General Question

generalspecific's avatar

Home-recording tips?

Asked by generalspecific (1874points) July 7th, 2008

I don’t know anything about recording music, as far as terms go and how to balance things. I just know what buttons I gotta press and that at least gets the song done.
So I’m just wondering if anyone that has a bit more experience can listen to my music and help me out a bit?
(I know a couple songs are super quiet, but I do actually know how to fix that.. I just got a bit lazy)

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

13 Answers

generalspecific's avatar

oh, and I forgot to mention, I have a Tascam DP-01digital 8-track

speakerhead's avatar

I know something about recording music. I’m an up-and-coming Music Producer so I have to learn most of this. What exactly do you need help with? Just so I can get a better understanding.

mirza's avatar

You should read this amazing blog that has some really good audio recording tutorials – Audio Tuts

generalspecific's avatar

@speakerhead.. I’m not sure really, just how to make it sound more professional, perhaps? and it always seems that it sounds a little muffled.. not sure how to fix that. just, are there any like, basic terms I should know? i just really have no idea about this sort of stuff. haha. like what an equalizer does or phantom power, anyyything. so i’m sure most stuff you could have to say would help

@mirza, thanks a lot, that looks really interesting. i can’t wait to check it out.

speakerhead's avatar

Ok, I have done a little research on your Tascam. What type of mic are you using? because the mic might be one reason that your sound is muffled because the mic you may be using might not be used for recording guitar.

generalspecific's avatar

well i’m not using the mic to record guitar, i have an acoustic/electric so i just hook the guitar up to the tascam and record it that way

playthebanjo's avatar

unfortunatly you will not get studio quality from the setup you probably have. Are you on a mac? I have gotten pretty good results using GarageBand. It has a much lower learning curve than reason or protools. Get a good USB microphone, get the guitar line in through something that works (I think griffin makes something that goes quarter inch to USB) and record the guitar track separately from your vocal track. That way you cane fine tune a little easier.

BirdlegLeft's avatar

@Generalspecific, you’ve really opened a can of worms. I think the best thing foe you to do would simply record, record, record. Experiment. Play around with mic placement, and different types if microphones. Oh, and in less you are intending on an acoustic guitar sound, you really ought to use an amp and work on your live guitar sound. Nothing worse I’d more boring than an average guitar sound. Above and beyond that you may want to pick a few of your favorite recorded songs and critique them. What is it about the recording that you like? Is it something you can emulate? Lastly, I think “professional” is in the eye of the beholder. If you want to sound like modern, folky Jewel chances are you won’t be able to pull that off at home. The mica they use in a place like that are worth a small car. On the other hand, if you had the Mouldy Peaches in mind I think you could come close. I’d also highly recommend TapeOp magazine. Free. For musicians, studios, engineers.

speakerhead's avatar

Sorry, I could not answer your question faster, business came up and I had to leave my Mac. Basically I have to agree with playthebanjo. I have been looking have been looking at your Tascam DP-01 digital 8-track. I honestly recommend you upgrade one-step above this if you are still interested in the Tascam products.

Or if your more serious about the recording and being able to do more you should just invest in a Mac and just use GarageBand. Also if you get TASCAM DP-02CF Digital Portastudio you can plug in an XLR condenser mic so you can get a very good sound from your acoustic/electric guitar and a mic for vocals.

ccatron's avatar

@generalspecific – an equalizer is used to adjust the treble, base and mid range properties of the music. If it sounds muffled, try adding some treble, too much bass or distortion, try backing off on the bass. or if it sounds tinny, back off on the treble a little and add some bass. Mid range gives the sound a little more meat. most equalizers aren’t marked bass, mid range, treble. more than likely, your equalizer has multiple sliders. From left to right is bass, mid range and treble. You also probably have more than 3 sliders. basically the sliders progress from one property (bass, mid, treble) to the next. start off with everything at halfway. move each slider a little bit at a time and see how it changes the sound. there are some common settings for different styles of music, but it just takes trial and error to find what works best for you.

Phantom power is sends dc current through the mic cord to power condenser mics and some direct boxes. if you don’t have those, don’t use it.

lastly, there’s been some talk here about GarageBand for Mac. if you are not on a Mac, I would suggest Audacity. It’s free and works pretty well (with practice). The key with all of this is that you just have to try things over and over again to learn how to do it. You can make what you have work for what you are trying to do—to a point. It won’t sound perfect until you upgrade, but you can always make it sound better. apparently, everyone here has money to throw around to buy new equipment, so maybe they will share with you. I say you keep the equipment you have and learn to use it. If you are really serious about it and have the money, then by all means upgrade. I haven’t listened to your myspace stuff, yet, we have myspace blocked at work, so I can’t comment directly on your music.

sndfreQ's avatar

Hi generalspecific,

Sorry that this is going to be a long post-hope you can glean some good info from it though…I think you have received some very good advice above.

I too reviewed the equipment specs for your recorder, as well as listening to your tunes on your myspace (nice job btw); I think for what you have you’ve done a pretty decent job getting the recording out in spite of your technical challenges. Some notes and observations:

1. Regarding your concerns about the sound quality of your recording: I think for what equipment you’ve been given, it sounds okay for your first time out; The two areas to consider in your current setup are: the way you’re recording your guitar (see next comment below), and the way you are effecting your vocals (too much reverb); Keep in mind that the recordings musicians make are representative of their live performances. Think about it: if you were sending this to a record label, what would they think about the mix you’ve made compared to how you might sound live “in person”? If you were then asked to do a stage performance (a showcase for example), would the sound of that performance be the same? Unless you were making music in a genre like electronica, chances are, a live sound would vary from your studio sound; most musicians of quality strive to make that less distinguishable. In short, make the recordings sound true to your natural performance; most musicians make the majority of their living from live performances.

