One of the most common medium to hear music today is the laptop and if you are into music or a musician, then you can also record music on your laptop!
That is a great time to be alive where you could do almost anything with a laptop. There are several things that you need to get this started like – a microphone, some cables, software(audio workstation), audio interface, etc. Getting all of them is not a must and depends on your choice.
There are two main ways of recording :
- The first one is to record with the help of an audio interface and this is what we recommend too.
- The second one is without using an audio interface.
1. Using an Audio Interface
If you are planning to record music on a laptop with an audio interface, then you need to make sure that you have 7 components.
Before discussing what these 7 components are, understand that these components are the essentials that make quality recordings at home. However, you do not always need all of them at the same time.
You can go ahead step by step. What you are buying for your recording will largely rely on what you are aiming to achieve. For example, if you want to only record your vocal tracks, then just a set of earphones or headphones and one simple microphone(XLR) will help. If you are planning to learn piano or keyboard or you want to create a piece of sheet music, then a MIDI controller can get the job done.
Therefore, you should pick what you need. Have a look at the 7 key components that you need to get started.
- A good laptop: Make sure it has a good amount of RAM and storage
- A good audio interface: Audio interface is simply the essential component that gets the sound in and out of your laptop. Therefore, it is the primary feature that you will need to start recording with a laptop.
- A microphone
- Stands and audio cables
- Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or a good recording software
- A MIDI controller (Optional)
- A pair of headphones or Monitors (Optional)
Here go some important points to be noted while choosing them.
Choosing an Audio Interface
Whether you plan to use a laptop or a desktop computer, a smartphone or a tablet running audio creation or production app, you will find several compatible interfaces that you can choose from. Although the range of audio interfaces is pretty huge, you will have to be mindful of few main considerations, which can help you get the perfect audio interface, which will be perfect for your budget, music, and requirements. These are the main factors that you should consider:
- The kind of I/O (inputs and outputs) you need
- The kind of device (laptop or PC) connectivity you are looking for
- The desired level of sound quality you are looking for
- Your budget
Here is a guide we did on some of the audio interfaces from budget to premium ones, which could help you choose the right one.
Choosing a Microphone
Make sure you choose the right one that is suited for the kind of music you are recording. There are specific types of microphones for different purposes. So, it would help if you were careful when buying them.
It would help if you bought an XLR microphone as you are going to record using an interface. An audio interface will have XLR inputs rather than your standard USB inputs for connecting the microphones. You can get one of the entry-level products from the various brands available out there – as low as 100 bucks or even lower. Believe me! You will be surprised at how well they perform in the price range.
Note: Go for mics that come with desk stands because a hands-free operation will help you a lot. Applies to both of the cases.
Check out my picks for the Best Laptop for Pro Tools.
2. Without an Audio Interface
There are only three things that are compulsory in this method – a laptop, a USB microphone, and recording software. That’s it, and you are set to go.
However, we really can’t say that there is no audio interface involved with this method. Most of the time, the sound card in your laptop acts as the audio interface, and it’s the standard type. As compared to the above method, you will get lower quality recordings with this one.
The sound card that is acting as the audio interface won’t be up to par with the dedicated ones used in the first method. And therefore the output quality won’t be that good.
Now the question is – Can you still do this way and produce good quality recording? And the answer is YES. If you don’t have the cash to get the equipment for the first method, then go with this. The only thing you have to buy is a USB microphone as you can use a free recording software like Audacity.
You can just plug in the Microphone on your laptop, load up the recording software and start recording. Simple as that.
Note: A DAW or Recording Software is a must if you are going to record music using a laptop, smartphone or a tablet. It is one of the main components of recording.
Points to be Noted
- All the Audio interface comes with a DAW(recording software) when you buy them. You will also find some other useful plugins or effects bundled with them.
- XLR microphones have more upgradability as compare to USB microphones. (Learn More on XLR vs. USB)
- There are limitations, but you can do almost every recording with a laptop, one microphone, and some software.
Extras that can Enhance your Recordings
- Virtual instruments: The virtual instruments, as the name suggests, are pre-recorded music samples of instrument sounds. These are the samples that were recorded with real instruments. You can record your track with the keyboard into MIDI. You can now have your laptop playback your performance with an oboe or brass section or string orchestra sound.
- Plugins: Almost every program allows for plugins. The plugins are additional or extra support programs, which you can install easily, and they allow for many extras like additional effect, virtual instruments, and VST (Virtual Studio Technology)
Recording music on your laptop with a microphone requires a lot of other things. It’s not just a microphone that you need, but a whole range of other stuff. However, the fact remains that the microphone is the primary component in this. I believe that by reading this article, you got a fair idea of how to record with your laptop.
As we have come across, recording on laptops are not very difficult, but not so easy either – you just need to be clear on what you need and with that idea you will have to know what exactly you need. Then, you can start focussing on the actual process of recording itself.
Whatever you go with, Good Luck and Happy Recording!