How to Record Your First Song!
Lockdown has been challenging for all of us at the best of times, but there’s no doubt that it’s also provided ample opportunities to learn new skills. Some have learnt new languages, some have written stories, and some have taken up fitness. For me personally however, there’s no better medicine than music - something that lives within all of us. So if you’ve had an idea before, why not record your first song? In this article, I’ll do my best to explain which tools you’ll need to get started.
1 Download Garageband
I’m going to go ahead and presume you already have a laptop, or you might not even be reading this! So, with that said, the first thing you’ll need to start recording is what’s known as a Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW, for short). Garageband is free for Apple Mac users, and actually comes pre-installed when purchased if I’m not mistaken (perhaps depending on how old your machine is). If you are on Windows, consider trying Mixcraft, or Music Maker JAM. If you want to use the simplest, easy to use software out there, go for Audacity.
I’ve handpicked these programs as they’re particularly easy to use. Once you have this installed, you’re going to need to decide whether you want to use a pre-existing instrumental (meaning, a song that has no vocals on it), or create your own backing parts. You can easily find free to use instrumentals on Soundcloud and Mixtrack Pro. If you want to create your own musical parts, consider buying a small USB piano/keyboard to play and record your parts.
2 Hire a Microphone & Recording Interface
In order to actually record your vocal parts, you’re going to need both a microphone to sing in to, and an interface. The interface converts the sound from your voice into something that the computer can process digitally, and record onto your track.
The most popular interface to start off with is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, which will allow you to connect one microphone, and one other instrument (so if you have an acoustic guitar for example, you’d be able to connect this). Microphone wise, we would recommend starting off with a Shure SM58. Whilst these are not going to get you quite the same level of quality as Adele, they are great starting points and certainly will not break the bank to hire (usually around £10 each). Both of these can be rented from Grand Technical.
Once you have the equipment in front of you, open up your recording software. Once it’s fully loaded, plug in your audio interface (the Focusrite unit). Do not do this in the wrong order, or it might not recognise it. Once loaded, the software should then recognise that you want to use it as your interface, to which it will ask you to confirm (click yes). Next, connect the microphone into the input, on the front of the interface. Say a few test words, and adjust the level until it sounds just right!
3 Consider taking a singing lesson, or vocal “tune-up”
So now that you’re ready to record, you will want to consider the most important part of your song - the vocals. This is where I’d highly recommend taking a singing lesson online. When you book your lesson, explain to the vocal coach that you are going to be recording a song, and that you’d like some assistance getting everything in order. Send them the instrumental of your song, and a lyric sheet if you have one. All of this can be done remotely of course.
When you run through your song, your vocal coach will be able to detect if you’re straining on any particular parts, and will be able to advise if there’s a better way to sing that section. For example, sometimes when you are new to singing, you sing through the throat a lot. This can be pretty painful, and doesn’t make for the best sound - so it’s key to get this right.
Finally, if you’d like them to, your vocal coach may be able to suggest some ideas for harmonies or additional melodies. This is a skill that comes with practice, and will certainly enhance the sound of your finished production! I hope you find the tips in this article useful, and can’t wait to hear what you come up with!