I have to admit, I'm a little surprised that my brief mention of a car jacking with a hatchet didn't peak anyone's interest... I guess there's not really much of a story there anyhow. That's just what happened. I watched a man sprint at full speed toward a large SUV with a hatchet. He tried to get in, but the car sped around him. Pretty crazy.
Let's do something fun here.
Did any of you ever play Mega Man X for Super NES? It's awesome. Now, when I first started playing it, I was trying to beat the levels by choosing one at random. What I didn't know, is that there is an ideal order to beating the Boss's. If you beat the Flame Mammoth first, he'll give you what you need to beat the Chill Penguin and so on. If you go out of order, it's almost impossible to beat. For the longest time, I kept thinking why is this game so damn hard?!? There's a sequence to it.
Buying gear is like Mega Man X.
I'm going to tell you the order I think you should buy your gear in. Recording equipment is expensive, so many of us have to buy one piece at a time. For the sake of simplicity, let's pretend you already have a computer, and Garage Band. In order of importance:
1. A/D Converter: (that's analog to digital converter)
I bought this fairly late in the game, and I wish I would've bought it much sooner. I'm gonna be honest, it's not a glamorous purchase. You plug it in, and it just sits there. Usually there aren't many knobs to turn, and they don't do much. You also don't easily hear an immediate difference in the sound with a single track. It's in the details of the mix. Buying a good converter improved my recordings more than any other purchase. Don't skimp on this.
2. Monitors: (your speakers)
People always told me to "mix on what you're used to". I disagree. I say, mix on what exposes your flaws. When I bought my new monitors recently, my old mixes sounded terrible. The new monitors exposed a lot of chaos in the low mids. My old monitors seemed to just slap a bunch of makeup on my mixes and made me think they were ok. They weren't.
3. Room Treatment
Now, I know that room treatment can cost a fortune, but that's not what I'm talking about. Buy some bed foam, mattresses, blankets, etc. I don't care what mic you are using, if you're recording drums or acoustic guitar in a room with nasty acoustics, it's gonna sound nasty. Your brain is going to tell you that if you just got the right mic, your drums would start sounding amazing. It's just not true. I've used some very expensive microphones in really nasty rooms, and you know what, those mic's captured that "nasty room sound" perfectly. It's gotta sound good in the room first.
Now we can move on to the fun stuff. Don't buy a $100 outboard compressor or EQ. Your built in Garage Band plugins are probably every bit as good. Wait until you can drop some money into this. I have a different opinion on this than most people. I've worked with racks of tens of thousands of dollars worth of outboard gear, and found myself using everything sparingly. Recording is different than it used to be. If you're like me, you're afraid to commit to a sound right off the bat. I want to be able to change compression and EQ while I'm mixing, therefore I use a lot of plugins. I typically use preamps as a part of the signal chain, but not really for the "sound". So if you've heard something I've recorded and thought, "man, I wonder what mic and preamp he used for that...", it's probably irrelevant. 90% of the "sound" probably came from me using plugins. People may do things differently, and that's ok.
I know, you were hoping this would be number one. Microphones are cool and sexy. I was using decent microphones before I bought any of this other stuff. It was a mistake. I was constantly disappointed that my thousand dollar microphone didn't sound like a thousand dollars. I've heard amazing things come from the right singer in the right room, even with a cheap mic. Don't rush out to buy a nice microphone. If you are just dying to get a cool looking workhorse mic, I'd recommend an SM7 (that's not the same as a 57). I've used it live and in the studio, and I love it on almost everything. We even used it on Stacy's voice for the live DVD and it came out beautiful. You can get a used one for about $300.
Hope that helps someone out there. Thanks for reading.