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Newc's Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

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  • Newc's Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

    This is NOT a guide on how to convert a spare room into a full-blown 128 track billion dollar studio with $35 and some duct tape.
    This is a Beginner's Guide to recording your own music at home in a bedroom, computer room, or music room, into a Home PC.

    First, you should have the following, IN ADDITION TO a guitar:

    -Something to get the sound from your guitar to the PC. This can be a POD, V-Amp, whatever, or it can be a raging 100w stack with
    a Shure SM-57 if you have the luxury of being able to run a raging 100w stack. Most people don't, and if modelers sucked so bad,
    they wouldn't be selling like hotcakes. If you're that opposed to modelers, invest in a soundproof recording box and a smaller amp.
    Notice the key word "invest": "invest" always means "expensive". I won't tell a Beginning recordist to "invest", unless they've been
    touring professionally for years and always had a Pro studio to go into, but now want to do it on their home PC.
    So after you've got your modeler ready to run, you can plug it into the next piece of hardware:

    -A Compressor/Limiter: YES, you SHOULD have one. NO, you DON'T need the Compressor, you need the Limiter, but stand-alone Peak Limiters
    only come in TWO varieties; the ULTRA CHEAP Radio Shack brand stuff that sucks, and the ULTRA EXPENSIVE high-grade pro-studio stuff
    that you can't afford. So get an Alesis 3630. It's cheap, it's powerful, it's easy to use, and it does the job. Learn how to work it.
    What you want from this device is NOT that "pnnnNOOOOOOWWWWWWWW" Compressed Jazz Guitar sound, you want it to catch the sharp "P" sounds,
    as well as to subdue the extreme harsh highs and sub-sonic lows so they don't overload your recording input and make you blow the track.
    I do NOT recommend trying to get away with just using a BOSS Comp/Lim pedal - it ain't the same.

    --Sound card should have a Stereo Line Input or L/R RCA inputs. If you want an Echo Layla sound card, by all means,
    rush out and get one if you have the extra $$$$$$ to throw away. A Soundblaster Live works just as good for a Beginner, and costs
    a lot less.
    --You also need the correct cable adaptors to convert your sound cables to computer-friendly connections - namely a 1/4" to 1/8" adaptor.
    You can find these anywhere audio products are sold (WalMart, Radio Shack, etc etc).
    --Speakers: Here's where you'll probably run into trouble. You will hear people say that it's best to have a set of Studio-Quality
    Near-Field monitors. Those cost money. A pretty good bit. You're a Beginner. You decide for yourself if you need them.

    -Optional outboard gear:
    --You CAN get a mixer or stand-alone multi-track unit if you want to record the whole band in a more "studio-like"
    format, but if it's just you and your guitar, you probably don't need one.
    --A Drum Machine. You can find some older drum machines like the Alesis SR-16 pretty cheap these days, but your soundcard's MIDI drums
    are probably better if you've got a recent sound card with a lot of RAM on it. There are a few other units such as made by BOSS
    that still sound good as well, and you don't have to load them up with EQ and other advanced recording "tricks" to get them to sound
    realistic - or even good.
    --Finalizer: I doubt it seriously. I've mixed and recorded my own CDs that have levels as high if not higher (and still not peaking) than
    most "store-bought" CDs out there, all without the $1000+ Finalizer units. You DO need a good ear, though, so you can tell what's peaking
    and where and how to EQ it. That takes time to learn - about as much time as it does to come up with the money for a Finalizer.

    -Software: Obviously Windows does not include ProTools. There are tons of free programs out there. I mean legitimately free, not free that you
    get from file-sharing services. There are also tons of software you can buy - the ones most people are getting from file-sharing services.
    Ask around and you'll get a different opinion from everyone you talk to. Personally I use Syntrillium's CoolEdit2000, but sadly Adobe
    bought them out and as far as I know killed the program, or beefed it up to try to compete with ProTools. Either way, my favorite
    program is dead. But I've heard good things about Cakewalk (Sonor, GuitarTracks32), and one called Nuendo (which many people are pronouncing
    "new-endo" but I'm pretty sure it's supposed to sound like "innuendo" - capital "N" and all that?).
    But anyway, you might be able to find an old freeware app called N-Track - a program that had basically unlimited tracks (according to your
    processor and RAM).
    Whatever program you decide on, you might want to look into the features it has. TDM plug ins ($$$) and all that are designed and priced
    for Professional Studios using ProTools and Cubase and such, and a Beginner to Intermediate recordist doesn't need them. However,
    you DO want a program that not only allows you to RECORD tracks, but also to EDIT those tracks. Find something with graphic AND parametric
    EQs that you can apply to the tracks to shape and smooth them as needed. Also most programs should include MP3 conversion, but check anyway.
    ================================================== ================================================== ================
    I want to depart this world the same way I arrived; screaming and covered in someone else's blood

    The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

    My Blog:

  • #2
    Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

    Great start.

