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Home recording setup for a 6 people band?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by champ1979, May 17, 2013.

  1. champ1979

    champ1979 Active Member

    We've started a band where we have about 3 female vocalists, 3 male vocalists, and some of us will be playing guitar and/or keyboard at times instead of singing. When we have a song ready we'd want to record it, so question is what equipment would be suitable for our setup? We are PC users (not MAC). Would we need a mic for each vocalist? There may be chorus parts, can those be captured all in one mic, or is it better to have a mic each? What would be the best way to record a session? Would it be good to record all at once, or do certain tracks separately (we're all in the same room, no other option for now)? Any suggestions on equipment? (Audio interface, mics, headphones, etc)?

    I came across this: Amazon.com: PreSonus FireStudio Project 10x10 FireWire Recording Interface: Musical Instruments

    and this Amazon.com: Mackie PROFX12 12-Channel Compact Effects Mixer with USB: Musical Instruments

    The second one seems to have the effects knobs while the first one seems to be a plain interface. Is either more suitable for a band like this?

    I'd need to get mics, stands, headphones, and the audio interface, so trying to keep the costs down as much as possible, but still want to ensure we have sufficient equipment to do decent/convenient recordings.
  2. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    you probably want the firestudio so you can record multiple sources, to separate tacks. the mixer looks like it only does stereo out, so your limited to 2 tracks.

    that's a tough one. my personal preference would be to track it all live, in one room. if your tight enough, and your room sounds decent, it's very rewarding. the next way would be to track all the instruments to a click live, the vocals in other rooms in groups, of three. perhaps to female, one male, then vice versa on the other. this will lend some authenticity. next could be the same, but track instruments, then groups of vocs. if you want a very isolated, (possibly sterile depending on how good you guys are) recording, then you just set up a click, and have each person go one at a time, and edit each performance to perfection, maximizing the use of modern digital technology. what you give up in vibe, you get performances that would be tough to do in one fell swoop. get familiar w/ 'take comping' feature in your DAW.

    there are so many variations on those basic approaches, and limitations as well, to each one. there are also limitations like your room sound/size, what mics you have available, how well you guys play, how comfortable you are when the red light is on. your gonna have to just experiment to find what works for you guys as a whole. i do suggest tho, that you put up a couple mics, hit record, and play like you usually would, in the same positions you usually do while practicing, p.a and all. while this probably won't be your final product, it's a great way to hear what you sound like from a listeners POV w/ nothing in between. you'll hear things like arrangement issues, maybe the keys guitar and alto vocs are clashing w/ each other. this raw approach will help you get the song written/arranged better. then when it's 'right' it's time to take advantage of your collective engineering chops.

    i've done group singers where each person was in there own iso booth, all at once. it helped them feel comfortable 'together' and allowed isolation so i could punch in anyone's part, if necessary. In general, my first approach would likely be to track the instruments as a group, and then vocals in two separate 3 person groups, all at once, or in 2 groups, one at a time, if that proved to be too challenging.

    this requires singers to be skilled enough to 'blend themselves' and not have on person dominating. it requires mic technique, and dynamics control of the voice. it's the 'old' way, and if you listen to those records, like CSNY, the Beatles, there's a vibe there that is untouchable. If you have a nice mic that is flattering to all three singers, you can just plop it in the middle of them, hit record, and stop when the hair on your arms stand up. that's a magic take. you could also put one mic on each person, and have a bit more control come mix time. but if you do it right, you wouldn't need that control anyway. good performances/recording technique, make mixing easy.

    good headphones are 100 per pair, stands range from 10-50 per, and a decent vocal mic can be had for around 100 ea. used you can get 'em for about $50. Also you forgot that you need 'studio monitors'. which are speakers that tend to be 'accurate' as in pushing out, relatively equal amounts of lows, mids, highs. Your room will dictate more than anything what your hearing, so look up some stuff on 'room treatment, and acoustics' so you know the basics. you may as well set aside like $500 minimal (if your remotely handy) for some 'bass traps, and mid/high absorbers'. then you won't be disappointed in the other 1k you spent. 1500 bucks and a decent sized room will give you the equipment necessary, to make good to really good recordings. now all ya gotta do is just play w/ the new toys until you can make the equipment do what you want it too! best luck !

    p.s you need a mutli-channel heaphone amp too. ART, Ber-ugh-er, and a few others make some that can be had on the cheap. i use the ber.... powerplay 4ch one, which can do up to 8 pairs. got it off some dude for like 25 bucks or something like that.

