Top 3: Essential Recording Equipment for Songwriters

The best recording tools for a songwriter who wants to make a great demo and at the best price in order to get their music heard.

In the ever-changing music business, one thing has always been prevalent, the song. The song moves the audience. But if the song can’t be heard, it will never have a chance to show up in the right hands. Every songwriter needs to have their song heard if they want to have it cut by a major label artist or obtain a publishing deal. Obviously, performing the song live is one way this can be done but recording demos is undoubtedly the most effective and efficient way to share your music with industry professionals. Having the ability to record a proper demo at home is a must for up-and-coming songwriters. Think of a song like a car you are trying to sell. If you have junk all over the car and it smells like last week’s dinner, it’s not going to be the best first impression. And like buying a car, songs are about the first impression. Make the first listen count, even if it is on Instagram. So, we have a great song, great voice, and decent guitar/piano chops, now how do we make this into a great demo and send it to every publisher, producer and label on the planet?

1. Microphone
The microphone plays a tremendous part in conveying a great performance. A good microphone will do wonders capturing a great song. Depending on the genre, certain microphones can favor different singers. For rock, pop or hip-hop music, a $100 Shure SM57 or slightly more expensive Shure SM7 will do the job. These two microphones have proven themselves time and time again throughout music history. Michael Jackson used the SM7 on “Thriller” and the SM57 captured much of Bon Iver’s breakthrough album “For Emma, Forever Ago.” For the more intimate jazz or acoustic act, a more detailed condenser microphone may be more beneficial. For this, a Blue Microphones Bluebird or Rode NTA-1 will suffice.

2. Microphone Preamp, Audio Interface
Microphones need to be powered by a microphone preamp. Having a good microphone preamp ensures that the microphone can handle its full dynamic range, think roaring belts to subtle whispers. An audio interface then converts that microphone’s analog signal into a digital signal that can then run to a computer. Baton Rouge-based, PreSonus make a great microphone preamp/audio interface called the AudioBox. This thing is rock solid and only $99 (there are videos of it literally being run over by a car). PreSonus also makes a similar interface that can connect to a phone or tablet, giving you the ability to have killer sound on your Instagram videos.

3. Digital Audio Workshop (DAW)
This is the software that captures the signal from the audio interface. The most acclaimed and professionally used software is Avid’s Pro Tools. Other software is available such as Logic, Ableton, and Studio One, but Pro Tools still is the industry standard in top recording studios. The flexibility and compatibility of a DAW is very important. Since Pro Tools still holds the throne as far as professional recording environments go, learning the software and the fundamentals can be very beneficial, for even the songwriter. Many producers use Pro Tools so having your song recorded into a Pro Tools session can speed up the creative process dramatically when working with other people. That being said, almost all DAW’s allow exporting to other software and will give you great recording quality, just with a different software layout.

Having a great sounding demo can go a long way when it comes to first impressions. Sure, maybe somebody you have read about was signed to a crazy deal after showing their iPhone recording or GarageBand laptop track, but the odds of your song showing it’s true potential through that method are slim at best. Having the ability to collaborate with other musicians, producers and writers remotely is becoming more and more of a necessity and setting yourself up with a couple pieces of equipment is a must for beginner songwriters.

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