    FYI, CoolEdit Pro is now Adobe Audition.

    If you are going to continue this and want input on certain programs, I have been using SoundForge and Cakewalk Pro Audio for years, so I might be able to offer up some tips on those.

    I think if you're going to spend money on only one program, I would make it SoundForge.

    I've looked at Cubase often, but frankly its so "powerful" it scares me. Though I'm kinda liking Nuendo as I get used to it.


    • #3
      Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

      Sound Card:
      I recommend getting a multi-channel card and an outboard mixer right off the saves a lot of time fiddling with levels while recording and monitoring...this stuff is so inexpensive nowadays, there really isnt an excuse.

      Drum Machine:
      Not needed if you are using samples within your recording program.

      In addition to Adobe Audition, check Cubase, Logic (PC unsupported but last version was good), Vegas. I think Vegas is the best non-midi audio program.

      or, if you need only 3 stereo tracks, get ScreenBlast Movie. You can also edit movies on it. Simplified verson of Vegas Video.

      As always, watch out for the stuff they don't tell you. They being the software developers and music stores.

      ymmv, so look at your own needs. opinions available off-line.

      I made a rock n roll sin when I tried giving in to make money, had to turn down low.


      • #4
        Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

        Good call on N-track ..thats what I may not be the best out there but it is very user frindly and idiot proof(which I need) and I like the fact that even on my dino of a pc it doesnt seem to be too bad and runs fairly stable.



        • #5
          Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

          IF your program uses drum loops and such, and IF it has ones you like, and IF it has drum *tones* you like (some sound rubbery, or too "roomy", while others sound too strong. Drumming is a handy thing for a guitarist to learn, even if it's just typing it out in a MIDI program pattern. It also greatly improves your guitar timing and understanding of time signatures.

          I prefer GuitarPro 3 for programming drums and using the SR-16 or QSR for sounds via MIDI connections (unless I do it straight into the SR-16 then dump it into the 12-track unit).

          You do not need an expensive multi-channel card and external mixer for levels - the Alesis 3630 set for Peak Limiting works fine for a lot less. Trust me. The less outboard gear a beginner has, the better. Maybe once you step up to Intermediate or Advanced and "in the field" recording, yeah, but for those who come here and ask "How do I record to my PC quickly/cheaply?", this is the ideal setup:
          -Modeler, Rack preamp (ADA, Digitech, etc), or Floor Unit (Korg, Digitech, etc)
          -Alesis 3630
          -Standard 1/4" cables with 1/8" adaptor
          -Standard PC sound card with Line In
          -Multitrack software with Editing features included (EQ, etc) as well as MP3 conversion/import/export
          -MIDI program for backing tracks (cut the guitar and vocal tracks out to overlay your own, as was done with the files in the "Backing Tracks" thread)
          -CD-R burner (for passing out or selling discs to your friends)

          If you've already got the guitar and a decent amp to play live, spend $500 extra *maybe* on the other stuff and get a decent recording setup with far more features than most quality stand-alone recorders in that same price range. The most expensive thing on that list would be a POD or V-amp, if you can't find one cheap in great shape used.

          Last I looked the 3630 was going for $60-$100 on Ebay.

          I want to depart this world the same way I arrived; screaming and covered in someone else's blood

          The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

          My Blog:


          • #6
            Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

            Hey Newc, what do you think of 8-Track Digital Recorders, because that is what I'm planning to buy so I can record my ideas onto the computer??? One more thing, what do you think/know about the Fostex MR-8 8-Track Digital Recorder???


            • #7
              Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

              [ QUOTE ]
              Notice the key word "invest": "invest" always means "expensive".

              [/ QUOTE ] [img]/images/graemlins/laugh.gif[/img]

              Newc , you're the man . I'm slowly looking to buy a pod/v-amp and start recording some stuff at home .

              Is there a way i can have a software compression ? or is the alesis a must ?

              What is a cheap soundcard you guys recomend ( definitely not 500 $ range hehehe ) Some kind of sound blaster ( higher model ?). i have now one an integrated soundcard ( 5.1) on my asus mainboard - will it do the job ?