    there's tons of good stuff but i'll throw out some stuff i like (on the cheap). -phones- akg 240 ($100), mics- shure sm 58 ($100) Audio technica 3035 ($75), stands- musicians friend brand- 3 for like 30 bucks. monitors alesis monitor one mk2 powered ($300pr, new), cables- canare (half the price of mogami, debatably similar performance).

    knowing nothing more than you've said, that's the best 'generic' starter pack i can think of to go w/ your firestudio. The mics depend on the singer although the 58 works are just about everyone, and the monitors depend on your room/tatse, but sound nice to me when i had them in a mildly treated basement for a couple weeks, and sound pretty good everywhere for the price.
  3. champ1979

    champ1979 Active Member

    Thanks for the suggestions. Do I need studio monitors AND headphones? So, in a typical pro-recording studio, would each singer in a group have their own mics, even if it's just chorus stuff?

    Also, with regards to the above, how do you go about tracking the instruments first? Do the vocals just sing along when the instrumentalists play their parts, and then we just record the instrumental parts (ignoring the vocals)? And then when we do record the vocals, do we just play the recorded instrumental parts into the headphones?
  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    yea generally you want both. the engineer needs monitors, to accurately (as possible) evaluate the recording. if he's in the same room as the performers, he needs a pair of headphones too, otherwise the monitors sounds will show up on the recording. which is no good.

    w/ all the 'retro throwback stuff happening right now, it's more likely that the group would be around one mic, especially for 'chorus stuff'. probably a relatively high end condenser in omni mode to start. or standing in a more triangular pattern w/ a cardiod mic. that's if the group is up to it. remember, a pro studio has flattering sounding rooms, which allow this, and usually enough booths to make it happen all at once w/ each singer isolated, which is when the singers are'nt all 'getting it right' at once.

    just the same, if you have a few 58's, giving each musician their own mic will give the mixer more control of the blend, while still keeping it 'live'. so people still can't screw up much :) but there is more flexibility as too the overall blend. this is better for less experienced groups, and groups who don't do it professionally, where they may not have sussed out their own sense of balance together. that said, w/ less experienced recording mucisians, you will probably get a better performance haveing them in the same room, individually mic'd or not, because that's how they practice and perform. being tucked away in a closet or booth, can give some people 'red light fever', and make them very uncomfortable. alot of musicians aren't even used to hearing themselves clearly like they do in headphones, and it's weird for them till they get used to it. it is a bit unnatural, and that';s why you'll see a lot of pro singers take one earphone off, so they can have a sense of real space.

    yes. you do what's called a 'scratch, or guide vocal', w/ a person singing along wherever they wont be picked up by the instrument mics. this helps everyone know where they are in the song. if you use a click (highly recommended for album quality tracks, in rock/pop/r&b), they will only have to sing along once or twice, and then you just play the recorded guide vocal back while the instruments go for the keeper take.

    then do just like you said, play the instruments back, and re-record the vocals. save the scratch performance, sometimes it's their best work, cuz they have no pressure.

    experiment to find the way it works best w/ your band. pro studios don't have just 'one way' of doing things. part of what makes them pro is knowing many different ways to try to get the best out of each individual. maybe it's as simple as dimming the lights. once the performer knows the material cold, it's all about vibe, and how comfortable they feel.
  5. champ1979

    champ1979 Active Member

    Thank you so much, kmetal, for your suggestions! The advice is invaluable to me. Have a few follow up questions, if you wouldn't mind sharing your thoughts to:

    1. What is a click?

    2. I have two Zoom H2s with me. I was wondering if it's possible to do something with just these to start out with rather than getting the audio interface and sm58s right away. I've heard people talk about using their Zooms as the audio interface where you could plug in an instrument into it (and the Zoom would be connected to the PC).

    3. For home recording, is it better to go for a $50 condenser mic rather than the SM58? Or is the SM58 being a dynamic mic actually better for us given that we don't have booths (I've heard that condenser mics are more sensitive).

    4. So assuming that we may record our music in multiple rounds (instruments first, vocals next, etc), does it make sense to get an audio interface with fewer channels (to save money). Say just 2 or 4 channels? Rather than the 8 channel PreSonus one that I had originally posted about? I found this 2 channel interface from Focusrite:

    Amazon.com: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 2 In/2 Out USB Recording Audio Interface: Musical Instruments

    5. Is a USB interface comparable to a FireWire? My computer has both, but the above Focusrite one is a USB one. I know the FireWire is superior (don't know why), but wondering if at our level if it's going to make any difference.

