Recording audio at home

This step-by-step guide will help you achieve great results with everyday equipment to record your voice or instrument

1. Choose your location

This will have a huge impact on your recording's quality and it's worth considering...

  • Background noise - avoid recording near windows and noisy home appliances
  • Echo - avoid rooms with hard floors and surfaces, and use cushions or pillows to dampen the room's natural reverberation

2. Select a recording device

Most smartphones, tablets and home computers come with an inbuilt audio recorder app or programme

Apple Mac

  • To locate apps click the magnifying glass icon (top right hand corner of screen) and search for the app
  • Newer models will contain the 'Voice Memos' app
  • Alternatively use 'QuickTime Player' - in the app click 'File' and 'New Audio Recording'

Windows PC

  • To locate apps click 'Start' and search for the app
  • Newer models will contain the 'Voice Recorder' app
  • For older models use the 'Sound Recorder' app

Android device

  • The 'Recorder' app is in 'Tools'

Apple IOS device

  • The 'Voice Memos' app is often in 'Utilities'

I can’t find any of these apps! 

  • If you do not have these on your device, visit your app store where many free audio recording apps will be available 

3. Microphone preparation 

It's likely that you're using a device with an inbuilt microphone, to get the best results from this...

It's not always clear where the microphone is located - do a test recording speaking into every side / end of the device - play this back and the clearest, loudest recording is the side or end that contains the microphone

Here is a rough guide for where to place your microphone

  Distance to device Placement recommendation
Vocals 50cm focused just off direction of the mouth
Brass 50cm in front of the player, just off direction of the bell (for forward facing brass)
Woodwind 50cm focused toward the bottom of the instrument (not directly at the bell)
Strings 100cm focused toward the instrument's body
Percussion 50cm directly toward the instrument
Piano 100cm centrally placed either over or in front of the instrument

Use a piece of furniture or pile of books to position the device in the best location for your instrument and in the case of a home computer, if possible adjust your position in relation to the device's microphone

For smartphones and tablets, unplug headphones and chargers

Remove device cases as they may muffle the inbuilt microphone

4. Do a test

Have a play with your device and see how it works, both whilst recording and playing back

If your test recording sounds distorted or too distant, adjust your distance from the microphone

Metronome or backing track?
Use a separate device to play this audio through headphones

5. The recording

Are the numbers rolling?
Most recording devices display the duration of recording in minutes and seconds, always check that the numbers are counting before starting to perform your piece

It's sometimes handy to say your name, the piece's title and recording date at the beginning of the recording

5 seconds
Wait 5 seconds after starting a recording to begin your performance and do the same at the end before stopping the recording

We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.