Updated: Feb 26
If you are learning how to play an instrument, or even if you are an advanced player already, you will certainly learn the benefits of recording your self playing as often as you can.
Many are the benefits of recording yourself playing, and here are a few:
You will have a tangible way to assess if you are playing correctly
It gives you a great sense of achievement
You can share your progress with your teacher if learning remotely
So here I would like to explore easy ways in which you can achieve this. Many players who are not familiar with recording technology view this as something complex that can only be done in professional studios. This is simply not true anymore, and I will give you the tools to get started today.
First option: go mobile
Keep it simple is the message here. If you have a busy life and therefore limited time to practice your instrument, you want to just pick it up and play. And you want the recording process to be simple and seamless.
The easiest way is to leverage on your phone or tablet, which are perfectly capable of recording your instrument. If you are a guitar or bass player, please check this article where I describe options to connect your guitar to an iPhone or an iPad.
In essence, my recommendation if you have an iPhone or an iPad is to use an Apogee Jam, which is by far the best mobile guitar interface I've tested to date. And then leverage on the fact that these devices have Garage Band installed for free.
Garage band will allow you not only to record, but also set a metronome for practice, jam with drum sounds and other instrument loops, and even save your project for further production steps.
Second option: go bundle
If you are a guitar player for example, you probably have to invest in a decent guitar amplifier. This is not a mandatory step however, as I've seen many players rely on guitar apps at the beginning, and then switch to amp modelling, thus never really going down the plain guitar amp route. But a bundle like the Boss Katana series will allow you to have a small practice amp that also doubles up as a USB audio interface for your computer. So you can use it to practice in a more 'traditional' way, but also as your only audio interface for recording.
Keyboard players can for example leverage on the simplicity of MIDI controllers which allow them to record into virtually any DAW (digital audio workstation).
In relation to the first option, this has a bit more cost involved, and it's less mobile. But it would give you a platform to complete your music production: you could be recording straight into Pro Tools, Logic Pro X or equivalent, and then following on with the full production of your song from there.
Third option: go pro
Now the more advanced option is to invest in a professional audio interface for your studio, which will be able to record not only your instrument but also vocals if you also get a microphone. If you are a guitar or bass player and don't have a separate amp, you would have to turn on your computer and use software or a DAW hosting plugins every time you want to play. So most likely you will want to have a small practice amp as well as the interface.
Times have changed, professional interfaces are cheap these days; my top pick in this category is the Focusrite Scarlett solo.
Like the previous one, this option will also allow you to record yourself playing straight into a DAW and even allows you to record other instruments and have a full music production studio going.
Note: if you play keyboards or piano, you could get a MIDI controller with MIDI via USB, which does not require an audio interface to work with your favourite DAW. That way you can get to your recording goal with the minimum investment possible.
There are easy and relatively inexpensive ways to record yourself playing and you should start as soon as possible. The benefits for your playing are multiple, and you might as well start getting into the music production cycle as well as one thing leads to the other.