Home recording can be pro recording. Oh yes. Let’s say you realized you absolutely needed to start creating your own audio and need a home recording studio. Maybe you need narration for a video you’re making. Maybe you have to start podcasting or creating e-learning programs; or my favorite…maybe you’re a musician who really wants to make a CD or maybe just some demo recordings. Whatever the reason, many folks think they only have a few choices; hire a voice actor to record any narration you may need, go to a recording studio and narrate yourself, or buy expensive specialized equipment and learn to use it so you can set up and record from a home recording studio.
All of the options above are valid and effective. But they are not the only viable options, especially if you are short on time and/or money. Studio time is on average, about $40 per hour (on the low end!). If you ask your local music store guy what you’d need to start a home pc recording studio, he’s going to suggest starting with a budget of at least $500 just for the bare minimums. So what other choice do you have?
Honestly, I expect folks not to believe this because it sounds “too easy.” But the truth is that if you have a computer made in the last 10 years that has a sound card, and a microphone…even one of those plastic PC mics costing $5.00 or less, all you need is to download free audio software ( I recommend downloading a program called Audacity, which is open-source) and you’ll have yourself a home pc recording studio capable of multi-track recording and audio editing! I’d wager that a huge percentage of folks reading this can put the above collection together without spending one penny. Lots more will only have to shell out the $5.00 for the mic;).
Once you have the starter studio set-up, all you need is to learn audio recording. “Hah!” you may say. “I knew it couldn’t be that easy!” Oh but it is. I’ll show you right now.
First, you’ll need to plug your mic into your sound card’s pink input jack. This is usually located on the back of your computer next to the green jack where your speakers are probably plugged in. Then you just need to set up a couple of things in the software before you start.
Open Audacity and go to Edit/Preferences to open the Audacity Preferences window. Put a tick in the box next to "Play other tracks while recording new one."
Then click "OK." Next, go into the "Sounds and Devices" window from the Control Panel in Windows. The icon looks like a grey speaker. Go to the tab marked "Audio," and in the section called "Sound recording," click on the "volume" button.
That will bring up the Windows Mixer." Find the channel that says "Stereo Mix" or "Wav Out" (depends on what sound card you have), and put a tick in the "Mute" box on that channel. Just close the Windows Mixer and you're ready to rock!
Now record yourself saying (or singing) something. First, press the button in audacity with the big red dot (the universal symbol for “record”) on it. An audio "track" will appear as if by magic. Start making sounds into the microphone. When you're done, click the button in Audacity with the big yellow square (meaning "stop"). Go back to the start of the song by clicking on the button in Audacity with the double purple arrows pointing to the left. Now listen to what you just recorded. Done!
Want to add another track to play simultaneously with your voice? Just click on the record button again and a second track will start recording underneath the first one. If you’re using the mic for that next track (as opposed to just putting some pre-recorded music or sound effects on it as background), you’ll want to make sure you unplug the speakers from their green jack on the sound card. Otherwise the mic will pick up what’s coming through the speakers as well as what you’re actually trying to put on track 2.
In the latter case, you’ll probably want to plug some ear-buds or headphones (the kind used for mp3 players will work fine) into the green jack on the sound card so you can hear the first track while you record the second.
You just made a multi-track recording! It really is that easy. If you’d like a bit more of a detailed walk-through, just put your e-mail into the form at the top right of this page for some free starter video tutorials on recording audio with Audacity that explain these concepts so anyone can understand them. If you know you're ready to get started now, check out our home recording tutorial courses here.