Recording spontaneously or plan it out first?


Nov 27, 2015
grrrrrr-ranite state!!
One of the reasons why I really want a dedicated music space is to be able to have my recording gear always set up. There are a lot of times when I'm playing when I stumble on something that sounds really good. However, I never remember what I did. Yeah, I know, learn theory, figure out what I did. work in progress :D

Due to physical issues, my days of just picking up a guitar and flailing away are pretty much in the rearview mirror. I have to prepare to play, thoroughly washing my hands in hot water, and several minutes of stretching exercises. Then doing warm up drills. If I had an idea of what I wanted to play, it is usually forgotten by the time I'm finally ready to go.

Be it that it may, I've been recording again the last week and a half. It has been a while. I've forgotten how much headphone cables irritate me, yet I did it for the entire time I lived at the apartment. I still have to record direct due to noise issues, both my playing (sorry, bro) and the abundant traffic noise of our new location pretty much preclude the use of mics. LOL, just saw a portable recording booth on CL and it's right here in town.

When you go to hit the 'record' button, do you have a plan, either in your head or written out, of what you are going to do? I'm talking about starting a new song from scratch, not soloing over a backing track. I wish I knew more about drums because I always play better with a beat, even a metronome. If so, how do you decide what bpm?

I know a lot of people record with video, usually a cellphone. I'm more about audio, and using an interface, DAW, etc. sometimes I ponder having a camera aimed at my guitar neck but I don't want terabytes of video in storage.


Dec 11, 2020
Lucerne, California
I can't imagine hitting record with nothing pre-planned and being able to lay down something useful...Id at minimum have a riff or a chord progression or a verse/chorus combo in mind, if not ac full song sketched out in my head or on paper. When I just improvise it usually comes off as unfocused noodling and I don't see any reason to record that. If you can improvise good music out of thin air, I respect that!

What I have done from time to time: If I come up with a riff while noodling around that I think has potential, I'll open just a simple track to record it real quick for future reference.

Often, that will sit forgotten, or if I do listen I'll wonder why I thought it was noteworthy in the first place.

But anyway, I definitely relate to everything about trying to record with limitations. I too have to record direct most often due to various restrictions. My hand health so far is pretty good, but I'm conscious of the fact that one day that could change, be it arthritis or injury or whatever. Enjoying the good hands while I can, these bodies we were issued don't last forever.

But it's all a great reminder, real people always have some kind of obstacles to overcome to make music, challenges, limitations, etc. It takes creativity and perseverance for us to just exist as musicians while also paying the rent, having families, etc. We should always respect that and appreciate that in one another, musician to musician


Nov 27, 2015
grrrrrr-ranite state!!
BTW - I just went to look for that booth and it's gone already. They were asking 500 for it, somebody jumped on that sucker PDQ. There's another down in Boston and they want 7500.


May 29, 2014
The Monadnocks, NH USA
Nothing freezes up my fingers as much as does a red record light. So no, if I'm going to record something I have to sort'a psyche myself for it.

Years ago, when I did a lot of song writing, I'd keep one of those micro cassette recorders on the ready at all times. But no longer.

In my case its because these days I do what I do mostly for the experience of doing it. In the now. And when something worthy occasionally comes along it is pure serendipity. Not something I will forget. And while I do not wait until it is complete and polished before I share it (thus the numerous versions of some of my songs -- works in progress), I just can't be quite as informal as that.

The advent of the iphone was to me the miracle. To be able to just switch it on something always in my pocket and have a decent video presentation. -I am still amazed by that capability!



Dr. Squier
Jun 29, 2011
If I have an idea I'll record it with my phone just to capture the idea. If I'm recording I have worked out the song. Occasionally I will record a track with the idea. Then when I start working on that track I'll just mute that track I started with.


Sep 7, 2015
My practice has always been -- grab my guitar, turn on a drum machine pattern, and hit "record" and noodle around for an hour. Afterward, listen thru the recording (maybe in the car on the way to work, etc) and hum along, maybe something jumps out as being worth working into a complete/entire song.


