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Record Music on a Budget: Part 1 Beginner

It's 2023, the tools to record audio, whether it's podcasts or songs, are wildly accessible. Below, I will provide three levels of set-ups from simple to complex, as well as the foundational components that each level has in common.


  • Audio Software

DAWS (digital audio workstations) are the computer programs you use to record and edit audio. Unless you're trying to be a recording professional, the only difference you need to worry about it the price tag. Some options are Studio One, Garage Band, Pro-tools, Abelton, etc.

  • Audio Interface

This is a piece of hardware that connects your microphone to your computer. The biggest difference to note when choosing an interface is how many inputs it has. If you're recording a guitar and a vocal, you only need one or two inputs. Recording drums? Shoot to get one with four to eight inputs.

  • Headphones

Literally use any headphones. You'll want to hear yourself, your tempo track, and any other tracks or recorded layers you are trying to play along to.

  • Microphone (& Cables)

Pretty obvious, the thing that captures your sound. There are a million details you can get lost comparing between microphones, but all you need a cheap basic condenser microphone. It's 2023, quality is not really a problem. Same go for XLR cables. Don't buy a cable that's more than $10. Anything else is a scam.


Just starting out, on a budget, only need to record one or two tracks at a time.

  • Audio Software

Just pick any free DAW. A quick google search suggests

  1. Audacity Free, open-source DAW

  2. Garage band Literally comes on every Mac

  3. Ableton Lite A truly great DAW. Limited features, but can step up into full version in the future

Speaking of google, you'll be able to find tutorials teaching you how to use any of the above DAWS with a simple search.

  • Audio Interface

Make sure it has the right connection for your computer (USB, USB-C, Thunderbolt, etc.) and has phantom power (+48v) to power a condenser microphone, and you're good to go. Below are my picks if I were starting out today.

  1. Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 ($69 new / $50 used) Single channel, standard USB, Phantom Power

  2. PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 ($100 new / $55 used) Two channel, standard USB, Phantom Power

  3. Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen ($129 new / $100 used) Two channel, standard USB, Phantom Power

Browse to find discounted used gear. Just watch out for shipping costs. Not sponsored, just a fan of the platform.

  • Microphone (& Cables)

Literally any microphone that is over $60 new is a good enough microphone. When microphones sound bad, it's almost always because they were positioned bad, or were mixed bad. Don't over think it when you start out. My low budget faves are

  1. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ USB Microphone ($79 new) This one is cool because you don't even need an interface. It's USB straight into you computer.

  2. PreSonus M7 Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone ($69 new) A solid brand. Probably a trade off in quality at this low a price point, but nothing a little EQ couldn't fix I'm sure.

  3. AKG P120 Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone ($99 new) If you can record yourself with proper techniques, you could definitely send tracks from this mic off to be mixed and released. Speaking from experience with this one.

Browse to find discounted used gear. Just watch out for shipping costs. Not sponsored, just a fan of the platform.


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