Music creators like you have songs to share with the world. No matter what your genre, you're passionate about your music, and you care about the quality of your sound.
But when it comes to recording music, many musicians and songwriters struggle with technological hurdles and steep software learning curves. And the expense of hiring a professional recording studio is simply too much for most independent music creators to bear.
This course aims to overcome this challenge by helping you get the skills and confidence you need to record and produce your own music at home.
Record and Mix Your Own Music in This Comprehensive Step-By-Step Guide for Music Creators
Make great-sounding music recordings at a fraction of the cost
Technology has changed the music industry landscape. Music creators can now produce their own music for commercial release at a fraction of the cost. Unsigned artists, bands and DIY indie labels now have unprecedented power to record their own music, distribute their music worldwide, and connect directly to their audience.We created this course for songwriters and musicians who want to record their own music at home. Whether you want be able to record high-quality demos, or you want to record music for commercial release — knowing how to record and mix your own music will help you get your music heard.
Content and Overview
This course is a hands-on, project-based course suitable for musicians and songwriters with little or no previous recording experience. We designed this course especially for beginners — so you don't need to know anything special about recording gear, signal flow, or mic placement before starting this course.
We simply expect that you're a musician, and that you'll be recording yourself throughout this course. And we strongly recommend you take this course with a specific song in mind to record! Songs that feature guitar, bass, percussion, keyboards and vocals are best suited for this course, but you can adapt any instrumentation. If you don't have a song ready to record, you can record the sample project song we'll provide to you.
Throughout this course, we'll walk you through every step of recording your song:
This comprehensive course includes complete project files and other downloadable resources, such as:
At the end of each section, we'll also give you a project checklist so you can practice the skills you've just learned. By the end of this course, you'll have recorded, edited and mixed a complete song you'll be proud to share with the world!
Welcome to the course! In this lecture, we'll explain why we're so excited about recording music, and why we think you should be too. We'll describe exactly what you need to know before starting this course, and what you'll be able to accomplish by the end of it.
This lecture will also provide a brief overview of what the course covers, and how we'll teach it. And we'll also tell you a bit about ourselves, your course instructors.
Let's get started!
Here's a list of recommended equipment to successfully complete this course.
In this lecture, we’ll introduce the demonstration song we’ll be recording throughout this course.
To get the most out of this course, we strongly recommend you follow along by recording your own project. If you don’t have a song ready to record, you can download the sheet music, chords and lyrics chart for our demonstration song.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND CREDITS: "Yorkshire Lady" written by Darryl Webster. Originally performed by OLD KID. Please support the artist!
This activity will get you up and running with REAPER, the digital audio production software we’ll be using to record and mix our song. We’ll start by showing you how to optimize REAPER for music recording, then guide you to create your very first REAPER project file.
In this lecture, we’ll explain what an audio interface is and why we need one to record music onto your computer. We’ll look at three different entry-level audio interfaces, and explore the differences and similarities between them.
By the end of this lecture, you’ll be able to identify all the essential connections and controls on your own audio interface.
Make sure you know where everything is on your audio interface and how it's labelled. You can use this Audio Interface Reference Sheet to review all the most common connections and controls.
If you haven't already set up your audio interface to work with REAPER, take the time to do it now.
Here's your Project Checklist:
Once you've completed the checklist, you're ready to move on to the next section!
In this lecture, we’ll explain what a “click track” is, and why it’s a good idea to use one when recording.
You’ll learn how to set the correct tempo for your song in REAPER, as well as how to set up REAPER’s built-in metronome to use as a click track.
In this lecture, we’ll explain what an XLR microphone is. We’ll look at three different example microphones, and explore the differences and similarities between them.
By the end of this lecture, you’ll understand the difference between “end address” and “side address” microphones. You’ll also know where and how to position a microphone to get the best sound, depending on the situation.
In this lecture, we’ll show you how to get audio into REAPER using an XLR microphone. We’ll explain why it’s essential to set good audio input levels when recording, and show you how to do it.
Finally, we’ll explain how to set up a headphone mix (or “monitor mix”). This mix will allow you to hear the click track in your headphones while you play.
If you're having trouble getting audio into REAPER, use this Audio Troubleshooting Checklist to find a solution.
In this lecture, we’ll explain how REAPER handles and displays multiple takes. By the end of this lecture, you’ll know how to create multiple takes of the same track in order to capture the best performance possible.
Now that you've learned some recording basics, it's time to use your new skills!
Here's your Project Checklist:
Once you've worked through the checklist, you'll have everything you need to move on to the next section.
If you’re not a drummer, programming drums is often the most practical way to add a drum part to your song. In this lecture, we’ll show you how to program a simple drum part using MIDI.
By the end of this lecture, you’ll be able to use REAPER’s “ReaSamplOmatic5000” plugin (yes, that really is what it’s called!) to program a drum part using the MIDI drum samples we’ve provided with this course.
“Loops” are typically short, 1 to 4-bar audio recordings that can be looped seamlessly in order to repeat indefinitely. Drum loops are most common, but anything can be made into a loop.
In this lecture, you’ll learn how to add a percussion loop to your project by matching the tempo of the loop to fit your song’s tempo.
The next three lectures will cover everything you need to know in order to be able to add synth parts to your song.
In this lecture, we’ll talk about virtual instruments (also called “software synths”) and what they do. We’ll show you how to download and install TAL Noisemaker, a free virtual instrument available for both Mac and PC.
In this lecture, we’ll explain how to set up a MIDI controller so you can record a MIDI keyboard performance right into REAPER.
