Releasing your art into the public for others to criticize, is scary. But one of the best ways to reduce the anxiety and make sharing your art a little easier, is creating something you’re proud of, creating music you stand behind and you’re excited to share with the world.
In my last post I revealed the software that can make your music more professional. This time I will go over a device that can help you make music you can be proud of, music that you are excited to share with fans, family, friends, labels, publishers etc.
When I was in 7th grade, I found a recording device called a Fostex 4-track analog audio recorder in my parents’ closet. This was my introduction to audio interfaces and recording. When I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment, I began learning about digital audio recording. Digital audio recording allowed me to get my vocals and sound effects recorded into my computer for further experimenting and visual manipulation. Back then, making beats and recording my vocals with the sound card that came with the motherboard was sort of annoying. The delay between the piano keys or vocals being recorded and what I heard coming from the speakers or headphones made it hard to record without having to quantize or redo the take each time. But by upgrading to an interface with better analog to digital and digital to analog converters, I was able to reduce most of the delay. Still learning about audio interfaces, I decided on a Sound Blaster Audigy 2, which I believe was an add-on internal gaming sound card with a breakout interface. The sound quality and timing issues improved, which made me curious how much more professional audio interfaces could improve my music. Although the Sound Blaster Audigy might not have been a professional audio interface, it put me on the right path and helped me get started making my music and learning what tools I needed. These days, the sound cards that are built into computers are good enough, especially if you’re only making beats or sketching audio ideas. However, if you’re interested in competing with the recordings of successful indie-major artists and producers, you’ll want to upgrade to a professional audio interface.
The Pro Audio Interface
In addition to more inputs, more outputs, and a higher price tag, professional audio interfaces have better audio converters, which will improve the original recorded audio and the final output of your music. They will also give you more options to decrease audio latency when recording audio or tracking midi notes, lowering the number of times you need to do something over. Most digital audio workstations (DAWs) work with just about any brand of audio interface. And you don’t need the most expensive interface to increase the quality of your music. Most of the time, it’s the quantity of inputs and outputs and bundled software that will make an interface’s price jump.
What are you recording?
The most important question to ask yourself is how many things you see yourself recording at the same time. Most of the time, when just starting out, you’ll only be recording your vocals and maybe an instrument simultaneously. In this case, an audio interface with 2 inputs will be enough. The list of audio interfaces available is staggering. My suggestion is to keep it simple and start with two channel interfaces. If you’re only going to record vocals, bass, or guitar, buying Pro Tools bundled with an interface that has 16 ins and outs will be overkill.
Audio Interface Buying Checklist
- Fits within your budget or price range
- Has the right connection for your computer (USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt)
- Works with your DAW and operating system (Mac OS, Windows, iOS, Android…)
- Has mostly good reviews
- Has quality preamps
- Has at least 24bit/48khz Has Phantom Power
- Has at least one headphone out with separate volume control
- Has at least 2 channels of inputs
- Has one MIDI input, one MIDI output (optional)
Recommended Audio interfaces
- Propellerheads Balance
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
- Presonus AudioBox USB
- M-Audio M-Track
- Avid Fast Track Solo or Duo
Questions: Which audio interface are you thinking about investing in? What audio interface do you already use?
Next I will help you decide whether you should use drum pads, a keyboard, or both to trigger your midi melodies and patterns into your digital audio workstation (DAW).