How To Become a Recording Artist Right From Your Bedroom
Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links of which I receive a small sales commission. All of the links are my personal recommendations for recording equipment and software.
Many singers and songwriters are easily discouraged from making music and pursuing their passion. The reason? It's hard to figure out what equipment and software you need. It's hard to learn how to use them. It's also hard to learn how to release and market your music. The overwhelming sense of confusion drives many potentially successful singers and producers away from taking little steps toward achieving their dreams.
I'm Rosendale, and I felt the same way when I first started making music from my bedroom in 2012. My dad bought me my first recording microphone (a Blue Yeti microphone) and Logic as a birthday gift. The first time I opened the software, I wanted to close and delete it. Where do I start? I wondered. All the buttons and switches made no sense, and I didn't want to be rummaging through multiple guides on the internet to figure them out.
It's now 10 years later, and looking back I wish I would have been gentler on myself. Creating music takes time and practice, and the knowledge won't come all at once. At some point though, everything starts to click. To be honest, I still don't know what every single button in Logic does, but it doesn't matter. All I need to know is how to record my songs.
Making music has been quite a journey for me, and I've reached over 600,000 monthly listeners on Spotify doing so!
I wrote this blog post to help up-and-coming singers, songwriters and musicians like you to set aside your fears and doubts about making music on your own.
This blog post will be a one-stop guide for almost everything you need to know in order to record music right from your bedroom. Just FYI - you'll need to spend some money buying equipment and software. However, by spending money upfront, you'll save hundreds of dollars in booking studio time and hiring other musicians to do the work for you.
Step 1: Take a deep breath
Before we start, take a deep breath. The important thing to know is that it will take time to learn how to record and make music. And it's okay that it will take time.
Almost all musicians aren't made overnight - it takes years to build a following, years to hone your craft, and years to cultivate inspiration in a meaningful way. You won't be writing Billboard Hot 100's next chart-topping single every day. In fact, if you're like me, you'll have plenty of uninspired days where you won't create any music at all. Your first productions will be far from perfect, but that's okay too. If you put your best foot forward every time your creativity and inspiration strikes, you'll start writing and recording bigger and better songs. It's all part of the journey, and your fans will love seeing your progress and listening to improvements in every single song you make.
Here's another tidbit I'd like to share: Spending 5 hours a week on original music means that within a full year, you'll have spent roughly 250 hours creating music. On average, it takes me about 20 hours to finish a song (which includes songwriting, recording, and producing). Oftentimes, it'll take me less time if I hire out certain parts of the process. If this is the same for you, by the end of the year you'll have created an album of 12 songs already. Very easily achievable!
Before we move on, I want to emphasize again that there's an element of luck that's required to be a successful musician. Releasing music is kind of like playing the lottery. You could only write one song and have it go viral, or you could spend your entire life writing songs that no one listens to. By accepting this fact, you'll feel less disappointed when your songs don't do as well as you hoped. Go with the flow and enjoy your musical journey, no matter the ups and downs. Otherwise, what's the point of making music at all?
Step 2: Buy the equipment
To start recording songs, you'll need to buy equipment first. It's much less expensive to buy your own music equipment instead of going into the studio every day and paying studio fees.
For the purposes of this blog, I'm assuming you already have a computer or laptop. If you don't, a MacBook (although expensive) is a great investment. Keep in mind that later in this guide, I'll be walking you through how to use Logic Pro X to record your vocals. Logic Pro X is only available for Macs.
I'm also assuming that you've already written your first song or have an idea of what you want to record. If you haven't already, visit my blog post HERE on how to write lyrics for your first song.
To record your vocals, you'll need a microphone. There are many different types of microphones, but here are two types that I would recommend. You only need one microphone to record.
This option is perfect for musicians who are just starting out and want to start making music fast. Don't have a lot of time to spend on figuring out how to connect your microphone to your computer to start recording? Get one of these!
I'd recommend the Blue Yeti USB Microphone (I started out with this microphone!). It's only about $130, and should last you a lifetime if you take care of it. Make sure to also purchase a pop filter: I'd recommend this set which gives you three different filters for only $20. To use your USB microphone, you'll need to have a table nearby to set the microphone on while you're recording.
