Home Recording Part 1: Computer Based

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Sonar X1 Home Recording Studio SoftwareHome recording has more than made its mark on the world and because there are as many ways to approach recording in your home as there are cells in your body (a modestly rounded up figure) it can be a bit intimidating to get into.  So allow us to give you some small sum of solace as we alleviate your deepest and darkest fears about how to record music in the safe confines of your bedroom.

Obviously according to this guide you’re going to need a computer. Your computer doesn’t have to be completely up to date, but if you’re reading this on a ten year old laptop then you’re probably not part of the demographic this article is geared towards.  So for the sake of convenience let’s just say you’ve got the computer itself situated.  We’ll cover that in more detail later.

After that there are yet more concerns.  First and foremost how does one get sound from the guitar to the computer? The audio interface.  In a nutshell the audio interface works as a separate soundcard.  Some plug in via USB, some firewire, some have additional features, etc.

Firewire transfers data far faster than USB, but USB is the standardized port.  Firewire ports aren’t, so you might not even get say in your options at that point.  The biggest concern between these two is latency issues.  Firewire’s speed pretty much renders latency non-existent, but that doesn’t mean USB can’t hold its own.  You might just have to do some extra tinkering with USB is all, so don’t go throwing in the towel if you’re stuck with USB.

The biggest concern out of an interface is specifically what do you need it to do and how much are you willing to pay? If all you need is the cheapest thing to go between a guitar and a computer then BAM!  Alesis GuitarLink.  It won’t do much else, but for 35 bones that seems reasonable enough.

If you want a bit more flexibility out of your hardware there are more options yet.  Most interfaces will have mic and guitar inputs so you can record a guitar direct in or mic an amp or even make those grammy winning vocals of yours a part of documented history.  Lower end interfaces usually have two mic inputs at the most so if recording drums is a concern to you can either wage war with two mics or dish out a few extra bucks and get something like the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra which has four XLR inputs.

If you’re into bells and whistles and are willing to pay a little bit extra (in some cases) then Line 6, Guitar Rig, and Vox might be right for you with their amp and effect modeling products offering a much wider selection to your tonal pallet.

Line 6 is probably the most accessible to people of all budgets. Their wide selection of interfaces and PODs range from about $100 to $700.  The features from one to another can differ dramatically so they’re a bit difficult to fully cover in a couple of sentences.  Apart from personal preferences if you’re interested in doing direct in recording with a POD do make sure it has USB on it, some older models don’t connect via USB.

Guitar Rig by Native Instruments is very similar to Line 6, but they lack an affordable alternative and lacks an XLR jack so direct recording is the only alternative.  Vox’s JamVox, on the flipside, is very affordable, has an XLR jack and the interface itself is also a monitor so you don’t have to use headphones when you record.

Software is the next concern. You can’t do much with the interface if you don’t have software for it to work with.  A lot of interfaces come with software.  In fact the more you pay for an interface the more likely you are to get software with it.  The software will fill the gap of the recorder allowing you to record, multi-track, mix, add effects, and auto-tune everything you do.

Of course it can’t be as simple as “here’s a program, go download it.” Pro Tools is the industry standard, but its not the only alternative.  CakeWalk has good alternatives with their Music Creator and Sonar lines.  Sonar is great, but can get expensive.  Music Creator is much more accessible and completely reliable as well.  Though if you want the least expensive alternative then Audacity is probably your best bet.  Reaper is another reliable and very affordable alternative as well.

Audio Interfaces:
Alesis GuitarLink USB Audio Interface
Lexicon Alpha Desktop Recording Studio
PreSonus AudioBox USB Recording Interface
Roland UA-55 Quad Capture USB 2.0 Audio Interface
M-Audio Fast Track Ultra USB 2.0 Audio Interface

Amp Modeling:
Line 6 Pocket POD Guitar Amp Modeling Processor
Vox JamVOX Hardware/Software Modeling Audio Interface
Line 6 POD UX2 USB Computer Recording Interface
Native Instruments Guitar Rig Kontrol Edition
Line 6 POD X3 Pro Guitar Multi-Effects Processor

Software:
Audacity
Reaper
Cakewalk Music Creator 5
Cakewalk Sonar X1 Essential Music Production Software
Avid Pro Tools Music Production Software

If you’re not into recording on a computer, our next home recording article will be for you! Keep an eye out for it!


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Kyle Smitchens

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.

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