New To Digital Recording - Need Advice for Purchases

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by tclotworthy, Oct 19, 2019.

  1. tclotworthy

    tclotworthy TDPRI Member

    Jun 21, 2018
    Mclean, Virginia

    Ok. I have limited experience with digital recording but I am highly committed to overcome learning curves and spend some (lets say for starters up to $1.5K) for software, equipment, mics, etc. Here is how I envision using it:

    1) Record my band(s) for fun (I play guitar lead/rhythm). Some acoustic setups, some all electric. Assume all instruments/vocals are already miked and running through sound board. So I want the ability to have separate recording channels for everything. I do not need pro-quality recording, but I would like really good isolation between instruments so that I can overdub anything, delete tracks, add tracks, add effects to anything in isolation or overall.

    2) The ability to build my own instrument tracks electronically. I would be mostly concerned with being able to make sophisticated drum tracks. In other words, tracks that don't just provide a beat, but where I can throw in accents and rolls, and stuff like that. I am not a drummer. The easier the interface for this the better because I don't really have strong music theory for writing fancy drum charts or anything. HOWEVER, also electronic tracks for bass and keyboards (keyboards less important).

    3) Buy upgraded mikes for recording guitar. Guitar is the one instrument I want to put the most effort into polishing on recordings, so I would be willing to make an extra investment for good mikes, etc.

  2. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 6, 2014
    Do you have a computer? What is it? A mac with GarageBand is an excellent start with simple to use drummer and loads of digital instruments.

    What desk/board are you using? Can it output the individual channels?

    You can get some desks that include the necessary multichannel digital input and output for recording or a unit like an Behringer XR16 that serves both interface and live mixer functions.
  3. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 12, 2010
    Somewhere Over The Rainbow
    if you’re recording your entire band it will be pretty difficult to isolate each track without leakage. that’s beyond my expertise.
  4. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    May 11, 2007
    If on a Mac, you can audition GarageBand and see if it meets your needs. If not Logic's $200.

    Recording a full band is tricky. All the mics, stands, cabling, headphones and headphone mixers and amps cost $$ and it adds up quickly. Or if all in the same room together you can save on headphones, but probably more bleed between instruments.

    Ultimately you will need an interface with as many channels of a/d conversion for the number of tracks you will be recording at the same time. That will depend on the instrumentation, how many tracks of drums at once you will be recording, or maybe you can take a sub mix of the drums from the mixing board, but giving you less options come mix down etc.

    I highly recommend a ribbon mic like one of the Cascades for electric guitar cabs especially if you’re using some gain.

    You should consider adding a pair of monitors as well. Although you might be able to get away with mixing with headphones, if they are reasonably good quality, at the end of the day monitors are something you’re probably going to want.

    So, hopefully this gives you a couple things to consider and point out some costs like cabling and how you’re going to monitor while tracking which sometimes get overlooked.

    beyer160 likes this.
  5. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Tele-Meister

    Oct 1, 2015
    Calgary, AB
    Ideally your amps each would have a separate room/closet/isolation box. But putting up gobos around drums and between each amp (could be as simple as a moving blanket over a couple of chairs to purpose built 1x6x4 foot units filled with insulation and has covered with fabric).

    The room doesn’t have to be totally dead but should have at least some treatment to keep reflections/early reverb to a minimum and bass traps to tame standing bass waves.

    If your mixer has discrete digital outs for each channel, great. If not you might want to trade it in on something like a Soundcraft 22MTK which is a nice analog mixer with digital out for each channel and sounds decent. A used Berhringer X32 Rack would also be an okay choice but not my favourite - interface (by computer or tablet only) is less intuitive than it could be. I have a Soundcraft UI24r which is similar to the x32 but I find it way easier to use and to me and my bands ears sounds better. And has more built in mic pre’s. $800 to $1800 depending on what you find/get on trade ins etc.

    A reasonable large diaphragm mic for overdubbing vocals afterwords and/or recording acoustic guitar is a good choice. $200-300 gets a decent mic for your needs, might find one for less used.

    Closed back headphones or in-ear monitors for everyone. I like the ART 6 channel headphone amp because it’s affordable and you can give each person a general mix plus their own channel or even a custom mix for each person - depending on your mixer. Cost depends on how much you have on hand.

