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How To Record A Song: 4 Simple Steps

How To Record A Song: 4 Simple Steps

It has never been easier to record your own music and push it out into the world. In this digital age, you have the entire universe at your fingertips.

Are you sick and tired of playing gig after gig to get your name out there, only to be forgotten in the morning?

Well, you are not alone.

Thankfully, recording your own song is as easy as baking a pie (as long as you know how to bake a pie, and if not then it is as easy as putting a frozen pie in the oven).

All it takes is 4 simple steps.

4 steps so easy and accessible that you could record your own song tonight. Want to find out how?

Read on.

1. Record Your Song

If recording your song is the first step in how to record your song, then surely it must be the only step?

While recording a song is a large part of recording a song, there is some stuff which you need to do once the song is recorded and before you release it to the world — stuff like mixing and editing. So, let’s start with recording and see where it leads us.

Even though recording music has become so simple that anyone can do it, to truly get the best sound out of your recording, there is some complexity. Gone are the days where you could just use one or two mics and record the entire thing together. Say hello to the more sophisticated process of multitrack recording.

Multitrack recording is where each individual instrument is recorded separately and then woven together in the studio.

But why would you want to do this?

Firstly, it allows you to mold and shape the sound of the instrument without them being affected by any other sounds and noises. Secondly, it allows you precision by getting to record one instrument at a time and not be reliant on a group playing at once.

You can even record all the instruments by yourself if you wish.

So, without further ado, here are some smaller steps within step 1 to get your music tracks down.

1) Set The Beat

Before you start setting down tracks, you need to create a beat to follow along to. Most of the time, this is done with a metronome, which can also be downloaded as an app. A pre-recorded drum loop also works.

You can also create your own scratch track with an instrument or two. It does not matter what you use to create the beat as long as it is consistent and can be followed along by a number of instruments.

Once you have your beat, you can start to get into the fun parts.

2) Get Rhythm

The drums and bass are key to getting a good start to your song (unless it is just you and your guitar. If so, skip this step).

The other instruments will be guided by the drums and bass. If you do not have any, then an acoustic guitar can be used as the guide.

3) Harmonize

Once you have your base (or bass), it is time to add the harmonies. Add in some chords by recording your guitars, piano, synth, and anything else which would fit here. You know your harmonies best.

4) Make A Melody

Most songs which you will create will use a combination of instruments and vocals to create your melody.

Choose whichever instrument or vocal is most dominant and record that one first. This is likely to be your lead vocals or lead guitar. You choose which one you want to start with, and then fill in the other melodies later.

5) Finishing Touches

You are almost there. The song sounds amazing; you just need to add the finishing flourishes. Take a listen to your tracks altogether and decide what else it needs.

Do you need some background vocals? More percussion? Some piano? Extra sound effects? Is there something else which you are missing? Listen to your song a few times and figure out what is missing, if anything is.

That wraps up the recording. Now, you as you are using multitrack recording, you can do this all by yourself, though music is more fun when there are others around. If you have a band, then you can work together with them. If you don’t have a band, then you can always hire some session musicians to add what you need.

The sky is the limit.

2. Editing

Your song is recorded, but that is not where the work ends. It does not matter if you are the best musician in the world or the worst, there is a good chance that there are some mistakes in your recordings or something that you are not happy about.

If your song is perfect, then skip this step. If not, then read on.

The advances in technology mean that there is almost no problem that editing cannot fix (except for bad music but we all know that you are a skilled musician).

Editing is generally split down into 5 main components: arrangement, comping, noise reduction, time editing, and pitch editing. Let’s take a look at each.

Arrangement

Take a look at what you have so far and decide on what needs to be arranged.

If there are any tracks which do not need to be there or any tracks which are not adding to the overall feel of your piece, then now is the time to delete them.

Perhaps you have a part of a track which you do not like. Feel free to delete that part of the track.

Does part of the track sound good but not fit with the song? Move it somewhere else.

Is the song not working? Delete an entire part of the song or delete the song altogether and start again.

Comping

When you record a track, you are not going to record it only once. You are going to get a few takes down before you move onto the next track.

Now is the time to listen to how each version of the track sounds with the song.

Choose one over the others or mash together parts of each track to create one super patchwork track.

