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Multi-tracking rookie, would appreciate advise!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Havohej000, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. Havohej000

    Havohej000 Active Member

    Hello, my name is Rob. I'm a frontman for a band called KATALYST in Bradenton, FL. I am trying to tackle the recording myself. Not only because studio time is expensive, but I really enjoy all things surrounding music anyway, so I would love to learn about recording. Anyway, I have enough stuff to start. I have a full PA system, 24 channel mixer board, all mics, cables, etc. I have Mixcraft 5 on my laptop, but haven't messed around with it much. My new toy though is a ZOOM mrs1608CD 16 track digital recorder. We are trying to record better quality demo material to give to venue owners, and be able to get solid recordings of our original material as well. If anyone has any pointers for me, I would really appreciate it. Thank you for your time.
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    1. It takes about as long to learn record as it does to learn to play a musical instrument. Similar learning curve. The recordings you make in your first month will sound like the playing of a guitar player that picked up the instrument a few weeks ago.

    2. Forget saving money. You are comparing time in a studio with good equipment to buying bargain equipment. Record because you love recording.

    3. With the equipment you have you can make a good recording of a live performance/practices that will be better than just sticking a stereo pair of mics in front of the band. You'll be able to get a good, clear recording of the band that will be an accurate reflection of your live act. To do this you will need to (1) find a good room to play and record in (2) take direct outs and/or aux sends from your mixer (3) record the room sound (4) mix the resulting tracks. Give us more info about the configuration of the band, the style of music, the way you route your mixer, and the rooms available to you. We can give more specific pointers.

    4. You may want to go on to more elaborate recording techniques, but I'd really recommend that you start with a "live" recording. You have to learn a lot about mic placement, routing, gain structure, and mixing just to do that task. No need to do too much to start.
  3. Havohej000

    Havohej000 Active Member

    Hello Bob, thank you for taking the time to reply. To answer a few of the questions you had I'll do my best.
    1. The room in which the recordings will take place is actually very well set up. It's an office space with double thick drywall, and we have actually gone a step further and surrounded the entire inside of the perimeter of the room with carpet lined soundboard. We use it as our practice space, and I do have a good knowledge of live sound reproduction, as I run all the sound for my band myself. I do realize this will only get me so far, as I've discovered that RECORDING the sound is a whole different ball game. But, at least I'm a step ahead and will know my way around the equipment. I do have access to several different rooms in this office space, but the only one we've lined with the sound board is the largest room of them and is where we do our rehearsing. So I do have the option of isolating everyone in separate rooms if need be.
    2. My band is a 4 piece, and we play rock music. We tend to be high energy, and are all very skilled. We are booked every weekend in our hometown. We play in several different tunings, and many different styles. Our goal throughout this procedure is to get near studio quality recordings of a select few of our cover tunes to put on a demo. I already have 3 songs that I've recorded myself using a buddy's old 8 track digital recorder, and if you send me your e-mail I would be glad to send you a sample so you have something to reference. It took me FOREVER to record those 3 songs. We're talking like 16 hrs a piece, and the quality is mediocre at best. For our original tunes, I do want to take it a step further and would like to have A+ quality, as I will be submitting them to radio stations, and possibly record companies.
    3. I have plenty of equipment, and have no hesitations of buying more if need be, and it will help me along my path. The drums are fully mic'd using a 7 piece set of OSP drums mics, which include 2 condenser mics for the overheads. They sound amazing live, so I'm hoping I get the same quality when recording. I have the option of using a direct digital out from the guitar head, or micing the actual cabinet itself, so advise would be appreciated there as well. The bass head doesn't have a direct line out, so micing the cabinet is our only option there. When micing the cabinets, I use Shure SM57's. My vocal mic I use an EV ND767a. I love this mic, however I do also have an EV PL84 condenser mic, that I've heard might produce better sound when recording.
    4. My board is a Behringer Eurodesk SX2442FX. 24 channels, and all the bells and whistles. Has dual effects processors, so it's nice for on board noise gating and such. I plan on running everything into the board first, and then use send outs from the board to go into the Zoom mrs1608CD.

    So with all that said, I hope I was able to give some more specifics and help you help me. Thank you so much for your time, and I will definitely tell the guys about the gentleman online who helped me. -Rob
  4. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Where to start? Its good that you have a space that you can isolate instruments. This is the first step to having a good sounding recording no matter the equipment involved. Reducing 'bleed' between the tracks makes for a quieter and a much more focused recording.

