Home Recording Studio: DAW, Plugins, Music Production
Hi there! Done setting up your home recording studio? If not, you might want to read this to help you gear up! Now that you know the basics on how to set up a home recording studio, let me enlighten you on some of the tools and software you will be using upon doing your recording sessions at your own home. First, you have to choose what “DAW” you will be using. If you are going to make music at home, you might wanna go digital. Because digital recording is easily accessible, fast and cheap. Also, there are a lot of free DAWs on the web you can choose from. This way you can save money and make music in your own time.
In this article, we are going to cover the most important questions when it comes to recording music digitally.
What is a DAW?
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. This is a computer program or software that can be used to record, edit, and play any sort of digital audio file. It allows you to mix, edit and remaster an existing audio file as well. You will be able to do these sorts of things in your DAW: music, podcasts, television, speech, radio, etc. Basically, a DAW gives you the easiest process to edit your files in an uninterrupted way. Unlike in my time when you had to actually splice tapes for you to edit your music.
Difference between Analog and Digital Recording?
Basically, digital audio recording is easier than analog recording because you get to redo everything without deleting the previous takes. Some people prefer analog over digital because it is known to be a “standard”. It all boils down to preference, really, and you’ll find that digital recording would be much easier in today’s time.
Analog recording is a method by which you record each track all in one take. It reached its golden age in the 70s when recorded music was fixed on magnetic tapes or vinyl discs. However, productions costs using this method is quite high given the materials and equipment involved which is why the music production market favored digital. When recording: If you make a mistake, you might have to do it from the top. In analog recording, whatever and however you play an instrument will be recorded. No filters, no effects – unless you use those pedals to make the effect themselves.
Digital recording, on the other hand, is almost the same, but you’re free to make mistakes because it is easily editable. This is currently the most common method of recording music. In digital recording, you can make a mistake in just one part and edit or overwrite that part easily without going from the top.
Digital recording is very useful for multimedia projects such as film scores, album records, jingle mixes and other music used commercially. This is because you can “fix” a recorded track to the point where there are no audible errors. You can even add extra effects to the track to make it more awesome. While analog recording may be a little less perfect and “warm”, digital recording can also do the same with the help of plugins.
Top 5 Digital Audio Workstations (in no particular order)
Plugins: VST, MIDI controller, and VSTi
These are any program that you can use within any DAW. To be able to use any DAW effectively, you will need to learn about MIDI, VST, VSTi, and Samples.
Virtual Studio Technology is a plugin that allows you to use different kinds of effects. It can be a compressor, an equalizer, an expander, reverb/delay, and what not. Knowing the functions of these effects will allow you to improve any audio track and customize it to make it sound how you want it to. Check out PluginBoutique to have an idea of what plugins are on the market.
A MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller is a piece of hardware that allows you to input notes into a notation program or DAW. While it doesn’t create or produce a sound of its own, it allows you to create tracks that are able to use any virtual instrument (VSTi). More often than not, a MIDI controller comes in the form of a piano keyboard.
VST Instruments are the digital instruments that allow you to use the sound of a specific instrument even if you don’t have that instrument on hand. If you wanted your song to have a violin part but you don’t have or know how to play one, you can create a track using your MIDI controller and apply the VSTi Violin on that track. Basically, you can add even a drum track (even if you don’t know how to play drums) just by inputting a pattern on a MIDI controller.
These are what makes a producer’s life easier. These are pre-recorded loops of instruments sounds. Say, for example, a standard 4/4 drum track, or an infinitely looping piano cadence. Most of these are royalty-free, meaning anyone can use them. These can be used on all DAWs. Try checking out Loopcloud – they have 150 new sample sounds every week – and it’s free!
What is the process in using DAW to record?
To sum up what a DAW can do, here are some of the functions and their descriptions. All DAWs have the same functions no matter what brand you use, it’s just a matter of familiarizing yourself with the names of the controls and processes within the program.
Composing is the art of creating your own music based on your influences and your inspiration. A good composition is something both you and your audience enjoys.
Recording is setting your music in stone, or in this case, on an MP3 file. Musicians used to go to recording studios to create their albums, but nowadays it is possible to do it right at home. Furthermore, you can perform the music “clean” without any effects, and just add them later on when you’re editing the track. Keep in mind that if you record with analog effects, you won’t be able to delete them later!
Also, via digital recording, you can use VST guitar amp simulator to record your guitar with distortion and effects – you can change, delete, or modify your VST after the recording process too!
After recording your composition or arrangement, you’ll have to listen to it carefully to make sure that there are little to no mistakes in the performance of the song. This is also the time to perfectly quantize your takes. During this time, engineers edit each track for every instrument to be all playing in rhythm. This all depends on your style of music – some prefer to leave out the natural delay (or the “human feeling”) while others prefer everything to be in sync. It depends on your style: Pop, Metal, Electronic is more often quantized than Jazz or Blues.
Mixing is bringing all the ingredients together – or putting all the individual instruments into one creation. If you haven’t heard it being played all together at the same time, this is going to be the time you’ll be able to hear it. On this part, we often use a lot of plugins like reverb, delay, EQ (equalizer), compressor, and limiter. Take note – plugins are really important in this part.
This is the post-production part of any recording. We use plugins like the equalizer here, as well as some compression, and other balancing methods. Mastering is literally just finalizing everything to perfection. After all, mastering is made to respect the standards of the market in terms of sound power and quality, according to each genre.
Pro Tip: Free doesn’t always mean that you’re getting “noob” stuff. Keep in mind that for beginners it is okay to try free DAWs and plugins! Guitar-Elite encourages you to explore paid DAWs and plugins because we want you to know how it is to be able to create the best quality recordings.
If you look at some of the price tags of some fully-featured applications like Logic Pro X and Studio One, these are really well-built and pricey. But the cool thing is, there are some free DAWs that are really high in quality. Studio One has a free version that you can download and start recording your music. Audacity has only one version (the complete one) and is also totally free! Audacity used to have features that other DAWs are just now implementing. They have had them for years! Reaper is also free and all their plugins are completely free too.
Overwhelming? Worry not, we have teachers in the house to help you get started with your first DAW program! Join the Guitar-Elite community and you’ll never have to learn any program alone!