If you have a MIDI keyboard, we’ll walk you through the process of setting it up to use as MIDI device in REAPER. If you don’t have a MIDI keyboard, we’ll show you a neat trick that lets you turn your QWERTY keyboard into a virtual MIDI keyboard!
Now that you’ve got TAL Noisemaker installed along with a MIDI controller, you’re ready to make some music with it!
In this lecture, you’ll learn how to select a sound in TAL Noisemaker and record your MIDI synth performance directly into REAPER. By the end of this lecture, you’ll also know how to adjust the timing and the relative volume of each note after you’ve recorded your performance.
It's time to add some overdubs to your project!
Think about what parts you want to add to your song:
Once you've worked through this checklist, you're ready to move on to the next section.
In this lecture, we’ll explain why it’s important to take a “snapshot” of your project at periodic intervals for backup purposes. We’ll show you an easy way to do this using the “Save As…” function in REAPER.
Do you wish you could fix the timing of just one note in a recorded performance? You can! In this lecture, we’ll show you how to use REAPER’s built-in tools to fix timing issues by moving and stretching an individual note without changing its pitch.
“Comping” is the process of making a compilation of the best sections of many different takes. You can use this technique whenever you record multiple takes.
In this lecture, we’ll demonstrate making a “vocal comp” that combines the best sections of each vocal take we did back in Section 3. By the end of this lecture, you’ll know how to create and save your own custom “comps.”
NOTE: “Comping” doesn’t have to be left until editing! If you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to do this as soon as you’ve recorded the part, while it’s still fresh in your mind — yes it is!
Now that you’ve “comped” a track, you’ll need to clean it up to ensure a better final mix.
In this lecture, we’ll explain why and how you should check all the fades in your comp, and delete any long silent sections in your final comped track.
Now, it's time to edit your project!
Once you've completed this checklist, you're ready to move on.
In this lecture, we’ll look at three things you can do to organize your project before you start mixing:
Organizing your project before mixing will save you time AND make mixing a lot more fun!
In this lecture, you’ll learn how to get a consistent audio level and avoid distorting your mix. We’ll show you how to start at the loudest, densest part of your song in order to make sure your mix doesn’t clip. We’ll also give you some guidance on how to decide what the balance should be between the different tracks in your mix.
In this lecture, we’ll introduce compression as a kind of “automatic volume control” we can use on any track (such as a vocal). We’ll talk about the most common parameters you might want to start adjusting on a compressor, including:
By the end of this lecture, you’ll know how to use REAPER’s built-in compressor ReaComp to even out a dynamic track and increase its overall level without clipping.
In this lecture, we’ll introduce EQ as a “tone control” you can use on any track to adjust the treble, bass, or any frequency you want. We’ll demonstrate using REAPER’s built-in ReaEQ plugin to remove the unwanted low bass from our recorded acoustic guitar track, and instead emphasize the “sparkle” of the instrument.
In this lecture, we’ll explain what reverb is and show you how you can use it to add a sense of “space” to your mix. We’ll demonstrate how to add the same reverb to multiple tracks in order to make them sound like they were recorded at the same time in the same space. We’ll also experiment with different reverb sounds by changing some of the available parameters, including “length” and “room size.”
REAPER’s built-in automation feature lets you automate practically any parameter you want! In this lecture, we’ll demonstrate how to use it to automate level changes so we can make the electric guitar louder just in the second solo.
It's time to mix and add effects to your song!
Once you've completed this checklist, you're ready to move on.
In this lecture, we’ll explain what “stems” are and how to create them. You can use these stems for backup purposes, or to give to remixers. By the end of this lecture you’ll know how to export stems for your own project.
Congratulations, you’re almost done! Let’s wrap up your project:
Let’s review the project we just completed. If you like, you can download our complete REAPER project files so you can see what we did throughout this course. You can also download any of the course resources.
This concludes our course – now all that's left is for you to practice. Take what you've learned here, and apply it to your own songs and projects. The more practice you get, the better you'll become!
As you can imagine, we've just scratched the surface of what's possible. There are a lot more features and functions to explore within REAPER. In our final lecture, we'll give you some advice on how to continue improving your skills.
Kathleen Farley is a computer geek, teacher, learner, vinyl junkie, hockey fan, and recovering non-profit executive. Occasionally she breaks (and fixes) computers. Not necessarily in that order.
The Montreal-born technologist trained as an audio engineer before moving to Hamilton, Canada in 2007. She now runs Maisonneuve Music, a Hamilton-based independent record label.
Kathleen teaches technology and management skills at a music industry school in Toronto, Canada. She's also the co-founder of Audiohackr, a startup that helps indie musicians, producers, and DIY labels make the most of technology.
Kathleen produces technology training videos under the moniker Robobunnyattack!
Michael Chambers (aka moon:and:6) is a Canadian music producer, engineer, and (re)mixer. He launched his professional career in the 1990s, assisting on sessions for the Philosopher Kings and the Juno Award-winning Willie P. Bennett tribute album, Heartstrings. As a founding member of Canadian pop/rock band The Golden Dogs, Michael recorded and produced the band’s debut album Everything In 3 Parts (True North/Universal, 2004).
Working under the name moon:and:6, Michael recorded and mixed Whitehorse’s self-titled debut in 2011, followed by their 2013 Polaris Prize shortlisted album The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss (Six Shooter Records/Warner Music). Recent credits include Sarah McLachlan, Royal Wood, Paul Federici, and Boy With An Atlas.
Michael is the co-founder of Audiohackr, a startup that helps music creators record and share their music.