    A very important piece to the recording puzzle is the monitoring system. It should be versatile enough to send separate mixes to each player so their phones can be somewhat individual to their needs. The drum phones have to isolate to a high degree.

    Looking at pdf's of your two main pieces, I see no direct outs on the board and 8 ins on the recorder. These appear to be both mic and line inputs on the zoom and hopefully theres a way of selecting these per channel. I also hope there is a way of recording the forst eight and then monitoring in real time any additional tracks you might want to add to these....I'm sure thats your plan, but again, the monitoring of these is real key to continuity of the tracks as they build in number.

    You will have to decide how many tracks you want to use on the kit and then build out from there since this is obviously the one instrument that requires so many inputs. Keeping them as separate channels will enhance your abilities to vreate a positive drum mix and create a better quality to the songs. Its all about control.

    Now lets talk about the board. I cannot mention the name of the manufacturer as I do not want the google to link to it here. I dont recommend these and neither does a lot of our membership....various reasons...but suffice to say there are much much better products out there and a few weeks or months into this foray you have embarked on will confirm for you all that I will say about them. But you use what you have and really, you can make very decent recordings with this if you dont attempt to ask more of it than its capable of. Regardless of what the ads say.
    You should look at this board as the centerpiece to your headphone monitoring system. THIS it will do perfectly. If you can avoid using the EQ and the effects bus for anything other than a phone feed then do so. The straightess simplest path in this case WILL be the best for your recording quality. If you have to use the mic pres in this board, do so with nothing else engaged. The mic pres in the Zoom are probably a bit better...not much but some.

    So you're going to want to use the recording functions of the zoom straight in and the sliders or rotarys for the levels. You'll come back out to the board with as many channels of monitoring the Zoom allows and bus that into your board and distribute to the phones and the players. You dont need a lot of wattage for phones but be careful of the impedances. Theres four outs on the sub-section of the board. Consider these the masters to each phone mix. Put an amp on each out and watch the wattage outputs, You dont want to cook the phonesor the ears in the process. You will be able to assign a large number of different things to each phone mix in this way....depending of the monitoring available on the outputs from the zoom.


    I would nt use any outs on any amp heads if I could avoid this. I would recommend a DI for the bass....no amp at all. And mic the speaker of the guitar. Isolate everything so the bleed is minimal. The drum mics will have the most bleed from a room or from sounds from another room sneaking in. This isnt always bad, but what it does do, is cause timing issues with the ghosts always being slightly behind the initial sound coming from the close mic'd lines. Its just one more little thing to cloud the issue.

    This should give you a start. Like Bob said, record live until you really get a handle on how things are effcted by other things in a recording environment.
  5. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    A Sansamp Bass DI will be a cheap and amazingly effective way for a quick good bass sound recorded. It will also be very useful live.

    With respect to getting from D (no offence) to A+ quality, you will need to spend a minimum of $3,000 to get a major improvement. Is this within budget?
  6. Havohej000

    Havohej000 Active Member

    Well, all of this is going to take a while for me to work on, mess around with, and digest. 3,000 within budget? Not immediately, but I can make it happen. Tax returns are coming, and I was planning on dropping a couple grand on recording equipment anyway. So what did you have in mind?
  7. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Well if you are serious, post an entire gear list and others here will tweak this for you.

    Here's my suggestion. This will get you straight to "C" with the ability to add stuff to go to A+ without ever regretting a single purchase.

    Firstly, drop the Zoom. Its a good toy but is just that, its a convenience tool but it won't get you where you want to be.

    Working on the following recording model for now:

    Drums: Kick, Snare and 2 x OH (google Recorderman's OH positioning guide) - 4 channels. If you want more they will be B*hr1nger channels.
    Bass: 1 channel DI
    Guitars: 2 channel scratch tracks
    Vocals: 1 channel scratch track

    This takes you to 8 recorded channels for your live demo. You'll then go back and overdub guitars and vocals.

    You need the following items:

    Recording System

    Others will perhaps chip in on whether the Zoom can be made to give you what you want. But you need an efficient way of getting about 12 channels down to "tape". The two easy choices are a computer or a hard disk recorder - so a decent PC with Firewire, a Macbook/desktop G5 or an Alesis HD24. The latter will run you about $1k but the former you can probably beg, borrow, already have, or can replace by selling the Zoom. So I will assume a zero cost here and that you are going with a computer.

