Beginner Recording Series (Tips)

Beginner Recording Series (Tips)
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#1

I wanted to start a bit of resource thread here dedicated to tips for beginners (we’ll do other levels too) that we can put together as a complete package later, OR use for newsletter “tip of the day”, etc.

Try to post short but effective recording tips for beginners that we can use to put this resource together. Tips could include, microphone techniques, entry level interfaces, avoiding overspending on gear, drum micing, dealing with small spaces for recording, etc.

Obviously, we may not all agree on certain tips, but please take disagreements to a new thread or private message.

If you can’t easily think of a tip to share, or if you feel like a beginner yourself, feel free to also post a beginner question on this thread to help give ideas to others. Thanks!


#2

#3

First tip - Keep your costs extremely low when you’re just starting. Only buy what you need. Once you’ve increased your knowledge and skill in recording then you should sink more money into your recording equipment if you feel the need.

  1. I started my digital recording journey with standalone multitrack recording machines (all-in-one digital recorders). There’s no need for computers or interfaces if you decide to use a standalone. However, you still require headphones and/ or ideally, audio monitors and of course a microphone if you want to record your voice and/ or acoustic instruments. Computers will give you greater flexibility and will be useful if you want to dig deeper into recording, but standalone machines are quite loaded with features too.

Some great standalone multitrack recording machines that I own or have owned in the past include;

These are the big machines. They have the ability to record between 16 and 32 tracks and have varying degrees of features, such as volume automation, built-in FX processors, phantom power for condensor mics.

KORG D3200,
AKAI DPS24,
ROLAND VS2480
BOSS BR-1600
YAMAHA AW2400
TASCAM 2488

These are the smaller machines that only allow between 4 and 8 tracks to be recorded. These can be useful for making demos and they’re very portable.

BOSS BR-8
BOSS BR-800
BOSS BR-1180
FOSTEX MR8-HD-CD
ZOOM MRS-808
ROLAND VS-880ex
YAMAHA MD8


#4

I stand by that, I used the same method to record distorted Cliff Burton-esque guitar like bass. You can also use DPA 4006-A’s for ambience, and they work equally great as overhead microphones. I love minimalist drum mic techniques. Two of those puppies, a D112 outside the kick, and you’ve got yourself a pretty nice drum sound. Room microphones are nice too, those tend to change based on what room I’m recording in, but the others are staples. If the snare really isn’t extenuating itself I’ll thrown an SM-57 on top and the bottom of it, but that is incredibly rare. I like recordings to sound like performances, and not like records. I guess I’m weird. Strike that, I know I’m weird.


#5

Learn what your needs are. Buy the gear that fulfills those needs and ignore the gear that doesn’t.

The only way to know your needs is to start recording and seeing where your gear isn’t letting you do something. If you have the budget, buy the gear that resolves that.

Don’t let anybody tell you what your needs are. Only you can know that. If you have a problem and you don’t know the solution, then forums are a great place to ask questions. But don’t ever ever ever let someone else tell you what your needs are. Your needs are yours and yours alone. Find them. Fix them.


#6

The simplest but most effective tip I can offer is to get the best sound you can on the way in to the recording. Don’t rely on “fixing things in the mix” until it is absolutely necessary. This goes for both the sound and the performance. Whatever you are recording, make sure you fix all the problems you can before you move on to the next stage. The time you save in mixing instead of fixing will allow you to become a creative part of the project instead of a repairman.


#7

A tip for recording someone other than yourself.

Go out of your way to make the recording environment that you are using as inviting as possible. This includes lighting, furniture placement, having as much of your gear already set up as possible, etc. Have glass(es) of water already available, or a pitcher. Have a notepad and a couple pens/pencils available. Treat the recording environment as if you were bringing a significant other over for a first/second date. Make things comfortable but not creepy essentially. ie, Forcing a vocalist to record in an cluttered, unlit closet (even if acoustically treated) will not generally instill confidence.

Having an environment that promotes creativity and reduces extra headaches for the performer can bring out the best in their performance, whether that person realizes it or not.


