I would like to start recording my band practices. Current configuration is bass, guitar, and drums. I would like to record individual tracks to my computer so that we can add other parts, work on vocal lines, splice jams together in to full songs, etc. I figure that will require a mic for guitar, 3 for the drums, and mic or DI for the bass.

What I'm missing is the piece of hardware that sits between the mics and my computer. What do I need there? How do I evaluate different options? What affects sound quality? Do I need a built in mic pre-amp to mic up an amp? What am I not asking because I'm a recording n00b?

Also, I'd like to do this on a budget. We're not trying to cut a demo, but what are the trade offs associated with price? We're all good musicians with good ears, what should we avoid skimping on so that we don't just end up getting frustrated?

I cross posted to Sound Design, as I wasn't sure where this really belonged.

  • since you haven't mentioned any, I guess you're also missing the piece of software.
    – slim
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 9:14
  • @slim, I have reaper and audacity. I also see that a lot of these interfaces come with a DAW, so I wasn't really worried about that aspect.
    – yossarian
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 15:40
  • Not every DAW allows simultaneous recording from multiple inputs. I don't know which ones do -- it would be nice to know.
    – slim
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 15:42
  • @slim, really? Any that I've ever used do. Both Audacity and Reaper certainly support it. Maybe that's a restriction that companies put on their entry level DAWs?
    – yossarian
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 16:05
  • 1
    Yossarian - the cross post now over on Sound has been better received and has good answers. I'm tempted to close it here and leave the better one there.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 8:37

3 Answers 3


I think this would belong more on the audio site. However, what you're looking for is an audio interface. You can get them ranging from 1 to maybe 10 inputs, possibly more. As the number of inputs go up, so does the price, in a big way. Also, with mic's, you may get some bleed of other instruments into the mics unless you've got a really nice setup with a way to separate the musicians. I would imagine you would get more useful and specific advice to your situation on the audio.se though. Good luck!

  • This is a practice question so I think it does belong here.
    – JPM
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 18:13
  • @JPM, seems to me the question is about the missing hardware for recording, this isn't about how to practice an instrument. Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 11:33

I suggest you get a stand-alone multi-track recorder like the Zoom R16. In stand-alone mode it is a simple 16-track playback, 8-track simultaneous recording device. It can also be used as an 8-input audio interface connected by USB to your computer, and is generally bundled with a lite version of Cubase.

If you record 'live' using microphones - all instruments playing at once - you will get leakage between tracks. The sort of surgical manipulation and editing you read about in the home studio magazines may not be practical. That takes perfectly isolated tracks, probably recorded individually against a click. Not a terribly musical way of working, and an invitation for everyone to over-play. It can work well for very experienced musicians who know exactly what their part should be and when NOT to play. The rest of us end up spending hours doing 'remedial mixing' and timing correction.


It depends on whether your setup is part of the band PA or not. For pure recording, a recording interface (or standalone recorder) with enough microphone inputs is needed. In my experience, if you buy second-hand, the typical old Firewire interface works more reliably than the typical old USB interface. In any case, check driver support.

If your setup is part of the band PA, you want to have a mixer with a suitable number of recording outputs (or a built-in computer interface: I am using a Mackie 1620 with Firewire card). Insert connectors can be used for recording as well but are lower quality than balanced outputs. What do you record with? See the first paragraph, just that you don't need microphone inputs on your recording equipment then.

There also is the option of recording only the band mix from the mixer in which case you'll get along with 2-track recording (for which handheld recorders or even tapedecks are reasonably useful) but lose the ability to fix the results afterwards. Still good for control recordings, but not the best option for listeners other than yourselves.

The software for doing mixes is called a "Digital Audio Workstation". Quite a few soundcards with multiple inputs come with some trial version of one. A free one is Ardour (in my opinion best under GNU/Linux but also supported for a few other operating systems).

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