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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Advice For a Recording Newbie


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/349067

thejd123 - Posted - 12/11/2018:  15:54:15


I'm trying to get into home recording a little since I've gotten experienced enough with playing to actually produce decent takes once in a while, but I haven't the slightest clue how to go about recording and mixing to get a sound that resembles that of a studio album. I'm not looking to win a grammy or anything, but I'd like to be able to produce some good middle-of-the-road recordings to match my middle-of-the-road banjo playing.



My problem is that my recordings all sound fairly thin and very very obviously homemade. One obvious reason is the equipment, I'm just using a fairly cheap Behringer LDC mic and preamp, then mixing with Audacity, but that's because being a college student, I don't want to spend a penny on anything unless I'm sure it's the right move.



I'm including an example of what I'm coming up with. Don't pay much mind to the playing, every track was just one or two takes so I could get some audio to play with.



There's just something missing (besides a bass and mandolin chop) and I can't quite put my finger on it. It's got a hint of reverb and a touch of a bass boost, both helped fill out the sound a little, but not quite enough.



Any tips are appreciated! I feel like I can squeeze a little bit better sound out of this setup but I'm just not sure where to start.



Thanks,

Jon


Edited by - thejd123 on 12/11/2018 15:59:51


gtani7 - Posted - 12/11/2018:  17:26:56


Well, heck the playing sounded pretty good to me. You could start with things that don't cost anything: room treatment and mike placement, both very important. Worthy upgrades that cost $: condensor mike could be 2000 series from audio technica e.g. 2020. Other good mfrs: CAD, se electronic, project studio, Rode, blue, AKG. And then something w/ a better preamp like a Mackie, Yamaha or Peavey mixer.



Home recording is a deep topic, look for books in your college/public library: Home Recording for Dummies and Idiots, ones by Dave hunter, Shane Adams, David Huber, Mike Senior etc.  RecordingHacks.com, soundonSound and sweetwater tend to have credible gear reviews.


Edited by - gtani7 on 12/11/2018 17:34:41

banjoak - Posted - 12/11/2018:  23:10:28


There are some good utube videos out there about various micing and mixing techniques to play with (then of course is mastering, which is different than mixing... another art). 



Just to mention - Audacity is a bit limited (and uses destructive editing/processing)...  to step up into better mixing; EQing, routing, subs, using plug-ins and possible automation, you want a real DAW, being able to easier control aspects of mix/editing/processing (nondestructive way). GOOD NEWS - there are good free DAWs; including lite versions of popular pro DAWs, limited, but that would probably offer enough for your acoustic needs. If want a full pro DAW, Sonar Cakewalk is now available for free. Of course using Linux; gives many good free choices for DAWs and plug-ins; I use Ardour which has everything needed, fairly easy to use (IIRC also available as Mac or PC). 



IMO - using one of these DAWs, will help you to tweak the sound much better than Audacity.



 

banjoak - Posted - 12/11/2018:  23:12:13


Keep in mind that much of this is subjective for what kind of sound you want, but IMO the guitar and bass sound was a little muddy; especially the guitar lead lacked standing out.  (at least in my not best laptop headphones). Not sure I can tell you how to make it sound like you want... but here are some basic concepts I found useful.



Critical to mix is the EQ; individual instruments might needs to be tweaked for the whole band sound; it's the total combination sometimes get "too much"; like low/mid build up which can  get muddy, making it hard for separation/lead to stand out. One effect to play with is a bit of compression, it can make a difference.  I have found those most important; before adding any reverb or other effect plug-ins. 



But before DAW, are mics and micing placement (and room); the idea of good sound to work with, rather than fixing problems later with EQ or effects plugins. Besides tone from mic/mic placement; adding more air (and/or room sound) can play a part in making it less dry. Another option is using more than one mic* (different angle/distance) then choosing and/or blending later in mix. For rhythm guitar, look into (google) various stereo recording set ups; brings a nice full sound. A trick some use (can do with one mic), is playing the rhythm guitar part twice, pan L/R.  Similar can do multi takes for lead (esp vocals) as well. Needs to be tight playing, but will have very slight differences in performance, timing and tone... can mix one foreground center, others background with slight panning... can help make sound fuller, less dry/thin.



*adding another mic to arsenal can open up possibilities even fairly inexpensive ones. I would opt for something other than another LDC; I like SDC for guitar; but  don't dismiss dynamics, they are also useful, (can get a SM58 clone for cheap); and omni patterns have qualities that are useful (can also find these pretty inexpensively).