#8

I require all my clients to wear nothing but their undergarments, and the control room is also a steam room. I light lavender scented incense and give them an oily massage before letting them play a note. I have a problem with musicians falling asleep during takes, but it’s no big deal.

Here’s another one for the beginners. If you’re recording in a small room, chamber reverbs with a very low depth setting can make a HUGE difference in wetting up the sound without mudding anything up.


#9

Most important things for new home recordists, in my opinion:

  1. Invest in treating your recording/mixing space to minimize reflections and frequency buildups by putting absorbers, diffusers, and bass traps in your space. Yes, it costs money, but if you don’t have a reliable place to record and listen to playback, you will never get anywhere.

  2. Invest time (but not THAT much money) in solid, quality monitors/speakers. Your home stereo is not the answer for your primary mixing listening (but it is crucial for testing how your work translates to a variety of environments). If you can’t hear what you’re mixing reliably, you will never get anywhere.

These two together are essential.

And once that’s under control, my one mixing tip for people starting out: Put a high-pass filter on EVERYTHING. Virtually all instruments (including human voices) contribute to the very low frequencies, but you do not want those for everything except your kick drum and bass instruments. But high-pass those too! You can always slide it back and work to have it do what you need it to. Those low-mid frequencies are so easy to get wrong (something I have never stopped struggling with) and poor management of those areas will make an otherwise quality mix sound amateur.


Beginner Mixing Series (Tips)
#10

My beginner tips are these:

# Your EARS are your most valuable hardware; your BRAIN is your most valuable software.

  1. Your brain trumps your ears every time – Don’t assume you just haven’t been gifted with golden ears at birth – train you BRAIN and your ears will follow

  2. Take the time to start NOTICING the stuff around you – how it actually SOUNDS – then you might have a shot at reproducing those sensations

  3. Focus on the BIG PICTURE & the things that will matter to the listener – no one cares about your snare sound.

  4. REFERENCE, REFERENCE, REFERENCE! Your loving sonic memories are no match for the brutal truth of your speakers.

  5. Post it on Bash This Recording to get a fresh pespective.

These tips are part of (& sum up) this article I wrote some time ago that is now buried here:

http://wp.indierecordingdepot.com/5-stupidly-expensive-ways-to-turn-cloth-ears-gold/

To get the full story, read this ^^


Beginner Mixing Series (Tips)
#11

As someone else mentioned, “get it right at the source”.

Make sure your instruments are in tune and played in time (to the best of your capability).
Play to a click/ metronome.
Especially when you record more than one instrument, it is very important that each part is playing in fairly good synchronicity…Nothing sounds worse than a bunch of instruments all playing at varying times, in different grooves. Timing seems to be the most problematic issue for beginners AND intermediates.


#12

Good one, Chord, but do me (and our new readers a favour. Quickly explain what a High Pass filter DOES.
I always (even after years) have to struggle to remember whether a High Pass allows high frequencies through or stops them. (And the opposite for a Low Pass).
This IS for “beginners”.


Beginner Mixing Series (Tips)
#13

I’ll step in if that’s ok as I’m up and about and CW possibly isn’t - yet.

Correct.

High pass = low cut and vice versa.

Personally I always use the “cut” language as it suits my way of thinking i.e. you are cutting the unwanted frequencies rather than “allowing” the others to pass… but I think that’s an amateur thing in a way. Pros, AFAIK, speak in terms of high pass/low pass


#14

It really is eye and ear opening how much you can high pass almost everything without thinning things out too much. Let your ears tell you how far you can go, and leave that room for the instruments that need it. This tactic also frees up dynamic range, making it easier to keep things from clipping…


#15

A couple of these tips have more to do with mixing than recording, so I’ll move those over to the mixing thread. Thanks!


#16

Don’t let anyone ever tell you what you’re doing is wrong. Listen to people that tell you what you could do to make it better. You don’t need a bunch of close-minded fundamentalists clouding up your mind with their idea of recording conformity. Those people are boring, and they make boring sounding albums that are churned out daily on a cookie cutter assembly line. Take a risk. The worst thing that could possibly happen would be to try it again.