Quit your band & record your own songs!
The Home Recording Guide.

You are searching for a home recording guide? You want to record your own song? You are interested in recording your own music? Directly on your own computer with an interface and on a small budget? In this home recording guide I will show how you can build your own small recording studio with the right music equipment to record your own songs or cover songs. This is my home recording guide!

Infographic how to record your own song with the home studio guide

The Audio Interface: The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 2nd Gen

If you want to record your own songs, you have to find a way to transfer the different sound signals of your instruments to your computer. This isn’t easy because most computers only have a connection for headphones or standard headset microphones with a 3.5 mm jack plug, which might be good for Skype or watching YouTube – but not to record or play high quality audio. Therefore, it is necessary that you first of all improve this and get a good external audio interface.

Author’s sidenote: There are also internal audio interfaces, but I haven’t used them yet, so in this article I will just focus on the external interfaces.

I use the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 2nd Generation mostly to record rock, punk and metal songs on my computer. The Focusrite is connected to the computer via USB. As soon as you connect it to the computer for the first time, it is usually recognized directly by the PC and automatically installed, then it is ready for use. If this is not the case, you can download the driver for Focusrite here. After the installation you can connect the Focusrite to a DAW, which you can use to save, edit and add effects to your audio signals. More information about a suitable DAW can be found in the next chapter. The interface offers two instrument inputs / line inputs to connect XLR or 6.3 mm jack cables, furthermore it has a midi input. This allows you to connect microphones or instruments directly to the interface and record them using the DAW. In order to level the audio signal correctly, two knobs are available directly on the interface, which allow you to control the input volume of the instruments very precisely. When I record a song with the home recording equipment I use one input for my guitar and the other second input for the bass guitar, this way I make sure that the input level stays constant for each instrument during the time I am recording and perhaps switch between both instruments a few times.

In addition to the two instrument inputs, there are also four outputs to connect external monitor boxes and there is another headphone jack where you can also adjust the volume of the output directly. The Focusrite also offers phantom power, which makes it a real all-rounder in your own small studio. For my needs the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 is really perfect because it brings everything with it you need to record your own songs and it is a really cheap home recording equipment. You can get the program for about 140 Euro.

Digital Audio Workstation: The perfect DAW for home recording

DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. DAWs are used in combination with microphones and interfaces to record music or audio signals. Each individual recording gets its separate channel in the DAW, so that you can edit the individual channel of e.g. the guitar, vocals, bass or individual drum components in mixing or mastering. This makes mixing and mastering extremely easy, since the DAW can be installed on almost any “good” computer, allowing you to record and edit your songs anywhere in the world.

In the DAW, various plug-ins are usually available for editing the individual audio tracks. These plug-ins can be placed on individual tracks or on a group of tracks. Plug-ins are often associated with VST, which stands for Virtual Studio Technology. VST is the industry standard used by audio program developers to ensure the compatibility of their developed audio programs with the various DAWs.
Plugins are e.g. equalizers, compressors, maximizers or brickwall limiters which are used for mixing and mastering. There is also digital instruments and digital equipment that can be loaded as a plug-in into the DAW, such as digital drums, digital guitar amplifiers and bass amplifiers or even whole instruments such as a digital piano or percussion instruments. The digital instruments can then be played via the computer keyboard or via your electric guitar, which you connect to the DAW and the digital amplifier via the interface, and record via the digital audio workstation.

Get Steinberg Cubase, now!

I use Cubase for my recordings because I think that it is the best program for recording music on a pc, there is an “Artist”-version which costs around 140 Euro which is affordable for nearly everyone. Cubase is very easy to understand and the great thing is that there are a lot of different tutorials on the internet or YouTube that show you how to install Cubase correctly, which plugins you should use and how to mix and master your songs. For me Cubase is a really simple software and the most intuitive software you can use to record music – so you should definitely try it out.
For my recordings I use many plugins directly from Cubase. I also bought some other plugins, because Cubase didn’t have them in my Cubase Artist version or I liked other plugins better. But if you’re using Cubase for the first time, you’ll certainly be able to enjoy the existing plugins and produce good songs.

