Recently I've been making a concerted (pun not intended) effort to get back into making music – and a few recent purchases have helped.
I've always owned an instrument or two; I learned to play the violin at the age of seven, and then subsequently switched to guitar as a teenager. I played in a band in my early twenties, but since then life and other interests have largely taken over, and my musical output had dwindled to occasionally picking up the acoustic to play a few chords.
However, last month I decided to see whether I could actually accomplish anything with my PC, a cheap microphone, and an even cheaper guitar; since then I've learned a fair bit more about what making music is like nowadays.
Software was the first thing I needed. There are dozens of options for which DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to use, ranging from expensive professional options like Ableton Live through to simpler free tools like Audacity; after looking at a few I ended up going with Reaper, which has a generous trial period and only costs $60 for personal use. It does pretty much everything you need, and seems to be very popular with the hobbyist musician.
The next thing I discovered is that you really need a decent audio interface if you're going to record yourself accurately. I tried installing ASIO4ALL, but even with those drivers I was experiencing far too much latency, so I bought a Focusrite Scarlett Solo, which lets me plug in either a mic or an instrument to use as an input device. Their 2i2 model is more popular due to its dual input option (so you can record both your instrument and vocals at the same time), but since I didn't really need to do that right now I decided to save myself the extra fifty quid.
And then there are the instruments. DAWs work with either analogue inputs (plug your guitar directly into the audio interface and simulate amps and effects) or MIDI, where you can use a keyboard (or drum pad) together with virtual instruments and effects to recreate virtually any instrument you desire. I could do with both, but since Reaper comes with a virtual keyboard to play when recording MIDI, I decided to pick up a new electric guitar first, and perhaps add a MIDI controller later on. Christmas is coming up soon, right?
So with those basic fundamentals of a home studio all set up and ready to go, I've been recording bits and pieces while I learn what all of the various plugins I've downloaded actually do. I should probably pick a cover song to record in full, but my musical taste these days is so broad I'm having trouble picking a genre to explore...