How to Get Started in

Home Recording


Chris Gieseke <>

with portions by

Dave Magnuson <>


1. Choosing the Right Recorder:

If you want to get into recording cheap, buy the Tascam 424MKII 4-track. If you can afford a better machine, like a Minidisc recorder, then by all means get one. Also, dont forget that you'll be paying the extra cost for Minidiscs .  In any event, the Tascam 424MKII is a very high quality, meat and potatoes 4-track that will teach you the basics of recording.  It is quite capable of putting out some suprisingly good sounding recordings.

If  you need more tracks but aren't ready to get into hard disk recording (which has a steep learning curve) or don't like Minidisk recorders, then you could look for a used cassette 8-track like the Tascam 488MKII, Yamaha MT8-X, or any of the other cassette 8-tracks. Chris Gieseke has the Yamaha MT8-X and really loves that recorder.  It has great sound quality and is very easy to use. Most importantly it has been very dependable.

If possible you might look into getting a recording system that has a seperate recorder and mixer.  These setups are MUCH more complicated, and there is alot of wiring and setup involved...this is not for the faint of heart. In any event, this modular setup could be a rackmounted cassette like the Tascam 234 or 238 syncassettes.  Dave Magnuson owns a Tascam 238S, and has no complaints.  The 238S has virtually no hiss, and has amazing quality.  Also consider a used 1/4" reel-to-reel 8-track or a 1/2" reel-to-reel analog 8-track recorder. These are even better (and sometimes slightly more expensive) but the tape can also get rather expensive if you a recorder that uses 1/2" or 1" tape. That's a reason to consider cassette 8-track. Finally, there's the increasingly popular, and now fairly affordable modular digital multitrackers (MDMs).   The two most popular are the Alesis ADAT and the Tascam DA-38.  Both use relatively inexpensive tapes, and offer a pure digital recording.  All MDM's aren't tape-based, either.  There's a growing number of 8 and 16 track rackmount harddisk recorders.  The prices of these are also falling.

But like it says earlier: For beginners the Tascam 424MKII 4-track is a great unit to start out with as it has alot of  features you can grow into. If you can make a great recording on one of  those, you'll make killer recordings once you move up to digital recorders and better equipment.

It's not recommended that you sink a bunch of money into a hard disk recorder if you're just starting out. I see alot of people with a bunch of money to blow who are buying these things, and then selling them because they are too complicated or because they are dismayed when they find that they cant make recordings like they hear on their favorite CD's. without realizing it is because of their lack of experience. It takes quite a while to develop your recording skills, which is why its often best to do that on a system that wont cost more then your car so that way its not a big loss if you decide that recording isnt for you.


2. Microphones:


3. Outboard Gear

If you don't already have one, you'll probably want some type of effects processor for reverb and delay.

You will probably also want a compressor.  The obvious best buy is the RNC compressor (only $184 but smokes everything in its price range).  Do a DejaNews search for more info on it. It is highly rated by many professional audio engineers as being one of the best under $1000 compressors around. I love mine as well.  The RNC may be bought from FMR Audio


4. Mixng and Monitoring

You'll need headphones.  You can use Radio Shack Pro-25 headphones for monitoring. These are rather inexpensive and compare well to studio headphones costing much more. Use typically use monitors (a home stereo system or boom box with RCA inputs, or power amp and reference speakers) to monitor your audio from your 4-track while you set levels and adjust panning for the mix.  Often imes, you'll use the Pro-25 headphones for when you're eq'ing your tracks or trying to dial in a mic position. Also you may want to pick up any pair of decent closed ear headphones if you plan on recording real drums (this is to cut out some of the bleed from the actual drum sounds onto what you are hearing from the drum mics on the headphones). The Sony consumer models of closed-ear headphones work well for that.

If you can afford it, it would be best to buy yourself a dedicated monitoring system. Something like an Alesis RA-100 reference amp and some monitor speakers like the Alesis Monitor Ones, Event 20/20, Yamaha NS-10, Tannoy, ect...monitor speakers would be fine. Dave uses a pair of Tannoy PBM 6.5's and also a pair of KLH model 6's.

If you plan on recording drums you might want to invest in an outboard mixer. I highly recommend the Mackie boards. Also keep in mind that you don't have to mic up every single drum. If you have a normal size drum kit, often you only need 3 mics. A dynamic mic on the kick drum, another dynamic mic on the snare, and then a mic (usually some sort of condenser mic though sometimes dynamic mics can work) as an overhead mic. Mic placement is the key for a great sound. Dont eq anything until you've found the best mic placement possible.


5. And don't forget about....

A book on home recording, and perhaps a subscription to a recording magazine.   A handful of examples can be found  on the music publications page

You'll also need tape head cleaners and swabs, a demagnitizer (for analog) and other miscellaneous goodies.

Finally last but not least, the most overlooked item...CABLES! And lots of them! Get good high quality, well shielded cables. With RCA cables, get good thick heavy gauge cables that are nearly as thick as your guitar and mic cables. If you're recording in several rooms, you may want a snake.  This has both XLR and 1/4" wires bundled together with jacks on the end.  It allows you to roll out 8, 16 or more channels worth of patch cables in one wire.


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