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Any computer purchased in the last few years has the basic hardware for making music. Computers with a hard drive smaller than 2Gb and/or a CPU slower than 100 MHz are going to limit you to a few tracks, at best. The bigger and faster your home computer, the more powerful your recording capabilities. Besides your computer, all you need is a microphone and software, and you're ready to record.
Multi-track recording software is relatively easy to use. You don't need a science degree to figure them out. Many programs are designed specifically for regular musicians, and most offer a minimum of 8-track recording. Some programs come equipped with full MIDI capabilities, virtual drum features, and multi-effects.
Actually, recording is as easy as loading your software into your computer, plugging your mic into the sound card, and playing. Soloists can record one rhythm track, then record another lead track while your previous track plays back into your headphones, then add vocals on a third track. You can keep adding as many tracks as your computer or software can handle.
Most software lets you add effects on each track. A word to the wise: even the fastest computers start bogging down with too many simultaneous effects in real time. Usually these 'bogs' will sound fine when you mixdown, when the processor can handle extra effects because it isn't fixed to real time.
Computer noise can be a pain when recording. The easiest thing to do is to put your computer under your desk. Better yet, buy extra long cords for all you peripherals and stick your computer in the next room.
Of course you'll want to pick up a few cool extras. Perhaps a better sound card, superior mic, a mic mixer and preamp, and maybe a MIDI keyboard. And then you'll need to burn your own CDs....