Recording for beginners - help please!

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by hereandgone18, May 1, 2016.

  1. hereandgone18

    hereandgone18 Member

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    Ok, I am a complete rookie when it comes to recording. I'll try my best to be specific and to avoid stupid questions, but bear with my beginner knowledge please... (The stickied thread in this subforum was a big help.)

    Goals: I would like to have a very basic and user-friendly recording setup at a reasonable budget. I want a setup I can use with my band (vocals, guitar, bass, electronic drums), both to record original songs and to record practice for improvement purposes. I'd also like to record short gear demos that are higher quality than just setting my iPhone to record. But with that said, I am not building a studio here, and I'm under no illusions of world-class recording quality. I want something fun to play with, that gives a decent sound quality. Budget is important, but I don't want to buy garbage.

    What I have: I'd like to use my MacBook Air, which is current re: OS. This computer is issued from work, but I can install software on it freely. I was thinking of just using Garageband for the time being, or a free DAW that comes with an interface. Maybe one day I'll buy a recording computer, but that's beyond my scope now. I have decent headphones (Audio Technica ATH-M50x) and a vocal mic (Sennheiser e935). I also have all the musical gear I need, including electronic drums (so we can just go direct out).

    What I think I need immediately: An interface for sure. I would also like to go with monitors at some point, so that the band and I can listen together (rather than individually with headphones). I'd also imagine that I need a decent instrument mic to record guitar and bass.

    Questions:
    • How should I select an interface? How many inputs should I be looking for? Are there "better" brands to seek out? What qualities should I be looking for that I'm missing now?
    • Is an instrument mic the best option for recording the guitar and bass? Should I be considering a DI instead?
    • What do you recommend for a DAW? Playing with GarageBand has been very intuitive and easy so far, but I'm guessing it's probably limited in ways that I don't know about.
    • What else am I totally overlooking that I should be thinking about?
    I'll conclude by saying that my favorite local guitar shop is offering the following deal for $600 out the door: Tascam US 2x2 interface, Audio-Technica AT2035, two JBL LSR-305 monitors, a boom mic stand, monitor cables, and mic cable. What do you think?

    Thanks so much for any advice that you have.
     
  2. MrTAteMyBalls

    MrTAteMyBalls Member

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    If you want to record the whole band at once, you will need lots more inputs than that tascam unit has. It only has 2 which limits the amount of mics or DI that you can run at a time to 2. Just your electronic drums will take up 2 inputs if you run them direct.

    Look for something with 8 inputs if you can swing it. 2 for the drums, 1 for bass, 1 for guitar, 1 for lead vox is five already. As far as consumer stuff, focusrite has a reputation of making great sounding interfaces. I have some sort of tascam 8 input interface and it sounds fine.

    As far as instrument mics, an sm57 is a good place to start. It is a classic sound on guitar amps and can be used for drums, bass cab, vocals, etc. Unless your bassist has a signature tone that is unique in some way, a DI for the bass would be fine. There are tons of things you can do in software to give it some mojo. Or just get something like the sansamp VT bass, which is easy to use and gives a great sound when running direct.

    If it were me, I would connect my e-drum kit up using MIDI and use some kind of drum sampling software with it like SSD4. It will give lots more options when mixing and it wont take up any of the channels on your interface. For home recording I also prefer to run guitars and bass direct and use positive grid bias with ownhammer impulse responses for guitar sounds. There is a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it it sounds better than anything I can mic up at home. You would be amazed at how good drum samples and guitar amp models sound these days. I was blown away when I started messing with that stuff a few months back. The disadvantage is that you don't learn how to properly mic things up yourself.

    For vox you may want a condenser mic. Depending on your budget there are some decent mics under 200 bucks like the rode NT-1, but you could start with what you have and go from there. The sennheiser you have should be good for live recording with the band.

    I'm no expert but thats my 2 cents.
     
    p.mo likes this.
  3. lkft

    lkft Member

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    I would recommend an interface from either Apogee, RME or UA (Duet II, Babyface Pro, UA Apollo). They are all relatively the same in price and will provide good results (the RME drivers are superior IMO). As far as software goes Logic Pro X is a good platform that should be plenty powerful and at $200 the price is right. Also the program Screenflow ($99) is a good program to record demos from you laptop using the built in camera for video and the audio can be recorded using your interface and the microphone of your choice which will deliver superior audio versus the built in mic from the computer. Instrument mic can be a Shure SM57 for now and later add a ribbon for some rich bottom end and lower mids. I would avoid the bundle the shop is offering, I don't think you'll be satisfied w/the audio from the Tascam.

    Good idea to come here for some gear advice b/c there are lots of knowledgeable ppl to help out. Good luck.
     
  4. 335guy

    335guy Member

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    If you plan on recording one instrument at a time, then a dual input interface will work fine. IMO, the Focusrite Scarlett series is solid in that price point. You can certainly spend 3 x's what a 2i4 goes for, but for your purposes, the Scarletts sound and work fine.

