Simple steps

No matter which software program you’re using to record vocals – whether it’s GarageBand, Mixcraft, Acid, Logic, Pro Tools, Cubase or the free audio editor Audacity – the basic steps are the same.

Over time, it’s likely that you and your students will work in more than one software application and a familiarity with this sequence will make that transition easier.

Step 1: Switch on and plug in

Turn on your computer and plug in your microphone.

If you’re using a USB microphone, it will plug directly into one of the USB ports on your laptop or desktop computer.

Other (non-USB) microphones will require an audio interface. Plug the microphone into the audio interface and then plug the audio interface into the computer.

Step 2: Start up

Start up your software (Mixcraft, GarageBand, Acid, Audacity, Logic, Pro Tools, Cubase).

Make sure you do this AFTER plugging the microphone into the computer. If you don’t, the software may not “see” the microphone.

Step 3: New project

Start a new project and add an audio track if you don’t already have one.

Tip: this step is not necessary in Audacity – it will add a new track automatically as soon as you start recording.

Step 4: Select your microphone

Tell the software application which microphone you want to use.

Even though you have an external microphone plugged in, the software doesn’t yet know that you want to use it to record (and not the in-built mic). Find the place where you can choose your recording input device and select your external microphone (ie. “Blue Snowball”). If you are using an audio interface, you will need to select that in the list of choices (i.e.. “M-Audio Fast Track Pro”).

Step 5: Use headphones

Plug in headphones and give them to your singer.

There are two main reasons for this:

1. Plugging in headphones will allow the singer to hear themselves and the backing track and/or metronome clearly while singing (known as “monitoring”).

2. Secondly, it will stop the sound of the backing track and/or metronome from coming out of the computer speakers. If the backing track sound was to come out of the speakers while you are recording, it will end up being re-recorded – along with the vocals – on to the vocal track.

Step 6: Arm for record

Arm the track for recording, if your software requires you to do that before recording. The arm for recording button is usually located on the track header.

Step 7: Test the levels

Test the levels:

Ask your singer to sing a section of the song and watch the input level meter. You want to aim for green or yellow levels on the meter and avoid red.

Tip: If you’re getting red on the meter, reduce the input level (there is usually an input level slider you can adjust) and/or ask your singer to move further away from the microphone. If the levels are too low, increase the input level and/or ask the singer to move closer to the mic.

Step 8: Set the metronome and count-in

Optional: set the metronome and the count-in if necessary.

Step 9: Record!

You’re ready to record! Click the record button 🙂 .

Tip: It’s a good idea to record a short section as a little test and then play it back just to check that everything is as it should be. Then you can go ahead with your “proper” recording.

Step 10: Re-record?

Decide whether you want to re-record the whole thing, or any smaller sections.

Tip: Don’t delete the original recording – simply mute it while you record another take on a separate track. That way you can choose the best bits from all takes at the end.

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