Noise Reduction

When you record each track, there is likely going to be some unwanted noise on there somewhere. This could be talking at the start or end of the track, background noise between playing, hissing, or any other noise which is picked up.

On the parts where there is no instrument playing, you can remove any of the unwanted sounds. You can also play around with various filters here to further reduce any unwanted noise.

Time Editing

Do you like the track but notice that the notes are slightly off-beat? Instead of re-recording the track, you can time edit.

You have two choices here to edit the timing of your track. You can cut and paste sections so that they line up with the intended beat. You can also stretch parts of the track if the beat is slightly too slow or fast. For most instruments, this will work but not with all.

Pitch Editing

Many recording artists use auto-tune software to fix sour notes. While some artists use this for an entire track (something which we would not recommend), you will likely use it to fix a note here and there.

Pitch editing works best with vocals but can be used with instruments too.

You want your recorded songs to sound as close to your live performances as possible, so do not mess with the original too much, but editing can give you a polished and professional product.

3. Mixing

Once you have your tracks recorded and edited, it is time to mix them together. Working on them individually first will help to polish them and make them easier to mix. Now, all you need to do is blend all the tacks together into one perfect mix.

Easier said than done.

Mixing tracks is more of an art form than a science, but by utilizing some simple tools, you can create a piece which will go down in history as a masterpiece. Let’s take a look.

Balancing Faders

When you listen to your tracks altogether, you may notice that some instruments or vocals are too loud while others are quiet. With balancing faders, you can balance the volume of the tracks.

Panning

When you add tracks together, they can sometimes sound as if they are coming from the same place, which is not representative of how a band would sound on stage.

With panning, you can ‘move’ the sound of a track so that each track has its own ‘space.’

Equalization

This ensures that each track has its own distinct frequency and no two tracks compete for the same frequency band to the detriment of the overall piece.

Compression

This helps to level out the dynamic range of each track so that each instrument and vocals are heard clearer, making them easier to mix.

Reverb

When you record instruments and vocals with modern equipment, they can often be stripped of the depth which you would get at a live performance. Reverb helps to add that depth back in and ensures that each instrument has the same depth, helping them sound like they have each been recorded in the same room.

Automation

Automation will help to bring everything together and give your tracks a more polished feel.

4. Mastering

We are almost there.

Before you master your song, you have to re-record each of your tracks down to a single stereo file. Once you have done that, you can add mastering techniques to make your song sound amazing.

Here are the most common mastering techniques:

Maximizing Loudness

As you adjust the volume, you can sacrifice the dynamics and affect the frequency (see our article on the Fletcher Munson Curve). Maximizing loudness helps to increase the average loudness of your track without sacrificing the dynamics.

Balancing Frequencies

Through further equalization, you can compress multi-bands, compressing individual frequencies separately from the rest of the frequency spectrum, further cleaning up your music.

Stereo Widening

Widening the higher frequencies will lead to a better sounding song. Just don’t ask us exactly what the widening does. All you need to know is that it helps with a more professional sound.

What Else Should You Think About?

Okay, so you probably have not started recording your song yet, unless you stopped before you got here and went ahead and followed our guide. So, before you get recording, what else do you need to think about?

Should You Do It All Yourself?

While it has never been easier to record all of the music by yourself, there are advantages to working with other people.

You may be a great musician, but there is a good chance that you are not able to do absolutely everything. If you need some help, then do not be afraid to ask for it.

You can form a band, join a band, or outsource and find some professional help. Whatever you decide to do, remember that you are doing it because you want your music to be as great as it possibly can be.

Do You Really Need To Master Your Music?

That depends on what you want to do with your music.

Are you recording it solely for yourself? Are you sharing it with friends? Do you want it to live forever in the digital world?

Our tip is to always master your music as you never know what will happen with it.

On That Note

Ir really has never been easier to record your own music than it is now. Recording, editing, mixing, and mastering are all at your fingertips, and the software and hardware available is studio quality. You even have the opportunity now to set up a studio in the comfort of your own home.

Take the time to do things right and follow out 4 (not so) simple steps. Recording and creating the perfect song is a work of art, and it takes time and dedication.

If you are dedicated to your art, then take the time to do things right.

Someday, you are going to be a star.