Saturday, March 2, 2013

How to Record Your Music

Recording Studio or Recording/Mixing/Sampling Software
Recording is the process of capturing sounds through the use of microphones to be stored and heard later. Mixing is the process of taking all the different sounds you've recorded and blending them together to create a full song. You can either go to an established recording studio and hire them to record and mix your music for you, or you can purchase the necessary equipment and software to record and mix it yourself. I'm assuming you already have all the necessary instruments to create the music you want, so I will not go into detail about that.
Recording Studio
A recording studio is a place where all the necessary equipment is located in order to record, mix, and produce music. Prices will vary a lot. It all depends on them and how much they feel their time and equipment is worth. So, please call ahead and get a price quote before you commit to anything. Since going to a recording studio depends on where you live, you will need to look in a local directory to find a Recording Studio near you.
Microphone/Recording Device
In order to record yourself you will need some sort of microphone with a computer interface or a recording device. A microphone will require some sort of cable that connects it to your computer, preferable through a USB interface. Tascam and Zoom both make great little hand-held recording devices that can be either battery powered or plugged in. They also come with USB, so that you can transfer your recordings to the computer. There are several models to choose from and most will be around $100.
Recording/Mixing Software
In order to record and produce music yourself you will need some recording and mixing software. You will need a recording program that saves your music files in wav and mp3 format, or get an additional program that can convert to those file types. Whether or not you need mixing will depend on the style of music you want to record. If you're recording just voice and guitar, chances are you probably don't need software with mixing capabilities, but recording onto separate tracks will give you much more freedom and the sound quality will be much better. It is possible to record a song onto one track without mixing, but it's not recommended since the final mix won't be as good.
Free Recording/Mixing Software
If you're looking for a good free program, Audacity would be a good choice. It's an excellent program for recording and mixing, and it'll work on Windows, Mac, or Linux. Another good choice is ACID Xpress, but it's only available for Windows. Sound Recorder or GarageBand would have to be combined with another program in order to get all the features you need. Sound Recorder only records for 60 seconds and only saves in wav format. GarageBand can record and mix, but will only export in mp3, aif, or m4a format. So, you will need an audio conversion program to convert to wav format.
Paid Recording/Mixing Software
There are many recording/mixing software programs out there, with the professional versions priced as high as $500. The best professional programs, in alphabetical order, are: ACID, Cubase, Logic, and Pro Tools. They all have pretty much the same features, so you'll have to decide based on your operating system and personal opinion. Each program has cheaper versions with less features. There is another program out there called Soundforge, but that's mainly designed for editing already existing audio.
Recording/Mixing Software Plug-Ins
A plug-in is a piece of software that only works combined with another program and not by itself. The program Auto-Tune is a popular plug-in that will only work with a Recording/Mixing program like Cubase or Pro Tools. Auto-Tune is a pitch correcting plug-in. It will change the note of the music every so slightly in order to get it in tune. Cher's song "Believe" was the first to use it. It's mainly used for vocals, but it can be used for instruments as well. It's used in electronic music often and makes voices sound more electronic when set to the extreme settings. It can also be used more subtly in other genres to help get everything perfectly in tune without sounding electronic at all. There are several versions between $130 and $650 depending on how many features you want. There is also an Auto-Tune
app for phones.
Music Sampling & Music Samples
Music sampling software doesn't work without music samples and vice-versa. Think of it like the Music Sampling program is a CD player and the Music Samples are the CDs. Except, you'll have the ability to adjust and mold the sound on the CD. Music samples increase the sound quality of your music immensely. Instead of sounding like a cheap MIDI, a full orchestration will sound like a real symphony and electronics will sound like a professional DJ. Basically how sampling works is they will make a recording of a live instrument playing every single note at every possible dynamic level, each as a separate recording. They will save each recording and group them together into one sample file. The program will then play back a song picking the correct notes and dynamic levels from the sample file. The result is a very realistic sound. In electronic sampling, they will record a certain passage and make it so that it can play over and over again without sounding choppy. They call these loops. They save each loop as an individual file. The program will play back the loop as many times as you want, starting and stopping as much as you want, while adjusting it to match whatever tempo you've chosen. Drum beats are usually recorded as loops. Samples will take up a lot of room on your hard drive and require a lot of memory, since they are high quality sounds.
Music Sampling Software
