we recommend using software like FL Studio or Logic Pro because it allows for easier manipulation of vocals by implementing effects. 

Clean And Mix Your Track 

It is recommended that you record your track in a single session, without stopping and re-starting over the course of one day. 

The next stage is to clean up your tracks by going through them while soloing each instrument track - this will enable you to remove any unwanted noises or sounds from other instruments that can get into the recording. 

Mixing is kind of like the icing on top of the cake, there are some tips for getting the mixing done quickly and efficiently. 

  • EQ the entire track for any resonances or unwanted frequencies that you would like to remove 
  • Check your levels and make sure they are as hot as possible without clipping (this may require some volume automation) 

Be careful not to overkill it, because then it sounds bad instead of good... 

Basically, all the things you need to do when mixing are to adjust the frequency balance, level volume, and tonality. 

Clean And Mix Your Track

Mastering And Export 

The last thing to do is mastering, which is done to the whole song at once. It can be used to correct any mix issues that you might have missed while mixing and it will also give your track a final polish. 

Mastering should not make drastic changes to frequencies or volumes unless they are needed. 

The process of mastering entails different stages such as checking for levels, EQ, compression, and adding some final effects. this ensures your music has uniformity across different playback devices like speakers at home versus earbuds. 

When everything is done, the final step is to export your song. 

When exporting, you will have a choice of three different types of formats: AIFF/Apple Lossless Audio File Format; WAV (Waveform audio format); and MP-Lossless MPEG-Layer III Audio File Format.  

AIFF is lossless but it isn't the most common format. WAV is the default for sound editing programs and MP-Lossless compresses audio files without any loss in quality but it takes more time to export as a result. 

Conclusion 

And that is How to Record a Song at Home. You don't have to be a pro to record a song you love. With all of these steps, you'll be able to create songs with the same quality, maybe as good as your favorite bands and artists. 

Remember there are many famous freelance artists from home studios, so let's get started on recording one of your songs right away. 

Thanks for reading these home recording tips

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