A lot of people ask me how to record yourself playing an instrument along with a backing track. So today I’m going to break down my entire process for putting audio together with video.
In recent years, recording good quality audio has become easier, more affordable, and more accessible to everyone.
I’ve been making multi track home recordings using every type of gear and setup available since the 1980s when we had 4 track cassette recorders.
Nowadays, if you have a smartphone, you basically can have a music recording studio in your pocket. With that one device you can easily record multitrack audio using numerous free apps. It gets more complicated though when you want to produce videos with multiple audio tracks so that you can record yourself playing over a backing track and collaborate with other musicians.
Preparing to Record Yourself
First thing to know is, you’re going to need 2 separate devices.
One to record the video and one to record audio while listening to the backing track.
For most people the best video camera you have is going to be your phone, so you’ll need to play and record the audio on something else. For me, I use my computer, but you could also use a tablet or even another phone. Use what you got.
Now you could just play the backing track on your stereo speakers and record yourself playing over that but the problem with this solution is that you have very limited control over the mix (How much of the backing track is heard vs what you are playing since they will now be on the same audio track).
So to do this right, you’re also going to need headphones since we want our recording to be completely separate audio from the backing track.
We are also going to need 2 different apps. One for the audio, and one for the video.
I use Final Cut Pro and Logic on my Mac computers. These are professional programs and cost hundreds of dollars each. If you have a Mac, you can just use GarageBand and iMovie – both of which are free. But any basic video editing and audio editing software can do what we need here and there are plenty of free ones out there.
Please comment below with any apps, software, or hardware you use for producing content since many people reading this are going to be looking for ideas.
I’m going to show you my workflow using my apps, but the concepts are the same no matter what software you use.
My Recording Setup
If you’re interested, this is a list of my full production setup. I use the Canon EOS R Camera with the Canon RF 15-35mm Lens. For lighting I use the Aputure 120D II Key Light and the Aputure Light Dome Mini II. For microphones I use the Rode NTG-3 Shotgun Mic and the Coles 4038 Ribbon Mic. My audio interface is the Universal Audio Apollo Twin. And I use the Yamaha HS7 Studio Monitors.
Step 1 – Setup the Backing Track
Okay Step 1. Load your backing track into the DAW – which stands for “Digital Audio Workstation,” in other words your audio editing software.
I’m going to be recording a sax solo for a collaboration with some friends. They have already recorded their parts and sent me the audio file.
We also have to create a separate audio track where we will record our part.
Now since I’m only recording a solo, I am going to start recording a couple bars before I need to start playing. No need to listen to the song from the beginning.
Depending on your software you can also set things up to record multiple takes over a set portion of the project. So here, I’ve selected the solo section, and when I’m recording this will loop, creating a new take each time.
This way I don’t have to press any buttons to start and stop recording in case I don’t get a perfect take the first time…Which happens almost never.
Step 2 – Record Your Part
Put on your headphones, turn off your speakers, and record the video and audio at the same time. Don’t forget to hit record on both devices. Believe me I’ve forgotten this way too many times.
You will be listening to the backing track audio in the headphones, and depending on your setup you can also be monitoring the audio your microphone is picking up.
Here’s a time saving tip for you: Once your camera is recording just let it go. We can record as many takes of the audio as we need, Once you get a a good take stop recording audio and video. Now there’s no need to search for the best take because we know it’s the last one.
Step 3 – Edit the Audio
Now we have to sync our audio and video together in the video editing software. So first we will export the audio file, and get our video file off of the camera.
Here’s another important time saving tip: Create a new folder on your computer that contains all of the media for the project. You definitely want everything to be in the same place. Most video editing softwares need all of your files to be in the same folder in order to create the proper workflow.
In our DAW, we have a project with 2 audio tracks. One is the backing track and the other is what we just recorded.
I’m going to export these as 1 audio file but before I do that I might want to do a little bit of editing. I usually add some gentle compression and reverb and then adjust the level until it sounds about right.
I do a lot of these recordings and save time by applying the same saved settings to my audio tracks. Once you get your saxophone sounding good and the way you want it, save those settings for next time so you can concentrate more on the music and less on the audio engineering.
Step 4 – Edit the Video
Now in the video editor I’m going to combine this exported audio track with the video I recorded.
In Final Cut this is extremely easy. The camera I recorded with has an audio track of me playing, which usually sounds terrible because of the onboard camera mic. This doesn’t really matter because the software uses that audio to figure out how to sync the clips together.
Select the the audio and video and click “synchronize clips,” and then it’s done! Even though my audio also has the backing track in there, the software can figure it out and it will even delete the camera’s audio file for me since we no longer need that.
Step 5 – Export the Finished Project
Last step is to export our video project to a file that we can share somewhere. Once I do this, I can upload the file to Instagram, YouTube, Facebook or wherever.
Now learning how to use all of this software and hardware took me a long time, but guess what, I learned it all from watching YouTube videos and a lot of practice.
You can check out the final version of this collaboration video here, which is on my friend Felipe’s channel called Cajon Master.
Thanks for reading! Now go make some great videos playing the saxophone.
If you’re interested in more content about how to record yourself, check out this article on “Easy Recording Setup and Tips for Saxophone.”