Nov 15, 2021
Fagaras, Romania
1. On the getting ready part- you may think it has to do with age or disability but you are wrong. Any guitarist worth their salt DOES start with hand exercises and stretching. Just like high performance athletes do before any competition, so must high school beginner athletes- warming up is not optional, unless you are courting injury or sub-par performance. Steve Vai does it, Hammett does it, my cousin does it, and my pretty neighbor's cat does it every time before playing, and so do I. Back in the olden days, one of my great uncles was also a great bouzouki player- and his teacher told him he has to warm up first.. for the fire from his heart to go down into his hands and from there to get into the music he plays.... right. So I do it too. Don't worry it's normal and benefic and necessary. Without it performance is a risk when playing should be about transmitting your feelings. So - don't worry we all (should) warm up first.
2.on recording- I used to freeze/care too much, be terrified of the red light, heck I blocked every time I thought about doing it- but then it dawned on me- my computer, my cheap interface and my daw. These days digital space is not as expensive as it used to be, and Reaper is cheap too. So are most entry level recording interfaces. So I slapped together a "studio" that is as barebones as it gets; one reaper license running on an old pc I had laying around (free or SH for no more than 100 $ HP business class system, old but rock stable)... one Behringer 202 HD interface(40$, SH, or up to about 70 new), Behringer studio monitors (80 $), one Reaper license (about 60 $ when I got it) and one cheap but strangely good stereo mic pair that I did not yet use in any significant manner besides some acoustic room testing and measurement (could do without but if you must/ want /need, Behringer C2, one pair, about 100 $ new, condenser, needs 48 V but the Behringer 202 has it onboard so it is taken care of already).Oh and an old table and one of those nice architect lamps that you can move around on sort of an articulated neck.

Now I press record regularly- much too often, for EACH and EVERY session- because I can. And it's free,and I can listen back and see what I need to work on...I recently started to use a metronome I got as a present last year (and so far did not try it, but after critically listening to my recordings I saw I had major timing issues I was not aware of- now I am improving),
The recordings will continue- basically forever. I don't mean I keep all the trash- regularly I delete old practice runs that have exhausted their use- but they helped me improve more than I thought.
So now I have developed a great insensitivity to the red light/button.. it is on, okay, business as usual. It is not like I am live streaming my tomfoolery - no one gets hurt during practice..except sometimes neighbors when they turn their music too loud...I have a 6 string bass you know, and I am itching to show you how a new bassline to that track you are blasting I am willing to goes...

So in a nutshell : you warm up before playing. That is not only good, it is good practice, perfectly normal and advisable to all.
You are terrified by recording- don't be. Record often, record everything, and LISTEN BACK at least once and see what/how you want to improve. If it is not useful anymore delete it. Keep the keepers though.... :D
Hints on recording when room is nosiy, there are folks living around the house and you do not want to stress them out, wake up the cat(s)/lover, lover's cat, or any and all combinations thereof: use plugins for Reaper- they are free, they include a basic amp sim- and some other amp sims, most are very nice these days and far from the first attempts. Complete your cheap studio setup with some quality earphones...even studio grade ones can be low cost today and yet decent enough..look around a bit but there's Audiotehnica, there's Behringer, and lots of others that made studio quality headphones at low prices... you may need to settle for shorter console wires or less stelar plastics in their casing though.... You can record with zero external noise, I do sometimes at 3 AM whenever I can't sleep. But I make sure everyone else can;)

M T Poteet

Aug 17, 2021
I use a voice recording app on my phone for quick ideas, but, usually I will start with just a little riff or simple chord progression I like (from my phone) and hope it progresses from there. I'm not really a writer and only know enough theory to get myself into trouble.

As @AxelMorisson said, once your set up, it's pretty much free. I use a Boss eBand JS-10 basically just so I can interface (plug in) to my computer and Garage band. That's it.

It may not be suitable for release quality, but I have a lot of fun and I keep learning, hopefully getting better.

Listen to some of my stuff below, and Enjoy.

Now I have to go warm up.