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Things you wish you knew??

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by Maroonandwhite, Dec 18, 2020.

  1. Maroonandwhite

    Maroonandwhite Tele-Meister

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    My wife and I decided we wanted to record some songs so went out and bought the required hardware. I had most of what I needed except for a condenser mic and an audio interface. I'm know working with the following:
    • MacBook Pro with Garage Band (probably upgrade to Logic Pro at some point)
    • AKG P220 Condenser Mic and Stedman P101 pop filter/screen
    • AKG D7 dynamic mic
    • Motu M2 audio interface
    • Standard round base mic stand (I'll eventually buy a boom stand once we get going)
    • Small but untreated office / recording room
    I've recorded a few guitar parts going directly into the interface and have been able to produce decent results with the onboard mixing. Having never used a condenser mic before, I'm sort of blown away at how sensitive it is and just how much background or ambient noise it can pick up.

    I'd love to hear those tips / tricks of the trade that may not show up on the "how to start recording" articles. Anything from gain staging, to cheap room treatment, Garage Band tips, what color to paint the walls, etc. Anything and everything that you wish you'd have known when you started recording.
     
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  2. ReverendRevolver

    ReverendRevolver Tele-Afflicted

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    Are you recording electric or acoustic?

    I suck at recording, just got into myself, but have gotten as far as microphone placement on amps, guitars, and vocals.
     
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  3. Maroonandwhite

    Maroonandwhite Tele-Meister

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    Both. I haven't and probably won't try to mic any amps anytime soon. I find it way easier to be able to tweak the dry signal to whatever I like. I also like the idea of being able to use an ipad as a midi controller so I'll probably be diving into that world soon and eventually buying a proper controller.
     
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  4. Maroonandwhite

    Maroonandwhite Tele-Meister

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    That was the draw of the Motu M2. It has an actual level meter along with MIDI inputs. Had to step up to the 4i4 on the Focusrite to get MIDI and it still didn't have a visual level meter.
     
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  5. loudboy

    loudboy TDPRI Member

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    - Mics and monitors are where you get the most bang for the buck, sonically.

    - A great song/performance/arrangement trumps any gear issues.

    - The reason those classic albums sound great is because that's the way those people sound.

    - Lava Lamp.
     
  6. aleski

    aleski Tele-Meister

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    A skull on a mixing console is also a thing.
     
  7. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Tele-Meister

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    The best advice I can give you is "don't expect too much".

    By that I mean; don't expect any one take to be perfect, don't expect your first attempt to produce a track to be perfect. Recording is, in my experience, a drawn out process. Do some takes, see what you get, play with the production tools, make it a little more how you like, then record some more takes once you know where you want to end up.

    My process is generally to record a guide track, produce that a bit to tighten up timings, then do a demo track which is more about finding the right style and voicing, then I produce that to get a closer version, then I do a final version once everything is set in stone and everything is about polish.

    Other smaller tips -

    Put markers in your DAW project so you know where the verse starts, how long this bit goes on, all of that. You want to be able to say "The second chorus was way better" and then find that quickly.

    Don't stop recording just because your take isn't perfect. If you really screw it up, fine, but in general you want to record the whole song each time, or at least complete this passage.

    Practise setting microphones up. Mics are a pain to work with. They do awful things like popping and clipping and blowing out. Getting used to the right distance and the right level, so that you don't destroy good takes, is important.

    Practise setting your recording tracks up. It's less important for (no offense intended) more gentle forms of music, but it is still a huge pain to get your instrument tracks and your vocal tracks balanced properly. This is doubly true for live monitoring as you sing. Getting it so you hear yourself and the music at a useful volume is painful. This is broadly what people refer to as "gain staging" - getting your tracks close enough in volume that the sliders can do the rest. I don't know garage band, but plugins to tweak input gain are common. Find them, love them.

    Remember that the tracks fit together, they don't have to be perfect separately. It doesn't matter if there is a little background noise on the mic track, because you won't hear it over the guitar.

    Beware of echo, but don't obsess. Echo which you hear as a separate voice is bad, and you need to avoid that. Point into a corner, rather than to a flat wall, and you can use thing like blankets and towels if there are troublesome areas. However, even a vocal booth has a little tiny echo. Most people would say you need a short, small reverb or echo on vocals to make them sound good, so don't worry if there is a tiny bit there.

    Listen to yourself. Monitor yourself as you record, and listen to yourself as you produce. Your ears will tell you what is right; whether you are on the right beat and whether you are in tune. Tools can help you, but your ears are what matters. If it sounds wrong, it is wrong. So don't just go through the motions.

    Manage your takes. When you are really polishing stuff you can do back-to-back-to-back takes, but when you are still working through the earlier parts of the project, don't let a million takes build up. When you finish a take, ask yourself if it felt good, ask yourself if it is in the right direction or not. Have a quick listen. Look at parts that you think were good or bad, see if they actually sounded good or bad. And then decide to keep this take or bin it. A keeper isn't just alright, a keeper is "Yes, this could be the one". That way when you sit down to make a track, you have a half dozen to a dozen takes you think are good, not 50 tracks that are mostly garbage. Spending time relistening to your mistakes sucks, especially when you are supposed to be finding only the good stuff.