Recording microphones involve more pieces of equipment and you'll need to spend more (around $500 to $1400 for all of the items below), but the sound quality of your vocal recordings will likely be better than a typical USB microphone. To have the proper setup, you'll need the following:
2. A pop filter, to reduce the sound of sibilance and plosives (harsh consonant sounds in your voice). You can get the On Stage Dual Screen one here for $15. If you get the AKG microphone, it will already come with a pop filter.
3. A microphone stand, to hold the microphone upright. Sounds silly, but some people forget they need this. The On Stage microphone stand costs $40, but you may be able to find cheaper alternatives out there.
4. An XLR cable. It will let you connect your microphone to your interface. You can get one here from Amazon for $10.
5. An interface. This little box processes the recording from your microphone and transfers it to your laptop. It should come with a USB cord to connect to your laptop. I'd recommend the Scarlet Focusrite 2i2 for $180. This version connects to your laptop via USB-C.
(Note: you can get an old version that connects via USB-A for $260 here).
Remember this: Your microphone should plug into your interface using an XLR cable. Your interface should plug into your laptop using a USB cord.
Last note: Keep in mind that this microphone setup isn't very handy to travel with (in case you like to travel with your equipment). If you purchase the Mogami MXL v69m, it comes with a huge power bank that will fill up a good chunk of your luggage. Since this blog is about recording from your bedroom, I'm assuming you don't need to worry about space!
If you want to produce your own songs, I'd recommend also purchasing a midi keyboard. It will speed up your workflow and allow you to produce by playing the keyboard instead of programming notes individually with your laptop. I'd recommend the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3, which costs around $120. It's a small midi keyboard you can keep at home or take with you on your travels, if you're feeling particularly inspired abroad.
Now that you've purchased all of the equipment you need, let's talk about software.
Step 3: Buy a DAW (digital audio workstation)
A digital audio workstation is the software equivalent of the massive mixing board and consoles you typically see in a recording studio. Instead of using those consoles to record, mix, and create music, you're using software to do so!
There are a plethora of different types of DAWs. The most popular ones today are Pro Tools, Logic, and Ableton. For the purposes of this blog, I'll be recommending and discussing Logic Pro X for Mac, which costs $200. This is the DAW I started using back in 2012, and I've stuck with it ever since. You're more than welcome to try other DAWs, but just be aware that this guide won't show you how to use them. Each one has its own capabilities and user interface, but all of them essentially do the same thing: they help you record, mix, and create music.
Get Logic Pro X for Macs here.
Step 4: Record your first vocals
This section is probably the longest, as I'll be walking you through my own recommendations on how to record your vocals using Logic Pro X. Keep in mind that there are many different ways to create music, and this guide isn't the only way to do so. I'll show you how I do it!
Before you get started below, make sure you've installed Logic Pro X and that your microphone is already assembled and ready to be plugged into your computer.
Setting up your project file:
1. Open the program and create a new project. Then create your first track. If you'll be recording your vocals first, select Audio. If you'll be programming midi or synths first, select Software Instrument (more on this later).
2. Set the BPM and time signature of your project at the top. The BPM determines how fast or slow your song is.
3. Turn on the metronome (to hear the metronome when you start recording later, make sure the metronome button is purple when you are recording).
4. Make sure your microphone and earphones/headphones are plugged in. You can make sure your microphone is working by press the orange "I" button next to your Audio track. Say a few words into the microphone - you should be able to hear yourself. Note: if your microphone isn't plugged in, you won't even see the "I" button.
Tip: To reduce latency (the delay between your voice and your voice recording), go to the Record dropdown and select Low Latency Mode.
5. Open your audio preferences and make sure your Input and Output Devices are set to the correct devices (Logic Pro -> Preferences -> Audio).
6. Select the Audio track you created (if you created more than one).
7. Select the correct Input. If you're using a USB microphone, the Input should be Input 1. If you're using a microphone that requires an interface, the Input will be determined by your interface. If your interface only has one hole to plug your microphone into, your Input should be Input 1. If it has two inputs (or more), it will depend on which hole you plugged your microphone into (2, 3, 4, and so on).
