Since their appearance, computers have brought with them a world of possibilities that everyone, regardless of their knowledge and ability, can enjoy with just a few clicks of the mouse . From the creation of text documents to the editing of audio and video the variety of tasks that we can do with this device is truly impressive.
This ability has been used for a long time by various professions, and it did not take long until, given all the necessary technical conditions, it replaced many of the expensive and heavy machinery and appliances that were necessary to perform many of these tasks. This is the case of music recording and production, which today is practically carried out on a computer.
In this sense, recording audio today can be done in a field other than a recording studio, of course with the technical differences that this implies, but the recording that we obtain from the session can achieve more than enough quality, as long as we put in enough effort.
How to record your song step by step
That is why in this article We are going to teach you to record a song with your own computer, keeping the necessary hardware to a minimum, and practically with elements that we have at home, the indications for achieving this being very clear so that they can be understood by everyone.
Hardware and software we will need
Before we start, we are going to list the hardware and the software necessary to record quality audio on your home computer, whether it is a desktop or a laptop.
The audio card is the fundamental element of the equation. Without this piece of hardware we will not be able to input the sound captured by the microphones or instruments to the PC. This audio card can be of two types, the internal one of the computer, or if we want to record audio with a little more quality and flexibility, an external audio card through USB, which we can find in the market at very affluent values.
External audio plates via USB
At this point, there are audio plates with various inputs and outputs, with MIDI connectors and others, but obviously its price is far from the objective of this article. For what we have set as a goal, we will use a sound card with a single input.
As an example of this, we can name the Behringer UCG 102 or its clones known as Guitar Link, which are really very cheap.
If we want record audio of Still better quality we will need a device that offers Phantom Power, which works for the operation of condenser microphones, and also offers other improvements, we can choose the Behringer Xenyx 302USB.
It should be noted that these audio interfaces connect the USB cable that they provide to any USB port, and instruments or microphones, whether dynamic or condenser, to the Plug or XLR inputs of the same. Active headphones or speakers that serve to monitor what we are recording will be connected to the same device.
La computer audio card
In the case of not having the budget for this type of USB devices, we can also use the internal computer plate, but with the addition of the installation from a controller called “Asio4All” which can be obtained for free
This controller serves to improve the call “Latency”, which basically is the time it takes for the audio signal between playing and being listened to. If this latency is too high, we may not be able to record correctly, as we will always be listening to sounds “behind” with respect to our performance.
Instruments or instruments will be connected to the audio card microphones to the connector “Line In” of the same. At this point it is more than necessary to highlight that in order to use a microphone on these types of boards, we need it to be specifically a microphone for computers.
If we have a better quality microphone of the dynamic type, which will also allow us to record audio with better quality. But for this we will need a preamplifier. For this purpose we can use a console or mixer, of which there are many models and brands, many of them really very cheap and with great results.
Some brands of cheap and good quality consoles or mixers are Moon, SKP, Sound Xtreme or Behringer, just to name a few. In the same way that the consoles or USB audio cards, these will vary in price according to the number of inputs or features they offer.
These consoles will connect between from the instrument or microphone and the audio card of the PC through the corresponding cables. Regarding the hearing of what we are listening, we can do it through the same audio card of the PC or through the headphone output or the connectors “Output” of the mixer.
Regarding the microphones, we can choose two different types, those of the dynamic type and those of the type of condenser or “Condenser”. In this article we will focus on the dynamic type, which are much cheaper than the condenser type, and more flexible for our purposes.
These microphones will be used to record acoustic instruments such as drums, harmonicas, nylon or steel-string guitars, among many others, or also voices, although for the latter it is always prefer those of the condenser type. They can also be used to record electric guitars and basses, placing them at the appropriate angle in front of the cabin or speaker of the equipment where we are amplifying the electric instrument.
Although with a powerful and modern computer everything works better, the truth is that if we do not have the latest equipment we will be able to make our own song without problems. If the computer has a modern dual-core processor and between 4 and 8 Gb. Of RAM, it will be enough. If it has less of these benefits, we can always try, perhaps our PC is up to the task.
Now that we have defined the hardware that we will have to use, we can move on to the necessary software topic. As a first step, the software for creating songs is called DAW, which comes from the English “Digital Audio Workstation”. Regarding the DAW that we are going to choose, we have a wide variety available, among which include ProTools, Cubase or FL Studio, that although they are leaders in their field, they are too expensive and complex for our needs.