250gibson - Posted - 12/12/2018:  08:01:34


The best thing you can do to help mixing is buy good quality professional grade monitors. If you are not monitoring on something decent, then you never will know what your mix will sound like through another system. Good quality monitors have an almost flat frequency response, so that if you can get your mix to sound good on them, then you are pretty much guaranteed to sound good on any any system. Also you should mix with a reference track in mind. Find a good quality professional mix that you like and listen to that before you start touching your mix, and reference it frequently to make sure your mix is sounding like that.

250gibson - Posted - 12/12/2018:  08:07:10


I agree, you really can't create a proper mix with audacity. It is really not a proper DAW due to its limitations. Most real DAWs have a lite version that is free and can do more then audacity can with editing/mixing etc.

thejd123 - Posted - 12/12/2018:  12:04:38


Thank you all so much, I'm learning a lot! I knew Audacity was bottom-tier software, but I never knew what else to look for. I'll play with a new software first with the raw audio files I have, then I'll probably be buying a better mic or two. The LDCs I have seem to be good for guitar and vocals but leave the banjo zapped of all tone. Should I be looking for a better LDC for that, or a SDC? I've even heard some people say ribbon mics for banjos.

rudy - Posted - 12/13/2018:  07:39:23


Hi Jon,



Whatever you're sensing as "missing" in your recordings is best determined by you.  Your best tool is going to be a lot of critical listening and experience.  You obviously need to start with a playback system that provides you with enough fidelity to make an informed choice, but you really need to listen carefully to well made recordings within the genre that you are attempting to emulate and compare your recordings to that source material.  Some folks import a good stereo reference track and import it into their DAW so they can listen without even needing to go outside of their DAW workspace to listen to their target material.  That's one tip that might help you.



While its common for newbies to recording to start chasing equipment as solutions to their mix problems, the primary thing that usually needs to be addressed is (1) the instrument and how well it is used, and (2) the ROOM.  Even the lowest level in equipment selection is tremendously effected by room sound, and once all the reflections and weird EQ imposed from the recording environment deflect the microphone diaphragm its impossible to correct.  Most folks who go on to advanced recording will tell you that the recording space is the FIRST place to concentrate your resources when trying to improve the quality of your recordings.



Upgrading equipment can and does have an impact on your sound, but even the lower tier stuff sold to consumers today is pretty good.  If you think about all the microphones that have been sold as entry level recording gear over the past several years it's also apparent that there hasn't been a commensurate increase in the number of quality recordings.  That's because it's far easier to purchase gear than spending time learning to use it.  (I'm certainly as guilty as anyone in that respect!)



If you do opt for purchasing "better" equipment, do base your purchases on what a product actually is, and not what it appears to be.  As an example, you'll often see the AT2020 recommended as a good LDC to purchase.  Nothing wrong with the 2020, but behind the screen is a capsule that is firmly in the mid-size catagory.  People often base their purchases on what something appears to be and not on merit.



I own some higher priced SDCs but most often pull out my pair of AKG P170 SDCs because they just sound better to me.



When I started accumulating microphones I realized how much differently they all sounded, so I sat down with my DAW and sang and played acoustic guitar into each one as I recorded each to a separate track.  I could then easily go through the dozen mics I had at my disposal and hear what each one did to vocal and guitar.  It's at least a place to start when selecting mics that you own.



Bottom line, chase your room sound before purchasing equipment.  ...And get your degree!  With a good job you'll be able to have your own studio filled with as many toys as you want.



You're doing the right thing by starting with a minimum of equipment and figuring out the RIGHT way to use it.



 

thejd123 - Posted - 12/15/2018:  00:02:21


Quick update:

I've taken much of y'all's advice. I have a couple new mics coming in the mail after looking at lots of equipment reviews online. I'll probably be ordering a better audio interface in the near future as well. As for the software, I can tell that's going to make a huge difference. I downloaded the trial version of Ardour and tried mixing the same song using the exact same raw audio files. After lots of tweaking (and adding a badly timed and somewhat out of tune MIDI bass track just to fill out the lower register), I've come up with the attached recording. Still not professional at all, but a HUGE improvement.

I want very badly to get some studio monitors, but I live in an apartment with 3 roommates and usually only have time for this at night, so headphones it must be. I'm just trying to match the mixes of other songs.