              And getting to 100 w halfstack option :

              i heard very good things about shure sm 57 AND sennheiser md 421 - any experiences ?


              • #8
                Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

                -I'm one of the ones who has never had the luxury of being able to run a raging full stack to get those "real man" tones, though I have been able to use a mic (SM-57) in front of a 2x12 at rehearsals - I got a better, more realistic tone by jacking one side of my rack into the board or the recorder and the other side into the amp in mere seconds, as opposed to wasting time finding the "sweet spot" in a room with a mic in front of the cab.
                The only mic I liked in front of my 2x12 was a Sennheiser e604 Tom mic - since I have a fairly bassy low end to my guitar tone, the SM57 didn't catch the low-end rumble I needed, but the e604 did. It had a more accurate reproduction overall. BUT since we were recording our rehearsals live, I didn't want all the crosstalk from the other guys.
                Unfortunately, the drums took a wrong turn for every track - spontaneous mic phase inversion and such, so anything else those mics picked up added to it, including the vocals and bass. The only thing that came through the Drum mics accurately was my guitar tone, and I was across the room [img]/images/graemlins/laugh.gif[/img]
                Anyhow, I'd say use the e604 instead of the 57 and 421 combo - one mic does two jobs at once - gotta love the convenience.

                -I do not recommend software compressors, because compression is not what you need - you need Peak Limiting. The Alesis 3630 has a button that lets you select either Compression OR Peak Limiting. The reason you want Peak Limiting is to prevent ultra highs and ultra lows (bunched distorted harmonic divebombs/pullups or bassy palm mutes, kick-and-low-tom drum riffs, double-bass passages, low-B bass notes, and the singer's inconsistent mic proximity and volume) from overloading the recording input, be it a soundcard into a PC or a stand-alone recorder.

                Ideally you should have one for each track that's being laid down, as opposed to everyone playing live into one Peak Limiter, as the loudest thing at any given time will nearly silence everything below it, whereas with one for each track/instrument/input, you can still get a good mix if, for example, the singer steps on a guitar part or the bassist and drummer don't hit at the exact same time (phase cancellation).
                The 3630 is a stereo unit, or rather, a dual mono (2 independant sides) so you get 2 completely separate units in one convenient space.

                The key thing to remember is that Compressors were originally used to improve RECORDED sustain back in the days before Direct Injection into the mixer then to the tape, and you HAD to crank the amp to get the best tone to tape, rather than Peak Limiting. Plus, you were pretty much stuck with whatever pickups came with the guitar, and they didn't have Super Distortions or other custom-voiced pickups - it was mostly PAFs or Fender singles or Gretsch - whatever. So combine a low output pickup with a clean channel and notes and chords don't sustain at a high enough volume to get it all on tape, so you used a Compressor to slightly squash the hottest signal you could muster, and it would release a steady (sometimes) volume which meant better recording tone (less hiss, 60 cycle hum, etc). The clean signal had to be as "hot" as possible - meaning nearly peaking. With Overdrive channels, the volume stayed pretty much the same no matter what chords or lead lines you played, but with a Clean channel, you could go from shimmery highs to bassy lows. Too hot of a signal meant you overloaded the track and had to re-cut it. You did have studio wizards like Jimmy Page who used Compressors in other ways (doube, triple, and even quadruple compressing a drum track, like the bass drum in When The Levee Breaks), but most used them for guitars as they were actually very hard to record due to their wide range and circuitry noise.
                Peak Limiting is a side-effect or "trick" of Compression, but it's harder to set than just getting a dedicated Peak Limiter.

                Incidentally, a Noise Gate is basically a Compressor, but it works in reverse - louder signals pass through at full volume but weaker signals are cut off to avoid the hum getting through to tape. I won't advise you to get one, but won't dissuade you from it. I rarely use the one in my rack as I've never had a problem with excess/uncontrollable/unwanted feedback except from bad pickups, which Noise Gates are not designed to help with, and when the Ins and Outs are set properly, you get hardly any signal noise/hiss/"snow" - at least none that couldn't be masked well enough in the full mix.

                A Compressor like the BOSS pedals CAN be used as a sort-of Peak Limiter, but it's hard to dial in the correct setting so that you get actual Peak Limiting and not the "fpnnnnnnggOOOOWWW" - play with a Compressor pedal in front of your amp or signal chain (first item after the guitar) and you'll hear what I'm talking about.