Free vs. paid software
Fortunately, we still have two really fantastic audio recording applications one of them completely free, and another one that although it is not, we can use it until we almost feel like it. The first one is an old acquaintance, “Audacity”, and the second app is called “Reaper.”
If you want, you can download Reaper by clicking on this link .
The basic differences between both applications is the number of features and options it offers, but at this point, the ideal choice should be Audacity, since its use it is much easier and understandable than Reaper, which is oriented towards a more professional level.
If you prefer to use Audacity instead, you can download it by clicking this link.
This is where things start to get a little complicated, actually a little bit. Very basically, a DAW allows us to record audio in multiple takes separately, and then mix them for editing in graphic form in the so-called “Tracks” or “Tracks”. That is, each instrument or voice that we record will be located on a separate track.
More simply explained, it would be that we should first create a track to record the base, then create another track for the melodies, another for the voices and so on all the elements of the song.
This allows us have control over each instrument or track that we have recorded, that is, we can edit parameters such as volume, balance and still add effects on each of these tracks separately, which we could not do if we had recorded the session in one shot.
To better graph this question, we will give a basic example. If we want to record a song with our voice and at the same time play the guitar, it would be best to first record the guitar and then the voice since in this way we can adjust the volume of the voice so that it is not overlapped by the volume of the guitar, and we can also add some reverb, delay or other effects.
We can also add some modulation effect to the guitar take or voice, such as Chorus, Phaser or others. The best thing about all this is that we can edit, add and modify the song until we find what we are really looking for.
There are practically no limits when it comes to record audio with these programs, it is only a matter of learning, dedication and patience to get the best out of them.
What really matters; Record our song
From this point, we will develop the necessary steps in Audacity to record and edit our song so that it has a sound that is as close to professional as possible. can.
First of all, let’s assume the following scenario. We want to record a song that is made up of a guitar that makes the bases, our voice and at a certain point, a solo.
If the song is with acoustic guitars, we will record them through of the external audio card by means of microphones, connecting them to the inputs “Plug” in the case of dynamic microphones or to the inputs “XLR” if they are Condenser microphones, taking the precaution of turning on the option “Phantom Power”, since the latter will only work with this option enabled.
In the event that the song requires the use of instruments such as an electric guitar, we can choose two ways of recording. Connect the electric guitar directly to the internal sound card of the PC using an adapter cable, or directly to the mixer or external plate using the “Plug” input.
However, the best result will be obtained by placing a microphone in front of the screen or acoustic box of the guitar amplifier, since this is how we will obtain the true “character” of it.
Now that we have located and connected everything as necessary, it’s time to start recording. To do this, we run Audacity.
Once Audacity runs, we go to the menu and click on the “Tracks” option, and then on it “New track” and finally on “Audio track”. Immediately a new track will be created ready to record.
Before starting to record audio, we must select the audio input that we will use. In the case of external USB audio card, it will be easily recognizable by its name, or in any case by having before its name the prefix “USB”.
At this point it is a good idea to name the tracks, to have better control over them when locating them for editing. To do this, click on the dropdown next to the triangle pointing down on the same track.
When we have made the selection and we are ready to record audio, we press the record button, the icon with the red circle, and we start to execute the instrument or to sing. When we finished, we pressed the button of “Stop” the button with the square.
With this we will already have the first part recorded. Now we are going to repeat the steps to complete all the instruments that we have to record for the session.
When we have finished recording everything we need, we can start with the edition, to Therefore, we can use the “Effect” menu, in which we can find delays, reverbs, equalizers, compressors and many other tools to give it a professional sound.
To add effects to the tracks from Audacity, all we have to do is press and hold the mouse button to select the area of the track we want to edit, as simple as that.
To finish, we must export the track in a format that can be played on any device. Said audio can be in MP3 format if we want to listen to it on a portable player like that of a smartphone, or in WAV format if we are going to use it to show it or produce a demo.
Tricks to enjoy a microphone without annoying noises
Those who usually record and edit audio on their computer, know that the noises that can be produced by the microphones undoubtedly affect the result of the work besides being a really unpleasant nuisance. The truth is that fortunately there are a number of guidelines that we can put into practice in order to reduce or completely eliminate these noises. Here are some interesting tips about it .