    If you want to record a band rehearsal, you could simply use two room mics into the interface. This would be for reference only, as these types of recordings rarely sound good enough for anything else. To do direct recording for all the instruments at once, you'll need a minimum of 8 inputs. A cool option is the Behringer X18, which allows for 16 individual tracks and is loaded with tons of various sound processing. It costs $500 MAP. If I were in the market for a 16 channel interface, I would be definitely looking at the X18. The Scarlett 18i20 costs the same and has less features.

    Logic is the most often recommended DAW for Mac, but try GarageBand for awhile till you've outgrown it, then move up to Logic. For a cheap DAW, many have gone to Reaper, but it doesn't have VST's, like many other DAWS come with. It's cheap and functional though. Many like it, but I found the program kinda confusing in it's layout.

    The JBL LSR-305's are solid at their price point. You do need some decent studio monitors. You won't get thundering bass from a 5" woofer, but they're surprisingly good for their price and size.

    Personally, I'm not a fan of AT low end mics. They sound kinda plain and boring to me. If you're going to get a decent condenser vocal mic, the LEAST I'd be looking at is the Rode is NT-A1. You could try your Senn dynamic for the time being until you're ready to get a better vocal mic. Some have used various MXL condensers, and in fact, I have a couple I bought when they were on sale CHEAP. But they don't compare to the better condenser mics. They get the job done, and that's about all you can say about them.

    As far as guitars and bass, you can run direct, mic them, or both simultaneously. Personally, I usually prefer micing my amps for guitar, but I do run direct as well. A 57 or Audix i5 are solid choices for miking amps and don't cost a fortune. I often run the bass direct, but that's a very personal choice. Some like it, some don't.
     
  5. Charlie_Strat

    Charlie_Strat Member

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    In case you can begin your process with only two channels, I would recommend an Audient interface. I have and Audient iD22, but there's a smaller version [iD14] with ADAT input, so you can add more channels later. I like my Audient more than my Apogee Duet Firewire. Both are great.

    About software, if budget is important, stick with Garageband.

    Mics are a whole different world and don't even want to talk about it.
     
  6. hereandgone18

    hereandgone18 Member

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    Thanks so much for the advice everyone, this helps point me in the right direction.

    My goal in recording rehearsal is just to give us a rough reference to listen back to (you know how different it is to listen to yourself on recording vs. live). We have no intention of doing anything more with those recordings, so pretty basic stuff will cut it there. For that kind of track, will a couple of room mics be sufficient, or is it worth mic-ing everyone individually? It sounds like I should decide about the interface first, and then go from there.

    I also do want to do more "proper" recordings than just scratch rehearsals, but again, I'm under no illusions that these will sound earth-shattering. A smaller interface should be fine for that, but it sounds like a bigger one will be useful with rehearsals.

    Thanks again for the help!
     
  7. tshall

    tshall Member

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    I record rehearsals through my Behringer XR18 mixer. I think that's an option really worth considering here. You get an 18x18 USB interface, which really expands your options for room v. close miking, you get a good set of mic preamps, you get extensive EQ options and effects, and you get an interface which will travel with you and be the core of your live PA as well as your rehearsal room. It should work with any DAW. There is a learning curve, but you can download the software today and see how it feels.

    It's somewhat more expensive, but you can get an X18 for $500 new - if you wait for a 15% coupon, that's $425. (The form factor of the X18 isn't quite as live show-friendly, but it's cheaper (probably for that very reason) and it's functionally the same. I think what you get in that package is a great deal. I don't have any fancy mics, just a pair each of SM57, SM58 and e835's, and a decent set of drum mics.

    At the other end of the spectrum, maybe for now just get a cheap Zoom field recorder like a used H4 for $100, put it in the middle of the room, and see how the quality of those recordings sounds to you. We used to use a cheap cassette recorder for that purpose in bands in college (in the pre-digital dark ages), and got some surprisingly good rehearsal recordings.
     
  8. Belt Fed Riffs & Gear

    Belt Fed Riffs & Gear Member

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    Everyone here has put in some solid advice- Id honestly go with the interface that has the most inputs that you can afford- others have mentioned Focusrite- and also tascam usb interfaces will serve you well within a budget price point. Try and shoot for a 4 to 8 input interface this will allow you to grow without having to upgrade your interface in the near future
    Your real limitation is going to come down to your DAW GarageBand while it is intuitive as you mentioned there is limited routing options and honestly you can get something like Reaper or any lite version of a DAW that typically comes with an interface will be light years better than garage band.
    SM57's are the way to go for starting out- and Id search the Guitar Center Used gear section to get some better deals on second hand mic's unless you just want to shell out the coin from Brand New mics-
    DI for bass is probably your best bet- and maybe later on a good DI / re-amping system for guitars would be worth something looking into but not absolutely needed.
    Some decent monitors can help maybe that can be a future purchase
    So many folks try and shell out big money for the next Whiz-bang interface or program and really have no idea how it all works- I think your in the right direction just understand you can throw money at it all day long and nothing will really change except your checking account balance.
     
