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Entry-Level Hardware

Discussion in 'Recording' started by josheee12, Apr 26, 2011.

  1. josheee12

    josheee12 Active Member

    Apr 26, 2011
    Hi guys. First post here. While I have little real-world experience, the world of audio recording has always fascinated me. Well, the opportunity for me to test out my knowledge has come around. A friend's band (genre: ska punk) wants me to do their recording. I would like to know where to start in terms of entry-level hardware. I would like to be able to record the following:
    Lead mic (XLR)
    Backing mic (XLR)
    Guitar (1/4")
    Bass (1/4")
    Trumpet (1/4")
    Trombone (1/4")
    Saxophone (1/4")
    Keyboard (MIDI? I presume this is the way to go.)
    Drums (I presume a mic array is required.)
    I will be using my laptop to manage all of the recording itself (so the interface has to be USB or mini-FireWire). My guess is that I'll need a DI box for the instrument-level audio such as the guitar and bass, the trumpet/trombone/sax will already be mic-level, and that the drums will be a hell of their own. Please clarify on what I need, I currently have nothing besides a few amps and a TASCAM older than myself. Thanks in advance. Also, I'd like to be able to reuse as much of the equipment as possible for live performances.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Distinguished Moderator Resource Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    Hi, and welcome to Recording.Org!

    You've set yourself a big task in attempting a recording of this type as a first with no previous experience. There is no "entry level" gear list that is going to give you results that are worth listening to.

    The key question is: are you hoping to record the band playing all at once or are you expecting to build up the recording track-by-track, i.e. recording only one performer at a time? It makes a big difference to not only the type and amount of equipment you need, but also to the important (and often overlooked) point about exactly where and in what acoustic environment you should try to make this recording.

    Why have you put a 1/4" descriptor against the blown instruments? Do you already have mics and pre-amps for these? The really big thing is the drumkit, which needs at the minimum 3 or 4 of the right type of mics all set up in a good acoustic environment.

    You could do a lot worse than consider recording the drum tracks (and maybe the bass at the same time) in a local commercial studio, and bring away the multitrack recordings for you to add the other individual instruments in your home studio environment. This could not only work out cheaper through not having to buy so many mics and a multi-channel interface, but you would get a much better acoustic result. It would also give you a better idea of what is involved and be a more sensible step up on the way from nothing to the full gear needed to capture a ska band.
  3. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    Lead mic (XLR) Good. A Shure SM58 would probably do.
    Backing mic (XLR) Good. Same thing.
    Guitar (1/4") Not good. A mic in front of an amp, which will be XLR input. A Shure SM57 will do.
    Bass (1/4") OK. You may even be able to run direct, split from a direct out of bass amp, if it has one. Or, get a direct box and split to bass amp, and DI.
    Trumpet (1/4") Not good. You'll need to mic that. XLR.
    Trombone (1/4") Same as above. XLR.
    Saxophone (1/4") Same as above. XLR.
    Keyboard (MIDI? I presume this is the way to go.) MIDI isn't sound. But, you can plug the keyboard into a 1/4" jack (or two for stereo keys).
    Drums (I presume a mic array is required.) As stated, probably at least four....kick, snare/hi-hat, right and left overhead. All XLR.

    Adding all that up means you'll need at least 10 XLR inputs, and a few 1/4". That's more than 8 inputs you have. You could do some submixing, and even position the horn players to use only two mics, possibly. The only thing about all that is the loss of control of each individual element on its own track.

    For instance, if you CAREFULLY balanced out your drum kit with mic placement, you may be able to mix those four mics down to two inputs, as stereo. That frees up two. If you arrange your horn players around two mics so they balance out, you could save one. That's three total, so far. So that brings you down to 7 XLR, and a few 1/4" needed. But, you have only one channel left. And, you have the bass guitar and the keyboard (as mono) left.

    You could submix those two, but they may be even more difficult to deal with on one track since the keys may reach down into the bass territory. Even on the drums, if they are on two tracks (or one stereo track), you won't really be able to add, say, reverb, to the snare or overheads because you'll also be adding it to the kick drum turning it into low-end rumble-mush.

    You could record the band without the horns and, possibly, vocals, and then add them after. That frees up four or five tracks (2-3 for horns, and 2 vocals). That means guitar, bass, drums, and keys could be tracked. Guitar, bass, kick, snare/hi-hat, L/R overheads, stereo keys = 8 tracks, individually. Or, run keys mono, have a lead vocal scratch (or possibly even keeper) track. I realize it helps to have a vocal to know where you're at in a song. Realize that that vocal will have everything else that mic is picking up in it, unless you have the singer isolated. If you wait, you won't have that problem. Doesn't mean you can't have a scratch track, or you might even possibly get a keeper.

    Anyway, if you do it with the stereo keys (no vocals) you'd have vocals (2 or more) and horns (3) = 5-8 tracks available. Everything to their own track.

