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What is First Recording about?

Like First Love, First Recording is also Special! You may be a Singer, Composer or Lyricist or You Tuber, at one point we aim to take our work to Next level and that’s when we decide to Record in a Professional manner.

If you are a Singer, You Tuber, Pod Caster who want to break free, record quality voice or instruments yourself then Welcome to the Page.

Home Studio

Doesn’t matter if you can dream it or not, all that matters is if you can begin it or not? Take that first step

Vikrmn

We are taking an example of a voice recording with an already existing Audio Track (Karaoke) because other form of recordings like YouTube and Podcast are a subset of this process. Here we GO!

As a singer if we don’t know how to play complimentary instruments like piano, guitar then somewhere we are dependent on others to show our talent. We either try to find partners for that matter which is not always easy. We try singalong apps like Smule or Starmaker to express ourselves but as singer, outcome is still not what we expect or deserve.

A good option to remove the dependency of the music is the singing with karaoke tracks. These days Karaoke tracks are not mere the replica of original music minus vocals. There are many talented music producers, instrument players who are creating and uploading unplugged music tracks (both paid and free) which can be used by singers. Now we have the music, we can focus on what we like i.e., RECORDING VOICE.

Most of us, start recording voice with mobile phones using applications like Kinemaster etc (make a comment if you are also one of those) .
Recording Audio with Mobile Phones doesn’t always do justice with the Voice quality. Going to Studio is not always feasible due to many reasons including time constraints and cost involved. This develops an urge to break the barriers and become Independent! To chase this dream, what could be a better solution to have your own Home Studio in a Budget.

Before we do some hands on, let’s have a look how a home studio set up looks like.
5 essentials items for Home recording are:

  1. Microphone (Mic)
  2. Audio Interface
  3. Studio Monitor/Headphones
  4. Digital Audio Workstations (DAW)
  5. A Computer

Following is a graphical flow of a Home Studio Set up:

1) Microphones
Why do we need a mic? Why can’t we use mobile to record studio?
We can do this but we should keep in mind that mobile phones are not primarily meant for audio recording.

We expect that recording should be a true reflection of our voice.
Recording with Mobile phone may sound good when played standalone however, this doesn’t stand when mixed with the sounds tracks specially when used with karaoke tracks. That’s where the necessity of the mic arrives.

In general, mics can be categorized mainly in 2 categories

Dynamic microphones: are good for capturing loud vocals or instruments specially in a live recording

Condenser microphones: are good for delicate sounds and higher frequencies specially in (home)studio set-up

2) Audio Interface
An audio interface acts as the front end of your computer recording system. For example, let’s say you connect a microphone and record yourself singing. The mic converts the physical vibration of air into an equivalent (i.e., “analog”) electrical signal, which travels down the connecting cable into the interface’s mic input.

From there, it goes into the interface’s built-in mic preamplifier, which boosts the low-level mic signal up to a hotter line level — something that’s necessary for recording. (The quality of both the microphone and preamp have a significant impact on how good a recording sounds.)

Finally. it converts the analog signal in digital form and feed to your DAW for further processing.

3)  Studio Monitors
You have done all the good work by recording the audio with good mic using a good interface. But no matter how good signals you capture, if you can’t hear accurately what is on your digital tracks, it’s very hard to produce excellent-sounding mixes. Studio monitors do not make your tracks sound good, but they provide a transparent and accurate rendition of your music so you can create mixes that sound good in the real world.

Note that unlike normal speaker (5.1, 7.1 etc), studio monitors are intended to produce a flat frequency response to playback the audio recording exactly as intended without any kind of fabrication to the sound.

As an alternative, good headphones designed specifically for monitoring purposes can also be used for this purpose. You will find the headphones in the studio bundles. During the starting and learning phase of setting up home studio, is it OK to use good headphones. However, as we grow it is advisable to invest in good studio monitors. Reason being: our mixes (voice + music) sound differently on laptop, mobile and headphones. Studio monitor help in judging a good balance between the devices.

4) Digital Audio Workstations (DAW)

DAW is an acronym for Digital Audio Workstation, and it’s where your all the hard work (recorded signals) goes for edit, mix, master music or audio. Ever wondered why the professional songs sound so good? In studio there are several equipments like Equalizers, Tuners etc which give Midas touch to the recorded signals.  All these physical gadgets are bundled in a software form and the package in called DAW.
You can consider DAW as the processing unit where all the captured signals are processed.

You may be surprised to know that now a days most of the music production is happening over DAW. Gone are the days when Musicians used to gather and record the instruments physically. Now you can record any instrument sound using MIDI setup with your DAW. Unarguably though, there is no replacement of recording with live instruments when it comes to enjoying music creation process.
Still if you can master DAW, you may be the next Rehman.