                -As for multitrackers, I started with a Tascam Porta02 2-track cassette unit, then moved up to a Yamaha MT4X 4-track cassette, then to an Akai DPS-12 12-track digital. I have not used any other units, and actually use the 12-track more for A/B-ing solo takes and doing stereo rhythms (split at 10 and 2 o clock with similar but different EQs on each side). I do all of my mixing on the PC using individual tracks.

                -As for a SoundCard - I used a Creative Labs AWE64Gold that had RCA inputs with my old Win95/NT4 system until I upgraded my PC recently to a WinXP system. I got an SB Live 5.1 card with it because it had more RAM on the card, which I wanted for MIDI instruments, and I wasn't sure if I could find XP drivers for the AWE64.

                **Remember, this is a guide for Beginning Home Recordists - those who don't know yet if they want to get into full-on home recording, those who just want to use their PC or a small multi-tracker for "scratch-pads" and "here's myself playing with myself", and for those who want a good starting point for very little out-of-pocket expense. I'm sure some folks will come in and say you need a $5000 Mac with ProTools and an Echo Pro Studio card and every TDM plugin known to man, but that's an overly expensive start, and by the time you learn how to run everything, you've probably lost interest in it. I WILL say that as you progress from Intermediate to Advanced recording and WANT to build a semi-pro basement/home studio, you're better off investing in a Mac and ProTools and all that, as you'll get tons of more and better features, industry standard tools, and a firm grasp of those tools that can come in handy if you ever decide to do some intern work at a real studio, or you're in a budding band that has to go into a record label's studio. You'll know more about your own recording gear (amps, mics, racks, etc) than just "On/Off", which reduces time and money spent in a studio.**

                -The main bonus I've found with a rack or modeler is that you get YOUR sound that YOU like and that YOU want no matter where you go. Different studios follow different layouts and have different acoustic properties, and cabinets and speakers do react to the environment like guitars do - some cabs sound like crap in one room but sound great in another room. Once you've reached the "Led Zeppelin IV" status you can afford to rent a large manor house in the English conutryside, or even L.A., and play around with mic placement and acoustics and such, but if you've got YOUR signature sound dialed into a "plug-and-play" unit that's easy to carry, you'll earn bonus points with the engineers who would rather spend time recording than hearing "guitar check riff #465" a million times.

                I want to depart this world the same way I arrived; screaming and covered in someone else's blood

                The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

                My Blog:


                • #9
                  Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

                  Good guidelines Newc.

                  I do recommend a better soundcard than the soundblasters. 24/96 cards are cheap now. Emu makes one for 99 bucks. I have an M-audio Audiophile 2496 and noticed a sound quality improvement.

                  I don't like to tell folks what to get but only what works for me, what works for me doesn't work for everyone. I get asked what I use a lot so I added a page on my site with links to the products.


                  I'm just now getting away from the whole "modeler" thingy and using an SM-57 in front of a real tube amp. It takes a little more time in the set-up but once you find it, its easy to find the next tine you record something. The other thing I'm trying to achieve is good tone at bedroom volumes. I'm getting there with some THD stuff on the Marshall.


                  • #10
                    Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

                    Do you guys think that an 8-Track Digital Recorder is good for recording an album besides all the other things you have to do once you send the files to the computer???


                    • #11
                      Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

                      An 8-track would be perfectly fine for that.

                      As long as you're doing the mixing and post-production of each track on the computer, you are free to play around with the 8-track's capabilities such as putting rhythm guitar tracks on two tracks each - one pair panned har left and hard right and the other pair panned to 10 o clock and 2 o clock, for example, for a much fuller sound, as well as stereo drums, or dedicated drum tracks (each drum gets its own channel/track).

                      I want to depart this world the same way I arrived; screaming and covered in someone else's blood

                      The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

                      My Blog:


                      • #12
                        Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

                        I record my podxt via usb. There is no way to get the Alesis 3630 into the signal chain when going usb, correct?
                        "Yes,..that's when they used to shove a red hot spike in your peehole until you screamed "yes, yes, godammit fuggin' dicks..I'm a witch..I am cocksuckers"" horns666


                        • #13
                          Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

                          Newc, YOU ARE SO AWESOME DUDE, but I still have questions I can't think of right now!!! [img]/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/tongue.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/headbang.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/scratchhead.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/brow.gif[/img] [img]/images/graemlins/toast.gif[/img]


                          • #14
                            Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners

                            Frosty - Not through the USB port. You'd hafta switch to the Line In on your sound card.

                            I want to depart this world the same way I arrived; screaming and covered in someone else's blood

                            The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

                            My Blog:


                            • #15
                              Re: Newc\'s Home Recording Handbook - Lvl 1- Beginners