    Audio Interface

    Its common knowledge that almost all semi-pros and a bunch of the pros here use the RME Fireface 800. Its almost infinitely expandable, incredibly good and reliable and gives you 4 mic pres and 10 true simultaneous analog inputs, or 13 if you are submixing tracks. Plus any future purchase of an 8-channel pre with ADAT (which will take you from C to B!) will plug right into it. $1000.


    These will take your mic signals and bring them up to recording level without ruining, and in some cases actually improving, your sound. You will be limited to $1500 here as you will need $500 for the other bits.

    You need a 4-channel preamp. Your clever purchase of a FF800 means conversion is all dealt with.

    You have a few choices:

    1 x RME Quadmic = $500
    2 x FMR RNPs at approx $500 each = $1000
    1 x Sytek MPX-4A = $1200
    1 x Sebatron vmp400e = $1700

    The RME would do well, but as you already have 4 channels of RME pres, better to diversify. The Sebatron is great on everything and I've heard good things about the FMRs and Syteks (and I am very sceptical usually so I have heard a lot of good things).


    I'm going to head out on a limb here and say that as you are playing in this band as well as recording it, just get a set of headphones for $150 and call it quits for now. I use Audiotechnica AT-M50s and am very happy, my engineers prefer Senn 280s I think they are.


    You don't have much to spend on mics for now. So buy an SM7b for use on your kick drum and then re-use it to rerecord your vocals. $350.

    Connecting it all up

    You will need to spend $50 on 100ft of decent cable (I like Canare 4-core and it will be really hardy for your live work too). And then solder TRS/XLR cables from it. You probably have enough cables to be getting on with but if you are continuing to improve, this will be your next step.

    Use the mics you have for now on the drums. Put the SM7b on the kick, and a 57 on the snare top, and the overheads in Recordermans position. If you are mad on toms there will be space with this setup.

    Put your guitar cabs in 2 other rooms with 57s on them, and your bass through the Sansamp, you won't even need an amplifier.

    Bring the 7 mic cables from the other rooms, drumkit, add your vocal mic (anything will do) cable to make 8. Plug 4 of them into the front of the RME and 4 of them into your 4-channel pre. Plug the 4 outs of the 4-channel pre into the back of the RME.

    Take 5 outs from the RME and shove them into your desk, route the headphones like Dave said. This unit sends instant signal back out and you can vary the mix to each and every player. Told you it was useful.

    Plug a firewire cable into your computer. Go into Totalmix and route your headphones, setting your mixer to unity. Make sure each track is peaking at -6dB or so. Put headphones on band members. Press record.

    Once done, use the SM7b to rerecord the guitars and vocals. Done.

    Further things to consider

    Give us a gear list as you haven't mentioned your DAW, other mics, etc etc. Other people will I am sure chime in.
    If you want to record toms you can put the vocals into the guitar line in on the Fireface and just route it as a non-recorded scratch, and then you have 3 inputs for toms which you can preamplify with your mixer desk.
    If you had the money, an API 3124+ would be a very good preamp choice, or if you had the time, a Seventh Circle audio box but you have to solder the bits yourself. This would take you onwards to 8 good channels to feed the Fireface with, bit by affordable bit.
    The mic choice is limited as I don't know what you have just now. But the Sebatron with a Shure SM58 in front of it is grand for vocals. So again, post a bit more detail on what you've got and we can go further. Plenty mics like the ATM25, Audix D2,4,6, AKG d112 are only $80-160 second-hand and can be picked up and added to this.
    You may want to treat your spaces which will be cheap with fibreglass and the next big step in sound quality. You could literally get to A+ with the setup I've given you and sound treatment and skill. However thats for another forum.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Just saying. If you guys are really well rehearsed, $3K is enough to get an A+ studio album recorded in a good studio. A- equipment is $25K (or more?) You won't have the skills to record anything above a C+ in 2011. Not trying to be discouraging, just trying to get you to focus on a realistic budget and time frame.
  9. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Bob is of course absolutely correct and I am delighted to see the grading system works.

    Its an ongoing thing that people like yourself would (understandably) rather pay $3,000 for equipment you could re-sell instead of giving it to a studio. Bob is also right that this would give you the A+ product you are looking for and the other won't.

