Home recording can be an easy, entertaining and rewarding pursuit. You can create professional audio for your music, podcasts, videos, voice-overs, etc. Only a few years back, studio quality recordings were only possible in expensive studios with thousands of clams worth of equipment.
But now, anyone can do it right on your home computer. There are some basics to be absorbed, though. First what do you need? You can spend a ton of cash on gear that you don’t really need. I recommend that if you’re just starting out, you don’t buy any of it. The least expensive and easiest way to get studio-quality recordings is with a computer that was made in the past…say…10 years (this being 2010). This will be your PC recording studio.
You’ll also need a microphone (or “mic” for short). If you’re just starting out, you can learn all the techniques for creating pro-audio with just a plastic PC mic. I poo you not! Pretty soon you’ll want better sound, and a usb mic for about 49 bucks (like the Samson Q1U) will be a huge jump in quality. Over time, you can upgrade incrementally…if you need to.
Then you want to take a look at software. I like to use multi-track recording program (sometimes called a digital audio workstation or DAW) and a sound editing program. But most DAWs will allow you to do everything you need without having additional software just for editing (an on-going topic of debate;)). Anyway, you’ll be able to find software for free that compares well in quality with the big and dear brand names. I recommend trying Audacity, which coincidentally, is BOTH a multi-track recorder and sound editor in one. It’s absolutely free and can be downloaded from the open source playground Sourceforge. Personally, I use Reaper.
After you have your software, do some recording save it as mp3 or wav format, then put your earphones on and turn the volume up. Listen for hisses and clicks in the final version, and notice how far you have got to turn it to get it loud. If there are plenty of hisses and clicks, this is sometimes known as a ‘dirty’ or ‘noisy’ recording. Hear me now and believe me later…NOISE IS PUBLIC ENEMY #1! And it is always with us. Many programs will edit out the noise, but when they do they can also adversely affect the over-all quality. Why? Because in editing out the noise, it also filters out part of the signal…the stuff you WANT! The less noise you have to deal with, the better noise-reduction programs work. I know that sounds obvious, but look at it this way. Noise reduction can completely eliminate soft, low-volume noise without leaving any audible yuckiness. But as the percentage of noise in the audio goes up, the yuckiness that is left behind gets worse and worse.
That is the reason why it is so vital to try and get as clean a recording as possible the 1st time around! Prevention is the key. See my article on fighting noise (http://www.homebrewaudio.com/fastest-way-to-improve-audio-on-pc-recording-studio)for more information on that. One reason I recommend starting out with a $5.00 PC mic is that by learning to get the least amount of noise from that thing, you’ll know how to get the best out of every mic you ever use after that. For now, you can help yourself out by getting the mic as close to the sound source as possible, and trying to record in as quiet a space as possible.
Once you have recorded your audio, listen to it in head phones, ear-buds, or on speakers. Actually, do all 3 and notice the difference. After that just save the audio as either an mp3 or wav file (there are lots of sound formats, but those 2 are just the most common). Use the mp3 for audio you want to put on the web. Use the wav for burning CDs on your computer, or for adding audio to video, etc.