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How to Record an MP3 Holiday Song with a Laptop: Quick & Dirty Style!

Posted in A Day in the Life, Carla and Goliath, DIY Diva, The Great Give Back 2008 | 8 Comments »

When you want to record a “quick and dirty” holiday MP3 for your fans, the first thing you need to do is look at the means that are already and easily available to you. If you have the time, of course you can always write a song, and then upload it with whatever technology you have around you. If you have the creativity and the means to make a video like Space Zombie Christmas, knock yourself out! My HP laptop has a Sound Recorder option available in the Accessories section, so at the very least, I could record an a capella track if I wanted.

But I wanted to do something a little more than that, so I decided on getting a Karaoke track from iTunes for 99 cents. For weddings or other gigs where I had to use a background track, I used to go to Colony Records in NYC and buy an entire Karaoke CD for $30. Mind you, I would only need one instrumental track out of twenty,
which would be a bit of waste. Through a tip I learned from an opera singer, turns out that you can buy ONLY the track you want for $1.00 at iTunes. Very cool.

It’s also important for me to mention that these holiday tracks are for PROMO ONLY, and will not be for sale. That would be a violation of the copyright of the Karaoke Band’s recording, which is a BIG NO-NO! If I get any cease and desist letters, I’ll remove the songs with the quickness, so get your holiday MP3s now!

My first step was to choose the song. I started by entering “christmas karaoke” into the iTunes search.

iTunes search for Christmas karaoke

Then I tried searching for specific songs, such as entering “12 days of christmas karaoke”


By checking the “popularity” column, I can get an idea of which karaoke tracks are the less cheesy ones. I also click to hear samples myself, to make sure that the particular version is in the right tempo and key. For these kinds of recordings, there are no vocal overdubs, so choose a song that you know particularly well (or practice the mess out of it!)

So I purchased “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from iTunes. To record the song, I played the song, using iTunes.
Clooney Christmas Style Karaoke

By placing a headphone mic between my voice and my laptop speakers, I experimented with the distances in order to get a decent live “mix” recorded by my laptop’s Sound Recorder.

1st attempt at recording my own voice

Singing live into my headphone mic

After finally recording a take that I liked, I played it back in my iPod headphones. The track sounded okay, but it felt like something was missing, as if the song was stuck inside the track, and the holiday joy didn’t quite come across.

Then I remembered that I had purchased an iPod voice memo gadget ages ago, also known as the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo. I had yet to use it, but now seemed like a good opportunity to figure it out!
Belkin iTalk Voice Memo Gadget for iPod

By adding this gadget to my iPod, I’m now a bit more dangerous!
iPod, meet iTalk

Here’s my new and improved recording set-up
My direct to MP3 recording set up

It took a few tries to get the recording together from a technical standpoint. I had to trigger iTunes to play the track with my right hand, and record the vocals using my left hand on the iPod. And I had to remember to click all the gadgets in the correct order.
Record on one hand; Click one another

This time I liked the live sound of the recording a lot. I sang a few more versions until I was finally satisfied enough to relieve my neighbors of the misery caused by hearing the same Christmas song over and over at 2am in the morning. Then I burned the track to a CD.
.WAV File Burned to CD-ROM

Since the CD contains a .WAV file, I then had to rip it into MP3 form. Since I still don’t know how to do that using a computer, I used my secret weapon: my standalone KLH CDR-2000 MP3 Recorder.

I placed the CD-Rom with the .WAV file on the left side, and a blank CD-Rom on the right side.
The .WAV File on CD-ROM

Then I clicked the buttons that convert the .wav file to into MP3: Voila! The MP3 is ready!
Voila! The MP3 is Ready!

After the MP3 was burned to a CD-Rom, I then saved it to my hard drive, and uploaded it to my You Send It account so I could share it with you lovely people.

Enjoy my holiday MP3s below!

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Please Come Home For Christmas


Like any good Rock Star, I blame this on my publicist.

As you may have heard, Ariel Hyatt is holding her first Holiday Fundraiser. So like a good girl, I set up my blog to support my fave charity, Songs of Love. And I think I’m all set, right? That is, until I get the email from Ariel, saying something to the effect of,

“Send me a holiday song so I can promote you!”

