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A few days ago I told you about the basic tools you need to record yourself. I really do believe that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the tools needed to make songs that you’re proud of. But today I want to tell you why that’s true.

Recording is not something you’ll be good at the first time you do it. It’s basically another instrument that you have to learn. A lot of people start off recording, get a poor sounding recording, and assume that it’s a gear problem and that the solution is to buy something more expensive. This is not how it works. You’ve got to learn your equipment and know how to really use it. You’ve got to go through some trial and error to get it right.

In my last post I gave you some gear recommendations that totaled about $300. I am absolutely positive that the gear I listed, combined with some practice and knowledge, can give you solid recordings that are marketable and profitable.

If you’re excited about being a musician and excited about the prospect of releasing an album of solid recordings, then hopefully that means that you are excited about learning the art of recording and mixing. Hopefully the thrill of making that first recording will lead to more recordings, each one sounding better than the last. The best way to learn about recording is just to jump in and start doing it. Fire up the software, hook up some mics, throw the headphones on and start pressing buttons and turning knobs.

Don’t wait for the right piece of gear or the right sound to get started. Jump in with what you have right now.

Question: Have you been able to make recordings you’re proud of with inexpensive gear? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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  • http://twitter.com/niclake Nic Lake

    I’ve got a question for you.

    I’m running a SM57 and an e609, into a Fast Track Pro, and then into GarageBand. I have a terrible time with volume. Either the track audio is too quiet (barely blips on the track), or it starts clipping out (still barely blips). Is there an easy way for me to rectify this?

    • http://www.andyothling.com/ Andy Othling

      How loud is your source? Also a good thing to remember is that it’s better to record a quieter track than one that’s too loud. Since we’re talking about digital gear there’s really no worry about hiss or signal to noise ratio, so you can use your DAW to boost the volume of your track after recording.

      • http://twitter.com/niclake Nic Lake

        I don’t crank my amps too much, simply because I have neighbors that might not appreciate it. But it’s routinely pretty loud; louder than I’d use for live environments, at least.

  • Jeremy

    How do you feel about the Blue Snowball mic’s as a cheap way to bypass the need for an interface. Obviously just as a starter or entry level way to get started…

  • Guest

    absolutely it’s all about getting the best sound you can and being really creative in doing so with what you have. however, i will say this. there are certain pieces of gear that are absolutely critical, with the adage of “you get what you pay for” is even more true than most. one is the ad/da converter (audio interface.) if you want to take your music, your craft seriously, having a sub optimal converter (that has a bad clock, poor performing power supply, lousy pre-amps that lack detail and punch etc.) will make creating music very very difficult.

    i noticed that when i changed from a digi003 rack to a lynx aurora 8 everything sounded dramatically better that it just turned on the lights creatively.

    yeah it’s all about picking your battles :) and it’s an evolution… clearly one must start somewhere and you hit it right on with, “don’t wait for the right piece of gear…” that too is a truism.

    i think you just get to a point where you effectively “outgrow” a piece of gear and you get ready for the “next level.”

    • http://twitter.com/skyflyingby sky flying by

      sorry for the confusion with the logging in. this above was my post. didn’t mean to post as “guest” (i hate anon posting)

  • http://www.facebook.com/theanslabbert Théan Slabbert

    Beautiful article – fully agree!
    I made my latest album just with a zoom h4n’s built in condensers and audacity… Have moved on to other programs and gear now, but I’m still proud of what I made
    - thean

  • Brandon

    Thanks for the info Andy!!! I’m looking to get a decent recording setup together and your last two posts were really helpful. Would you recommend a two-mic setup for recording an electric guitar in stereo or would one mic be sufficient?

    • http://www.andyothling.com/ Andy Othling

      It depends on what you want… if you want to record in stereo and you have two amps then you will need two mics/inputs!

      • http://www.facebook.com/marcandre.drolet.9 Marc-André Drolet

        On my last album for the stereo delay parts I recorded the left channel on my amp and sent the right channel in a DI and reamped those parts. In my opinion it sounded much cleaner that way for stereo delays with different intervals than double tracking (just for the delay parts)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sacausey Steven Causey

    I’ve loved the last few posts! Could you post a video or series of videos that explains your mixing/mastering process?

    • http://www.andyothling.com/ Andy Othling

      I’m hoping to do something in-depth like that soon.

  • Pascal

    Absolutely true. Knowing how to use your gear is much more important than the gear itself. Sceptic? Check out Joe Gilder at homestudiocorner.com. He recorded an entire song using just a Shure SM57. And it sounds great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/r.demes Robert Demes II

    My set up has been average or above for a while. but ive always appreciated the what Andrew is expositing. when i changed from m-audio to a mackie onyx, it was amazing. the headroom the sparkle. that said, the m-audio never held me back, i suspect i would have rocked a sound blaster just fine if needed.

    on another note i hear alot of people using 4 tracks on soundcloud, and often times the noisefloor is out of sight, and i think what. i want a 4track again. most specifically is some ambient music being done this way.

    real nice post.

  • Ulrich Ellison

    My new EP was recorded in my bedroom, with one mic (Rhode NTK) and Logic 7 on a 2005 G5. Hear for yourself: http://www.reverbnation.com/ulrichellison/song/15032153-my-shoes-keep-walking-back-to-you I’d have to agree with Andy, although there is still no shortcut to reach at that point… having worked in professional studios and having spent thousands of dollars on past releases was necesseary for me to get there. All the best with all your endeavours! – Ulrich http://www.ulrichellison.com

  • Michael J Eber

    Seems the only things to be concerned with a good microphone (which isn’t that expensive compared to our equipment) and fast transfer speed to the source (which is firewire as you’ve mentioned in the past).

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