When we detect that when recording audio on our PC there are unpleasant noises one of the first steps we will have to take will be check the connection of the peripheral to the computer. We may have inadvertently connected the microphone to one of the line-in connectors on the computer instead of the microphone input. If so, just by connecting the mic where it belongs, perhaps we can eliminate the unwanted sounds.
On the other hand, it is not superfluous to carry out a previous review of the microphone, to check that both the device and its cable are in perfect condition . It should be noted that noise reduction will also depend on the type of technology included in the mic.
In this sense, we must bear in mind that the microphones that are commonly used for PCs usually present problems and produce noise unwanted especially if they are of the cheapest range. On the other hand, they usually even present some inconveniences in the connection to the PC sound card .
Another one of the factors to consider before recording audio will be to verify that the option to reduce microphone noise is checked in the Windows automatic sound adjustment wizard.
To do this, we must go to Control Panel there we select the section “ Hardware and Sound> Sound ”, and then we will click on the tab “ Record ”.
Once there, we click on the microphone that we will use, and then click on the button “ Configure ”. A box of options will be displayed that will allow us to configure the microphone according to our needs.
This will allow us to test the operation of the hardware and will give us the possibility of evaluating the microphone. During this test we will also be able to correctly calibrate the microphone volume for recording .
It is worth noting that it is important to note that we should speak at an average distance from the microphone, that is, not get closer than 10 cm. of the device since otherwise we will not obtain the expected results.
Another interesting aspect to consider is the use of some software designed to handle the noise from external microphones , which among other functionalities can allow us to reduce unwanted sounds during recording.
In this sense, one of the most recommended programs is Acoustica 5.0 which although it is a paid program, the truth is that on the developer’s website we can download a trial version that works for 30 days.
It is basically a software to record audio, that in addition to including a wide variety of functionalities, it also allows to configure the recording to reduce annoying noises that might come up ionize the microphone . It should be noted that noise reduction is carried out by eliminating spectra. You can access this application at this link .
If after all this the noises still persist, then it may be time to invest a little money and change the microphone preferably one with a condenser, or try to carry out the recording with the using a preamplifier or a console connected to the computer .
In short, we must bear in mind that the standard microphones for PC, or those that come integrated to different devices, as is the case of webcams generally offer poor sound quality when recording audio.
Therefore, depending on the job to be carried out and the professionalism required for it, we must evaluate the possibility ity to have special microphones . In this sense, if we only need to record a homemade sound to send to our friends and family, we can use a standard PC mic, even the one that comes integrated into the webcam, since the truth is that the recording will not require high quality .
In this case, an excellent option is to purchase a noise-canceling microphone which incorporates a system that automatically reduces unwanted background noise. Most of these types of microphones for computers usually come with the built-in headset and while they are somewhat more expensive than traditional PC microphones, it is certainly worth the difference. .
Now, if what we are looking for is a professional result, because for example we need to record a spot or a song by our band, it would be best to use suitable equipment, that is connect to the PC a sound console with preamplifier, and to it a professional microphone . Then we can use the computer to digitally edit the recorded audio.
To clarify the picture, below we list the different types of microphones that exist on the market of course, each one of them serves to cover various needs.
Types of microphones
In principle, it should be noted that microphones are usually classified according to the technology used for their manufacture, as well as according to its operation.
Regarding the differentiations in relation to its technology we find:
- Crystal microphone : It has a rigid and light diaphragm, and two sheets of cut crystalline material.
- Ribbon Microphone : Its diaphragm is metal and includes a magnet and a transformer.
- Moving Coil Microphone : Here the coil is attached to the diaphragm.
- Carbon Microphone : Includes diaphragm, granular carbon assembly, battery and transformer. It was the old telephone microphone.
- Condenser Microphone : It has a light and flexible diaphragm diaphragm, a rigid back plate, and a cable connected to the preamplifier and power supply. They are the best, as long as they are branded. They are also very expensive.
Regarding the differentiation of microphones according to their operability one of its most important aspects is focused on directionality offered by the device that is, the responses it provides to sounds coming from different places. Here we find that according to the answer they provide, the microphones are classified as :
The only thing that remains is to buy a microphone that perfectly fits our needs and budget.