Things You'll Need
- Recording & editing software
- Digital interface
- Microphone & cables
Recording a full-length music CD in a professional recording studio is a luxury that is out reach for many independent musicians. Fortunately, this can be accomplished at a far more reasonable cost by using your home computer. Armed with a simple digital interface and a recording and editing software program, it's entirely possible to record a pro quality audio CD from your comfort of your own home.
Connect your sound sources to your computer via the digital interface. Keyboards, electric guitars and basses can all be connected directly to it via 1/4-inch instrument cables. For vocals and the recording of acoustic instruments, you'll need to connect a microphone to the interface using an XLR microphone cable.
Arm your first track to "record" and adjust your levels so your peaks are around -12dB. This should help you avoid peaks above 0dB which results in an unpleasant digital distortion known as "clipping." You can then record your songs track by track, using your instrumentation of choice. When you've done this, your tracks will be ready to mix.
Adjust the level, panning, and equalization (EQ) of all of your recorded tracks until you're happy with the mix, and save it as a stereo WAV file.
Master your recordings to give them a little polish. Mastering should make your collection of songs sound like a cohesive whole, with smooth song fades, consistent volume across all songs, and tasteful use of effects like compression and EQ. Mastering is a specialized skill, so if you intend to sell your CD, consider having your mixes professionally mastered to make it sonically competitive in the marketplace.
Burn a copy of your master recording using the CD burner in your computer. If you're going to use the CD as a promotional tool, this should work fine since you can burn them as you need them. If your intent is to have copies for sale, send your master to a manufacturing plant. In this case you'll send them the copy that your mastering engineer sent you.
Listen to your mixes on several different playback systems before settling on your final mix. This will give you a more accurate idea of how your music really sounds.
Music files are large and will gobble up your computer's hard drive pretty quickly, so connect an external hard drive and record your music directly to it. You'll save your computer's storage space and you'll also protect your music in case the computer crashes.
Remove any unnecessary programs and disable automated scheduled updates for your computer during your recording time.
If possible, have a computer dedicated to music. This will help your computer avoid potentially harmful online viruses (from web browsing) that could threaten your valuable recordings.
Educated in England, Robin Stephenson has worked for over 15 years as a full-time proofreader/copy editor for a leading direct media marketing company in the U.S. Always an avid songwriter, Stephenson turned his attention to Web writing in 2008, specializing in writing music-related articles.