Sound recording techniques

Once you’re set up with recording gear, you’ll need to know a few basic techniques to use it.

Here is an overview of the main tasks in recording for music production.

Gain staging

Gain staging means setting the level of your interface’s preamp so it picks up a signal that’s strong enough to work with.

The goal is for your signal to be loud enough to avoid noise, but not so strong that it overpowers the input.

The sweet spot is called headroom. Here’s a guide to gain staging for good headroom in recording.

Tracking your performance

Capturing a good performance is a skill of its own. Working with the artist to achieve their best results is one of the typical jobs of a music producer.

Even if you’re just recording yourself you can still act in a producer role if you take the time to plan.

For example, here’s a guide to tracking vocals like a pro.

Overdubbing your parts

Professional recordings aren’t often made in a single take captured live.

Instead, each instrument is recorded separately for the best possible sound. This is known as multi-tracking.

It means that the musicians have multiple attempts to get their parts right. They can even stop, start or overwrite what they’ve done before.

The process of recording additional takes on top of a basic take is called overdubbing. It’s related to punching in, which means starting in the middle of a take for a short section.

These two techniques come from the early days of recording on analog tape, but they’re still an important part of how music is recorded today.

Editing a take

After your parts are recorded into your DAW, you can manipulate them further to polish the performance, or get the best sound.

This step in the process is called audio editing.

It’s where tracks are cleaned up so that they’re free from noise and artifacts of the recording process.

By cutting and pasting, time-stretching or using plugins like AutoTune, you can also fix minor mistakes in a performance.

Here are some resources to get you started with these techniques.