A Syllabus to Learn How to Record Your Own Music

A Syllabus to Learn How to Record Your Own Music

You’re ready to start your journey of learning to record music. How bout a handy list of topics you’re going to want to research one at a time :)

No matter which recording software (DAW) you decide to use, there are basic principles to recording music that apply to all of them. Once you Set Up Your Home Studio and have your DAW ready, here is a list of the essential principles of recording that you will need to learn. This is a suggested syllabus that YOU will research one principle at a time, on your own. I say it over and over: figure out how to figure things out.

Learn how to learn things and you will be fearless.

I recommend you take one topic at a time, and research through Youtube, Google, etc. for the basics on each subject for your DAW. Get familiar with these principles and you’ll be well on your way to making money in music.

  1. Mix window vs. Edit window

    (in Logic, or Pro Tools, etc… search for these topics for your specific DAW)

  2. Creating tracks in your DAW. Track types: audio, instrument, aux, click, master fader.

  3. Gain levels and mic technique. The proper input level that sound should be recorded at, and how a mic should be positioned and sang or played into.

  4. The Transport Window: How to enable recording, press play, stop, loop playback, and change tempo.

  5. I/O: aka input/output settings

    Sound going into computer, and sound coming out of speakers

  6. Inserts

    Putting plugins(effects) like reverb (short room reflections) or delay (repeating echoes) onto a track

  7. Signal Flow/Path (the most important concept to learn)

    The path where the sound travels within the DAW. Understanding how to control the path of sound. This involves thoroughly understanding the types of tracks and the terms: buss, input, output, send, and insert, which can sometimes feel like they’re all the same thing (they’re not). Give yourself lots of time to learn Signal Flow, and how you should be setting up your tracks within your digital session.

  8. Types of Plugins

    Start with: EQ, Compression, Limiter, Gate, De-esser, Stereo Imager, Multi-band Compression, Tuning

    Reverb, Delay, Chorus, Saturation (aka distortion or drive), Pitch and Time Shift, Reverse… (it’s endless)

  9. Where to Insert Different Types of Plugins

    Hint: Time based plugins (reverb/delay fx- they respond to the tempo the session is set to) generally live on an Aux track, and you’ll use a “send” to send some of the audio (controlled by a fader) to the effect to generate a certain amount of the effect.

    Non time based fx can live on the audio track itself. The important ones are EQ, Compression, and if it’s vocals, a De-esser.

    The plugins that you place on the Master Fader will effect everything in the session as a whole, so you never want to put reverb and special fx like distortion on a master fader. Just Mastering type plugins like very minimal EQ, Multi-band Compression, and Limiters.

  10. Editing tools: trim, selector, fade, crossfade, multitool

  11. Grid Modes:

    Grid, slip, spot, shuffle. also setting grid to bars/beats (bar, half note, 1/4 note etc.), min/sec, or samples (a small unit of time).

  12. (Important) Basics of Editing

    Comping, trimming, fades and crossfades. It’s so important to have clean edits.

  13. Basics of Mixing. Basics of Mastering.

  14. CPU Usage Optimization and Delay Compensation

    Chances are you will experience your computer slowing down or a recording sounding like it’s late. This is because the plugins require lots of power, and as a result your recordings might have a lag, or when you speak into the mic it’ll sound like your voice repeats back to you a milisecond later. Spend a little time research the nature of this beast.

  15. Bouncing (aka, rendering your session into a single mp3, wav, or aiff file).

    Get an understanding of sample and bit rate, and mono vs interleaved as well.

  16. Bouncing Stems

    For my Studio Musicians and Vocalists who will be working on Soundbetter, Airgigs, etc. This is crucial to deliver final files to your clients.

  17. Quick Keys

    You’ll likely be learning short cut keys along the way (such as Command S = Save, instead of going File—> Save). Something huge to note: there are a ton of quick keys. So many that you very well might accidentally use one and not intend to, causing a who knows why what happened wtf type of situation. Which brings me to my last point:

  18. Troubleshooting

    Just have a humble affinity to accepting when things go wrong, and know that you have the power to figure things out and fix them. Trouble sniper you are! Youtube is our bestest friend, but sometimes she’s distracted and we just gotta try to rephrase things til she gives us the right result. Try typing things in search bars and rephrasing them in way til you find results that might be what your problem is. Gearspace is a forum that people help each other solve problems on (and or just like to hear themselves talk, but eh, you can get answers there sometimes), as is Reddit.

    I don’t have kids yet, but I can’t wait to teach them how to figure things out. Maybe I’m overly excited about this epiphany, but when I had the thought to figure out how to figure things out, new universes just opened up for me. If you have a question, tirelessly pursue its answer. Magic.


While you’re diving in on these subjects you will discover the endless possibilities that recording technology offers. You’ll learn the effective rules, and you’ll play with how it feels to bend them. Always remember to breathe and smile, and celebrate each understanding as a major victory. The ability to record yourself will open more doors than you can imagine.

Want more in depth help? I offer general consulting office hours here.

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