VST / Plugins in Cubase

Internal Cubase Plugins for Mixing and Mastering

  • DJ EQ
  • Compressor
  • Maximizer
  • Brickwall Limiter

External Plugins for Mixing and Mastering

The following is a list of the plugins I use from Cubase and a list of plugins I bought additionally:
  • Softube Saturation Knob
  • iZotope Nectar 3 Plugin
  • iZotope Ozone Imager

Instruments / Equipment Plugins for Cubase

  • Fortin Nameless Suite
  • Toontrack EZ Drummer 2
  • TSE BOD v3.0.0

Which latency is acceptable when recording songs?

The audio signal which is transmitted to the PC via the interface must be stored by the DAW as fast as possible, otherwise a latency will occur and the individual audio tracks will not be aligned. Normally external audio interfaces calculate the audio signals very fast, so that no latency occurs. Latency can also occur, however, if your computer is too slow, then you will have to improve your computer by e.g. better RAM, hard disk or a better processor. Or you can get a new fast computer 🙂

By the way: The human hearing can handle a latency of up to 12 milliseconds, so you should check to stay under this value.

The EZ Drummer 2: Digital drums for country, rock, punk, metal​

There were many good reasons for me to do home recording: write my own songs, improve my guitar playing, learn solo licks. But the main reason I had so much fun making music at home was the “Easy Drummer” or more familiar the “EZ Drummer 2”.

After a friend once showed me this cool digital drummer, I was directly convinced of the digital drums. Why? For now the EZ Drummer has a huge number of different drum beats and drum patterns, especially the metal drum beats from the EZ Drummer have blown me away. Furthermore, the EZ Drummer doesn’t just provide a simple drum kit. No, there are more than 20 different drum kits that you can use for country, blues, metal or punk – even for stadium rock 🙂 Last but not least, the drums just sound like you just recorded the drums in the studio and hear them for the first time through the studio boxes – you probably know the feeling 🙂

Another great feature of the virtual drum set EZ Drummer 2 is the function “Tap2Find”. This function gives you the possibility to play your own drum pattern by hand on the digital drums, then the EZ Drummer 2 searches for matching drum beats based on your drum pattern. Since I’m not a good drummer, this feature is necessary for me for songwriting, as I find so many perfect drum tracks and patterns that I could never have programmed myself, but allow me to create proper drum backing tracks for my own song ideas.

After you’ve picked out a pattern that you like, you can continue to insert it into a “song creator”, which will then analyze the pattern and suggest other suitable patterns for your intro, verses, pre-chorus, chorus, ending, fills and so on. So within minutes you can create a complete drum backing track for your own songs. A real masterpiece!

The EZ Drummer 2 also gives you the freedom to edit the individual components of the drum kit, so you can for example choose different snares for your own drum kit like from DW Edge, Gretsch, Ludwig or a Vinnie Paul signature model from Pearl.

There are also different models for cymbals, toms, hi-hat etc. from which you can create your individual drum kit. The sound of the individual sounds is very clear and raw, so that if you mix your songs yourself or master them you will have true joy, because the signals from the drums are perfect to process and also sound like real drum signals. 

The EZ Drummer is available for about 120 Euro and believe me, in the first 5 minutes you will be happy about your purchase. I don’t regret a single Euro so far because it’s the easiest way to record drums. Get it!

With which DAWs can I use the EZ Drummer?

The EZ Drummer can be used with DAW software like Cubase, Logic, Live or Pro Tools.

Does the EZ Drummer 2 sound unnatural?

