How To Record Music With Your iPhone

Recording with an iPhone or iPod is becoming one of the most popular ways to capture music on the go, be it recording a demo from scratch, or grabbing a live performance from a sound booth.

The options for iPhone owning musicians just keep expanding, and there is already a wide range of products be it apps for recording or hardware add-ons, to make the process easier. But what’s the best way to connect an external mic to the iPhone? What mic should you use? And what’s available on the cheap?

Connecting an External Mic to the iPhone

The first thing to consider when recording on an iPhone is what type of recording is to be captured. If rough and ready is the aim, then simply using an app like ‘recorder’ with the iPhone’s built in mic with probably suffice for any singer-songwriter looking to demo a song on an acoustic guitar.

The iPhone 4 has two microphones, giving the gadget a superior sound quality over its previous versions, but regardless, the phone – in its 3G 3GS or 4 incarnations has perfect ‘dictaphone’ potential for grabbing those songs while they’re still fresh in the songwriter’s head.

However, if the recording is at a loud volume (at a rehearsal or gig, for example) then an external mic should be used to keep the level low – maybe with its own preamp (the iPhone doesnt have any gain control for its internal mics). There are a number of ways to do this.

Two good examples are firstly an adapter from kvconnection which allows a microphone or mixer to be added to the phone (this works for the 3G, 3GS, and 4) or if you have an older iPhone, the Alesis Pro Track.

Pro Track can actually be used like a mini-mixer, with potential for two microphones, panned left and right, with full gain control, to be added to the phone (the Pro Track only works with the 3G and 3GS due to changes in the dock wiring on the iPhone 4, sadly.)

Recording Demos on an iPhone

Once a preferred set-up for mics has been chosen – the next step is choosing the right apps. There’s already a huge number of apps available for recording – with one of the best being Sonoma’s Four Track App – a virtual fourtrack recorder for the iphone. Used in connection with the Pro Track, or a mixer, the potential grows from not only recording demos on an iPhone – but recording full professional recordings.

A number of acts are already exploring the possibilities of recording commercial-quality tunes on an iPhone. For an example, check out ‘Love Is The Thing’ by The 88 – recorded entirely on a 3GS and a Pro Track.

Recording Live Demos on an iPhone

If there isn’t enough time to record a full multi-tracked demo on an iPhone, there’s always the option of getting a band in a room and jamming out the songs.

A good technique for this set up is to use a cheap mic mixer to mic up amps and drums, and maybe an output from a practice PA, and get a rough mix fed straight into the phone via the above mic cable adapter. This will give a rough and ready mix that can be set up ibn minutes and used to record rehearsals or demoing sessions.

Recording Live Gigs on an iPhone

Finally, there’s the potential to document those basement shows with the iPhone as well. Using either of the above interfaces, it’s possible to take a feed from a music venue’s mixing desk (usually from a simple headphone output on the desk) to record live gigs. If using the Alesis Pro Track or a mixer, it would even be possible to put the desk feed on one stereo channel and a mic at the back of the room on the other to be later mixed into a full live recording that captures both the line sound from the desk, and the front-of-house rawness as well.

Lots of fun can be had recording with the iPhone, and through experimentation, searching for apps and hardware, and engaging with other like-minded musicians, the device offers an exciting range of opportunities for quick and innovative recording techniques.