    From our side we'd rather see the money be spent on reinvesting into the art of recording rather than lining the pockets of the gear manufacturers, perhaps, to be a little blunt.

    However the reason I put understandably in brackets is that unfortunately I think we do have to understand that (see Chris's Chinese gear thread) we are not going to easily fight the battle against reasonably-priced gear. Those of us without $300k+ studios (and I have to say Bob, I think you can do C on $3k, B on $25k, A- on $50K, A $150K, A+ $300K) aren't going to win the battle.

    I don't see a way of winning therefore I am going to try to understand further and identify with my customers in 2011. I am finding people will come to me to record good drums in a good room, with good mics, and good preamps, and then head home and record terrible guitar over it with a Line6 Pod. They will come to me for HQ voiceover work and post-production of demos they recorded elsewhere that sound terrible. As with all other business I am having to diversify massively.

    I would hope that when somebody with the OP's intent comes to record a real album, they will go to a real studio to do it. But I also feel that if somebody actually shows they are prepared to lay hard-earned cash down to try and aim for better than average results it should be rewarded with encouragement.
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Jeemy, hows that ViPre treating you?

    A+ requires something else besides the big budget. I've heard plenty of C at best records done in fabulous studios.

    And then theres the argument that the SONGS are the most important part. A+ songwriting can certainly get by with C level sonics.

    I did not list a budget because, in my opinion, if your are a novice to recording, you should sharpen your skills to the point where you know without a doubt that your equipment is holding you back before you get more.

    I will say that the recorder is the short bus in this equation. BUT you can do more to increase the quality by doing the rooms first. Separation is everything. Control and separation.

    The rest of it is knob-twiddling.
  11. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    FWIW, Jeemy's plan is pretty sound.

    I came to a similar setup in a round-about way that cost me a lot more $$ than it should have.
    +1 to the FF800, and Sytek Preamps, and the Sansamp - all wonderful pieces of gear that Havohej can make use of for a long time.

    That said, Bob and Dave's cautions should be carefully considered.
    Just like any instrument, there's 1000 techniques for 1000 different styles.
    Learning what works when and where takes time... and makes the most impact.
    I have the gear, the space, etc, now. I am just beginning to get a handle on what really matters:
    Spending hours trying different mics, in different positions, on different sources, seeing how they work in a mix, and then repeating this procedure again and again.

    I'm a baby compared to some of the fine folks that have taken the time to help you out. And that's the biggest difference - the hours they've logged compared to the hours you and I have logged.

    Just understand this is as much an art and science as anything else, and requires a serious investment of time as well as money.
    I sense you are in a position similar to one I was in a couple of years ago...
    Take care and do your homework before you jump down the rabbit hole!
  12. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    ViPre is installed Dave, and sound tested, just not used on anything of note. We start a new project on Jan 3rd and I hope it will mean one pre, much twiddling, but no wire changing, when it comes to vocals. Will certainly post some comparisons when its done. Over to you, OP.
  13. Havohej000

    Havohej000 Active Member

    Ok guys, so I have read your posts over and over again, and printed them out as guidelines. So I guess the most important question I have now, and forgive me if it sounds dumb... Why do I need headphone amplifiers? I though with headphones all you did was plug them in.... Are you guys talking about wireless phones? Please explain. I've got everything else at least somewhat translated and deciphered, LOL. I am going to experiment with the ZOOM for awhile, at least until I can afford to turn my laptop into the recorder you guys are referring to, with the Fireface and what not. Like I said, my laptop is already equipped with the Mixcraft 5, but I don't quite understand how to use it as an efficient recording device. Probably because I dont have an interface, right? I've just been connecting my board to the 1/8" mic in on my laptop. This probably explains the F- quality that comes from my computer, huh? I gave up after a couple hours of tweaking and still getting recordings that were barely able to be understood.
  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Headphones are speakers. Speakers need poweramps of some sort to operate. The headphone outs on the board is not enough to drive four or five sets of phones to levels and clarity you need to monitor yourselves tracking. Like I suggested, use the board as your headphone distribution system and the mic pres in the zoom as mic inputs. Dont use both.

    Read your manuals.
  15. Havohej000

    Havohej000 Active Member

    Ok. I will read over and over again. Any suggestions at using wired phones versus wireless?

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