Thanks for the tips!
Jon


banjoak - Posted - 12/15/2018:  03:02:54


I was going to suggest  "good pair" of headphones as budget option for monitoring. Good pair. 



The question of mics... (not sure what you ordered) but was going to mention you can probably get more out of your Behringer, and would suggest as additional mic(s) something much different; rather than a little better copy of what you have. An SM57 (or similar dynamic) can be very useful to give you options. (lot's of great recordings use a 57)



To reiterate what rudy said... can fall in a trap of thinking you need better gear. The something missing of home recordings (compared to pro studio), besides the room... is an engineer and producer; and the experience they have.



Take time to learn the equipment you have, learn to get all you can out of it. Experiment with different mics and placements. Each instrument is unique. As well, esp in small rooms, changing where you play makes a different angles and distances.  One of goals the experimenting isn't to find one mic or placement, but learning the differences of sound, to then be able to better know options to shape the quality of sound; tone, presence, air, room.  As well, pay attention to how the quality of each instrument will eventually fit in the mix, not just as an individual track. That is sometimes an instrument track can sound good alone, but competes when mixed with other instruments.



Lot's to learn; but again plays a bigger difference of what's missing in bland home recordings (than equipment). 



edit: Part of learning is developing a critical ear for detail. But I will maybe do another post.


Edited by - banjoak on 12/15/2018 03:15:27

rudy - Posted - 12/15/2018:  07:03:01


I'd certainly second banjoak's recommendation of GOOD headphones.



Unfortunately phones are one of the largest variables you'll run into when considering monitoring capabilities.  Price and performance vary widely, so it's best if you can audition several brands and levels for yourself.  I have a few different sets and personally like my Beyerdynamic DT770 PRO phones the best.



It's often parroted that you can't mix using phones, but it can be done if you familiarize yourself with how your headphone mixes translate to other systems.  All the high fidelity and standard mix procedures are somewhat in a state of change because of how so many current listeners consume the end product.  Most listeners today aren't planted at the ideal distance and centering between two speakers, but are more likely to be listening with ear buds, smaller computer monitors, or even an Amazon Echo.  I'm guilty of the Echo, as it's just too convenient to ask Alexa to play some song that might currently be running through my brain.  As time goes on the methods of audio consumption will change in ways I'm sure I can't even dream up.


Edited by - rudy on 12/15/2018 07:11:24

banjoak - Posted - 12/15/2018:  07:09:18


quote:

Originally posted by rudy

 

While its common for newbies to recording to start chasing equipment as solutions to their mix problems.....



....but even the lower tier stuff sold to consumers today is pretty good. If you think about all the microphones that have been sold as entry level recording gear over the past several years it's also apparent that there hasn't been a commensurate increase in the number of quality recordings.  That's because it's far easier to purchase gear than spending time learning to use it.  (I'm certainly as guilty as anyone in that respect!)






Good points... Just to pass along what others reminded me of as to why my (and many others) home recordings suck... As one of the studio videos pointed out... musician/home recordists often do things different than a studio; and perhaps a bit backward. 



There is a chain of order...  the early steps generally have much more significance. Many folks underrate steps before the mic/pre equipment and mixing. So of course the instrument, and things like picks and strings, can make a big difference. (dead dull strings are hard to fix with mic or EQ).



But a part in chain often "missing" is the role of producer, early on.  A good producer (with engineer), listens to detail in recordings...  the sound, tone and texture of all the parts in the mix. So before just being engineer, setting up mics and recording, has some more thought out goals to the sound they are after, including the tone, arrangement aspects and texture, how it will fit together. Not just the lead or vocals, but pays lot of attention to the accompaniment; how that can affect the perception of lead/vocal.  (tone, presence, air; and things like sustain, full chord strums vs choked vs chops vs fills). 



Playing all the parts (as opposed to a band), easy to forget to play producer; one example, as lead musicians, we can sometimes be too focused on listening to our lead part; and might underrate job of the rhythm guitar or bass, lazily just throw something in there with idea to fill it out, and mix. (of course might throw too much in, just complicating mixing). What might be needed (rather than at mixing, EQ, effects); is to  put on producer hat listen and realize for example it's just not a good rhythm guitar ... need to redo the track... maybe different guitar (dreadnought vs 00), different micing;... maybe different technique, simpler, warmer, smoother, zingier, on front/back of beat.. but (harsh critique) often my playing needs better attention, plain better technique; tighter, cleaner, focused (not just thrown in). 



A producer might also give critical feedback to the artists, point out to artist something isn't working, offer constructive solutions. Good producing, esp. early on, pre-planning is often my weakness for my home recordings, the hardest to do.frown  



quote:

Originally posted by rudy

 

....but even the lower tier stuff sold to consumers today is pretty good. 



....also apparent that there hasn't been a commensurate increase in the number of quality recordings.  






Related to above... the musician, technique and the performance of course is one of the earliest part of the chain. Been great musicians/performances that overcome some pretty mediocre equipment (and rooms).  Sometimes have to face the harsh reality the "missing" was some music skill that needs to improve. -  That said I think many home recording just do too few takes and settle if kinda okay. Often less takes than pros.  IMO to get a good product, do lot's and lot's of takes, until you really nail a good performance; (that process can help improve your playing). 



Chasing more expensive equip and mixing won't do much to fix settling for mediocre playing or lackluster performance for typical home recordist. (though with a lot of work, a good engineer/producer can polish turds).  



Just to repeat what many studio folks state... Good materiel, song, good arrangement, artistry... good musicianship, performance, articulation, expression... those are more important aspects of good recording.

banjoak - Posted - 12/15/2018:  07:19:59


I always heard recommendation for mixing, (perhaps more the mastering) is to play it back on what folks are likely to be listening on... smartphone, ipod, computer, car, boombox (back in the day), earbuds... it used to be that you had to check for stereo mixes if played in mono (phase issues); probably still a good idea.



I generally suck at making a mix sound really good on all those things; have no great clue about how those pros manage to master, what they do so sounds as good as it does.



---------------- 



@rudy Speaking of monitoring and mic placement... for a solo home recording, testing mic placement for an instrument or voice; do you always do a test track listen back in monitors, or can get reasonable live with good headphones?


Edited by - banjoak on 12/15/2018 07:30:13

thejd123 - Posted - 12/15/2018:  07:24:50


As for the new mics, I got a pair of a decent copy of the SM57. I definitely could get a little more out of my behringers and will surely play around with them more for guitar and vocals, but including in the past, I've never gotten anywhere near a realistic sound out of them for the banjo, so I decided I needed to try a different path.

There is absolutely a lot more to learn, but I'm just glad I'm finally pointed in the right direction. I'll post another sample again when I get the mics and actually take time to get good takes, etc. As I said before, all these instrument parts were just recorded on a whim to see what neighborhood of quality I could get in.

Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 12/15/2018:  12:43:46


Jon,



The first choice you'll need to make is between computer or console. Both have their own advantages and drawbacks. Basically, though, if you'll go for your own PC, all you'd need is a decent mic and a good audio interface  - and you're practically ready to go.



For truly excellent online (and ongoing) advice on all things home recording, look no further than Graham Cochrane's Recording Revolution. Lots of blogs and video tutorials to learn from. I also recommend to navigate to John Holt's The Audio Journey. An SAE-trained audio engineer, John is really friendly, open, and willing to help with any question related with home recording questions you need answered.



For the rest I fully agree with banjoak's and Rudy's previous advice. You'd do well listening carefully to what they are saying.



Veerstryngh Thynner


Edited by - Veerstryngh Thynner on 12/15/2018 13:05:39

Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 12/15/2018:  13:10:34


For basic gear, you'll also need a decent set of over-ear headphones, so as to prevent sonic leaking into your mic. I didn't manage to get that in, after posting.



VT

rudy - Posted - 12/16/2018:  17:12:55


quote:

Originally posted by banjoak

I always heard recommendation for mixing, (perhaps more the mastering) is to play it back on what folks are likely to be listening on... smartphone, ipod, computer, car, boombox (back in the day), earbuds... it used to be that you had to check for stereo mixes if played in mono (phase issues); probably still a good idea.



I generally suck at making a mix sound really good on all those things; have no great clue about how those pros manage to master, what they do so sounds as good as it does.



---------------- 



@rudy Speaking of monitoring and mic placement... for a solo home recording, testing mic placement for an instrument or voice; do you always do a test track listen back in monitors, or can get reasonable live with good headphones?






Both if it's anything critical.  I do find that the more you do simple tracking the easier it is to predict what the finished product will end up sounding like.  The hardest thing to predict in advance is if there will be phasing issues with stereo miking.  For that reason I find it's way more predictable to do mono source miking.  If you're doing multi=track recording then stereo miking becomes far less important than if you want to do something like intimate solo acoustic guitar.



