A Beginner’s Guide to the Internet’s New Favorite Communication Tool: Discord

Mar 04, 2022


If you are a veteran of the internet you’ll remember the likes of IRC, Ventrilo, and the numerous other communication tools that have been used by gamers and geeks for decades. In more recent times, Discord has rocketed to the top of the list of must have communication tools for online communities (and businesses too), as a fully-featured, free tool that includes voice, text and, more recently, group video-calling.

Getting started with a new piece of software can be both a challenge and an enjoyable journey of discovery. To try to remove the former and give you more of the latter, we’ve compiled this short guide to getting started with Discord (we’ve also got a quick start to Discord server administration coming soon), with some tips and tricks that we’ve picked up along the way.

Getting Started

First things first you’ll need an account, as this is a centralised piece of software. So head to https://discordapp.com/register and claim your user name. Unlike many of its competitors, Discord allows people to have the same username (in a fashion) by adding a number to the end of the name: for example if you wanted ‘DaveGames’ you might get ‘DaveGames#32392’.

Whilst the #32392 might initially seem ugly and hard to remember, don’t fret, as this is used solely for adding users as friends and is largely not displayed. You also won’t need to memorise the number at the end, as you can one-click copy the full name string needed from your profile or your picture in the bottom left of the window. So by and large you will only see your display name as you intended it.

The next step is to download the Discord client. Technically, Discord can run in the browser, which is useful for making calls from someone else’s machine; for instance if you’re stuck at your folks without your laptop. But using the app is advisable for long term use. Remember to check your inbox for the verification email from Discord.

Now, you’ve downloaded the client, followed the onscreen instructions, and signed in with the details you entered earlier.  

Next Steps

Well you’ll want to join some servers. You do this by following a link provided by the server admin or a friend, so let’s start with the latter and get you into the Coaching for Geeks Discord server. Click this link: https://discord.gg/rSUkzUz follow the onscreen instructions and that’s it. You are now a member of the server – how simple was that! To join servers without a link, search for a topic you’re interested in by pressing the green compass icon on the left, which will list a large number of official game and popular community servers by default.

To add friends to your friends list, head to the home page – that’s the blue squircle with the discord logo at the top of the left hand column – and you’ll need their username (with the funny number string) to add them. This is also where you’ll see their activity, online status, and any incoming friend requests you may have.


We Need to Talk

Then you’ll want to set up the important things – Voice & Video. Discord defaults to your system’s input and output devices which is great for getting up and running fast, but you have full control of which inputs and outputs to use. This means if you have a webcam and a headset with a microphone, or a headset and speakers, you can pick which you want to use for hearing your friends speak without having to change your Windows audio settings – so music on one, Discord voice on the other if you wish.

Alongside this, you can select how you want to control your input; either push to talk or voice activity. Both have their place, but personally I set it to voice activity on day one and haven’t changed since.  Pro tip: if you have a loud mechanical keyboard like me, you will want to turn off automatic input sensitivity and find the sweet spot where your voice, but not your keyboard, activates your microphone – for cleaner, less clacky conversations. 

Noise and echo control options are also great, especially when using lower quality audio sources like webcam microphones, that tend to be a little tinny. 

For the Gamers…

If you’re a gamer and using Discord to communicate, the Overlay feature can be really handy for seeing who is speaking, especially if you’re playing with ‘randoms’. It’s also handy for working out who is using their speakers and broadcasting their game audio over the channel. I’m looking at you Dave! You can also allow Discord to display what game you’re playing which is quite cool, and you can connect many other profiles such as Twitch, Spotify, and YouTube to Discord. So that your friends can see what you’re up to and, in the case of Twitch, come join your stream! 

Streamer mode is a great tool for streamers, as it mutes Discord’s audio cues. This means if someone messages you or joins your channel, no loud pings will be broadcast to your viewers. Many of these features can be assigned to keybindings within Discord for a smooth and easy workflow that doesn’t involve opening three different settings panels. 

Not all microphones are leveled equally, nor do all people speak at the same volume. To help you hear everyone in your call at roughly the same volume, you can right click a participant and increase or decrease their volume – this only impacts how loud they are to you and no one else. This makes it less likely that one of your callers will be drowned out by the others.

You’re All Set!

So there you have it. After following these tips, you’ve got your shiny new Discord account, you’ve joined the Coaching for Geeks Discord server, you’ve got your audio and video set up for perfect voice/video calling, and you’ve got your buddies in your friend list so you can chat directly with them. 

There are a few more advanced features available, such as connecting services like Spotify or YouTube but for that’s for another time; now just have some fun with friends!



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