    Good headphones and/or good near field monitors for mixing. $200 to ‘sky’s the limit’

    Finally, and probably most importantly, invest in a good course in recording - The Recording Revolution, Home Music Studio 1, Produce Like a Pro are all good examples and I’ve done each of these - there are of course more on places like, Udemy etc. And other courses people around here could recommend. I suggest not just watching random YouTube videos until you have a good basic understanding from one of these courses, then you can look up answers on YT for specific issues you run into.

    As for DAW’s, Reaper, Logic, Cubase, etc all work quite well. Pick one and learn it, don’t worry about ‘which is the best’ because they all have limitations. But do download a few free trials to see if you get along with specific apps.

    Have fun, because that’s what this is supposed to be - fun. Yes you’ll hit roadblocks and frustrations- don’t sweat ‘em. If you learn from one of those courses first you’ll be able to problem solve way easier.
    RyCo1983 likes this.
  6. Norris Vulcan

    Norris Vulcan Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 7, 2015
    Somerset, UK
    If recording with mic's, the room is very influential: if the room sounds flat/boomy/etc, the recording sounds flat/boomy.
    You can record with pretty basic equipment in a good-sounding room.
  7. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

    Nov 21, 2012
    I've been ramping up my recording chops and I have been using GB for a couple years now and I have yet to grow out of it. Acquiring the rest of the gear could easily eat up your budget. One microphone could even do it. What I have learned is mainly from the experience of recording and editing and this takes a tremendous amount of time, so learning with a freebie like GB seems very appropriate to me and glad I put the money into interface/monitors/headphones/microphones/stands/inserts/cables ...

    Recording greenhorn, but past the steep learning curve.

    Oh, BTW, the people here have been instrumental in my recording success so far, so don't hesitate to ask questions.
  8. edvard

    edvard Tele-Afflicted

    May 15, 2016
    Bremerton, WA
    For 1.5k, you're going to spend most of your money on hardware, the basis of which would be a decent desktop computer; many people have recorded successfully on laptops, but if you're going to buy something new just for the purpose of recording, a desktop will give you more bang-for-the-buck.
    Next is the interface; dig around on Amazon, Newegg, Sweetwater, Musicians Friend, etc. to find an interface with the most channels for the best price. You might be tempted to go USB3, but in practical terms, USB2 is plenty fast enough for just about any setup.
    Monitoring will be the next big expense. Any good brand of mid-size "Bookshelf" speakers with a flat-ish frequency response (just say No to Bose, mmmkay?) that gets good reviews on community audiophile websites will do just fine. I use a pair of Advent Pearls and have no complaints.
    As Glenn Fricker says, "Headphones Lie!" ->

    Microphones you asked about in #3...

    Any decent DAW will get you there, but one thing I recommend is to do a live "scratch track" first; the whole band in one room does a play-through of the song, recorded by a few mics in the room. If you really need to have things synced up, give the drummer a click track. Afterwards, you have everybody go one-by-one and record their part(s) solo on their own tracks, playing along with the scratch track. When that's all done, delete the scratch track, unless it adds something to the mix that you like. That eliminates trying to isolate everybody at once, and you don't need a bazillion channels recording at one time, which saves you on interface cost and computing power.
    Or, you can pull a Steve Albini, and set up the mic'ing such that the live track is as good as it gets and fix any glitches in the Mastering stage.

    Garage Band's EZ Drummer module has gotten good reviews for the ability to pull off a decent drum track programmatically. MT Power Drum Kit is another that works well and includes a rather large selection of pre-set rhythms, and it doesn't require a Mac. Everything else you mention is completely do-able with VSTi plugins, and there are many for Bass and Synths. Many are free, but expect to pay something for the really good ones.

    I may be beating a dead horse, but the mighty Shure SM57 has a long and proven track record as the quintessential guitar recording mic. Get at least two if you don't already have any. Other mics that are popular for guitar recording are the Sennheiser MD421 and e906, Audix i5, and the Beyerdynamic M201. There are others, but these are the most common according to the frequency with which I see them mentioned in guitar cabinet IRs I have used. Look up reviews and YouTube demos to get a feel for what they can do for you.

