Indie musicians have come into their own since the introduction of computers and software capable of pro level audio recording and MIDI processing. Musicians can still pay thousands of dollars for studio sessions, and actually should in some cases, but they can also create high quality productions in their own homes at a comparatively low cost.
The secret to making professional sounding music is technology. Simply put, you need the right equipment if you want the right result. The good news is that everything you need can be found online and at your local electronics store.
Supreme Tracks, a New York company that offers independent musicians online music production and an online recording studio, recommends the following, at bare minimum:
Indie musicians will start their home recording studios with computer equipment. Desktop and laptops are both viable options, but a desktop computer is the preferred choice. Why? Because music production requires a lot of computing resources that generate a lot of heat. Laptops are not set up to handle heat issues so well. As such, they tend to wear out more quickly under high stress.
Whatever computer is chosen should have at least a dual core processor. A quad core with a minimum speed of 2.4 GHz is even better. The more processing power a computer possesses, the more capable it is of recording live sessions seamlessly. The computer should also have:
- a duplex-capable sound card (can be analog or digital)
- 16 GB of RAM (32 GB is better)
- stereo audio input and output.
If you choose a laptop, having an external monitor of at least nineteen inches will make your life a lot easier. An external monitor just makes it easier to see what you’re doing.
Digital Audio Software
Next, you will need digital audio software capable of doing what you want it to do. Some software packages only record traditional audio while others do both audio and MIDI. If your work is MIDI exclusively, you are better off with a MIDI sequencer rather than a full-blown digital audio workstation (DAW).
There are a small handful of free and open-source DAW packages for Mac, Windows, and Linux. The two most common are Audacity and Ardour. Cakewalk, which has been an extremely popular paid option for some twenty years, is now free as well. If you are looking at a paid package instead, two great choices are PowerTracks Pro and Bitwig Studio.
The right computer and software sets you up for actual recording. Now you need everything else. You will need a way to connect your instruments to the computer. A non-powered mixer will do the trick. Do not use a powered board or you risk damaging your computer.
Any plan to record vocals requires a pro-level mic. Both wireless and wired are doable. Either way, you will need mic cables to connect a wired mic or a wireless receiver to your mixer. This is one area in which to not skimp. Pro-level mics and mic cables make all the difference in the world.
Finally, you will need an audio cable to connect the mixer to your PC. Don’t go cheap. Make sure you purchase a stereo cable with gold plugs as you’ll get the best possible performance. Also, be sure that the cable plugs directly into your sound card. Don’t go with a USB connection. USB is not up to the task.
For less than $1,000 you can set up your own home recording studio. If you want to take your creations to the next level, you can always work with Supreme Tracks.