8. Now, press the red Record button and you can start recording!
You may need to move the playhead position (which determines where in the song you'll be recording) by clicking on the on the ruler-like area shown below.
Creating midi notes and chords:
It's very helpful to have some basic midi chords programmed to help give you rhythm and flow while you record your song. It'll also be a good starting point for the production of the song later. Follow the steps below to do so.
1. Click on the + button to create a software track (if you haven't already). Then create a Software Instrument. The default Software Instrument is usually an electric keyboard sound.
2. Press Command + K to open the Piano Roll.
3. Press the red Record button to start recording. You can play notes on the Piano Roll using your keyboard buttons!
If you need to create additional tracks for additional vocal parts or other software instruments, use the buttons below.
The plus button on the left creates a new track from scratch, while the plus button in the square on the right will duplicate a track you've already created (it will carry over all plugins you've added to the track).
Creating your vocal chain:
A vocal chain is a group of plugins that you apply to a vocal track to shape the sound of your vocals. You can add plugins like I've done below in the section of Logic that looks like this:
Here is my vocal chain as follows. I'll likely write a more in-depth blog post on each of these plugins in a later post.
Pitch Correction - this is Logic's version of autotune, which will automatically tune your vocals if you sing slightly off-key. If you don't want to use it (to keep your vocals raw or other artistic reasons), you don't have to.
Compressor - this plugin helps to balance volume changes in your recording by automatically lowering the volume of vocal parts that exceed a certain threshold. You can also do this with volume automation, which takes more work.
Channel EQ - this plugin helps to brighten (to make your vocals sound more crisp) or add warmth (make your vocals sound more boomier) to your vocals.
DeEsser - this plugin helps to turn down sibilance and plosives in your vocal recordings. It's like an additional pop filter inside Logic!
Reverb - this plugin helps your vocals reverberate more. My favorites in Logic are Platinum Verb and Chroma Verb.
Sample Delay - this plugin creates a small delay between the left and right signals of your vocal recording to create an illusion of a more "stereo-sounding" recording. I'd recommend using this during sections of your song where you want your vocals to sound bigger (during your chorus, for instance). I like to record two takes of my vocals and apply sample delay to one of them for the best effect.
Echo - Depending on the vibe you're going for, you might want to add echo to your vocal chain as well. You may want to consider putting the Echo plugin on a Bus instead! Busses are too complex to cover in this blog post, but you can learn more about it by searching for it online.
After you've done everything above...
You're ready to record all of your vocals! Go and make some beautiful music.
There's tons of little tips and tricks that I couldn't cover in this blog post. If you have questions or want personalized lessons in learning how to record your singing, reach out to me via the e-mail at the end of this blog post!
Here's a side note: the experience of creating a song will give you a great idea of whether or not pursuing music as a side hustle or professional career is right for you. If you don't enjoy this process, consider taking on a full-time or part-time job outside of music. Save up money to go into the studio or hire other musicians to do the work for you - it's a perfectly fine way of creating music. Make sure to have your musicians sign work-for-hire agreements specifying copyright ownership, royalty splits, and any other terms you may want to consider.
You may want to invest in a few plugins that will help you create music more easily.
Serum - this is one of my favorite plugins for creating electronic and electronic pop music. It features several great synth sounds. You can also add presets from other music producers and music creators who create presets for Serum. They have a rent-to-own payment plan, where you can own the plugin after paying $10 a month for 19 months (or pay $190 upfront to own it). Get Serum here.
Arcade by Output - this plugin costs $10 a month, and features a huge library of royalty-free samples and loops in every instrument you can think of (guitar, piano, percussion and drums, vocal chops, ethereal pads, and more). I'd highly recommend it! Get Arcade here.
I wasn't able to cover distribution, marketing, or promoting your music in this post, but I've covered it in previous posts! For quick tips on how to market and promote your music, make sure to check out the following below:
10 steps to a successful independent song release HERE
Spotify playlist curators taking free submissions - Part 1 HERE
Spotify playlist curators taking free submissions - Part 2 HERE
How to promote your music using Facebook Ads HERE
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an e-mail at email@example.com. If you're looking for personalized lessons from me on writing and recording music, write "Personalized Lessons" in the subject line.
Connect with me below:
Bookings and inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org