Recording a CD to sell at gigs

(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)

Save money and get just as good quality recordings WITHOUT paying expensive recording studio rates.

How to make a CD
Ok so you want to be the next pop idol and need a demo CD to send to record company execs and TV producers, or maybe you’re a working singer/entertainer who would like to produce an album to sell at your gigs.

Either way, you probably think that the only way to make a professional sounding recording is to spend fortunes hiring a large, state-of-the-art recording studio?

Well…you’d be wrong!

Read on and we’ll show you how, using your backing tracks, you can make an album at home at a fraction of the cost that a recording studio will charge you.

Recording studios are pricey
If you take a quick surf around the internet or look in the yellow pages for your area, you will probably find a dozen or more recording studios situated local to you. Their prices will vary, but generally, most charge by the hour (anything from £20 to £200 per hour depending on the studio, it’s location, and it’s facilities).

Oh yes, of course, you can save money by using your backing tracks for the music rather than paying session musicians to play on your album, but even still, the time it can take to get each vocal on each song exactly correct (not to mention the final mastering of the album) can still eat up hours and hours of expensive studio time.

You can bet that a three song demo in a local small studio will still usually end up costing you in the region of £100 to £200, and a full album can cost anything from £500 to well over £1,000 and upwards depending on the length of time you take to make the recording (and these figures are for the cheapest recording studios – a larger city centre studio will charge much more)!

So here’s a thought…

Instead of spending £1,000 to record 1 album of say 12 songs, what if you could record twice that amount – 2 albums with 15 songs on each (30 songs for half that price?

OK, let’s take it one step further…

What if you could record as many albums, and as many demos, as you wanted for a one-off price of £500. Sounds interesting?

Well, you can…

Stand-alone hard-disk recorders
By investing around £500 in a stand-alone hard-disk recording machine, you can produce as many professional, studio quality recordings as you want in the comfort of your own home, with even the most basic recording knowledge and skills.

The results will be every bit as good as you can expect from recordings made in a purpose built recording studio (probably even better, because no-one knows your own sound like you do).

Just think – no more “racing against the clock”, trying to squeeze as much recording in to a tight recording studio schedule.

No more watching your bill rise up and up by the hour like a waiting Taxi.

No more being put under pressure to lay down that perfect vocal work within a severely limited period of time.

No more being lied to by studio engineers who can’t wait to get rid of you to get the next paying customer in who tell you that the vocal is just fine when you know fine well that it’s still not right and needs another couple of hours work on it…


Now you can spend as much time as you want recording, re-recording and mixing – take as long as you need to make it perfect. You can record your vocals on the days that your voice is at its best, not the days that you happen to be booked in to a studio – after all that’s what the professionals do.

That’s why big recording stars have their own studios and/or block book a recording studio for 6 months or a year or more when they want to record an album.

Up until recently hard disk recorders where enormously expensive which meant that only professional recording studios could afford to use these machines but now all this has changed. For around £500, you can buy a stand-alone hard disk recorder which can create incredible sounding recordings all in one user friendly and accessible package.

Most have enough hard disk space to give you hundreds of hours of high quality recording (just think how much would it cost to book hundreds of hours in a recording studio!) and 8, 16 or 32 tracks of simultaneous recording, built-in digital mixer, effects like reverb and echo etc and a CD Writer for you to produce your mastered recording.

If you are a gigging singer or musician you probably already have a microphone, backing tracks, and a MP3 player or minidisc that you use for gigs and these then are all you need to produce that fantastic new album.

Just think of the extra money you will make selling your CD at gigs!

How to record your album
Connect your MP3 player or minidisc or whatever machine you use to play your backing tracks to channels 1 and 2 of the hard-disk recorder. Then connect your microphone to channel 3.

Connect a set of headphones and sing along with your backing track as normal while recording all three channels simultaneously.

If you make a mistake, go back to the beginning and start again, or if you want, you could just plug your microphone into the next free channel (after all you’ll have 8 channels or more available) and record your vocal again.

At the end of it you can use whichever vocal sounded best or you could mix different tracks – ie use, say, the first verse and chorus that you recorded on to channel 3 and the second verse and ending from say channel 5 or 6.

Add effects to your vocal using the in-built reverb, echo etc or if you’re really adventurous, play around with the other effects like chorus FX (to thicken up the vocal) or compression FX (to tighten up the whole sound and give it more balance). We’ll be looking at recording techniques in more depth in a future article.

When you’re happy with your songs and you have produced enough to make a full album, use the in-built CD-writer to make a master CD.

All you then need to do is make copies of the CD, which you can do on your home PC, and design and print the inserts (artwork) for the CD label and jewel case.

You probably already have publicity photographs of yourself which you can use on the CD cover and there are many good CD labelling software programmes with lots of really cool templates which will make designing your CD cover a breeze!

Make a “live” recording
Want to know the secret of how big stars record “live” albums?

Well, despite what you think, they don’t do it in one night as you would expect.

Instead, they take the recording equipment on tour with them and record their show EVERY night.

Then, at the end of the tour, they listen to every song from every nights performance and keep the best ones to put on their “live” album.

And you can do the same.

Use your hard-disk recorder to record your own performance at every gig over, say, a two or three week period, and then make a compilation of the best results – hey presto, you’ve just produced your first “live” album!

There is so much more you can do with a hard-disk recorder and in this article we have only scratched the surface. Making a “live” CD is a quick and easy way to produce an album and there is also an added advantage that audiences love it when they get home and hear exactly what they heard at your gig. Many singers albums are “over-produced” and just don’t sound ‘real’ which is a often a big disappointment.

Try experimenting too. You may find that you can give a better vocal performance when you record “live” rather than in the confines of a small room or studio.

Make money!
Once you’ve mastered the art of recording with your hard-disk recorder, you’ve sold lots of albums at your gigs, and are making a nice tidy extra income on top of your gig money, why not use it to make yourself even more money by recording for others?

There are lots of local acts out there who would love to cut an album but don’t have enough money to hire a large recording studio.

Offer to produce their album for them – after all, you have all the necessary recording equipment required to produce a CD and the necessary software on your PC to design and print the inserts, copy the CD’s etc.

Why not go along to one of their gigs with your hard-disk recorder under your arm and record them “live”. The next day you can present them with a demo of the recording (tip* don’t give them the full songs, just about 1 minute of each as a “taster”) and then offer to make a full recording for them, or sell them the full recording you made the night before!