A Musician's Guide: Recording in an Apartment

A Musician's Guide: Recording in an Apartment

August 03, 2018 | How To

There’s nothing like going to see your favorite band in concert and hearing them sound just like they did on their last CD. Sure, there may be minor differences, and guitar solos may vary, but you heard what you came to hear. It can be disconcerting, however, if the concert band sounds totally different than the recording. How does this happen? And, if you want to record your band in your apartment, is there anything you need to do to ensure that the result will sound the way you want it to?

What Happens in the Studio?

In the old Chess records days, the entire band was put in a room and songs were recorded live. They may have used two or four track recording, but all musicians played together with minimal overdubs. Since all the instruments and the vocals bled together, it was very difficult to isolate the drums, for example, and subsequently fix mistakes and remove unwanted noise. Sure, the Chess recording engineers were able to add slap back and maybe some primitive echo effects, but that was about it. What was heard in the studio was pressed on the record.

Different Today

Studio recording is radically different today. Individual musicians can be placed in different rooms, so their particular instrument is able to be recorded on its own track. A guitar player, for example, could listen to his or her solo, feel that it is inadequate, and decide to re-record it. The engineers merely have to delete the instrument from the mix, and the artist is then free to re-record the offending part. This is the definition of overdubbing, and the technique can be used to repair flaws and errors. This can be done with any instrument in addition to vocals.

Furthermore, some parts can be added later. A musician can send a recorded song to a horn section, for example, and the horn parts can be added after the fact, even though the horn musicians were never in attendance at the initial recording.


With today’s technology, even wrong vocal notes can be smoothed out using a pitch correction program, and other detected mistakes can be corrected. There is, however, controversy within the recording community because some members feel that computer-generated corrections are “cheating.” Others go farther and feel that the studio should be used only for recording the real sound of a band and not used for additions, subtractions, error fixing, and overdubs.

At Home

Rather than worry about your acoustics at home, the easiest way to turn your, let’s say, affordable Denver apartment into a recording studio is to use a program like Pro Tools or Logic, and use MIDI device that allows you to record directly to your PC. Instruments like guitars, bass and keyboards can be wired to record right into your computer without the worry of bleeding background noise like outdoor traffic or barking dogs—although we’ve all heard tracks where the barking dog was left in! You will have to be more careful with vocals, and if you use live drums instead of electronic drums, you’ll have to minimize competing noises.

With practice, you can get a great recording done at home. You can also try the old-school method, and put your band in the living room and turn on the mic. You might be amazed at the result.

And don’t forget to grab an awesome playback device or music accessories while you’re at it!

Dylan Monroe
Dylan Monroe

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