Home Music Recording Software

High-quality recording can be done effectively on a personal computer with low-cost shareware software.

Recording music on your home computer is easy, and there's a great deal of software on the market to help you do it. There are a number of functions these programs will need to fulfill, however, and some may or may not serve all the purposes you need. Let's begin with an overview of what you will probably find necessary.

First, you'll need a program capable of taking in the actual audio. This program will probably be one of your primary programs, and may serve additional purposes. For now, let's consider what would be the most valuable in a program meant to record straight audio from your instrument or device (e.g. guitar pedal, amplifier, keyboard, microphone pre-amp). Depending upon your nature, you may find a particular emphasis upon design to your benefit. A program whose interface you find to be comfortable and intuitive can go a long way to increasing your productivity and giving you more time to record. If you're dealing with shareware or free programs, you have a chance to find out for sure before you decide. Commercial programs such as Cubase can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, by comparison, and may be better reserved for those who know they need the additional features these programs offer. CoolEdit has always been a popular shareware choice for its versatility, though dozens of brands of recording software may serve as adequate competition. As far as quality is concerned, the actual audio recording isn't your big focus, when it comes to software, because one program should be as good as the next. What should concern you here is utility.

Next you need to find a program for effects. It is very likely that this will be the same program you use to record, but I have in my experience found it more comfortable to use separate programs for recording and effects, or even two programs that have different specialties in regard to effects and processing. You may not know exactly what to look for until you've learned a bit more about recording (the best way being through trial and error), but for now you may want to go with what you like. A parametric equalizer and compression/expansion (also called dynamics) capabilities are good to look for, even if you don't know what those are yet. You'll need them in the future, as your skills improve. Reverb (soft echo) is also a nice addition to many types of recorded tracks as it can make voices sound "warmer", and it helps to look for a program that can produce pleasant, realistic reverb.

The final thing you'll need is a sequencer. A sequencer organizes individual recordings into a full product. If you are recording yourself live, such as with a full band or on the guitar while singing, you may not need a sequencer. However, as your skills advance, you will probably find you prefer to use a microphone for your vocals and another for your guitar, or similarly for each piece in your band, and you'll need to synchronize those tracks into one product. Similarly, if you are multitracking (recording the parts of your song separately to overlap them later), you will rely heavily on your sequencer. There are numerous shareware applications that can fill this role, as well. You should be sure your final choice allows for as many tracks as possible (though most people won't use more than 8 or 12, if not only two or three), that it allows you to pan tracks back and forth for stereo mixing, and that it allows you to control their fade. You may want to look for other factors as well.

Your final mixing and mastering will usually be done in the same program you use to process your music. This final mixing tends to involve last-minute equalization of the mixed tracks and editing of any dynamics you wish to impose on your song. Be sure not to over-amplify any parts of your final track: if they go off your bar, they are peaking, and they will come out distorted in the final product. Getting a track as consistently loud as possible without peaking is usually the goal of mastering.

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