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Recording setup (vocals and keyboard)?


stepay

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First the situation and then the question:

 

Situation -- I'm NOT a singer, but I have written a few originals I want the rest of the band to hear so we might consider playing them. So, I'd like to be able to record the keyboard parts with me singing the lyrics just to give them an idea. Need to be able to save this as an MP3 or other easily transferred audio format.

 

I have an old version of Cakewalk (3.0) but I don't think it supports vocal recording (perhaps I'm wrong).

 

Question - Understanding I don't need superior recording ability -- just good enough for the band to hear the stuff (but I want it to be a direct thing -- no tape player held to a speaker)...what's the least expensive\easiest thing to fanagle? If you can refrain from Toys R Us comments, that would be great (although perhaps too much to ask for).

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Steve

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Steve, if you want to save to MP3, your best bet is to upgrade your Cakewalk software (if your PC supports it).

 

Record the keyboard part. You can record it in MIDI and edit it. You can later play the MIDI track back to the keyboard and record the audio from the keyboard to another track in Cakewalk using the Line in jack on your soundcard.

 

Next, record the vocals using a decent microphone plugged into a mixer or preamp plugged into the line-in of the computer's sound card... (unless you already have an audio interface.)

 

Audition and balance the tracks so they sound as good as you can make them. Export them from Cakewalk (or Sonar) to an MP3 file.

 

Sure, there's a learning curve, but the results will come close to what you need without an overabundance of aggravation.

 

I hope this helps you.

 

Tom

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Steve, I too have Cakewalk 3.0 and as I remember it doesn't have analog (vocal) capabilities. When called and asked about an upgrade price, I was told it would be $150 for one and the Pro would be $299 I think. I didn't want to invest that much because 1. my computer isn't powerful enough and 2. I'm broke. So I downloaded n-tracks and it gives me everything I want for about $50. I still have a crappy computer but it will run this program easily. And I can actually run this program which I never did do much with cakewalk. The learning curve on CW was too high for my feable mind.

 

www.ntrack.com

Jimmy

 

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Audacity is freeware and does multitrack recording. I don't know if it does MIDI, though.

Gas said: Next, record the vocals using a decent microphone plugged into a mixer or preamp plugged into the line-in of the computer's sound card... (unless you already have an audio interface.)
Do you have an audio interface with a mic input and pre, phantom power and a good condenser mic? :thu:

 

Does your sound card have a line-in interface?

 

If all you have is line-in, then as Gas said you'll need some sort of preamp in between your mic and the line-in.

 

You do have a mic, right? Even with a $20 dynamic mic I think you can get your song ideas across to your bandmates. If you don't have a mic, though, at least try to get a dynamic mic you wouldn't be ashamed to be seen with on stage in case that ever happens. A Shure SM58 can be had for around $100, although other equally well-performing mics from other manufacturers can be had for less.

 

Anyway, if you don't have a mic pre, or mixer, try looking at your home audio equipment. You may find you already have a crappy mic pre, like in a karaoke machine, boombox, stereo, etc. The vocals won't be great, but if you use stuff you already have it won't cost you anything.

 

If whatever software you use to record with has track effects, you can use them to warm up your vocal track. Reverb is everybody's favorite, but try not to get too carried away with it. This'll be a lot less expensive than getting a pro vocal reverb unit, etc., which would be silly if you were using a $20 mic anyway. ;)

 

Oh yeah, you have headphones, too, right? The ones that cover your ears will work better at keeping your keyboard track from bleeding into your vocal track. You may not want to monitor your vocals in your headphones while you're singing, which for me anyway means that the backing music is turned up in the phones, which means if it leaks out the mic will pick it up.

 

Mixing will go better if you have studio monitors and an acoustically treated room, but try to use your home stereo at the very least. Mixing with headphones is not recommended; it's not really good for your ears.

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Thanks for the suggestions. Yes I have a mic (XLR, and a computer mic that would go right into the line in on my computer).

 

I do also need to get a new MIDI cable. My old computer had a 24-pin connector, but my new one uses a USB port. That will cost me at least $40.

 

Our guitar player has anything and everything (kind of independently wealthy, so he buys the best of the best) and we just did some recording this past weekend with $3500 microphones for the drums. Very cool. I can't afford anything like that.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Assuming your computer has a line input (most do, though many laptops don't), you can use n-Track in shareware mode, for free. It has audio and MIDI and is usually pretty easy to set up and get going.

 

The limitation on shareware is that some effects insert a periodic tone, and digital offline mixdown inserts a periodic tone. You can get around the latter by looping your line (or headphone) output to the line input and playback while recording.

 

If you find you use it much, you'll be happy to pay the $50 to be able to use all the FX and not have to kluge the mixdown.

 

It's not toyware, it's a full-featured program.

 

RGB's points above are all good ones too.

 

If you need a mike preamp, you can get a Behringer UB802 for $50, and you get a handy little mixer in the bargain (along with two preamps). The UB502 is cheaper but doesn't have phantom power, which if you get bit by the recording bug, you'll want. (You need phantom power for most condenser mikes.)

 

If you're in a band you can probably borrow a mike. Maybe even a mixer to serve as the mike preamp. Any vocal mike the band uses for live work should do just fine.

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I do have a mic as I do sing backup vocals on a few songs -- I'm just not really a singer if you know what I mean.

 

ntrack and audicity look like just what I'm looking for at this stage. Thanks!

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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While this may not be applicable to your current situation, I figured I'd throw out my own on-the-cheap recording method from about 20 years ago.

 

I wanted to do pretty much what you are doing - keyboard/vocals onto tape - (pre-PC) - but couldn't afford any decent equipment.

 

I actually had a stereo with a dual-cassette deck. I had an electric piano (Kawai EP-68) and a synth (Juno-106). I got a REAL cheap 4-channel mike mixer, which I could run lines in from my synth, EP and vocal mike.

 

The beautiful part was the over-dubbing. While I could record voice and piano together, if I wanted to add strings or anything else, what do you do? Well, simply put, I'd record the first two tracks, then move the cassette from the record deck into the playback deck, and play along with tape. (lather, rinse, repeat).

 

Obviously, each overdub would degrade the sound quality a bit - but since the cassette to cassette dub was all internal, the actual tape hiss added was pretty nominal.

 

In all honesty, if you've got any kind of decent cassette deck, I would think you could run a direct line from your keys - a direct line from a mike in the cassette deck, and record the vocals and keys on left and right channels.

 

Once you've got the stuff on tape, it should be trivial to run a line out from the tape deck into your PC - as the guy in the link below did.

 

http://www.connectedhomemag.com/Articles/Print.cfm?ArticleID=26254&Path=Audio

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Originally posted by stepay:

I do also need to get a new MIDI cable. My old computer had a 24-pin connector, but my new one uses a USB port. That will cost me at least $40.

If you need to buy a new MIDI interface anyway, you may want to consider spending a few more bucks and getting a combined MIDI/audio interface. M-Audio has several models to choose from, but they're not the only game in town.

 

Ok, I don't know why they (M-Audio) can sell a MIDI-only USB interface for $49.95 and a audio-only USB interface for $79, but the MIDI and audio interface starts at $249.95 (all list prices). :freak:

 

Maybe try eBay or refurbished units or something? But don't get less than 24bit/48kHz.

 

[EDIT: Actually, do you really need MIDI? Are you using soft synths or something? If you're using the sound module from your board to produce audio, you could just get an audio interface w/o MIDI. Just not the $79 one, because that doesn't have the mic pre.]

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Originally posted by Sandy Hemenway:

I'd record the first two tracks, then move the cassette from the record deck into the playback deck, and play along with tape. (lather, rinse, repeat).

I did this about 20 years ago, too. After a certain number of repeats I got a cool flange effect. After that, additional recording passes just sounded like crap.
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RicBassGuy,

 

I guess I don't need MIDI. Do I just do a line out from my keyboard (1/4") to my line in on my computer (1/8"). If that's the case, then all I need is an adapter from Radio Shack from the 1/4" cable to the 1/8" line in...for the keyboard sounds anyway.

 

By the way, I downloaded Audacity last night, and for the MP3 manipulation alone, it's worth the time to do so. Thanks for the info on that program. I'm going to use it more as soon as I can.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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