    Thanks again!
  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    i click is a modern version of a metronome. it is a track that is not recorded, but heard while recording. it's a steady tick-tick-tick-tick, set to the tempo of the song. this helps keep everybody at a steady pace, and keeps the song consistent lenghts when doing mutiple takes/overdubbs

    2. i've been up nearly a day starigh so i gotta be brief. but yeah why not start off w. the zoom(s). i'm not sure exactly how they function as an interface, or if they do at all, i'll look it up tonight after i get outa the studio. they'll get ya started.

    3. NOOOOOOOO!!!! :) 50 dollar condenser mics are NOT better than 58's, ever, for anything. the 58 or select similar mics like the Audix om5, are your best choices. Both because they will sound better, and they will pick up less background noise. the only condesnser worht it's salt for around 100 bucks is the AT 3035, which you'll have to get used. but don't bother until you know how to use the 58 or similar. that is the mic you need for now.

    4. depends on what instruments. if you have a drum kit, you'll need at least 3-4 tracks, 8 will do ya well as you grow into recording. 2 channels is pretty limiting and is really meant for singer sonwriters, or one man bands that use programmed drums, and overdub one instrument at a time. for the xtra 50 bucks your much better off w/ this
  7. champ1979

    champ1979 Active Member

    Thanks again! So when recording vocals, do you typically record the whole song, and then redo individual segments that may need improvement? Or do you just start recording segment by segment from the beginning working your way through the song, and then merge everything in software?
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    in general have a more 'old school' approach. i'll have the singer sing takes completely thru about 3-6 times, or until the point where they are getting better and better, then stop when they get worse. then i go thru and listen w/ them to to their best take, and just listen for things that can be better, like missed notes, or uninspired lines. then i just punch in those words, or phrases. i find when they are singing along to their best take before the punch it gives them more inspiration and they do better on the punch. and if they just don't get it, i always have the other passes they did.

    what alot of people do is just have the singer do a few passes, and piece the 'master take' together from those. this is known as comping. i do this as well, but i prefer the way i described. it is important to either take notes, during tracking, or comp the take together while the singer is still there and the mic is set up. that way if there are parts that aren't good enough to use, you can just have them sing it right then and there.

    there's no correct way, and it depends on personal taste, workflow, and how the artist likes to get it done. i just started a bit before common computers were used for audio, so it's just how i'm used to working. i also don't typically copy and paste repeated parts, like choruses. i prefer the slight differences in performances that happen when the singer sings each chorus. to me it creates some interest. again, a matter of taste.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Adding one more element to K's great (as usual) advice ... you need to consider your headphone monitoring set up when working with that many people, especially if you'll be recording all the vocalists at once.

    You might want to look into a headphone mixer that would allow a "matrix" mix... in the simplest definition, this would allow one singer to turn themselves up - or down - without effecting the other vocalist's headphone levels, and not only that, but it would allow each person to hear more or less of the other players as well, without effecting the other people's headphone mixes.

    Now... the rub here is that this would also require a mixer or audio I/O that would support multiple headphone(auxiliary) sends., with each send/aux having the flexibility to be different from the others.

    It's pretty tough to get "those" great performances and takes when the players involved (especially people who are inexperienced at the recording process) are forced to deal with the "Well, I guess that's good enough" mentality - in terms of what they can or can't hear while tracking their parts. When a player is forced to deal with a headphone mix that is inferior - not able to hear themselves enough, or forced to deal with another performer who is too loud - or too soft - then it's pretty hard to get a good take if the performers can't hear what they are doing, or, in the case where harmonies are being tracked, it's crucial that each performer can hear the other performer's vocal parts to base their own harmonies off of.

    In short....The better the monitoring rig is for the performers, the better their performances will be.

  10. Todzilla

    Todzilla Active Member

    If the OP and band can adapt to the level of abstraction involved with overdubbing, you can record drums first (with scratch instruments to help them feel the groove), then bass, then other instruments and finally vocals. This helps you optimize every performance, shared on limited audio resources (interface channels, mics, preamps). This is a very different approach than live in the studio, but it's how many, many folks do it. When it's done right, it sounds just as tight as the band playing together.

    Some folks slightly alter this by recording drums and bass (aka "bottoms") first (to allow drums to lock into bass), then layer from there.

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