How To Record An Instrument In 11 Easy Steps

How To Record An Instrument In 11 Easy Steps

It’s not always easy to record musical instruments in your home studio.

This might seem strange if you think of how simple it looks in a professional setting, but the truth of the matter is that you might not have the right technology or gear to make it happen.

How do professional studios record instruments?

They do so with a variety of strategies, such as amps, multiple mics, and placing these in various areas of the room to maximize sound.

It might sound impossible for you to record instruments in your humble home studio, but it really doesn’t have to be.

You don’t really need all that much to create professional sound.

However, different instruments will require different recording strategies, so let’s look at some popular instruments one by one.

Before You Start

If you’re a musician or producer who likes adding effects to your music, you might wonder if you should add these effects to the sound you produce before recording it or if you should add those effects later, when you’re editing your recordings.

Your best bet is to add them later, and this is mainly because you don’t want to record a distorted sound.

If you record a sound that’s distorted, you’ll never be able to remove that distortion at a later stage.

On the other hand, recording a pure, clean track means that you have this track for various uses, without being limited to the distorted version.

How To Record Electric Guitars

Man Playing Guitar

For this, you’ll need the following items at your disposal:

  • Digital audio converter (DAC). When your signal has moved through a preamp you’ll have to convert it into a DAC so that you can access it on your computer, as Masterclass explains.
  • Microphone – large diaphragm condenser mics are good when recording electric guitar, but they require an amplifier.
  • Amp
  • A recording device, such as your computer. Your DAC will connect to your computer with a USB output.
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) – this is the software that’s used to record and edit your music tracks.

Method:

  • Put your mic a few inches away from the grill cloth of your electric guitar amp, right in the center of your speaker.
  • In DAW software, check that your audiometer isn’t flashing red as this means that the audio signal is peaking. You want to avoid this as it can create distortions in your recording.

How To Record Acoustic Instruments

Acoustic instruments, like strings or guitar, will also be recorded in the same way as electric guitars, except for one big difference: you need a different mic for this purpose.

You should choose ribbon microphones or condenser microphones because they help the instruments to have more texture in their sounds, and this is especially important when it comes to recording piano sounds.

However, they will need an external power source.

You’ll do the same thing you did with your electric guitar when it comes to the technical bit of recording the sound from your acoustic instrument, but just make sure you position your acoustic instrument further away from your speakers – aim for about 10 inches of distance.

In addition, you might want to place other mics further away to give you a bigger sound that fills the room.

How To Record Your Keyboard

Recording Keyboard

The benefit of recording sound from a keyboard is that you don’t have to use microphones.

So, you just plug the keyboard into a preamp or DAC, without worrying about microphones or amps.

How To Record A Piano

Although earlier we talked about how to record acoustic instruments, one of which is an acoustic piano, there are some important tips that need to be discussed so you get the best quality in your recording.

For starters, ever wondered if recording a piano is different from recording a keyboard? It is!

There are some important differences, starting with how you position the piano. If you have an acoustic piano, you probably have a grand or upright piano.

These will need to be set up in different ways in order for the recording to be at its best. So, for an upright piano, you’ll want to place the mic closer to it.

On the other hand, for grand pianos you want to have a bit more distance between the mic and piano so that you can record those larger sounds.

No matter what acoustic piano you have, you should always record acoustic piano in a larger room because the sound waves should have enough space.

In a small room, they’ll just keep reflecting off surfaces, and this can cause distortions in the recording quality, which is sure to sound amateur.

Once you’ve recorded the sound, you’ll need to connect your mic to your computer with a DAW as mentioned earlier.

What About Digital Pianos?

Playing Keyboard And Recording

Connecting your digital piano is a simple process, but it requires MIDI data to be sent to your computer with the use of a USB cable.

You’ll have to choose between two types of USB connectors – Type A and B.

Now, make sure you know what type of USB connections are available on the actual instrument you want to connect to your computer so you don’t stress yourself out. 

  • Type A is known as a USB-to-device connector. It’s used to connect external storage devices.
  • Type B is a USB-to-host connector and allows you to connect to your computer.

Once you’re set, you’ll need a driver on your computer, but these are usually provided by digital piano manufacturers.

When To Use A MIDI Socket

If you have an older piano it might not come with a USB socket, but don’t worry.

You can use a MIDI socket to connect your digital piano to your computer. However, you’ll require an adapter.

Make sure the adapter has a MIDI-standard DIN connector on one end, as Roland reports.

How To Record Electronic Drums

The benefits of recording electronic drums are that they’re really simple to do. You don’t need microphones, as in the case of acoustic drums.

Simply connect your drums to your computer with the use of a single-channel MIDI interface, or a MIDI-to-USB cable.

Important Tips For Recording Audio In Your Home Studio

Tuning Guitar

While having the right equipment and software will help you to record your instruments with much more professional-sounding quality, there are other tips that can make a difference in how your recordings sound by the end of the process.

Tune Your Instruments

Before you begin recording, make sure your instruments sound their best otherwise you’re off to a really bad start.

So, for example, tune your piano or guitar. If your instruments are out of whack, this will create a bad recording and waste your time.

Test With One Mic

If you’re using more than one microphone to record an instrument, test how well one sounds before you add others. This will save you time later.

Make Use Of A Preamp

Sometimes preamps are considered optional when it comes to recording an instrument, but they can actually be highly beneficial.

This is because if you connect an instrument or mic to your recording interface, this can create a sound that lacks warmth and even volume.

A better idea is to plug the instrument or mic into a preamp. 

You’ll be glad to know that preamps are not expensive – you can find one for less than $100 – and if you want quality recordings then you’ll happily purchase one.

Backup Your Files

Man Using Recording Studio

After recording an instrument, don’t forget to save and backup your files! It also helps to have more than one copy so that your work doesn’t go to waste because of a tech problem.

Related Questions

What Is The 3:1 Rule?

When using more than one mic to record an instrument, position the second one three times the distance that the first one is from the source, as Reverb states.

So, if the first mic is a foot away from the instrument, but the second one three feet away from the second mic to prevent a time delay.

How Can You Prevent “Bleed” During Band Recordings?

Bleed is when an instrument on one mic is picking up another instrument’s sound. It’s a common problem in-band recording.

Prevent it by placing the band’s members in a better way, such as by letting them stand in a circle so that they’re spaced out from each other and amps aren’t facing each other.

Conclusion

Recording instruments at home can result in high-quality, professional-sounding work – one of the most important things is to have the right equipment at your disposal.

Luckily, there’s not much you do need. In addition, it’s essential to know how to use your gear and instruments in the right way so that you get the results you want.

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