Your introduction to audio recording process!

Welcome to the wonderful world of home audio recording! The recording process is an exciting journey filled with art, fulfillment, and satisfaction. More specifically, the process is the required steps required to make finished recording - a CD or other music release.

The steps in the recording process may vary from project to project. It depends on what your end goal is. For the most part though, the following steps will get you on the path to successful recording!

So where do I start? Wait no longer!

For the most popular recording--a CD--here is the basic recording process I recommend:

  • Choose your equipment
  • Mic placement & technique
  • Record the songs
  • Do any mixing needed
  • Do any mastering needed
  • Get your copyright permissions
  • Replicate your discs!
Let's look at each one of these briefly.

Choose your equipment

While this is not an action step in the recording process, it is utterly important to get the right equipment.

There is a lot of recording equipment available, for a lot of different uses. By defining your needs you can soon decide what you need and what you don't need!

Some of the things you might need are:

  • Computer
  • Audio interface
  • Computer software
  • Digital recording console
  • Mixer
  • Microphones
  • Mic stands
  • Microphone preamp
  • Headphones
Wow, that looks like quite a list! Don't worry, it isn't quite as bad as it seems! You won't need all of the things listed.

For more help on what you will need, see recording-equipment.

Mic placement and technique

What makes the difference between different recordings? Why do some CD's sound better than others?

The answer lies in various places, but one of the important answers is mic placement.

Mic placement is how you position your microphones in relation to the instrument or voice. Technique is the general strategy used in mic placement.

Where you put your mics while recording will make a big difference in the sound you get. You can just plunk a mic down and record, but a little experimentation can go a long way in getting a better sound.

Learn more about mics here.

Record the songs

OK, the moment of truth! This is one of the most exciting parts of recording, when you actually record the tracks to disk!

Before you do this, make sure you accurately follow the previous steps to get the best sound possible...

You have quality mics, placed in excellent strategic positions. You will be recording with excellent equipment (digital recording console or computer). Now, just push the record button!

Sit back, and enjoy the wonder of it all!

When you are done, go back and listen to it again! Enjoy this feeling!

At this stage, you are in the heart of the recording process. This is the heat of the battle, but keep on going!

But, what if something doesn't work? Is everything plugged in the right place? Why doesn't my computer recognize the sound card?

Problems like these will occur, so get ready for them. In the future, I will add articles to help troubleshoot these questions.


When you are baking a cake, you take the ingredients (like flour and sugar) and mix them together to make the chocolate cake. Everything gets mixed together, and out comes a beautiful cake (or sound).

That is what audio mixing is about too. Only now you're dealing with audio tracks instead of eggs and baking powder.

There are a lot of things you can do when mixing besides just combining 4 outputs into 1. You can...

  • adjust the levels of each track
  • adjust the panning of each track
  • add effects to each track
This is where audio engineers spend most of their time during the whole recording process. To learn more, see the mixing.


What is mastering? That is a kind of subjective question, different people interpret it different ways.

Basically, mastering means the process of putting the final touches on your mix to make it ready to sell. It is one of the final steps in the recording process.

This can entail subtle eq work, compression, and a touch of reverb, as well as adjusting the levels of each individual track to you can't hear a difference when you're listening to the CD.

The goal is to make the end result work well together.

Usually, a mastering engineer does this. They have years of experience, and know how to get what they want - not to mention they have the equipment they need!

Does this mean you can't do it?

No, not at all - but you should think seriously about having someone else do it. It will cost more, but you will get high quality results.

For more info on DIY mastering or other questions, see learn-mastering.


What? Why do I need copyright permission?!

If you record a song that you or your client did not write, you probably need copyright permission to produce that CD.

The technical term for this permission is a mechanical license. That allows you to make recordings of songs you did not write.

Another copyright issue is that of IPR, or intellectual property rights. If you or your client recorded the sounds, instrument and voice tracks, you own the IPR for that. But if you are using a drum sample on a song, you need to get permission to use that in the recording.

Normally, if you are doing a project for a client, it is their responsibility to get the necessary permissions. However, to add an extra service to your recording studio, you could offer these services.

Remember, this is something that needs to be done. Don't skip this important step.


The last step in the recording process is replication. What is replication? It means having copies made of your CDs. Duplication is another word that means almost the same, but with slight differences.

In duplication, the music is burned onto blank CDs. This is usually used for small runs, like 25 - 500 CDs. From 500 on up in quantity, it is usually more cost effective to go the replication route.

In replication, the process is different. They take your master copy and make a glass copy. From this, they stamp out your new CDs. The bottoms are silver and it looks a bit more professional.

It is more expensive in quantities under 1000, but can be done for just $1 or $2 a disc nowadays. If you can, I recommend you get them replicated. In my opinion, it seems more professional.

There. That's it!

Now, all you have to do is give the CDs to your client, or start marketing it if it's yours!

This recording process is a very rewarding process, but can be very frustrating. It takes time and perseverance, but when you get that final CD, you get a wonderful sense of satisfaction and pride in a job well done!

Now, what are you waiting on? You've got the basic recording process ideas down, so get out there and get it done!

Need help deciding what to record with? Choosing mics for your recording process. 

About the Author Lee Weaver

Lee started his career in recording with an auspicious goal - record tracks of his own voice singing in harmony. As a hobby project, it didn't have the funding to go to a studio and pay for someone to do it for him. Like many of you, he pulled himself up by the bootstraps to learn the art of recording.

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