    Don't thank me yet, I'm just a hack, not a professional. Do the research and find out what's going to work best for you.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
  9. cleanheadsteve

    cleanheadsteve Tele-Meister

    Mar 4, 2010
    keeping it simple. pc or mac, 8 channel audio interface, band in a box to create real instrument tracks simply by just creating simple chord charts and choosing the appropriate style/tempo/etc. ezdrummer to create drum tracks that allow you more control, sm58 vocal mics, sm57 instrument mics, a home stereo for playback such as any sony, teac, akai, etc component like system from the 70's is fine, a couple sets of good but cheap home stereo speakers so u can a/b while mixing.
    a few cables, a little time, some headphones.
    u can buy this stuff used for cheap and create fantastic music. if u are starting out, dont spend time or money on any specific supposedly "must have" brand or gear. get old mics, stereos, etc from your buddies or pawn shops. remember, music made 10 years ago on computer/software can still make music today. don't buy anything unless u understand why u need it.
    lots more i could say, but this will get u going the quickest and cheapest. and if u find your quality is suffering, u can fix it with knowledge, not gear and cash.
    people will have plenty of disagreements with this post but they are not where u are. when u get where they are, then you can have different concerns. and yes, an 8 track interface is the sweet spot between price and needs. only put 2 or 3 mics on the drummer or you'll have mixing issues. many instruments can plug directly into your audio interface thus eliminating the bleed over between mics.

    Sent from my SM-S767VL using Tapatalk
    FenderLover likes this.
  10. bftfender

    bftfender Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    having a blast with these into Reaper, Just did 36th song at studio since the accident. Knocking on the door of being able to get it done at home. Have first crack at a real effort on one almost done on own..just went for it..learned a lot about tone last few months. Was sorta hesitant but once got the preamps into reaper.. nice even..really have picked up a nice sound. Moving mic's around...doing a few takes on vocals with dif mic's & pre's. just layering everything from the start during tracking.

    Took the time to have the instruments sitting right from the door. Having unlimited time & not on the clock has turned out to be very good for capturing idea's. Figured out just like playing live..have those instruments sitting in their zone..makes for a full clear sound. tackling the mix now....loving the process, turned closet into ISO, found great spots in the room for dif response.Really paid attenuation in studio & learned a lot.capture right at tracking is key 6q (2).jpg MXL d2 side.jpg Real Life at3035.jpg Real mic.jpg Critic mic.jpg
  11. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

    May 27, 2013

    How many instruments in your band?

    What mixing board do you currently use?

    Do you have any examples of what you want to sound like?

    What do you record with now?

    If there was a solution to offer only half of what you ask, would you take it?

    In modern recording, a keyboard controller is an important tool Can you see that?

    Are you concerned at all about treating the acoustical space where your band plays?

  12. Martin R

    Martin R Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 26, 2008
    I think Edvard and I are brothers. Scratch track, then starting dubbing individual tracks. To do this YOU MUST HAVE A CLICK TRACK.

    Also above, a ribbon mic for the guitar amp. We had tracked almost all the electric parts when someone loaned us a really good, really expensive ribbon. After hearing one recorded track with it I went back a re-recorded all but one of the previous tracks. (We don't have that mic anymore but I'm pretty happy with the Cascade Fathead.)

    GarageBand is awesome. We tracked everything in GB then mixed in Logic. I don't think we gained much in Logic but I had it so we used it. Note: GarageBand only records at 44k sample rate. If you want to do film or TV you'll need Logic to record at 48k.

    Vocals are where the microphone really matters. There is no "right" mic, you'll have to find the one that's right for the singer. Unfortunately, it will probably cost you.

    You will need headphones. Go ahead a get the Sony MDR-7506. Not too expensive, pretty accurate, and reasonably comfortable.

    This was recorded in GB. Vocal mic was a really good ADK through a hideously expensive preamp. Pedal steel was direct, Tele was that really nice ribbon, acoustic was both direct and with the ADK. Bass was mic'd with an AKG D112. Drums were a set of Audix drum mics and a couple of cheap LDC's for overheads. (btw, this is how nerdy you'll get.)

