Have you ever wanted to compose and record your own song? Maybe you need to record a phone call to someone. Perhaps you’re looking for the perfect soundtrack for a video or slideshow you created. Here’s how to record audio, depending on the source you’re recording and the type of audio you need.

Voice Recordings

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Plenty of options exist for a simple voice recording. Telephone microphones are designed to pick up the normal range of the human voice. This gives you several options for creating a voice memo on your phone. The first way is a simple answer that works no matter what type of phone you have: Leave yourself a voicemail.

If you have a smartphone, your options are expanded quite a bit. Evernote is one of my favorite program for all types of notes, including audio notes. If you’re unfamiliar with Evernote, this video will give you the basics to get started, and this video will show you how to record an audio note. Using Evernote, you can easily access your voice audio recordings from both your smartphone and PC/Mac.

Recording Phone Calls

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Recording a phone call is a little different. Every state has different laws on whether or not you need to inform the other party prior to recording a phone call and the purpose of such recording. This is why you hear a recorded warning that “this call may be recorded for quality purposes” when calling customer service. For specific information on such laws where you live, check out the Digital Media Legal Project’s phone and conversation recording page here

Once you understand the legal ramifications of your actions, you need to decide among your options. If you have a smartphone, download TapeACall Pro from iTunes for $9.99 or Auto Call Recorder from Google’s Play Store for $6.99.  These apps allow you to record phone calls from your smartphone with no extra equipment needed.

If you’re still using an old cell phone or want to record a phone call from a landline phone, the Olympus VN-702PC Voice Recorder is a great option. Simply hook it up to your phone’s headphone jack and hit record. If your phone doesn’t have a headphone jack (common in old corded phones), you’ll need an additional adapter to utilize the phone’s handset jack for call recording.

Recording Live Musical Instruments

While voice recording is easy, things get a little more complicated when recording music. This is because each instrument has unique attributes. It used to be that the only way to obtain a professional recording of a musical instrument was to pay professional fees for a professional studio with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment. Those days are long gone, but the art and science of audio recording isn’t.

Piano

The first thing you need is recording software. Macs come equipped with a home audio recording and production program called GarageBand. Find more about how to use it here. PC users aren’t as lucky with preinstalled software, but that’s okay. Regardless of what type of computer you use, Pro Tools, the software used by professional recording studios, comes free with the audio recording equipment you’ll need.

The 3 pieces of hardware needed for a professional audio recording are a microphone, mic cable, and computer interface to connect it to your computer. Professional studios use the Shure SM-57 as an all-purpose instrument microphone. It’s capable of making professional, CD-quality audio recordings from just about any instrument. You should be able to find one for $100 or less at your local music store. Otherwise, click this link to purchase one from Amazon.

You’ll also need an audio interface device. The M-Audio MobilePre is a great all-in-one solution that comes with a basic copy of Pro Tools and a USB cable to hook it up to your computer. You can purchase one from Amazon here. Once you have a mic and interface, all you need is a microphone cable to connect everything and you’re ready to start producing professional, CD-quality music recordings.

File Conversion Software

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No matter how you record your audio, chances are you’ll eventually need to convert the audio file to another format. While most recording software has options to do this, occasionally you need to play or create a file format that isn’t supported.

Audacity is the most expansive and intuitive program for this process. Download the free program from their website, and drag and drop the file you wish to convert. You can perform minor tweaks to the file and save to a large variety of the most popular audio formats.

If you’re on a public or work computer and can’t download software, learn how to convert audio files to MP3 on the web for free here.

Audio Recording Tips

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Audio recording is both an art and a science. Recording professionals go to school for 2-4 years to learn the basics, and it takes years of practice to find the exact settings and style that work for you. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Whenever possible, record each instrument with 2 microphones. This gives you 2 raw files to mix and match for the perfect sound.
  • When using multiple microphones, always ensure the distance between the microphones is 2x the distance from the closest microphone to the recording source. For example, if you’re singing into a microphone from 1 foot away, the 2nd mic needs to be 2 feet away from the 1st mic. If you don’t follow this rule, the sound recorded on each microphone will cancel each other out during playback.
  • It’s important to test the recording volume to avoid recording audio that is either too soft or too loud. As a general rule, you will not speak/play as loud during your test as you will during the actual recording, so decrease the volume by 5-10% to make up for this.
  • If you hear static during a recording, it is likely caused by the microphone being
    turned up too loud, thus cutting off the sound wave. Try turning the microphone down a little bit.
  • It’s easier to turn an audio recording down than it is to turn it up, so make sure you have the microphone turned up loud enough to obtain a quality audio recording to avoid having to redo your recording.
  • If you have any questions during the audio process, don’t be afraid to go to your local music shop and ask for assistance. Musicians are a valuable resource for information in regards to audio recording.
  • Don’t bother recording a live concert on your cell phone. Not only is it illegal, the quality won’t be anything near what you’re experiencing in person.

Know how to record, but stuck on what to record? Check out: 30 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Creativity

Featured photo credit: record player stylus on a rotating disc via Shutterstock

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