We live in an amazing time! A time when you no longer need to pay huge sums of money to record your music in a professional studio, because modern technology allows us to do it, and do it well, with just a laptop, computer or tablet and a few other bits and pieces.
While it may seem complicated and time consuming to learn all that technical jargon for laptop recording, it’s well worth the effort for the results you can achieve.
Like me, you’re probably more interested in your music than in the technology required to record and produce it, but don’t worry, these days there are some pretty simple solutions for easily recording music at home on your laptop and you don’t need a degree in IT to figure it out.
Cheap and Easy Laptop Studios
While there may be some limitations to their capabilities, most music production can be done with a good laptop (check out our guide for the best music laptops here), some music recording software and a USB microphone.
Music to the ears of music teachers, music students and singer-songwriters – now you’ll no longer need to pay big bucks to recording studios to get professional sounding recordings for your projects!
Music Recording Software
For a very reasonable price you can grab software perfect for the job such as GarageBand, Reaper, Audacity and Mixcraft – most are around $60 or under, some are free!
Features to look for in music recording software:
Timeline Window — where you record your performances. It’s your choice whether you want to view it as Time Code (00:00:00) or as Beats and Bars. All music recording programs have this feature, and it works similarly in each one.
MIDI — (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) Learn more about what this is here.
If you plan to use a USB keyboard you’ll need to make sure that your program can edit MIDI files. Most keyboards these days have a USB port which makes it super simple as you can just plug it right into your computer and record your performance to MIDI. Then you can use the editor to correct and adjust the notes you’ve played. Not all software has this ability so it’s something you’ll want to check if you think you’re going to need it.
Loops — To have a library of sampled phrases is handy when tracking and creating music. For example, you could create a drum track by dragging and dropping the pre-recorded drum performances (loops) to the timeline. Then you could Incorporate a basic groove, fills, crashes or whatever your piece needs. You’ll also find other instruments in the library playing different riff patterns so you can play with and incorporate these wherever your music requires it. You can basically create your own band or backing band right there in the software.
Score Editing —The ability to print out your music is only available if you choose a software that has Score Editing – they don’t all have this feature so, if it’s something you might need, be sure to check. Mixcraft is an example of a software that allows score editing while Reaper does not.
Effects — EQ is important and it is included in most of these programs. But, if it’s pitch correction and time stretching you’re looking for, you’ll find them in Reaper, but not in Mixcraft.
Virtual Instruments — Who needs real instruments when you have virtual instruments at your fingertips? Self explanatory, these are pre-recorded samples of real instrument sounds. So you could record a track with your keyboard into MIDI, and then have the computer play back that performance backed by a string orchestra sound or maybe a flute – the possibilities are endless!
There are some limitations to your home recording studio – you can only record one track at a time (in mono or stereo) as there is no multi-track recording, but you can record your songs, do some editing, and create MP3 files or burn a CD which is pretty amazing and shows just how far technology has come!.
Most of these music recording programs can be easily installed (via download). Then they’re all pretty straightforward and easy to start playing around with, it’s just a matter of having a go and seeing what you can come up with.
A USB microphone will cost you anywhere from $30 to $130 depending on the brand you choose. You’ll want to be hands free so choose a microphone that comes with a desk stand for easy operation.
And there you have it, that’s the basics you’ll require to start recording some tunes on your laptop. Of course, the more you learn and grow with your craft, you’ll probably start adding pieces to your music recording collection.
Like headphones, a good quality set of headphones is really important especially if you plan to do a lot of editing at night and you don’t want to disturb your family or neighbors.