    Oh, one more thing...say goodbye to life as you know it.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019
    studio likes this.
  13. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 11, 2010
    On Location
    First and foremost, abandon hope all ye who enter here. Life as you knew it is now over.

    Miking for PA and miking for recording are two very different things- using PA mics in a PA setup certainly works for recording, but if you want better results you'll want to approach things with a recording mindset. Entire books have been written about mic technique, it's kind of a lost art and it makes a lot of difference in your results. A "bad" mic in the right place can sound better than a "good" mic in the wrong place. A guy once asked me for help on a recording project, and he brought up a guitar track- it sounded awful. "Yeah, that's unusable, you'll need to track it again" I told him. "But I used a Neumann U87 for that track!" he said. The problem was, he'd placed it wrong.

    What kind of board are you using? If it has analog inserts on the channels, you can jackleg those into direct outs for each channel to feed your interface- I've used that trick a lot. If you have aux sends, you can use those to buss things together (like multiple mics on a guitar cab).

    How many simultaneous inputs do you want? How many do you NEED? Tracking 16 simultaneously is nice, but 8 is a lot cheaper. It's up to you where to go, but you need to think through this logically.

    How many pieces in the band? Let's say you've got two guitars, bass and drums. For that you'd need a minimum of four tracks before you get into the drums:

    1. Scratch vocal
    2. Guitar 1
    3. Guitar 2
    4. Bass

    Now, drums. On the first Beatles record, they used exactly one mic over the drum kit. These days I generally use 11 or 12 when I can. If you want to spring for a 16 input interface, then rock on. If you want to save some cash for other toys, something less expensive like the Focusrite 18i8 does 4 mic inputs, and 4 line inputs (which you can feed from your board), and you can use the four remaining inputs thusly:

    5. Kick
    6. Snare
    7. Overhead 1
    8. Overhead 2

    This is more or less the classic Glynn Johns/Recorderman technique that was used on so many classic '70s rock records (Zeppelin, The Who, Stones, etc). Google it if you're not familiar.

    This is just an outline- you can tweak to taste for your own paradigm (like if you have keyboards or percussion), I'm mainly trying to provide food for thought.

    As for isolation, a lot of folks assume you need complete, sterile isolation between tracks. You don't. Another word for "bleed" is "ambiance"- you can use it to your advantage. Even if you don't, you'd be surprised how little of a problem bleed really is.

    Here's the final mix of a demo I did recently, with everything muted except the drums (excuse the Soundcloud compression that makes it sound terrible). This was tracked with a 3-piece band playing together with minimal baffling around the amps, a wedge monitor for the vocals, and two ambient mics 15' away from each side of the drum kit. You do hear some bleed when you solo it, but it's totally usable.

    Miking guitar amps ain't rocket science, it's relatively easy to get a good sound out of a few simple tools- this is definitely an area where technique trumps hardware. Brew a pot of coffee and fire up Google, there are a million ways to skin a cat- read up on the topic then experiment, you'll soon figure out what works for you and what doesn't.

    Ribbon mics are great. I'm a big fan of the (ahem) Beyer 160, but you can make the $100 MXLs and Nadys work for you too, as long as you're willing to crack them open and tighten the inevitable ribbon sag. I have a pair of $80 Nady ribbons that I use as drum room mics- would a pair of $1200 Royers be better? Yeah, as soon as I can free up an extra $2400 I'll do that, but until then the Nadys work fine.

    For electrics, I usually start with two mics- one dynamic mic dead center on the dustcap, one ribbon halfway to the edge of the cone, aimed straight on (use a pop filter to protect the ribbon). By themselves, both will sound awful- so blend them to get a good mix of crunch and punch. If I'm recording in isolation, I'll throw up an ambient mic, too.

    Acoustics depend on the guitar and what you need them to do in the track- sometimes an XY pair of small diaphragm condensers works, sometimes a single ribbon mic at the 12th fret.

    For DAWs, I'm a big fan of Reaper. In monitor world, the JBL305s are cheap and sound great- they don't get deep thumping bass, but they have a lot more than you'd think a 5" driver would. Do a car check to make sure your kick and bass are where they need to be, but you should do that anyway. Regarding mics, a quality dynamic mic like the 421, SM7 or RE20 will give better results than cheap Chinese condensers and you'll have a lifelong tool.