Okay! I hope by now you understand the flow of how signals flow and basic requirements for setting up home studio.

Remember, we are talking about setting up a home studio at home! So like any new venture, we will do everything from being a CEO to HR. Similarly, once we are done with recording voice, we will have to take another role of Mixing and Mastering the song. Is it boring? How can it be! After all its like raising our own child.

Initially Mixing and mastering may look difficult. But once you are familiar with the basics and User Interface of the mixing software (DAW), its an easy and enjoyable task. From my experience, I can summarize with the following graph about the Difficulty in using vs Time comparison of using DAWs.

Important aspect is to find out which DAW is suitable to your needs. It may require trying multiple DAWs (free versions) to finalize on one. I personally have tried ProTools and Ableton Live and both are good. Other good DAWs are FL Studio, Cubase, Logic X Pro (works with iOS). Trial verisons of these DAWs are available for free so you can try and find a suitable one to you.

Question now arrives do I need all this equipment? If yes, how much money shall I invest? Which brands shall I go for?Answer to this question lies in:
Quality vs Budget.

If budget is not constraint then there is list of great equipment available in the markets however, as a beginner it makes sense to invest wisely, learn the process and gradually invest in the equipment. Let the necessity and limitation be the reason for upgrading the set up and not the ambition.

Coming back to question what is best suited to you? I recorded a few samples to give idea about the functionality of the different equipments used in Home set up.

For better experience use of headphones is recommended for clarity.

Recording Samples

RAW AUDIO RECORDED WITH MOBILE PHONE

recorded in a silent place, with not much echo and where noYou hear is clear an Below is the raw audio recording done with mobile phone. As a standalone clip, it sounds good in term of volume and loudness.

RAW AUDIO RECORDED WITH MOBILE PHONE

RAW AUDIO RECORDED WITH MOBILE PHONE + MUSIC

When this audio is mixed with music without any processing, you can sense that audio had gone a bit into the background. This is because the raw audio signals are weak when compared to music track.
This is where the Audio interface comes into the picture. Audio interface has pre-amplifier which boost the input signal and provides strong signals for DAW to work upon.

RAW AUDIO RECORDED WITH MOBILE PHONE + MUSIC

RAW AUDIO RECORDED WITH MOBILE PHONE + MUSIC + ENHANCED WITH DAW

Now the same both the raw audio clip and music track have been processed using DAW. A little of EQ, Reverb and Compressor gave the overall sound track a relatively better touch. Have a listen below.

RAW AUDIO RECORDED WITH MOBILE PHONE + MUSIC + MIXED WITH DAW

If you noticed, we haven’t yet used Audio Interface so do we need it?

Before the answer, lets hear to another clip. Audio for this track is recorded with Mobile phone, mixed with music track using DAW.

Hope you are using the headphones! In this case, the audio signal captured by Mobile is equivalent to the one captured in the track above. But the signals of karaoke track is stronger. This is evident from the clip below.
So even the DAW could not help in this case. I tried increasing the volume level of the voice but that resulted in distortion. So will give you an idea why its good idea to get a dedicated mic to record voice.

Bottom line is if you have a DAW and have good missing mastering skills you can use work with any device which record audio as a mic but no alternate device can match the quality recorded with dynamic/condenser mic.

Lastly, below is a sample recording done with a condenser mic. Recording is done with studio bundle costing less Rs 4500/- ($60)! Still you can hear the difference when compared to audio captured from mobile phone.

So at this point we understand the importance of the mic, Audio Interfaces and DAW. One important equipment is left i.e., Studio Monitors.

A classic test case to understand the importance of Studio Monitors is to listen all the above clips without Headphones now! f you hear the difference, leave your Comment in the comment section.

Reason being, during the mixing process in DAW, all the tracks above are monitored with a routine headphone i.e, no studio monitor used. As mentioned earlier, studio monitors let us hear the sound as is i.e., frequencies as are. Since a normal headphone was used for monitoring, these tracks are relatively better when heard on headphones and sound totally different on speaker.


Conclusion:

  • Mic are generally of types Condenser or Dynamic
  • Mobile phone may work as a mic but if the signals of music track signal is strong then the overall track doesn’t sound good but for that signals for the audio and music tracks should be coherent
  • Audio Interface is used to amplify the signal captured from mic. It also converts the analog signals to digital and send to DAW
  • DAW is the signal processing unit where different signals (audio + instruments) processed e.e., mixed, equalized, compressed, tuned etc
  • Studio bundles are good start to setup home studio
  • Focus on learning the recording process first and then let the necessity and limitation be the reasons for upgrading the set up

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