Oddly, I end up doing a lot more stuff for other people than I do for myself.  Doing your own engineering pr production work ends up being a giant PITA, but it's obviously a lot cheaper than paying someone else to do it.  It's a bit like doing your own dentistry.  wink

banjoak - Posted - 12/18/2018:  14:35:47


quote:

Originally posted by rudy

 


Both if it's anything critical.  I do find that the more you do simple tracking the easier it is to predict what the finished product will end up sounding like.  The hardest thing to predict in advance is if there will be phasing issues with stereo miking.  For that reason I find it's way more predictable to do mono source miking.  If you're doing multi=track recording then stereo miking becomes far less important than if you want to do something like intimate solo acoustic guitar.



Oddly, I end up doing a lot more stuff for other people than I do for myself.  Doing your own engineering pr production work ends up being a giant PITA, but it's obviously a lot cheaper than paying someone else to do it.  It's a bit like doing your own dentistry.  wink






Thanks. 



I find I really like a little stereo for rhythm guitar, just seems to open up that I like. Home I usually use MS (because that's what I have) The 90 degree versions is interesting; I could do AB, but room is problem.  I don't have a great room, and it has to serve other purposes...  the rest of time... sometimes uninspiring to set up. For myself it's usually ends up guess... record, listen if it worked, adjust. Oddly my old analog 3440 process seemed easier... (I did have better room) and of course I have better mics now, or maybe I'm just more picky.



If critical... I have to remind myself... often what I'm doing at home these days is usually NOT really critical. Remind myself it's NOT meant to be a studio album. While occasionally background to indy film or commercials (not super critical), mostly it's to work on ideas, and arrangements (I can give to other band members); and just learning and have fun. But still, I get sucked into obsess trying to get it great. -  If critical, and $$ I go to pro's like yourself. (that's great learning too). Sometimes just to mix... to which they point out what I did wrong; some really dumb (dude when's the last time you changed strings?); they can polish turds to a degree... but sometimes just gotta do it over. (dead strings don't get brighter).

banjoak - Posted - 12/18/2018:  14:39:19


Mention previous of the room, wonder anyone have any experience with any these VSTs spatial enhancers that are supposed to mimic stereo recording in a good room, esp bigger room?  I was always led to believe a can't reproduce stereo, and small room will always have small sound?

Ed Banjer - Posted - 12/29/2018:  21:12:43


quote:

Originally posted by thejd123

As for the new mics, I got a pair of a decent copy of the SM57. 






Lol. Dude, are you even reading the posts in this thread? SM57 great mic as it is, is a dynamic mic. When people are saying you need an SDC, that means Small Diaphragm Condenser mic. Check out the Shure SM81 or a matched pair of less expensive ones of a different model or brand.



Its not your fault that you are a newbie and those people are using abbreviations and acronyms to only confuse you. I hope you saved your receipt. Good luck and happy recording.

thejd123 - Posted - 12/29/2018:  23:43:06


quote:

Originally posted by Ed Banjer

quote:

Originally posted by thejd123

As for the new mics, I got a pair of a decent copy of the SM57. 






Lol. Dude, are you even reading the posts in this thread? 






Lmao.  Bro, actually I got that mic based on the suggestion that I should get an SM57 (which you can find by scrolling up).  



 



The new mics are actually producing MUCH better sound than what I had, and I'm extremely pleased with them.

pearcemusic - Posted - 12/30/2018:  10:02:39


So many great recommendations in this thread. I’m an audio guy by trade and I use everything from the best there is to the cheapest. I have an expensive home studio as well as my work studio on the Universal Studios lot which has all of the best updated gear (we do 2 year leases which get replaced with new stuff). Rudy and banjoak really stress the room sound which I agree with completely tho it takes some experience to define the sound of a good room. Ok ... all that said, I have a laptop that has an inexpensive behringer 2channel I/o and a Blue Snowball ice usb mic ... using it with Reaper ... $60.



if I take the time to position my space and mic correctly I can get a very respectable sound ... with VERY little $ invested. I often use a set of DIY in ears that I made for $60 as my monitors. 



Like the guys said .... the biggest factor is ur space and monitoring. Experience does the rest. Just get to work with what you have and look to find ways to improve your sound every time you do a project.

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