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Recording Yourself – How To Start

Being an independent recording artist, I learned early on that what works best for me is recording myself.  Like most musicians, I learned the hard way by going to recording studios to record my music only to have some engineer /producer wreck it.  Well, after a few nightmare studio sessions I decided I would do it myself. I went out and bought a second hand Fostex 4 track machine in the late 80’s and taught myself how to use it. In no time, I was making cool little demos and recording a few things for friends too!

I then jumped to ADATs (an early digital recorder that recorded on VHS tapes) . With the digital quality you were able to make records/CDs in your home. It was a steep learning curve to get familiar with the ADAT, but I read a bunch of books, bothered a bunch of friends, and finally got the hang of them.  I and started producing and engineering my own CDs .

 That was great for a while until the invention of ProTools (the digital recording standard these days) .This was a very steep learning curve that I’m still on to this day. I jumped in and I hit brick walls sometimes.  Even after years of use, I’m still always bothering friends when I run into problems every now and then.  With that said,  I have managed to record my CDs in my modest studio and have even tracked a few outside projects for other people.

 I really enjoy all the aspects of the process.  I enjoy mic’ing up drums, getting good sounds, knowing what gear sounds best for certain things,discovering new signal paths, and experimenting with sounds. I’m definitely not a natural studio tech, but I willed myself into it out of necessity to make my own CDs. I’m by no means a pro recording engineer, but I know my way the studio enough to record my stuff.

 I have learned that recording is a never ending learning curve.  It’s definitely not for everyone, but these days with technology, you can get a complete digital recording setup for well under a grand. With the internet, you can watch tutorials on all things recording and learn the basics to recording yourself in no time…There are even all in one units that are much like the early four tracks where you can record your stuff, mix it, and master it all on board. Recording quality varies from unit to unit, but some of them sound pretty good.

 When you first start recording you need to understand that knowledge is power. Knowing the basics about the gear and the process will help you immensely, whether you’re doing it on your own or if you decide to go to a commercial recording studio.  If you speak their language you will be able to communicate exactly what you want to accomplish.

 Even if you decide you really don’t want to get the gear and record yourself, you should still consider getting some books,  going on the internet, and reading up on the process and the gear just so you know what you’re talking about. Also a great idea is to document everything when you record. Make a track sheet to go with your recording with all your tracks and what they are (Drums, guitars, vocals,  etc..) I even put who’s playing on the tracks so I can remember.   I use a few different musicians on my stuff, so I actually put their names on my track sheets and in the info column on my ProTools session. In closing, go out there, try your hand at recording, and have fun!

-Ronny North

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Ronny North

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