  9. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    Have you considered a recording unit like the Zoom R16? Used about $299 and does everything you need. Plus, the files are transferrable to a DAW if/when you want to get deeper into the recording process.
     
  10. griggsterr

    griggsterr Supporting Member

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    Also, I think if he were in the Universal Audio, RME, Appogee price range, he's quite possibly not a newbie.
    The Tascam will do a fine job. They have made decent recording gear for longer than most of the people on this forum have been alive.
     
  11. soundchaser59

    soundchaser59 Silver Supporting Member

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    Or you could (for example) get a used Mackie 8, 12, or 16 channel mixer (one of those "VLZ" mixers they had a while back) and use that to collect and mix all of your sources (mics + bass DI + 2 or 4 channels for the digi drums) then simply send the stereo out to the interface to record into Reaper. You would lose the ability to remix later on the computer, but it would probably be cheaper than getting an interface that has 8 or 16 inputs.

    SM57 is a decent standard for a lot of things, Sennheiser E609 or E906 if you have some extra mic money. Audix has the i5 which is a minimum acceptable sub for the SM57. Heil PR20 is a great poor man's studio vocal mic. You can find those AT 2035 or 3035 used on ebay for under $200 easy.

    Good monitors will eat up your budget quick. For what you are doing I'd get some big home stereo speakers. Go to some big box store and audition a bunch of different pairs of speakers, take your own favorite cd. I took my favorite Steely Dan cd to Best Buy once and came home with a pair of Cerwin Vega 3 ways for under $400, which is the cost of just one decent home studio monitor. I call them my Imperial Star Destroyers, 300 watt rating, one 12, one 8, and a nice tweeter. Those QSC power amps sell used for a decent price, and they are fairly reliable. When you play back your recordings for the band, you want it to sound as much as possible like the band. Since you aren't making cd quality demos, you don't really need actual monitors.

    Don't over look the fact that while you are doing all this, you could also be recording the midi out from your drum kit into a midi track on Reaper, to use later for recreating and remixing the drums using sound from (for example) Superior Drummer. Or you could use the midi track to recreate the exact drum track later, when you do have 8 or 16 digital interfaces, to record your instrumental and vocal tracks into Reaper directly with your existing drum tracks.
     
  12. GuitarsFromMars

    GuitarsFromMars Member

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    If you're not recording the band/instruments with stereo mics/2 tracks, you may want to look into something you can use with a mixer. You will need some interface with multiple tracks available. Rooms should be treated, monitors come in several flavors. I like the Equator Audio stuff and have a pair(the price is reasonable). The better the talent, the better whatever interface will sound/record. There are several recording forums like Gearslutz. There is worth in checking them out.
     
  13. MrTAteMyBalls

    MrTAteMyBalls Member

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    Oh yeah. If that's all you want then a Mic or 2 in the room is fine. I would honestly consider a handheld recorder with stereo mics built in. With a little experimentation with placement they can sound surprisingly good. And its dead simple to use.
     
  14. jeff5x0

    jeff5x0 Member

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    Please check out my free tutorial course. It comes with 2 free ebooks (One is called Intro To Recording) that may really help you out with choosing what you need to get started. There's no strings attached here, nothing to buy. I seriously think it will really help you out. You can get it here if you want it: http://www.missionmusician.com/mission-musician-free-bundle/
     
  15. MattLeFevers

    MattLeFevers Member

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    I'll weigh in on this part because I haven't bought an interface in ten years so the others above are probably more qualified to give advice on that.

    I've actually done a complete reversal recently on the mics vs. DI question. I have a studio recording background so I started at home with an eight-input interface: tracking drums with eight different mics, guitars with an SM57 (and later a Sennheiser e609), bass through both DI and amp, etc. Ten or twelve albums later, I've switched to a Roland V-drum kit and Tech 21 Character amp models for guitars and bass and now I only ever use two inputs at a time. If my interface fails some day I'll probably just buy a two-input one since six of them are sitting unused for the most part.

    I've found that in a home studio, room ambiance is not really your friend, so while pro studios would have a lot to gain from using real mics instead of amp sims, at home I end up close-miking the amp so much that there's no audible difference. At this point I'm recording everything direct except acoustic instruments.

    And you are already ahead of me on starting with an e-kit for drums - drum recording is always where the low budget really shows through. I've showed my stuff to pros before and it tends to be the exact moment the drums come in where they turn to me and go, "oh, you must have recorded this at home." A thousand dollars in mics will get you an okay drum sound or you can just use an e-kit and it's already instantly more polished.
     

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