    Enjoy! You're headed down a deep, deep rabbit hole, but many of us suffer happily.
    Martin R likes this.
  14. bftfender

    bftfender Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    Phew..just wrapped up first ever attempt without going to studio..71 tracks are in reaper at hitting real close to same levels. Spent mucho time in proper capture & then got vocals in priority..then colored in with 2nd guitar..its very clear
  15. GuitLoop

    GuitLoop Tele-Meister

    Jan 16, 2018
    Start free and go from there...
    Audacity and Garage Band are both free.
  16. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 11, 2010
    On Location
    Audacity is seriously limited and clunky, though. Garageband is good for working by yourself, but I feel like it has "training wheels" and isn't that flexible, and it's I find it's not really geared towards full band projects. Reaper is awesome, and it's only $60.
  17. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

    Mar 2, 2006
    San Benito County, California
    all great advice... one thing you might consider is buying one of the mics that have the recorder built in. Put it on a mic stand in the back of the bar and use the 180º setup and just capture you guys as you sound naturally... or do your rehearsal that way...

    I always dug how bluegrass bands used to have ONE mic and they had to 'mix' themselves by moving closer or farther away...

    In my last band, we did all of our rehearsals and gigs and it got to where we were the easiest band to mix because we all learned our levels and knew it sounded best when we stuck to what we knew would sound good.

    I kinda suck on this (but no more than regular sucking) this is just one mic in the back of the bar... an original...
    studio likes this.
  18. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

    May 8, 2008
    Knoxville TN for now
    If you buy new, your stuff will be obsolete before you even figure out how to use it ... A newer, better, less expensive product will appear ...
  19. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

    May 27, 2013
    Recording equipment these days is a lot like guitar hunting.
    You can go the vintage route, with all the beautiful analog
    gravy at your fingertips.

    Or you can get a used desktop standalone unit from
    a decade or two ago and have some good quality
    two track success.

    Even a nice portable digital mixer recorder can suffice.

    The OP's post was walking the fence on a few things,
    just for fun vs. highest quality production gear.......
    Either you're all in, or just amateur involvement,
    this gets expensive once you start investing in gear
    and time.

    Which is a good point, Do you treat your music as an investment
    or something equivalent to golf?

    Same can be said for your equipment purchases.
    I've seen folk treat their expensive gear like sewer trash
    while others treat it like museum artifacts.
  20. magicfingers99

    magicfingers99 Friend of Leo's

    May 7, 2015
    learn how to do one thing well, then move on to the next.
    though you only have 3 bullet points they encompass a vast array of concepts and techniques.

    you are a guitar player. learn how to record guitars, 1st.
    subscribe to TapeOp magazine, its free and it will help you learn how people have recorded for dedades, its a valuable resource for understanding techniques and equipment.

    test the waters and see if you are more comfortable with a mouse and a keyboard or if you want a desk full of faders and meters.

    read some recording books, they are tons available.
    basically learn about mics, compression and eq and recording levels.
    if you understand those tools everything else will be based on those things.

    recording a live band is much different than doing a studio recording.

    you won't be able to do much engineering while you are playing guitar in a live set.

    you can do an awful lot with older gear.
    there are alot of very cheap mic available now

    drums are usually recorded with dynamic mics, drum recording is an art, you have to learn a lot to it right. it requires a lot of mics and a lot of fine tuning to get the placement right.

    learn drum recording last after you've got an understanding of mics from recording vocals and guitars.

    you'll probably use as many channels to record the drums as you use for the entire rest of the band. you make the drums a subgroup to make adjusting the volume a simple matter of a single fader.

    you'll have to learn about routing signals, signal buses, summing etc.

    don't think you can buy everything you need in one swoop, buy a small mixer maybe 8 channels and learn about routing and levels and different type of cabling. everything will scale and you can use the 8 channel mixer for a submix somewhere along the way.

    something like an inexpensive berhinger mixer will help you understand the concepts you will put into use with a DAW.


    and remember the classic albums of the 1950s and most of the 1960s were done with 4 channels or less

    good low cost condensor mic set to learn with
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