I’ve heard this question many times and I have to say “No”. The EZ Drummer 2 sounds very natural. Why? You can assign an individual velocity to each beat on any drum component. This makes sure that not every hit sounds 100% hard, but as with “human drummers”: sometimes drum components are played a bit harder and sometimes not quite as hard. This makes the sound of the EZ Drummer 2 sound very natural, like a drum set just recorded in a recording studio.

Where was the EZ Drummer 2 recorded?

The drums of the EZ Drummer 2 were recorded in the “British Grove Studios” in London, which consist of two recording studios owned by Mark Freuder Knopfler (Dire Straits).

The Microphone: Shure SM58

To record my vocals for the different songs I use the Shure SM58. I mention this microphone on this page because most people have access to such a microphone, be it through friends or fellow musicians. It may not be the best microphone if you want to make high quality recordings, but for standard recordings at the beginning it is very useful.

The SM58 can be connected directly to the audio interface via XLR cable and does not require phantom power. Only condenser microphones need phantom power. Furthermore you have to take care that microphones are not connected via the jack cable, otherwise you might get a lot of noise or you won’t hear anything.

The Shure SM58 is a vocal microphone that has become a legend among musicians worldwide and on every stage. It has the so-called cardioid characteristic, which is particularly sensitive to frontal sound. It is therefore perfectly suited for the main vocals that are to come across concise and directly. Since I mostly write songs with a little louder and harder vocals, the Shure SM 58 is very useful for my music and I often use it with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4. The good thing is that you can use it not only in the home recording studio but also on stage – because the Shure SM58 has an extremely robust case with a shock absorber. The SM58 is a dynamic microphone.

Dynamic Microphones​

Dynamic microphones are microphones that use electromagnetism to convert sound into an electrical signal. Dynamic microphones work like an inverted loudspeaker. The membrane of the microphone lies in a voice coil, which is pressed into a magnetic field during sound. This movement induces an electric current and the signal of the song is generated. This signal can then be transmitted to the appropriate recording equipment or to a PA system for live performances.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones have a very thin membrane, which reacts even to the finest sound and can pick up very high frequencies. The condenser microphone is much more accurate and is therefore clearly more accurate and suitable for fine, calm and clear vocals as it delivers a higher sound quality – dynamic microphones do not transmit many of the fine details. So if you’re recording music outside of screaming and loud singing, you might be better off with a condenser microphone.

Headphones: The studio headphones Sennheiser HD 380 Pro

Since I live in an apartment where you can’t just play without problems, I practice and play mostly with my Gibson SG via the audio interface Focusrite Scralett 2i4. This is connected via the DAW to a digital amplifier called Fortin and the output signal is sent to headphones.

This kind of electric guitar playing in the apartment works great. Why? I have good headphones in use that transmit a great sound!
I use the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro. These headphones are studio headphones. The special thing about them is that they have a good external noise reduction (32 dB), which helps to keep ambient noise well shielded. The frequency response of the headphones is between 8 Hz and 27 KHz – even if you might not notice many of them anymore 🙂

What I myself find very pleasant is that the ear and headband pads are very soft, so that even working longer, mixing or listening to music with the headphones is really fun.

Advantages about the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro:

  • Detailed and linear sound quality
  • Strong noise reduction
  • Long, stable spiral cable
  • Comfortable to wear thanks to soft ear pads

Studio headphones are often used in “real” recording studios because of their neutral and clean sound quality. Only if you hear a neutral mix where the bass or high frequencies are not overemphasized, a balanced mix is possible.

I hope this guide for home recording helped you to get a good understanding of how you can record your own music easily from home. For sure, you need to invest a bit into the right equipment, but afterwards you will have a lot of fun by working with the great equipment.
Martin Schulze Weischer

Martin Schulze Weischer

Martin has been a musician since 2005 and has written and released several albums with various bands from the rock, punk and metal scene.

Home Recording Guide
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Home Recording Guide
This article explains how you can use simple equipment, software and tools to set up your own home studio to record your own songs on a small budget.
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