La la la la… that’s it! My sure-fire global viral hit. I can’t let this idea slip away through my fingers!
What really counts at these moments is the preservation of the inspiration, not the quality of the recording. We’re not all recording engineers. When inspiration strikes and you want to capture that idea, time is precious.
Obviously, there are all kinds of details involved in recording audio well, but you really don’t want to worry about tech specs too much when you need to grab that off-the-chain chorus idea. So, what to do?
One way is the smartphone. That’s a great option and the recorder you’re most likely to have on hand.
Likely, you will need to dive into menus or even sub-menus before you can record, but smartphones are still very convenient. After a while, you’ll realize that the cool riff you made up might morph into something a lot less stellar as you navigate menus. Take the time to know the settings and know where they are.
If you can save settings as a preset, do so. Determine settings and set them, leave them set up as the default settings so they’re ready to use at the drop of a hat, and you’re good to go. Google can help if you are unsure of settings options for your device.
If you don’t have a smartphone, there are quite a few impressive voice-activated recorders that fit in your pocket and don’t cost much. They can sound fantastic – performing much like your own personal sound engineer in your pocket!
There are a number of excellent portable recorders these days, both audio and video. I use Zoom, and I highly recommend them. There are several models, and it depends on whether you want to video yourself as well as capture the audio. You can find them at your local music store or online. Maybe wear one around your neck on a lanyard, and leave it on all the time as you sing or play.
Modern portable recorders are also great tools for revealing more about your performance skills, so don’t just use them to capture ideas! Use them to see how much you have improved, and whether the audience liked that bridge section you changed at the gig. Yes, they record gigs too! Maybe a tablet can be used, check your tablet manual. The choices seem endless these days for audio recording methods and devices..
It’s important not to overload the input of the microphone(s) in the recorder you use.
There should be a bargraph input meter, vertical or horizontal, or perhaps even a backlit VU meter of some sort. Check that your recorder is in input monitor mode, so that you can see the incoming sounds moving the meter display. Aim for a level a few dB below the 0dBFS mark on the meter, which will be shown with a zero. That way, you’ll be loud enough for a good recording you might reuse later in another session, but not so loud as to distort the sounds recorded.
Some folks have trouble demystifying audio recording parameters, and if you feel you are in that camp, then you may find making the choice of simple stereo WAV files with any auto-gain setting ON is your best bet for a simple, trouble-free recording with these gadgets.
Bigger numbers for bit-depth are noticeably better in quality and allow greater dynamic range. You should choose the 24-bits settings when generating WAV or AIFF files for best results at 44.1kHz.
There are higher spec recordings you could select, but it’s not necessary for capturing quick ideas. It would be best to settle for 16-bit/44.1kHz files. 16-bit/44.1kHz is still a good sound yet is smaller than a 24-bit version. These are ideas, not records. Yet, since it’s the same potential for sound quality as a commercial audio CD, any ideas you record at 16-bit/44.1kHz will be easy to import into a higher-resolution DAW session in ProTools, Reaper or any other DAW.
Capturing your ideas quickly makes for enhanced connections directly to the unconscious mind! Make the most of it with a little preparation, and happy songwriting!