Home Recording

3 March 2024 update

In the past year or so I've replaced the iMac with a 13.3 inch MacBook Pro (with an additional monitor). I also replaced the keyboard with another Roland controller keyboard.

Logic Pro now includes much improved built in mastering. Verberator was a first go.

4 January 2021

Click on image to enlarge

As you can see, my 'recording studio' is a relatively simple affair. Computer (with a 'digital audio workstation'), a midi controller keyboard, 2 monitor speakers, a condenser microphone and an audio interface. I've also got an electric guitar, head phones and a pop shield. I don't tend to have really 'high-end' equipment, but I get results that are certainly good enough for me. Here's a song on Soundcloud that I recorded a few years ago with this setup: The Killing Room. I'm not saying it's a great song (though I like it), but I think the recording is OK.

It all looks very simple, but I remember a time when just getting all the different bits talking to each other was a nightmare.

The Computer

It all starts with a computer that is fast enough - to process the sound as it comes in - record the sound - and play it back out - all without any noticeable delay. When I first started using a computer to record my songs in the mid 1990's, avoiding any 'delay' or 'latency' could be quite an issue. Fortunately I had a friend who built me a PC with enough RAM and a fast enough processor to do the job. I assume that most computers are now fast enough to make good recordings, particularly when no other programmes are running. I assume that processor speed and RAM are still key issues with audio recording.

My current computer is a 2011 iMac with 8GB RAM and a 2.7GHz i7 processor. I switched from PCs to what felt like 'the dark side' in 2011, because PCs didn't seem to last long before slowing down, viruses etc. The iMac has been going for over 10 years now, so I've no complaints. Although I may well upgrade soon, it still records perfectly well.

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Logic Pro X

Click on image to enlarge

This is the software/computer programme that allows you to record numerous tracks, mix them all together and master your latest creation. On switching to Mac I bought Logic Pro (screenshot above). I think it currently costs about £200.

I can't remember the name of recording programme that I first used, but I do remember typing in the notes. I didn't have a midi keyboard or an audio/midi interface. I just used the internal soundcard and a standard microphone (Shure SM58). This song 'Time' was recorded using this process. I typed in all the piano, organ, drums and bass and I had some way of plugging my electric guitar into the back of the PC. It's not a great recording, but it was encoraging enough for me to get my friend Phil to build a fast PC and to get my first DAW, 'Cubase'.

'Cubase' was great, but after a number years the cost of updating became prohibitive. So I started using 'Reaper' DAW. At that stage Reaper was effectively free I think, or an unlimited trial period, followed by a payment of about £60. For personal use I think it still costs £60. I wouldn't hesitate to use it again.

After that I moved over to the dark side.

Audio Interface

Click on image to enlarge

The audio interface is the hardware that allows you to connect your microphone, midi keyboard, electric guitar etc. to your computer and digital audio workstation. The photograph above shows the front of my Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface. I have the microphone plugged into line 2, leaving line 1 for my electric guitar. (There's no particular reason for it to be that way round, but because of where all my stuff is, using line 1 for my electric guitar means that my cables are less likely to get tangled.)

This interface costs about £100. It's brilliant.

Click on image to enlarge

This photograph of the interface rear shows:

  • The USB lead which connects the interface to the computer
  • The midi-in cable connecting the keyboard to the interface
  • The phono leads connecting the monitors (speakers)

It's important to make sure that your computer is switched over to recognise your audio interface rather than the internal soundcard. The computer audio preferences and DAW preferences must be set to the audio interface. The settings on my system are shown below:

Image 1

Output settings

Image 2

Input settings

Image 3

Logic Pro settings


The Monitors

Broadstones, Gilstead, Bingley

The monitor speakers that I use are Alesis M1 Active 320 USB. These are/were a small, budget pair of powered speakers, so there is no need for a separate amplifier. They work well. In my set up, ideally they would be further apart and raised to ear level. As it is, I simply rest my chin gracefully on the desk when I need to listen carefully.

In my original setup I had 2 large monitors postioned at ear height and at the recommended distance apart. There was a separate power amp. It was fine, but more expensive than I have now and, in my opinion, not as good.

It's possibly worth saying that with my earliest computer recordings I didn't have any monitors, so I just used headphones. Some of the recordings sounded great through headphones, but awful when played through speakers. It's worth having monitors.

Midi Keyboard

Broadstones, Gilstead, Bingley

I've had the Roland PC200 mkII midi keyboard controller for a long time. It has 4 octaves of full sized keys and plugs directly into the audio interface with a midi cable. The keyboard plays the sounds/instruments that are within the digital audio workstation (DAW), i.e. Logic Pro X in my case. Most DAWs have a huge number of sounds and instruments. The keyboard has no sounds of its own. I do have a Yamaha 7 octave electric piano with midi in/out, but the controller keyboard sits so conveniently on my desk in front of me that I invariably prefer to use that.

Condenser Microphone

Broadstones, Gilstead, Bingley

I use an sE2200a condenser microphone for recording non-digital or analogue sounds. My earliest recordings were made with a standard performing microphone - a Shure SM58. The problem using the Shure was the signal level achieved i.e. it was too 'quiet' - I couldn't sing/play loud enough to get a good recording. A condenser microphone uses 'phantom power' provided by the audio interface to make sure the recorded signal is loud enough to make a good recording. Essentially, a condenser microphone is more sensitive than a standard microphone. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 has a 48V button which has to be switched on when recording through the microphone. I spent more on the sE2200a than a lot of my equipment (probably about £200). I doubt that I would spend that much now, but I would make sure that I had a condenser microphone. Having said that, it is a great microphone.


Broadstones, Gilstead, Bingley

These are the guitars that I play and use when recording. My acoustic guitar is a Yamaha FG200. I've had it for nearly 50 years and it cost about £50 (probably in 1972). Over the years it's been battered and beaten, dropped and abused, but it still sounds great. The electric guitar is a Japanese Fender Stratocaster.

I also have a a very nice Ibanez electric bass (which I never use) and an Eko acoustic bass (which looks good on the wall).


Once you've spent hours and hours getting a decent recording, you are faced with 'mastering' the track. Amongst other things, this involves adding compression, dynamics and equalising. Tweeking the track so that it is ready to impress. And it makes a big difference. It's a time consuming and complicated business. A whole art form in itself.

Logic Pro X includes a number of presets for mastering. Until recently (July 2022) I had always found one that's good enough for me.

Then I decided that I should make some effort and found a YouTube video by Tomas George. It works.

Here's the link: How to Master a Track in Logic Pro X by Tomas George

A Recording

A few screenshots from the recording of 'The Killing Room' on Logic Pro X.

Click on the images to enlarge.