How to Record Music with a Computer

by Tony Chung on August 21, 2008


Upon request by a few of my readers, I’ve decided to post an entry about how to record music with a computer. I have been recording music in the form of vocals, live instruments, and synthesizers for well over ten years. I started when I was 12 years old by recording on a dual cassette deck boombox with my parents’ karaoke microphone (good times). Today, the power of technology has enabled any one of us to set up a decent recording platform in the comfort of our homes at a very affordable price. For instance, if you sing and play the acoustic guitar, you could record decent quality demos of your songs with a microphone and recording machine at the cost of less than USD$200. This was definitely not the case ten years ago.

Here is a basic visual of my recording setup along with the prices of the individual components:


There are four primary components that you will need to record decent quality music with your computer:

  1. Whatever it is you want to record (e.g. guitar, vocals, synth, drums, strings)
  2. Recording hardware
  3. Computer
  4. Recording software


To understand this setup easier, try to imagine a river between the Yamaha synthesizer and the Mac Mini computer in the above image. In order to travel from synth to computer, you must cross a bridge that is the Mbox2 Mini recording hardware. Still don’t get it? Then think of the keyboard at the top as a Japanese speaker and the computer at the bottom as a Spanish speaker. The recording hardware between them is the translator that will enable the two devices to communicate.

The Pro Tools software on the computer is the interface you use to record music. The software interface usually consists of several tracks like this:


One key point to remember is that there are many, many alternatives to the products used in the setup above. For instance, the synthesizer can be replaced by any instrument or microphone:


Also, there are several choices for the type of brand you would like to use for the recording hardware, computer, etc. Below is a list of some choices for each part of the recording setup:


  • Yamaha Motif – great string sounds, interface is harder to use right off the bat but very powerful
  • Korg Triton – great synth sounds
  • Roland Fantom – great organ and piano sounds
  • Alesis Micron – great fat synth sounds

Recording Hardware:


  • Apple (OS X)
  • Dell (Windows)
  • Toshiba (Windows)
  • HP (Windows)


Obviously, there is ongoing debate about which of the above products are most superior. But it really boils down to your personal taste and the type of music you are creating. Some people love Pro Tools for its simple interface, others love Nuendo for its amazing plugin sounds. And of course we have Apple fanboys and loyal Windows users. There is so much out there in terms of tools and sounds. I advise you to start with the basics (a cheap setup), and work your way up. At least that’s the way I did it. In the meantime, keep researching and stay up-to-date with the latest information and products. That way, when you are ready to upgrade your setup, you know exactly what you want and how much it will cost you.

Good luck!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony Chung September 9, 2009 at 7:03 pm

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