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How to record music? newbie question

Discussion in 'Recording' started by rocketvp, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. rocketvp

    rocketvp Guest

    I’m very new to the music recording scene. My 10 year old son started playing guitar almost 2 years and has branched out playing drums, bass and keyboard. He now has gotten bitten by the recording bug where he discovered his usb mic supplied with Rock Band can be used to record his instruments into his laptop using sound recorder. He then multi tracks in Adobe Audition. He’s got about 10 songs recorded now, but complains that he can’t sync all the instruments up and wants it to sound like a CD made by Linken Park or Red Hot Chili Peppers. I then gave him the “million dollar studio vs laptop rockband mic” speech, not to mention the years these guys have been playing. So anyway, I’ve decided to look into upgrading his “system” a bit. I’m looking at the Lexicon alpha, omega or lambda for him and a good quality mic. But this still leaves me with the question on how others laying down their tracks and syncing them up? Is there a common way to do this? Are metronomes still used? Do you start with drums first? Guitar first? Play all the same time? As I said, I’m a beginner at this so I’m not sure if there is a magic way to sync all the instruments. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
  2. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    Feb 13, 2009
    I've never tried to record anything using the Rockband USB mic, and I don't use Audition, but the key to synching your tracks is to listen to what you've already recorded while you're playing the new track(s). That's called 'monitoring'. There's no magic involved, just your ears. Although I swear some people have magic ears. Yes, you can use a metronome, but it isn't necessary (although it's a good habit to get into - at least to learn how to do it and become comfortable with it so that the option is always there).

    It's common to do the drums first - the backbone of the song - and they can be done in isolation or while others play their instruments. Those other tracks can then be re-recorded if they are just there to help the drummer stay on track or if they weren't as good as you want them, but if they're good as is, you can just leave them alone. If you're doing instruments one at a time, after the drums you can do the bass, guitars, and vocals one at a time (while listening to the drums), and layer everything on top until you've got everything you need to start mixing it. Many people leave vocals for last. It is possible to start with something other than the drums, however, so your mileage may vary. Your son has to come up with a workflow that works for him, and it may be to start with the guitar to a click track (metronome), then the drums, then something else.

    You can do quite good quality work these days with a laptop and a decent audio interface, but it takes experience and experimentation and a lot of learning and dedication to get it to sound like a professional CD, so while it's not an outrageous goal, it's good that you're trying to lower his expectations a little at the start :) He can get there eventually if he's willing to put in the time.

    What you need: an audio interface so he can stop using the built in sound card (that's what the Lexicon units are); a decent mic or two (I'd suggest SM57s, quite versatile, and they will always have a role in your studio no matter what happens down the rode); and some sort of recording/editing/mixing software. I have no idea about Audition, so it may be good enough to do the job, but chances are good that whatever audio interface you buy will come bundled with 'light' versions of things like Pro Tools or Cubase, etc., and those will definitely do the job.

    In the short term, your computer's external speakers can be used for monitoring while recording new tracks, but eventually you will probably want to get better speakers or 'monitors', and low end pairs can be had for a couple hundred dollars. High end pairs can be had for thousands and thousands of dollars. It's potentially a very, very expensive hobby, so be prepared!
  3. jordy

    jordy Active Member

    Aug 25, 2008
    Reedsville, PA
    Home Page:
    first of all, i must say that your son is pretty kick ass if he's doin all that at 10 years old. esp. on the recording end. i didn't try to start recording myself till i was like 18. i also use audition. if he's getting the feel down of recording his own stuff, then he should know how to record in layers right? so i think your son may be experiencing latency issues when he speaks of syncing the tracks. this can all be solved with buying an interface. some are as cheap as $60 and still yeild standard professional results. these interfaces come with audio drivers that install right on to your laptop and help cut down on latency issues, allowing your multiple tracks to be in sync/ time with eachother.
  4. rocketvp

    rocketvp Guest

    Thanks for your responses. Very helpful.

    I'm very proud of my son. He picked up playing guitar and started playing naturally. He learned all about reading music first... the notes, chords, etc.

    I'm thrilled about the months to come!
  5. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    Why are you stuck on Lexicon products? They have a terrible track record as far as recording interfaces are concerned. They have brought product to market and then dumped it when there were issues with them, leaving customers in the lurch. I realize that the Lexicon name is an icon in this biz, but not when it comes to interfaces.
  6. jg49

    jg49 Distinguished Member

    Oct 16, 2008
    Frozen Tundra of CT
    An interface is probably just what the doctor odered. I also thought your question regarding synching tracks had to do with latency issues that are pretty much a non-issue when using an interface. What you might want to do is let people know what type of budget you are on and what equip. you have like some details re: computer, mics, etc.
    For example in drum recording you will probably want at least 4 inputs, you can do it with less but it greatly narrows what you can do later.
    Congrats to your budding rockstar.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    I think the biggest problem with USB microphones is the inability to monitor the microphone while recording. When you are syncing to other tracks, if you monitor the track that you are recording from the USB microphone there will be latency issues that are confusing at best. That's why you should have a dedicated recording interface with standard microphones such as SM58's. These integrated interface computer audio units, are geared for multi-track recording. USB microphones are fine for an announcer cutting commercial voiceovers. A pair can get you a stereo recording live of something. But trying to accomplish multi-track overdub results with these things in a standard computer audio card for playback is totally unideal.

    I like 24 input simultaneously
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  8. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    "I like 24 input simultaneously"

    So would I.

    Our band is pushing the mixer's 15 inputs sometimes and I've been wanting to buy an interface for about a year now.
  9. intchr

    intchr Guest

    Yea, get that interface and everything will come together pretty naturally. As alternatives to the Lexicon products maybe check out the Focusrite Saffire line as well. Sounds like you're also going to need a mic though, which I have 2 recommendations. The cheap one is a Shure sm58 at about $100, and the more expensive is a Rode NT1a for $399.

    Sounds like you've got a little prodigy on your hands though, so do yourself a favor... just decide that you're going to sink $1000 into this and get him a couple of very nice, essential pieces. Microphones are like spices, certain spices work only with certain foods so help get him settled into one that suits him well for his applications, because he'll be using it for years. I can't remember the last time anyone talked about their multiple instrument-playing, music-reading, recording-aspiring 10 yo son so just consider the money to be a sound investment into a bright future, and he'll do the rest.
  10. bpcarlson

    bpcarlson Guest

    Hey man that's the same way I started when I was ten as well. And that's awesome that he learned to read music because that's very important especially if he's starting at such a young age. I've seen a lot of kids that just know how to play their favorite artists through tabs, they show a skill of playing, but they don't understand what they're actually doing. I think a big part of the talent of playing is understanding what you're actually doing. If he keeps it up, he should have big things coming his way!

    -Blake Carlson

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