Basics of Recording Part 1: What You Need To Get Started

Basics of Recording Part 1: What You Need To Get Started

See all posts in the “Basics of Recording” series here.

In order to record, there are several things that you absolutely need to make it happen. I’m going to briefly describe the essential ingredients here, but I’ll plan to dig deeper into each one in future posts. They are:

The source (your voice, guitar, etc).

This could be a lot of different things. I’m talking about whatever it is that is making (or triggering) the sound that you’re trying to record. Common examples include your voice, a guitar, etc.

Something to capture the source (microphones).

Typically this is a microphone, specifically for acoustic sources. If you’re using something that plugs straight into your computer or interface, this happens either in the device or the interface. This would be like using a keyboard or plugging your electric guitar in direct and using something like a Line 6 POD or plug-in like Amplitube.

A pre-amp to boost the signal (from a microphone), and something to convert the captured source from analog to digital (A/D converters).

In many cases, these two components are built into the same device so it seems like one seemless step, but these are actually two distinct processes.

When you capture sound with a microphone, you have to run that signal through a pre-amp. This would be like a mixer or recording interface. The way I like to think about it: if you’re plugging your mic cable into something it was designed to plug into, that thing is usually acting as a pre-amp (or taking the signal to the pre-amp).

That signal then needs to be converted to 1’s and 0’s, which is referred to as A/D conversion. It’s a common setup to have a separate pre-amp that runs into an interface that converts the signal to digital (and then pipes that into your computer), but it’s also extremely common, especially in budget situations, to have both of these steps taken care of with one device.

Some way to manipulate the sound once it’s captured and converted (computer/software).

Typically this is your computer and recording software.

There is a pretty large market for all-in-one recording devices (like this, for example), but I’ve never used one before because I really like the idea of a “modular system”. That is, a separate device that captures sound and a laptop or desktop computer for manipulating the sound, rather than one single device that does all of it. I’ll go into “Modular Systems” vs “All-in-One Systems” in a later post.

Monitoring – Some way to hear the sound.

Speakers, headphones, etc.

So what do I use? Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll highlight the specific gear I use to get these jobs done. Don’t want to miss it? Subscribe here.