2. In general, musicians use the line output that comes direct from their guitar’s pickup, to go through some sort of processing pedals or other line-level processor first before going into a recorder; usually, this is done to alter the tone and effects of the guitar, so bearing that in mind, most line-level pickups on guitars sound pretty crappy on their own (unless you’re talking pro-level on Gibsons, etc., which can run into the thousands of dollars). If you’re trying to go for a “pure” guitar sound, you should consider using a microphone to capture the acoustic guitar’s natural acoustic resonance. In most studio recordings, acoustic guitars are mic’d by one or more microphones to pickup the natural resonance of the guitar’s body, strings, and strumming action.

3. Based on what we know about your current setup, if you really want to improve your overall recording experience, you are probably going to have to consider making some equipment changes or upgrades; if you choose to do this, then there will be a number of things to think about that relate to the entire “Signal Chain” (the link between each step in the signal path); in order from the start of the signal to the final output stage, here are things to consider:

-The quality of microphone (without stepping up to the XLR-inputs and Phantom Power as described above, you’re limited to dynamic (self-powered) type mics; some good value-to-dollar companies to check out would be Shure, Audio-Technica, or even BLUE mics);

-Quality of preamp (in your case the built-in preamps on your Tascam are pretty lo-fi, as usually 1/4” TRS line/mic combo plugs are the tell-tale sign of low quality preamp/signal chains; If you went with an external preamp, you can “enhance the incoming sound” in several ways (a deeper, clearer, more vibrant sound). Some “entry level” preamp companies are Presonus, dbx (although pricier), Behringer…

-Quality of the Analog-to-Digital conversion: your audio signals start out as an electric (Alternating) current, which is carried down the cables to the line/mic input on your Tascam; inside your Tascam, there is a unit that changes the current into a digital bitstream (think 1’s and 0’s) that is encoded into a digital file that becomes your digital audio track. The quality of the A-to-D converter in your Tascam again will limit the fidelity of your tracks, that is, every track you record into the unit. This problem will in effect be “multiplied” each time you add new tracks or layers. In your tunes, you have anywhere between 2–5 tracks (from what I can tell), so each time you are adding a new track you are adding that same “lo-fi” sound, up to 5 times!

-On the output stage (when you are blending the recorded tracks to make your final mixdown): The way you use the on-board effects will either clarify or “muddy up” the end product; usually the saying in the “industry” goes: “Garbage in, Garbage out.” Which means, if you are recording sub-par audio into the system, no amount of effects processing or mixing will hide that sound; in my audio classes, I coined the term “polishing a turd,” which has a lot of relevance, in that if a student of mine records a sound that starts off bad, chances are, they’ll just be polishing a turd to try to clean up what started off as garbage!...

3. Mixing advice: remember that when you mix, you are “recreating” the sound and ambiance of a live performance (in most cases); when you add effects or other elements to your recording, that will impact the way the listener perceives the recording and the space where the performance takes place. Most first-timers make the mistake of coloring elements of their mix too liberally as a way of masking or “hiding” blemishes in the performance; instead, concentrate on really grabbing that “perfect take”; in your case, the digital recorder (with some practice) can be a really helpful tool in editing, and replacing certain takes, lines, or other pieces of the track (called “overdubbing” in the “bizz”); If you practice that technique, you will be able to clean up a lot of blemishes or other elements (i.e. off-pitch or “pitchy-ness”), in your recordings. Remember your efforts should always be aimed at delivering a true, clear performance. Sometimes this also means practicing and “brushing up” on your musicianship.

4. Ultimately, your equipment and studio “rig” can actually harm your process of creativity, if it makes your sound less-than-true to the actual performance. No amount of reverb, EQ, or other processing on the mixdown will hide poor quality recording to begin with. Even in the multi-thousand dollar pro studios I’ve worked in, whenever someone brings in a lo-fi piece of gear into the recording, it instantly makes the recording process more tedious and time intensive to clean that up. In some cases, bands bring in really crappy drum sets, so we resorted to actually buying a “studio kit” that we break out in order to save time (sometimes just a snare drum or cymbal or two), but we find that it saves a TON of time and frustration down the line when mixing down recordings.

Again, any upgrades will help, but usually in such cases, once you upgrade one component, you will soon realize that another component in the signal chain will be to blame for some other problem…then you will have officially “joined the club!” – we all go through this, and it doesn’t stop! As BirdLegLeft put it, in some studios, just the microphone can cost as much as a small car! (<—-This one for example, hasn’t been made in over 50 years, but is considered priceless in the pro studio world-some say it would sell for $60,000 plus!)

I’m excited for you and your endeavors-whatever you do, keep at it-it’s a long and arduous road, but if you persist, the rewards are great and many, and makes for an exciting career! Feel free to PM me if you have any other questions or if you are thinking about a major upgrade (e.g. moving up to a computer-based Digital Audio Workstation system); may I also suggest doing some research using some bulletin boards for beginning producers; I found home recording to be a good one for first-timers.

Good luck!

generalspecific's avatar

wow, thanks a bunch everyone that should really do the trick. i’ll think about doing some upgrading and whatnot.

punkrockworld's avatar

Work with this program called mixcraft. Its great, I use it all the time.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther