Courtesy of The Recording Academy on Facebook
How Do I Record My Own Music? The Recording Academy's Brand-New "Remote (Controlled)" Series Is Here To Help
If you're a budding musician or producer, there will come a day when you realize it's time to step up your game. When you've poured thousands of hours into your craft, substandard audio won't cut it. To transfer your creations to a stranger's ears cleanly, you're going to need quality, affordable gear and a little bit of know-how.
That's where our brand-new "Remote (Controlled)" series is here to help. Launching today, the three-part virtual webinar series from the Recording Academy's Membership team reveals the ins-and-outs of home recording. Our first episode, premiering below, consists of two conversations with our Producers & Engineers Wing members. P&E Senior Managing Director Maureen Droney introduces the series; Washington, D.C. Chapter P&E Committee co-chairs Dan Merceruio and Carolyn Malachi lead the conversations.
In the first half of the hour-long clip, recording engineer Jake Vicious and multi-instrumentalist/producer Asha Santee discuss how to record acoustic percussion instruments, such as Cajon, bongos, and shaker. Helpfully, the pair doesn't bombard the viewer with technical jargon but rather starts with the basics: Get yourself a decent interface, microphone, cables, mic stand, a MIDI keyboard (if you need one) and a DAW (digital audio workstation) such as Logic Pro X or Pro Tools.
Whether you're an absolute beginner or already know a thing or two about recording, the discussion abounds with helpful tips, from measuring mic distance by making a hang-ten symbol to the differences between dynamic and condenser mics. (Bonus: The tips and tricks featured in the video also apply to audio for podcasting.) Because it's a lighthearted chat between friends rather than a dry dissertation, the pair illuminates and clarifies what can be a confusing subject.
"I think it's really awesome for artists to understand what happens with sound and the equipment that they use inside of studios—just so they're aware," Santee remarks at one point while adjusting a noisy condenser mic. "When situations like this happen, we know what to do."
The second half consists of an exchange between singer/songwriter and Howard University student Samiyah Muhammad and producer-engineer Marcus Marshall. While Vicious and Santee are seasoned professionals, Muhammad has a bare-bones setup—VTech headphones, a Blue Yeti USB mic and a MacBook Air loaded up with GarageBand.
With a breezy, supportive air, Marshall encourages her to research more advanced DAWs on the market. "I always suggest for people that are getting into recording to kind of try all of them and see which one works best for you," he explains. "For the most part, all of them will get you to your end result. It really just depends on what you like, what you prefer, and what some of the workflows are." Marshall also offers tips about using pop filters, eliminating background noise, and communicating with engineers to avoid headaches during the mixing and mastering processes.
"Remote (Controlled)" teaches everyday people to explore the tools at their disposal and make what might seem like a tedious act a creative opportunity. "This is great; this is great!" Santee exclaims at one point while pointing a cardioid mic at a pair of bongos. "I already feel empowered and like I'm going to get a better sound this time. Let's give it another shot!"
See below for a resource guide containing every device and system mentioned in this week's episode of "Remote (Controlled)."
- e.g. Neumann TLM 103, Sony C100, Manley Reference Cardioid, Peluso 22 251, etc.
- Budget-friendly Recs: Shure SM58, Aston Spirit, Aston Origin, Rode NT1-A, Blue Microphones, Sennheiser MK
- Pop Filter (Optional, but highly recommended for recording vocals)
- Especially for condenser mics
- e.g. Stedman Proscreen XL
- Audio Interface
- e.g. Universal Audio Apollo Twin, M-Audio Fast Track, etc.
- Recommended: Closed-back headphones (rather than open-back), especially ones made for studio recording (rather than for listening experience, which may be EQ'd differently)
- Look to companies like Shure, Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, AKG etc.
- Studio Monitors (Optional)
- e.g. XLR cables, 1/4-inch cables, etc.
- DAW (Digital Audio Workstations)
- e.g. Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Presonus Studio One 5 Prime (free), etc.
- VST Plugins (Optional)
- e.g. Native Instruments Komplete, etc.
- Make yourself comfortable in your space: That is how you will get your best work
- Find the sound sweet spot in your room. (If possible, have somebody play while you listen around the room for the best sound.)
- Know what kind of mic you're using and what it is typically used for; this could affect how you choose to position your mic. (Mic types: Condenser, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, etc.)
- Spend time with mic placement: If you don't like what you hear, move the mic—placement is key
- Name your tracks before you record
- Name your sessions in a way that gives you or somebody else a lot of information (find suggested naming conventions in the Producers & Engineers Wing's "Recommendation for Delivery of Recorded Music Projects")
- Identify and eliminate environmental noise (AC, heater, television, maybe even loud jewelry, etc.) while recording
- The biggest problems in your studio are sources of reflection (parallel walls)
- What can help:
- Foam panels (cost-effective)
- Best session notes are detailed
- Mic/instrument/placement (i.e. "Track 1-TLM 103, Cajon, front")
- Know your engineer's specifications (what their sample rates are)
- Send .wav files, don't send MP3s
TRUST YOUR EAR!
- Do a rough mix so the engineer has a sense of how you want it to sound