or, if your straight edge, a few new pairs of Vans Sk8-Hi’s.
But, now that I have your attention I’m going to try my best to learn y’all today on an undervalued and inexpensive tool your band could be utilizing RIGHT NOW to dramatically improve the quality of your song writing.
I’ll even give you a little hint… It’s a hyphenated word, just like your hipster BFF’s new last name.
I’m talking about PRE-PRO you jive turkey’s
Okay, that was actually more than a few words, but just for the sake of breaking it down, I’m talking about buying some basic/inexpensive recording gear and developing a simple set of self-recording skills.
I am constantly amazed with how many musicians I work with at Wescott Pro Audio that don’t actually have a complete understanding of the songs they’ve written and never practiced their music with/to a metronome. I mean, I understand everyone’s time is limited and that most writing starts at your rehearsal space, but we live in the 21st Century and decent recording equipment has become cheap enough for even the brokest of college students to afford.
And sure, you’re probably not going to produce anything that’s meets the standard of what you’d want to actually release, but this skill is more about increasing the quality and value of your band by making you better musicians and learning to write better songs. Then, once you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to release an Album or EP, you’ll know your music inside and out, and you’ll be ready to work with an audio professional who is capable of understanding your vision and willing to help with you to make it a reality (Cough cough, wink wink!).
“Now, let me help you out by giving you a simplified list of the best equipment I could find, at the most sensible, musician friendly prices.”
Without a doubt, these items will do exactly what you need and, at the very least, be a lot of fun to learn. Who knows, you may even find that you have the makings of an audio engineer yourself!
HERE’s THE 3 THINGS YOU’LL NEED
Audio Interface – In essence, this is the device that’ll translate your audio into information your computer can read and then playback to you. Now, there’s plenty of options out there, but for the sake of this article, I’ll keep it simple with some basic two channel interfaces that have a manageable price and good quality, since that’s the most reasonable place for anyone to start out.
1.) Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: This one would probably be my personal favorite, because of it’s zero latency playback feature, which allows your to record yourself in real-time without any annoying lag in the audio. Brand new this baby goes for $150, but I would recommend looking on craigslist or eBay, because you can usually find one for $50-$100 instead.
2.) PreSonus AudioBox: Also a great choice, but with a few less bells and whistles and only $100 brand new. Used, this guy goes for around $65.
Spend some time doing your own research, but these both are a great places to start. Plus, each of these models offers line-in and XLR input, which means you can record with microphones or direct-in with your guitars and bass.
Microphones – These can come in all shapes and sizes, with each one serving a different purpose and pretty much the wet dream of all producers. It’s because of this I won’t even start getting into detail, but know that at the very least I would recommend getting a set of two microphones, and more specifically, two matched large diaphragm condensers (pretty much the work horse of all mics), because they’ll work for vocals, bass, guitars, and most of all, capturing a good stereo drum track.
1.) Audio Technica AT2035: This guy really holds up its end of the deal when it comes to affordable and versatile home studio equipment. Boasting a switchable 80Hz high-pass filter (great for vocals) and 10dB pad (great for drums), this mic handles high sound pressure levels (great for guitars) like a champ and sounds great on just about anything you set up next to. New it come with an XLR cable, pop-filter, AND mic stand for $150! But, if you don’t really need all the accessories, you can probably find it used for between $60-$100.
2.) Shure SM57: Aaaaaaaaand, what kind of asshole would I be if I didn’t include the legendary SM57. By far the absolute best microphone anyone could ever buy for $100. It sounds amazing on guitar cabinets, clear as crystal on snare drums, and surprisingly great on vocals as well. Honestly, I can’t think of anything that it wouldn’t at least make sound decent. Used, these suckers can be found for $50-$75.
Again, do your research and don’t be dummy. Expensive equipment doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll make you sound better than you are. As always, it will inevitably come down to the quality of your songwriting, which is what this article is really all about.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) – And this is where everything gets tied together; the digital audio workstation. This is the software program that you will be recording all of your music into, as well as use to navigate your way through all of your multi-tracks as you apply things like EQ and Compression. Here’s the 2 best ones I could find that would cost you absolutely nothing! FREE!
1.) Pro Tools | First: For me, this one was a no brainer. Pro Tools is the industry standard for audio professionals everywhere in the world, but like any software it isn’t without it flaws. This introductory version of the DAW is really amazing and has nearly all of the same feature as the full program. Plus, it’s a really great way to get familiarized with all of in’s and out’s of using real audio software. In my mind this is the way to go if you are ever considering taking yourself serious as an audio professional, but if thats not really your jam, don’t worry about it too much. .
2.) PreSonus Studio One Prime: Which brings me to my next option. PreSonus Studio One. PreSonus is an awesome company through and through, who make all kinds of recording audio equipment. Studio One is their Flagship DAW and it, much like Pro Tools, is pretty damn amazing. As far as things that are free go, you really can’t beat this one.
Either way, no matter what DAW you choose, they are all confusing at first, so take your time, make some mistakes, and get better as you go along. But, most of all, commit to a program and stick with it until you understand everything you can about it. There are of course tons of other options out there like Cubase, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, or Ableton, but these were in my opinion the best and least expensive ways to get you started without a big budget. Hell, even Garage Band costs like $15 these days!
So anyways, here’s my rant in a nutshell
Record/demo your own music. Listen to your songs like someone in the audience would. Judge it. Don’t settle for shit riffs and lame transitions that barely make the cut. Plan out your leads, so that they actually improve the listeners experience and don’t just add to the overall noise of the song. Plug in a set of headphones and practice your music to a click… and then, thank me later.