Finale and Sibelius both come with their own music sampling software programs and samples. Players and samples are both very basic, but are included for free with the program. There are other programs you can use as a plug-in if you don't like the samples that come with the notation program. Kontakt is an excellent program for playing samples and loops. It's mainly used for playing orchestral music. It also has the ability to produce reverb and other effects. It can be run by itself or as a plug-in for Finale or Sibelius, and can play a huge variety of samples in different formats including Giga Studio files (an old sampling program that's not made anymore). The more samples you load into the program the more memory and processing speed you will need. It works best with only a few instruments at a time. It will cost $400 and it comes with lots of samples. You can also get a bundle package called Komplete that comes with lots of software programs, including Kontakt, and tons of samples. Prices range from $560 up to $1100. Kontakt is available for both Windows and Mac. Fl Studio is also an excellent program for playing both samples and loops. It's mainly used for producing electronic music. It has many features and can support lots of plug-ins. It's a very stable program and does not require a lot of memory or processing speed, but it is only made for Windows. There are different versions running from $50 up to $400 depending on how many features you want.
Music Samples
There are many music samples out there to choose from, so I'll just mention the standards and a few personal favorites. Garritan has good intermediate samples that will only cost $170 for orchestral sounds. Concert Band, Jazz Band, plus several other packages are also available. They don't sound as good as the professional samples, but the style in which they play sounds better and they don't require much tweaking. A basic set of Garritan samples with a basic Kontakt player are the samples and sampling program that come with Finale. Sibelius makes their own software and samples. Westgate Studios are an excellent source of woodwind samples. They also have lesser known woodwind instruments that don't come standard on other sets. Each instrument group, flutes, clarinets, etc., are sold separately and will cost between $50 and $100. They also have French Horn, Timpani, and Harp. Kirk Hunter has really excellent string samples. Especially their samples of solo instruments like Violin and Cello, and are designed to work with Kontakt. Packages range from $325 to $900, but you can also download individual samples from their website. The Vienna Symphonic Library is the professional standard for music samples. They do not come cheap, but they are amazing! A basic set is included when you buy Kontakt. These samples may require some tweaking in order to sound their best. Different dynamic levels will sound different and may play with a slightly different style, especially when adding different levels of reverb or other effects. $445 will get you the standard edition with 28 instruments and ensembles, containing 36,003 samples, and taking up 81 GB of space. There are many other packages ranging all the way up to a staggering $8,070 for the Full Vienna Symphonic Cube! Just a warning, this full package comes with 763,949 samples taking up 550 GB of space. Vienna also offers music sampling programs designed by themselves to play their own samples ranging from $305 to $745. All Vienna software require at least 2GB of RAM to run and at least a Core 2 Duo processor. They will both work on Windows or Mac, and please note that they will require the ViennaKey, a USB protection device, at an additional cost. There are also a lot of free samples out there. Just do a basic search for free samples online and you will find many. Some are better than others, just make sure they're compatible with whatever sampling program you are using.
Audio Conversion
Having your music in both wav and mp3 format is essential to selling you music online. Again, if you're looking for a good free program, Audacity is an excellent choice for converting your audio files. It's compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. AVS Audio Converter is available for free download, but is for Windows only. Sound Forge Audio Studio is an excellent program for editing existing audio and for audio file conversions. It's only $65, but runs on Windows only.
Once you have a recording of your music you can hire someone to transcribe it for you if you don't already have it in sheet music format. What that means is someone will listen to your song and notate it to create sheet music for you. Clearbell and Broschinsky music both offer this service. Prices will vary depending on the length and complexity of the song.
Recording Studio:
Check your local directory for a list of Recording Studios near you.
Recording/Mixing Software:
Sound Recorder: FREE on any version of Windows
GarageBand: FREE on any Mac
Audacity: FREE download (Windows, Mac, Linux)
ACID: Pro- $300, Music Studio- $65, Xpress FREE download
Cubase: Pro- $500, Artist- $250, Elements- $100
Logic: Studio- $500, Express- $200
Pro Tools: Pro- $600, MP- $300
Recording/Mixing Software Plug-Ins:
Auto-Tune: TDM + Native- $650, Native- $400, Evo- $250, EFX- $130
Music Sampling Software:
Kontakt: Komplete Ultimate- $1100, Komplete- $560, Kontakt- $400
FL Studio: Signature Bundle- $400, Producer Edition- $300, Fruity Edition- $140, Express- $50
Vienna: Suite- $745, Ensemble Pro- $305
Music Samples:
Garritan: Personal Orchestra- $170, Concert & Marching Band- $150, Jazz & Big Band- $150, World Instruments- $150, Authorized Steinway- $180
Westgate Studios: Flute- $50, Oboe- $50, Clarinet- $50, Bassoon- $50, Recorders- $70, French Horn- $100, Timpani- $100, Harp- $70
Kirk Hunter: Diamond 2 Plus- $900, Diamond 2- $800, Diamond 1- $550, Ruby- $450, Emerald- $325
Vienna Symphonic Library: Standard- $445, Extended- $525, Special Edition Full- $970, Symphonic Cube Standard- $3,630, Symphonic Cube Extended- $4,440, Symphonic Cube Full- $8,070
Audio Conversion Software:
Audacity: FREE download (Windows, Mac, Linux)
AVS Audio Converter, FREE download (Windows only)
Sound Forge Audio Studio $65 (Windows only)

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