    Don't be afraid to play with stuff. There's lots of audio tools out there. Have a poke around. Mess with the EQ just to see what happens. Inside the DAW nothing you do is permanent, you still have the raw track. So play around. Get familiar with the tools.

    Even if you don't play with the tools much; learn about EQ and compression. These are great for making tracks sound better, but they are also critical tools to make a final song work. The vocals and guitars shouldn't be competing, they should be fitting together. So gently pull down the frequencies in the guitar that the vocals naturally sit at. Set-up a little, gentle side channel compression on the guitars, so the volume is gently pulled down when there are vocals over the top.
     
  8. Mr. Lumbergh

    Mr. Lumbergh Poster Extraordinaire

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    The first thing I wish I learned was patience.
     
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  9. somebodyelseuk

    somebodyelseuk Tele-Meister

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    Next weeks lottery numbers
    Where I left my keys
    Why...

    Too many things to list.
     
  10. DougM

    DougM Poster Extraordinaire

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    I wish I knew how to undo the dumbing down of the world, where English speaking adults no longer understand their own native language on the most basic level, and no longer know the difference between too, to, and two, or between your and you're, there, their, and they're, and that should of is not should have, even if that's kind of how it sounds when we say it, should've.
    Now, I'm starting to see it even on some confusing no and know.
    Are the RFs from phones melting everyone's brain cells, or WTF is going on?
     
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  11. swervinbob

    swervinbob Tele-Afflicted

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    Beware of mixing as you go. Too many plugins open can drag your system down. Try to get as much recorded as possible, then learn to use busses, etc. it also looks like you’ll be using amp sims. The same applies. Learn to use them, but you may have to freeze or transform the tracks to save cpu. If you decide to play through the sims as plugins, learn to turn your buffer settings down to reduce latency. But, remember to turn them up when mixing.

    It’s frustrating, but fun. I’ve finally started to get mixes that I like. One of these days I’ll fully complete a project and post it.
     
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  12. Festofish

    Festofish Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Nice! Add an SM57/58 and you’re gold.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
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  13. FortyEight

    FortyEight Tele-Holic

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    So I'm almost done with my 6th song that a drummer and I have been working together on songs for the last 6 months or so....

    These are my suggestions of the things I believe are helping me.

    1. get a log book and write down specific things about each track. I mean I don't go in and list every track but I make comments about HOW I recorded most everything in a song. Which mic, the placement of the mic (this is a specific thing, small changes in where they are placed in relation to you or your signal or even the type of room it's in, CAN make big differences. Or subtle differences and you may find yourself preferring one method over another. Or at least having the knowledge of how you did it and what that yielded is useful IMHO. I say write it down cuz I'm 48 and I forget stuff. One thing a person said once that makes a lot a sense is "the faintest line is better than the strongest mind". Meaning if you wrote it down even a really smart person can maybe forget stuff sometimes and relying on memory may fail you. Oh yeah, Pickups on a guitar chosen and what amp, how I mic'd or did direct the amp. Etc.

    2. For me each song is an experiment and I accept the differences in sound. For us the sound keeps getting better each time so that's a good thing. I'm sure at some point we will try something and say, hmmmmm... I think that's not as good as how we were doing it this way the other time. Maybe... But for now the sounds just keeps improving. I think. I hope. LOL. I'm pretty sure.

    3. Maybe just watch a bunch of youtube vids on recording. I did and it helped me a LOT. But you have to take everything with a grain of salt. When you hear some people say this is absolutely the way you gotta do it and think, ooooo I need to listen to that, you'll hear another guy turn around and say the opposite thing. LOL So in the end you have to figure out what works for you but knowing how some guys do it and what they think is important is really good to know. FWIW, most of the vids I've watched are encouraging about just doing stuff and learning yourself and what is good and aren't usually dogmatic.

    4. Get one of those extension chords for your headphones. INVALUABLE. My drummer bought me one and had it shipped to me and after I started using it I was like, why did I try to live without it? LOL. It's only like 10 dollars if that.

    That's about all I got. Which I guess is a lot. And even take what I say with a grain of salt. You may not need a log book and that may make you cringe. LOL. But maybe there is some wisdom in there. Like I say, I'm very new at it too, so.....

    If you want to hear my stuff to judge, it's at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkUFQoohj3vrOL_o4_Z310Q

    Those are our first two songs. And you got way better mics starting off than we did. My drummer used a cheap USB mic on both first two songs. Then I used that same type of mic on the first song but a friend loaned me an M-Audio interface and an SM58 and MXL990 condenser. I started with the SM58 first and it sounded sooooo much better than the USB mic. I was using it for guitar and vocals. The last song I just did was the first time I tried the MXL990 condenser and yeah, they pick up a bunch more stuff. Which is good and maybe more challenging at the same time.

    One last thing, for me, I prefer micing amps. I prefer the sounds. That's just me. You may want to try an amp down the road.... I think going direct loses some punch. But I know that may not be a popular opinion. I've done both with bass and guitar and piano and am please with the results and didn't change them. However, with the stuff I'm using direct is always noisier. ESPECIALLY if you're using the 1/4" jack. The two bass amps I have, have xlr outs and those seem to be less noisy than the 1/4" on my keyboard. And the 1/4" line out on my Vox is the noisiest. In fact yesterday I recorded a keyboard part with an SM58 over just almost right on one of the little speakers on the casio keyboard and I think that was actually a pretty good sound. With none of the noise that I get going direct from 1/4" to 1/4".

    OK, I said a lot. Hopefully you can find some of it useful. That is super duper cool that you are doing it with your wife. If you are open to posting your songs, I'd love to hear them. I might get my wife to sing on the last song I did. But it would be the first time she did. LOL. I mean on my recordings. She sings a lot otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
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  14. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Tele-Meister

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    This is good advice.

    You can do a couple of tweaks live, for the sake of your sanity, but leave it at that.

    My vocal set up has a low pass and a high pass, and then a comp, and a side channel comp on the backing track. This is the bare minimum to do screaming death metal vocals, and honestly if you aren't pushing it so hard you barely even need them.

    The filters cut out the "garbage" frequencies that are too high or too low to be worth keeping.

    The comp means that I hear myself at around the same volume, so I can do clean bits and screamed bits without completely changing set-up.

    And the sidechain comp is, as I mentioned, to control the music's volume. You want it to be loud enough that you naturally want to "sing up" (or scream hard) but you don't want it so loud that you have to really fight hard to be heard. The comp gets you close enough to that point.

    Everything else can wait until after, and I've generally found that not fixing with EQ makes me a better singer. I have to find the right way to sing it, not say "Ah we'll fix it after..."
     
  15. Norris Vulcan

    Norris Vulcan Tele-Afflicted

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    IME microphones are great to work with and quickly get you sounds that would take a while in a DAW. They are the little ears of the angels.

    If mic'ing up is such a pain then I would guess the sounds aren't right to begin with. You'll never fix that in the DAW.
     
  16. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Tele-Meister

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    I didn't say that you should try and do complex things in the DAW.

    I said you need to get used to working with mics if you're going to get consistent performance from them. If someone on this forum said "Oh tube amps are easy to work with, if you can't make it sound good that's a problem with you" then I think most people would say that's silly.

    It's not anything outrageous to just learn how to use your tools, especially tools that can react in non-intuitive ways or when small changes can have significant impacts.

    Things like getting the correct distance between the mic, the pop filter and your body, and then keeping that distance consistent when you might intuitively want to move as you sing.

    Things like getting a set-up which is good for your very powerful passages and the soft, near whisper that immediately follows it.

    Things like understanding what is causing pop, hiss, and clipping, and being able to correct your set-up to avoid them.

    Things like setting your input level on your interface, and why that is different to upping the gain inside the DAW.

    Maybe this stuff was super obvious to you, I don't know, but it took me months of rough recording to get everything "just so". Yes, sometimes you're having a bad day and you sound bad. But sometimes you are standing closer than you think and you can't figure out why your volumes are all out of whack and why you're getting clipping.

    Sometimes it's you, sometimes it's not.

    You need to learn the difference.

    And, in the spirit of this thread, this is all stuff I wish that I had known before I started.
     
  17. FortyEight

    FortyEight Tele-Holic

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    oooo, the clipping thing is good advice. I already knew that but if I didn't I'd been confused for sure. I always dial in my amp where I want, then go to my interface and get it to where it will just be under clipping at any loudest point in the song. And then look at my DAW's levels.
     
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  18. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    Good tips all! Try to assimilate them as your needs arise. Meanwhile, with every project you're gaining experience — a much more valuable commodity than any piece of gear. So:
    Keep swinging the hammer!

    Oh, and as our old pal Martin R always says, now that you're hooked on recording, say goodbye to life as you know it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
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  19. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    Garageband and Logic both have some pretty dang good amp models. Ignore the presets (they're usually too bassy and distorted if you're going for clean tones) and tweak them for how they sound in your mix, not how they sound solo. You'd be amazed. Some guys are mic-the-amp purists, but the sims work well for me both tone-wise and timesaving-wise.
     
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  20. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Tele-Meister

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    Amps aren't too terrible for clipping, because at least you have a volume knob. There's not a lot you can do to make an amp suddenly louder without turning knobs on the amp!

    Getting the right headroom for vocals can be a proper pain. Mics are really quiet compared to everything else, and there isn't an easy way to just make it work.

    If you get too close to the mic you'll blow it out, even a good mic like an SM-58. If you turn the interface level up then you can clip in the DAW. If you just pile on gain in the DAW, you'll have really audible background noise.

    Oh and if you set your interface up wrong (too little buffer for example) then you can get recording artifacts that sound EXACTLY like clipping but without the waveform actually being clipped.

    Recording is fun!
     
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