“Just like that, record a holiday song? Ha!” I think to myself. But when your publicist assigns a task like that, I know damn well that she is offering an opportunity here. And I love opportunities. So I challenged myself with the question: With little resources, how can I record a holiday promo song???? And this blog post was the answer. For those of you on Twitter who requested the specific how-to’s that I used, I hope these tips help you too! In all honesty, I’m flattered that you even asked 😉

I hate when musicians apologize onstage before they even start playing, so I will not apologize for any recording imperfections, glaring or otherwise. Enjoy my tracks for the love offered.

Happy Holidays!

8 Responses to “How to Record an MP3 Holiday Song with a Laptop: Quick & Dirty Style!”

  1. Chris McCarley Says:

    Thanks for doing this post! One can download an mp3 from lots of places but where else can they get one that comes with love?

    Seriously, it’s just really cool to me to see how a real person creates something vs. a big corporation. I think a lot of people might be deterred from creating music by the thought of having to buy a lot of expensive equipment and following a painstaking process. You’ve offered a great example of just getting something done with simple tools and some ingenuity.

    Thanks again,

  2. Egyirba Says:

    Hey Carla,

    Thanks so much for putting this together. Like Chris, it really helps me to see the steps a person goes through to make/do/put anything together. I love that you have photos, too. Plus, I didn’t know that you could even buy Karaoke tracks for iTunes! Bonus!

  3. Manisha Shahane Says:

    Hey Carla,

    I’m really impressed with the documentation of your process which I do think will be helpful to many people, especially PC users. The most important lesson is that, where there is a will, there is a way. Getting creative with the tools and knowledge we have have is the key. Wonderful stuff, especially with all the pictures.

    As for converting a file to an Mp3, you can do that in iTunes, regardless of whether you are using a PC or Mac. Let me know I’ll be happy to walk you through it real quick or the help section might do just as well. I used iTunes to do this even when I used a PC. Also, I’ve heard that MusicMatch, a free encoding software for Windows, is something else you could use if you do not want to use iTunes.

    I converted to Mac a few years back and have found that the process of recording and production has become so much easier. Still, I’m sure there are various tricks that I might be unaware of or better software that I could use for doing x, y, or z, but I make do with what I’ve got. Even the experience from editing video in S-VHS way back in the day – hee hee – help. My motto is “ask not what you can do for technology, ask what technology can do for you” and then make it happen.

    Recently I put a live recording of a new song “out there” and I wanted to add a tag line to the beginning to tell people where and when it was recorded – easy as pie with the tools I have – and it felt so good to do it on my own. : )

    Congrats to you and happy holidays-

  4. Pedro Sanchez Jr Says:

    Hi Carla,
    Thanks for showing us your step by step process. It was great seeing it.
    Keep up the good work and singing with joy :-).

    Peace and Blessings,
    Happy holidays
    Pedro Sanchez, Jr.

  5. SparkD Says:

    Cool! I will definitely take notes! I could have so much fun with this!

  6. Ian Shepherd Says:

    Nice vocal sound, especially considering the mic technique ! 🙂

    Here’s another idea people might like to try – next time, try singing the tune while listening to the backing *on headphones*. So your recording will be vocals only. Then bring that back onto your Mac, where you can use something like Garageband or Audacity
    ( to re-combine the two. You may have to do a little juggling to get them in time with each other, but in Garageband at least, that’s just a matter of dragging them around. Then save them as a new WAV file which you can burn or encode to mp3.

    The advantage of this method is that you get the full quality of the original backing track, without having it replayed though speakers and re-recorded. Plus, you can change the balance of the vocals afterwards, add a little reverb, maybe even add some harmonies…


  7. Ian Shepherd Says:

    Oops, you’re on PC ! No problem, Audacity is available for both, and there are lots of other programs which allow you to do the same thing.

  8. How to Record an MP3 Holiday Song with a Laptop: Quick & Dirty Style! | NYC Singer Songwriter Blog ~ Rock Star Life Lessons by Carla Lynne Hall « Berijoy’s Bliss Says:

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