    If you wanted to be real mean to your drummer, you could position the three horn players right behind him, and the overheads could pick up the horns, saving you three inputs. Horns are pretty loud! But, then again, the horns and drums would be inseparable from that point on.

    Just some thoughts.

    Good luck.

  4. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Munich / Germany
    Home Page:
    It is a very big task for home recording. A usable recording / mix of a band ( especially SKA, I've done some top acts) usually requires a few thousand $ on gear and ( for you) an assistant who has previously done some similar recordings. Not talking about room acoustic, miking techniques, blind understanding of the signal paths & hardware/DAW, as well as appropriate mixing gear incl. Monitors. I strongly suggest to look out for a semi pro studio, where you can take over the part of co-engineer and co-producer.

    After that production you comb your now slightly more grayish hair back and make a list of what you need for the next recording sessions done by yourself. I can promise you that what you plan will not be satisfactory, not to you and not to the band. When I did my first bigger band in the mid 80s with multiple backing vocals, additional percussion and brass section, etc., I was plum tuckered out after the 17 songs were finished... and that was in a rather well equipped and functional studio of friend, who helped me out quite a few times during the project.

    I tell you that not to discourage you, but to keep you from a small desaster... You know too little and there is too much to be learned in a too shorter time.
    Start with a small 2-piece acoustic act and work your way up. Of course, ..no risc - no fun, but here it is an uneven battle... Choose the safer way and keep your fun for that profession. It is one of the best jobs on earth.

    A question: why 1/4" for trumpet?
    (Hi Krunch, you beat me on that..lol)
  5. josheee12

    josheee12 Active Member

    Apr 26, 2011
    Thank you all very much for the advice. I have a feeling that I will be holding out on doing recording for them for a while due to the exponential cost. Once again, thank you very much.
  6. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Munich / Germany
    Home Page:
    Hey, ... if they are any good on stage, you might want to record their live performance from the FOH mixer or with a rented mic splitter.
    Check out this possibility... If the mixerman is good, you can use the stereo sub groups of brass or drums, etc.
  7. Sol Invictus

    Sol Invictus Member

    Apr 20, 2011
    Hi All,
    I read this thread with great interest because what joshee12 is asking about is similar to what I have been trying to do - I'm a soldier deployed in Iraq and I have been setting up a home recording studio while I'm over here, making purchases online and having the gear sent to my home in NY. I don't have a lot of experience. Especially when it comes to Protools and digital interfaces but I'm learning what I can from where I am having nothing but internet and PDF books and online forums such as this one. I have made my purchases with the foresight of using most of the gear for live performance as well. I know that someone with more experience might have made a number of different choices in the gear that I have chosen but what I'm wondering is I can produce "professional sounding" recordings - or even perhaps marketable recordings with the following general setup that I have already purchased:
    4 SM57
    2 SM58
    2 Audix D6
    1 Audix i5
    3 Audix D2's
    2 Audix D4's
    2 Audix ADX51's

    1 four-bus Behringer 24 Eurodesk mixer (powered)
    1 four-bus Mackie CFX MKII 20 channel mixer
    1 Tascam NEO2488 24 workstation

    I also purchased alot of other things - headphones and headphone amps, power amps and monitors, plenty of cables. Becuase I also spent over $5,000 on other equipment (my drumset and keyboards etc) I couldn't squeeze preamps into my budget or outboards compressors etc. From what I understand though, the Neo2488 can produce really good recordings.

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
  8. nightjar

    nightjar Active Member

    May 10, 2011
    Holding out = missing out.

    If recording is something you feel a growing passion for... I'd advise you to find some way to make it happen.... it CAN be done for cheap and still sound OK...

    What gear is available to borrow??? And how much $$$ can you pull together to buy stuff????
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Prince George, BC
    Home Page:
    How cool is that! big hug for keeping the music in your day my friend. Thanks for being who you are.
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW

    Here's someone who probably actually READS the manuals. Its part of training and training like that translates across many genres.

    Thanks for your service.
  11. FlyBass

    FlyBass Active Member

    Oct 31, 2007
    Central Indiana, USA
    I'd start with a less ambitious set up. Let's admit that the first recordings will be less than ideal. With that in mind, let's do a "less than ideal" set up.

    The Shure SM58 (2) for vocals are great. A Shure SM57 for the guitar amp, DI for the bass (SansAmp box or something similar), Shure SM57 for the brass, a Shure SM57 for the kick drum (you can reuse this later when you buy a better kick mic), a pair of Samson C02s for drum overheads (inexpensive, but good performers).

    With those microphones (2-SM58s, 3-SM57s, 2-Samson C02s), the DI, a PreSonus FireStudio or Mackie Onyx Blackbird (8 channels/preamps), and cables and stands you should be able to produce a workable recording. Of course the next step is learning where to put the mics, how to work the audio interface and audio application (DAW).

    You can go cheaper, but this will provide you with a good basic system that you can add on to and improve with your abilities.

    Good luck with your recording, it's hard work that can generate great personal satisfaction.

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