What instrument(s) do you record yourself when making music

I read a few posts by David @olofson about becoming more and more…let’s say “bored” with sample libraries and plugins. And more and more attracted to the idea of recording instruments and sounds for your music compositions.

So I would love to know…what instruments and sounds do you usually record and add into your compositions? :slight_smile:

Guitar, violin, vocals, triangle, cow bell? :stuck_out_tongue:


I play guitar and just started taking piano lessons


Ah guitar is nice, but when you say piano I assume you record with MIDI keyboard?

I was wondering what instruments all you guys record, as in audio signal or microphone into the DAW…for the most expressive and “human” feel.

I have become more attracted to this idea myself, but I currently don’t have any other instruments (well a few shakers and stuff but that’s it). :stuck_out_tongue:


Ahhh yes it is a MIDI keyboard
Otherwise, just the guitar and occasionally a bass


Well, keyboard and other MIDI contraptions, mainly - but vocals have happened, and simple violin and cello parts have started happening.

I’m hoping to add some operatic singing to my repertoire soon, and as far as “microphone based” singing is concerned, I’ve gained an extra two octaves in the low end, so that might be fun to play around with.

And… Somehow, my leisurely search for an “ok” viola led to my favorite luthier offering me one of his best violas to date at a price that should be considered symbolic for an instrument of this caliber. I feel unworthy, and in slight shock, but this is a dream come true, and I will certainly try my best to eventually make this instrument sing the way it deserves.

So, yeah. I guess there will be viola parts as well in the future. :slight_smile:


Your new “motivation spark” on genuine performances have got ideas in my head David lol. I am even looking at the Thomann music store at potential instruments to buy. Something I always wanted to do is music videos on my YouTube channel, but I need something to perform to make an interesting music video! :stuck_out_tongue:

Bowed strings are all beautiful, but man, they seem so hard to learn well. I guess electric guitar would be the main choice for me to go for since I have a huge passion for “power guitars”, metal etc. Even though I know it takes a lot of time to learn too of course.

Another instrument that I have had my eye on are Irish whistles, seems “easy” enough to learn, and even has that added “nerd” factor which I can relate too. :smiley:

PS. I want to start recording my own vocals too. Perhaps best to start with background vocals first, and build from there. :slight_smile:


I think it can add a lot of life and expression to just add any random real instruments, (or even various other objects), and that can certainly be an easy and rewarding way to get started. This 2-hour challenge guy, Ben Burnes, has a box of toys, and various instruments he uses - and his cats get sampled every now and then as well. :smiley:

Well, I have to say some aspects of the bowed strings have turned out to not be as difficult as I expected - and vice versa. Either way, there is a lot that needs to be going on, all at once, in a very controlled manner, before you can get anything remotely musical and expressive out of them, so one should probably expect at least a few years of regular, determined practice to get to the point of actually recording anything with the “typical” tone, vibrato etc one expects from these instruments. Also not sure about cello vs violin; for example, violin vibrato is difficult due to the delicate balance of tension (and mostly lack thereof) and motion, whereas the inital obstacle with the cello is basically having anything much happen at all, unless you have very big and strong fingers. Same with the bow; playing softly on the violin in a controlled manner (especially with vibrato) takes years to learn, while strong, clear notes on the cello is almost equally difficult due to the weight and size of everything, and the extreme tendency to scratch if you don’t get the bowing just right.

But, words cannot describe the satisfaction when you finally start getting it right every once in a while! Worth every moment of frustrating exercises, aching fingers and whatnot, at least to me. Giving up on these instruments is simply not an option for me at this point. :slight_smile:

Anyway, there are many other pretty expressive instruments that aren’t nearly as difficult to get started with. Maybe it’s even a better idea to start with those, actually? What I realized here is that, once you get bow, vibrato etc under some level of control, you hit the next problem: What do you actually do with it!? And this applies to ALL forms of expressive playing, even samples with modwheel expression. If you can’t breathe life into sampled strings with the modwheel, you’re certainly not going to do it with the real instruments, or with your voice. I think it’s all basically the same underlying “mechanics,” and what you have to do to actually make it happen is “just” technique.


I don’t have an ideal space for actual live recoding other than direct line0in electric guitar, which I’ve been playing for 25 years. The thing is though, I find it very fun to learn to play many instruments, even if not very well. As orchestral composers it only helps to know how instruments are played, so you can write for them more idiosyncratically.

I do have a violin that I mess around with (I’d like to get better at it) and one of my local music stores has student clarinets and flutes for dumb cheap, so I’d like to get those to mess with. I also used to play trumpet when I was a kid, so I have an idea how all brass work–my niece plays trombone as well. I’d really like to learn French horn, cello and bassoon, but I need to find a different place where I can set up a more sound-proof studio.


Speaking of brass, every now and then, I find myself fighting the urge to acquire a flügelhorn. I have succeeded, so far… :smiley:

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My imagined heaven is a room full of every kind of instrument and all the time in the world to goof around with them. Keyboard is my main instrument, but I have recorded parts myself with acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, banjo, upright piano, and trombone.

At times I’ve gone outside of the box and recorded parts with things like a giant wine jug, spoons, glasses of water, and one time a near empty 500 gallon propane tank.

I’ve recorded my own voice on vocals and sound effects. And I’ve done foley for a few films I helped make.

Someday, I’d like to get a good portable digital audio recorder that I can take with me everywhere to capture environmental sounds that can be turned into samples.


You know, I should add that it would awesome to get my hands on a Japanese Shamisen and Koto–I love the sound of those instruments, but they are soooo expensive sine they are all hand-made by traditional luthiers. Just the bachi (pick-thingy) for a shamisen is like $3000 :scream:

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Oh, yeah…! Amazing instruments. Such “bite” and clarity in those timbres… I’ve also looked a bit at traditional Chinese instruments (bowed strings in particular, of course), but the good ones are about as expensive as any fine handmade instruments.

Oh! On that note, it’s kind of obvious that you could potentially play any sort of repertoire on any bowed strings instruments, technically, but… check out this performance:

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…Wow. I mean you couldn’t have picked a better piece—it’s my fav Saint-Saëns piece. If I didn’t see this video, I probably wouldn’t have know it was an erhu, or something like that. That’s incredible!

Yeah, I’m a big fan of Japanese metal band Unlucky Morpheus and they have a virtuoso violinist, Jill, as part of the band and they recently are doing instrumental versions of some classic rock/metal songs from Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen and Dream Theater, doing many of the guitar solos on violin. It’s really great to hear how music written for one instrument can be played on another in the hands of a great player an it doesn’t lose it’s musical quality. It’s funny, because I’ve always been trying to do Beethoven’s 5th on guitar, heavy metal style!


That’s awesome! It has crossed my mind many times that there are so many similarities between these virtuosic guitar solos, and the corresponding crazy violin gymnastics of the past - to me, they seem to be basically the same thing, just different time periods, and different instruments. Haven’t really done any actual research on that, but it’s a relief to know that I’m clearly not the only one seeing the connection. :slight_smile:


Yeah, you’re spot on. My guitar style is generally referred to as “Neo-classical metal” and the essence of it is essentially Bach meets heavy metal. It’s really quite astonishing just how well late Baroque and Classical era music and heavy metal are like two sides of the same coin. There is another Japanese band (they love their neo-classical stuff!) call Galneryus who wrote a 15 minute epic power metal song called, “Angel of Salvation,” in which they basically rearranged Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in D for heavy metal and the guitarist actually plays some of the solo violin parts note-for-note, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear it was just any regular shredding guitar solos!


I was considering getting a concert flute and learning how to play, but then I saw the price of those things! :stuck_out_tongue:

So I will probably now go for an Irish whistle, perhaps a low register one as well to cover a wider range. Those are still fairly cheap, at least compared to any orchestral woodwind instrument.


Yep, I’ve been looking at orchestral woodwinds too… :smiley: Considering the number of parts, and the precision required for a good instrument, I think the prices are pretty much what one would expect.

And, while there are certainly less expensive, “factory made” instruments in most categories, I’m not sure one should really bother with those, or at least be very aware that they will not feel and respond much like the professional level ones, and may not even be capable of some of the things that considered defining features of the instruments. I’m kind of worried that a lot of beginners with potential are discouraged to the point of giving up, simply because they unknowingly start out on rubbish instruments that wouldn’t even produce passable sound in the hands of a professional player.

This might come across as elitist and snobbish to many, especially since the cost of good instruments is… problematic - but that only adds to the problem, as it makes beginners blame themselves for the limitations of their instruments, to the point where they just assume they have no talent, and give up. I’ve heard enough of this “it’s not the violin - it’s the player” BS! Sure; a great player can “fake” a decent sound on basically anything with strings on it, but that’s because they’ve already learned how to fully leverage whatever the instrument at hand can de. Once you get your hands on a good instrument, you realize that it responds to everything you do, and you can literally feel your way towards the sound you want. How are you ever supposed to learn without that kind of feedback?

But, what do I know? I’m still a beginner myself - although teachers of happy, successful students tend to agree with my position on these matters, so… :slight_smile:


Good points. To me, since I’m not aiming to be any concert orchestra player or anything, I’m OK getting cheap instruments just to have a go at them, learn to play them a bit and maybe record some simple parts with them to mix into samples to add a bit of realism, or “realism” (since I’m not a “real” player of course :grin:)

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For some bizarre reason I haven’t figured out yet, I really want to learn bassoon. (maybe so I can write and playa bunch of villain themes :wink:) but even cheap 'soons are getting to the $8000 range :scream:


Those are pretty fascinating instruments, indeed! But, yeah… First time I checked (years ago), the least expensive one I could find was around $15k… :open_mouth: