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Digital recording--I've got questions, anyone have some answers???


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Hello all,


I am pondering getting into some digital recording in order to get my songs down in CD format as well as to do demos to get gigs and to present to band members when presenting a song. The problem is I know little to nothing about this process. Any suggestions on equipment ($200-500 range), and what kind of equipment I would need (beside the recorder itself---mixer, monitors, computer, power sources, cd burners, etc.)? Is it possible to do basic digital recording in a spare bedroom or does it require a more "soundproof" area? Is this an area that requires extensive expertise or something that can be learned through practice and experimentation?


Just to help, I am basically talking about recording my drum, bass and keyboard parts from a single keyboard and then adding guitar, harmonica, posssibly a second accompaniment part (horns, strings, other keyboard sound) and vocals over that.


any help you all can provide would be greatly appreciated.



1956 Hammond C3 with Leslie 122, Roland V-Combo, Trek II Preamp, Peavey KB 100, 1976 Natural Maple Rickenbacker 4001S bass

And yes folks, I do gig with a Casio WK 3700...So there!


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Oh, dear, did you open up a can of worms. ;)


Actually, if all you want is demos for getting gigs, you'll have an easier time putting something together. If you want higher-quality for CD releases, that's when things get more complicated.


As for the room, there is a difference between sound-proofing and sound-treatment. The first isolates the inside of a room. The second makes the inside of the room sound better. The second is the one you really want, unless you live close to a freeway or an airport. Then you need both.


As for gear, yeah, there are analog/digital/analog converters available in the $200-500 range, with all range of capabilities. How many inputs do you need? Do you already have a good computer for the task? How many tracks do you think you'll need?


Do you have a room all picked out? If so, what are the room dimensions?


I'm not an expert in this, as I've only just started embarking on the journey to build a studio for myself. I can, however, at least give you a good starting point.

Darren Landrum
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Fasten your seatbelts! And welcome aboard!

: MODX7 | Korg: Kronos 88, Wavestate | ASM: Hydrasynth Deluxe | Roland: Jupiter-Xm, Cloud Pro, TD-9K V-Drums | Alesis: StrikePad Pro|
Behringer: Crave, Poly D, XR-18, RX1602 | CPS: SpaceStation SSv2 | 
Controllers: ROLI RISE 49 | Arturia KeyLab Essentials 88, KeyLab 61, MiniLab | M-Audio KeyStation 88 & 49 | Akai EWI USB |
Novation LaunchPad Mini, |
Guitars & Such: Line 6 Variax, Helix LT, POD X3 Live, Martin Acoustic, DG Strat Copy, LP Sunburst Copy, Natural Tele Copy|
Squier Precision 5-String Bass | Mandolin | Banjo | Ukulele

: MacBook Pro | Mac Mini | Logic Pro X | Mainstage | Cubase Pro 12 | Ableton Live 11 | Monitors: M-Audio BX8 | Presonus Eris 3.5BT Monitors | Slate Digital VSX Headphones & ML-1 Mic | Behringer XR-18 & RX1602 Mixers | Beyerdynamics DT-770 & DT-240
Arturia: V-Collection 9 | Native Instruments: Komplete 1 Standard | Spectrasonics: Omnisphere 2, Keyscape, Trilian | Korg: Legacy Collection 4 | Roland: Cloud Pro | GForce: Most all of their plugins | u-he: Diva, Hive 2, Repro, Zebra Legacy | AAS: Most of their VSTs |
IK Multimedia: SampleTank 4 Max, Sonik Synth, MODO Drums & Bass | Cherry Audio: Most of their VSTs |





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Sounds like you'll be wanting a minimum of an 8-tracks.


While there are lots of different options on how to proceed, the most basic two approaches are as follows:


1) Get a mixing board - and simply pipe everything into a PC. You get the software to turn your PC into your digital studio. Depending on the software.


2) Buy a dedicated digital recorder. There are dozens of options - some have built-in CD-burning capability. Some are cassette only. Some would require transfer of the sound files via USB or disk to your computer for burning.


Here's a link to a guy's site, where he says he has a home studio that only cost him $500 dollars.




For the PC route, with few exceptions, every home studio guy I know has gone the MACintosh route. I've been to several professional studios in the past few years - and they ALL were using MACs as their PC of choice - and ProTools as their software. (Both of these are likely out of your pricerange, but I thought I would mention it, because MAC seems to be significantly ahead of the Intel market in terms of digital recording).


If you ALREADY have a pretty good computer, then getting software and a small mixer would probably make the most sense. If you don't have a good computer, (high speed and lots of RAM are critical to avoid irritating glitches), then buying a digitial studio may make more sense.


The ones with all the bells and whistles are gonna be 4-figures, (out of your price range). But, there are some options available in your range - almost certainly if willing to buy used.


Here's a link to a page of dedicated digital studios.



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I can't say much about the $200 - $500 range for overall equipment.


What I can tell you is that if you get a new Mac, it comes with GarageBand, which is Apple's entry-level audio recording and editing program. With GB, you can mix and edit your songs, then you can make MP3s (or any format except WMA) and burn CDs with iTunes. GB can record up to 8 tracks at once if you have the hardware you need. Otherwise, you'll probably record one track at a time.


The biggest negative about GB for people who hang around here is that you can't control MIDI instruments with it. However, the built-in software instruments in GB are good to excellent, as they are the same ones developed over the years by Emagic for Logic, which is now part of Apple and the core of GB.


You will need to get a MIDI to USB interface to get MIDI data into GB to play the software instruments. Some audio interfaces as I mentioned above will have MIDI interfaces built-in as well.


I could go on, but let me just say if you have more questions about using Macs to record, just ask and I'll do my best to answer, as I'm sure others will too.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck


"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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PC recording is way cool. So much easier than tape recording; you can do far better much quicker and spend way less.


Ignore anyone who says you have to spend much money. Until you get very good at recording and mixing, the difference in gear is insignificant. If you're miking, the quality of the room matters much more, and it's a big subject.


The main exception here is monitors, where getting better pays off.


If you already have a Mac, GarageBand is a great solution. If you have a PC, try n-Track , MultiTrack Studio , or Reaper (don't have the link, try google or ask back).


No need to get a new computer unless yours is already old and tired. No need for the fastest. Faster is better and speeds things up, but there are plenty of workarounds for limited CPU power. XP highly recommended for PCs, and 1GB memory is best but you can probably get by with 512M. If your computer is a bit tired & small, let us know and we can probably find older versions of good programs that'll still run fine on that 750 MHz P3 running Win98 with 256M RAM. (Well, maybe.)


Someone above thinks you need 8 channels, but I don't think they interpreted your post correctly. A typical 2-channel interface should work just fine, since if I understand correctly you'll be recording one track at a time.


If your computer has a built-in soundcard, get started using that, learn by doing while selecting an audio interface (soundcard). There are a few tricks to using it in some situations; let us know if you're interested in trying.


Start out by telling us what you already have. SM57 & SM58 mikes? Mixer? Old stereo you can use for monitors? With this info I can help you build a plan to start and add gear sensibly, spending money where it pays off FOR YOU.


Bottom line, this is very doable. Results vary dramatically depending on skill; some folks are naturals and others never seem to get it. Most folks with good sensibilities can pick it up fairly quickly but there is lots to learn, and it's time consuming. Don't bother if you're already overbooked and understaffed, so to speak.




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Originally posted by delirium:

I think RadioShack has...

Yes, all the wrong ones.


A friend of mine (who normally consults with me before doing stuff like this...) went to the Shack to buy stuff to route several additional video devices to his TV. This poor guy knows absolutely zilch about this stuff - which is why he keeps me on hand to deal with it for him.


The salesman convinced him to buy not one, but TWO A/V switchers, claiming that "he'd need one to route the component video and the other for the audio"... Any idiot knows that component video can't be routed over a standard A/V switcher anyway, not to mention one of the devices in question was a VCR, which doesn't have component outs. But wait - it gets better...


He didn't know what cables he'd need for this little operation. So the salesman proceeds to sell him:


(1) set of Monster component video cables (only one? how do 3 devices benefit from one set of cables in a switching system?)


(1) 18 foot Monster Subwoofer cable (?!?!?!)


(2) sets of RS Gold Audio cables


(2) sets of RS Gold A/V cables


Explanation? None. At least when I was working at Best Buy schlepping these cheezy cables, I drew component maps out for the customer, breaking down exactly what devices each cable I was selling them was supposed to connect.


Granted, my friend basically walked in there and said "I need to connect a DVD player, a DVD recorder, and a VCR to my TV that only has one input - get me what I need" - a declaration of open-season. But the ethics involved here - selling him cables that are completely irrelevant to the intended purpose? A frickin' subwoofer cable?!?!?!

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Ya know what, I apologize. That was total thread hijack. That happened on Friday last week, so it's still fresh in my mind...


Back on-topic:


If you're doing the vast majority of the instruments on your keyboard, then you'd be well-served to buy an inexpensive two-channel A/D unit. I'd recommend a Firewire setup, if your system has the available inputs. If not, a USB device should work. Make sure there is a phantom-powered mic preamp built-in. Either way, it shouldn't cost more than $150-200.


Jeff is right - N-Tracks is going to be the best inexpensive recording option for you. I think it's still selling for under $100.


Next step is an inexpensive condensor mic. I'd recommend the Marshall Electronics MX-series as a good starter mic. Can be had with shock-mount (you'll want one) for $75. Get a good pop filter if you plan on recording vocals. You'll be glad you did. Alternatively, you can do the old wire hanger and nylon stocking trick. Cheaper, but a big PITA to set up.


I'd also spend a few bucks and buy Craig Anderton's Home recording For Musicians - a great resource for folks just starting out. Craig has a great way of laying it all out in very easily understandable fashion.


After that, it's all up to you and your ears! :thu:

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