Recording Multitrack Audio at Home – How to Stand Up and Stand Out in the New Music Business

What is audio multitrack recording?

The process of recording multitrack audio is the separation of our music into pieces (bass, drums, vocal, instrument etc,) so we may individually alter, manipulate and control each part’s sound, volume and placement in a finished mix.

Recording on multiple tracks used to be achieved mechanically, by recording on 1″ and 2″ tape which was “striped” into sixteen or twenty four separate “tracks.”

Modern multitrack recording is achieved in the digital and virtual environment of recording software.

Recording multitrack audio – There are only 3 goals that matter

  1. Clear sound
  2. Easy to use tools and recording software
  3. Affordability

Everyone guesses the first of these goals, but amazingly, they often are stumped as they try to express what the next two goals of an indie recording musician should be.

I suppose it isn’t surprising because musicians are conditioned to assume that high quality home recording requires complicated and pricey studio equipment. In other words, instead of first learning about sound and what it takes to record it effectively, they invest money first and assume they will be saved by their machines.

If musicians and aspiring recording artists knew how simple the requirements are to record professional sound, they would realize great sound is achievable with much less financial burden.

Recording multitrack at home – How to take control of your recording future

We use multitrack recording to give us increased control of our music. It is therefore ironic that we are actually less in control if we don’t know how to use our own recording software and equipment.

The solution for taking control of the recording process is obvious, but mostly overlooked. The answer is that we must lessen the learning curve by using less multitrack digital recording equipment and our goal has to be ease of use. The fact is, we have to consistently produce high quality recordings on demand, over the long term. Therefore, aspiring recording artists must not cripple themselves financially in the short term.

Recording multitrack sound at home professionally, simply and cheaply

Recording professional quality records at home is more than possible, it should be expected. The simple fact is, absolutely any multitrack recording software that is available is more than capable of handling the task of release-quality recording.

The key is to give the multitrack software what it most needs:

  • Professional quality sound
  • High quality “capture”
  • Good quality input
  • Good quality output

These are the 4 pillars of a great multitrack recording. The good news, is that we can achieve each item cheaply and very little technical knowledge.

Let’s define how we will achieve each item:

High quality sound:

High quality sound broadly refers to supplying good performances, on good quality acoustic or electric instruments, or good quality electronic instruments or devices, or some combination of the above. In other words, well played with no buzzing, clicking and hissing.

  • Can we achieve this affordably and simply? Yes.

High quality capture

High quality “capture” refers to using a good quality microphone for voice and acoustic instruments and good quality cables for connecting electric and electronic instruments and devices. In other words, avoiding early loss of quality and injury to the source sound due to poor quality mics and insecure cables.

  • Can we achieve this affordably and simply? Yes. Cables are inexpensive and there are very good mics available that are affordable.

High quality input

High quality input when multitrack digital recording, refers to using a high quality in-out device, also known as a digital audio interface. The first step to having high quality input is to avoid using your computer’s built in sound card for recording purposes.

Simple to use, professional quality external audio interfaces, are available. Their sole purpose is to provide a high quality path for your sounds from the outside of your computer to the inside of your computer without degrading the sound’s quality.

Can we achieve this affordably and simply? Yes.

High quality output

Although our audio in-out device is also supplying the output signal, our ability to actually hear our well recorded sound is dependent on our speakers (monitors.)

There are excellent home recording studio monitors available, but this is one area where we will have to make a moderate investment to achieve professional recordings at home.

Tip: Powered studio monitors (with built in power amps) are a good choice and save the expense of separate power amps and also make good use of limited space in most home studios.

Conclusion of part one.

In the continuation of this article on recording multitrack audio at home, we’ll look at manipulating our various sounds in actual multitrack digital recording software.