Most laptops and desktops come equipped with an internal microphone. In theory, the internal microphone and a music recording software are all you need to record audio. The issue with this basic setup is the audio recording is going to sound awful. Your computer's internal microphone does not have the potential to produce clean audio recordings like an external microphone can. If you are going to spend money on a nice home studio program, you might as well record audio the best way possible, so we'll discuss hardware in more depth later.
There is plenty of terminology and equipment components to become familiar with before you get started. Words like MIDI, condenser microphones, dynamic microphones and audio interface will often come up during your research. It's important to have an elementary grasp on these terms as they all play an important role in recording audio.
An audio interface is the unit that allows for audio signal to be transferred from the source (your voice into a microphone) to the software. The audio interface turns the sounds into data that can be read by the software.
There are many different options for an audio interface. Basic, single input/output audio interfaces can be purchased for roughly $30, while more expensive, higher-quality and multichannel units run for $2,500. A single or dual-input audio interface is a great place for a beginner to start piecing together a home recording unit.
All of the recording studio programs in this buying guide have virtual instruments built into the software. These digital instruments open up a plethora of noises and sounds you can add to your own music. The easiest and most efficient way to control these instruments is with a MIDI controller. These controllers come in many different styles, but the most common is a keyboard. With a MIDI controller, you can play the virtual instrument using the physical keyboard (or whatever the controller is) along with controlling other parameters of the virtual instrument such as volume and pitch.
In this case, we aren't referring to computer screens. These monitors are speakers that have a flat frequency response to play the music back as accurately as possible. Often times, home speakers or stereo speakers have built-in equalizations to make music sound a certain way. These speakers can give an inaccurate reading on how your music sounds while you are mixing. Studio monitors are crucial to being able to mix accurately.
There are a number of different microphone types on the market. The most common ones you'll see are USB, dynamic and condenser microphones. USB mics are powered by the USB port on your computer and are generally inexpensive. They aren't high quality and should only be used for projects such as podcasts.
Dynamic microphones generally don't require an additional power source and are great for live sound and recording applications. They are much more durable than condenser microphones but are less sensitive to high frequencies.
Condenser microphones generally require an additional power source, usually phantom power. These microphones are ultra-sensitive to high frequencies, making them great for recording drum set cymbals and other instruments. These are generally more expensive, more accurate, but less durable than dynamic microphones.
With this basic understanding of these recording components, you can start to piece together a home studio and get to recording on your own.
Recording Studio Software: Other Recording Options
If you are looking for a simpler music studio software, there a handful of different options. Audio editing programs are stripped down versions of DAWs that you can use to record and edit audio. Many of these programs can only record one or two audio sources. There are also a handful of free recording studio software downloads available. Audacity is one of the most popular programs available for free download. These recording programs don't have nearly the toolset, or recording capabilities that DAWs have, but if you want to start a podcast and have limited resources, audio editing programs are a great option.