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Record tracks in stereo or mono?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by EricIndecisive, May 5, 2009.

  1. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Hi guys, what do you normally do for this? It seems that in all my mixes, even if I pan something 100% to the right, it doesn't sound like it is way over there. Then I listen to a professional song and they just have such a brilliant space that I can't seem to achieve.

    Electric Guitar?
    Bass? (I imagine yes for this one)
    Acoustic Guitar?

    Thanks for any help!
  2. natural

    natural Active Member

    If you're trying to capture just the instrument - record in mono.
    If you're trying to capture the room as well as the instrument, record in stereo.
    If your room is not a nice sounding room, record just the instrument and add stereo reverb from a box or plugin.

    The only exception is when the instrument is a particularly large one, like a grand piano, or a drum kit. then you might want to record in stereo even if you don't want the room sound.
  3. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    If it is a mono source then record in mono, and if the source is stereo record in stereo. A single mic is a mono source unless it is specified a "stereo mic" It will then have two XLR outputs.
  4. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    I see, thanks for that. Now some more questions!

    Do you add reverb to everything, even if it's just a little bit?

    How many tracks for each instrument do you have for the rythm track of a 'typical' song? Is it different for distorted guitars?

    When doing two tracks, would you use, say, two different guitars so that they have some tonal variation?
  5. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    I see, so when looking at the waveform, I should only have ONE waveform, and not one for the left and right, correct? When applying reverb and such though, does it still add the same space to one track? (I'm using adobe audition 1.5, if you're trying to see my mental picture)
  6. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    This really should be in home recording/newbies. Waveform has nothing to do with mono/stereo, it's all about the source. The remainder of your questions are up to personal preference. If recording was the food pyramid, reverb would be salts and lards, use sparingly.
  7. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Err, I think I'm coming across wrong then...

    Yes, ok, I understand what you mean by the source. One mic = mono.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, for these specific instruments in a typical song, would you use one mic or two mics. THAT is what I was referring to as "mono or stereo", sorry.
  8. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Again it really comes down to preference and the actual engineer and what they intend on doing. Recording is an art, not a science. You may think that the bands are the artists, but as soon as they step into the studio, they are the paint and it is up to the engineer to decide how he wants the paint to hit the canvas. :) Someone once linked me this, if it doesn't answer your question at least you have gained something.

  9. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Bookmarked. Thank you. I guess it is just my inexperience then that keeps me separated so far.

    I use a firepod, AA 1.5, Rode NT2a, AT2020, SM57 & 58. That's all my equipment, lol.

    I'm going to post my song here - but not for critiquing purposes (I know there is a section for that!). (Halfway through are when all the instruments come in)

    video from Audix

    This style is very similar to Jack Johnson. I guess what I am really looking for is WHAT is making the huge difference in quality? The equipment? The mix? Are my tracks not clear enough? How are his vocals in your face and mine are back there somewhere?

    I'm sorry if this topic should be moved now!
  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Going with the paint/painter analogy, there's all kinds of ways you can paint your picture:

    1. One instrument, One mic, mono track, pan it around as needed to fit in the mix with other tracks.

    2. One instrument, a good room, two mics set up in stereo (always checking for mono compatibility as well), and again, move it around in the mix as needed. (call this "natural" or organic stereo, if you will.)

    3. One instrument, one mic, and a good plug in (or two) to create room ambience after-the-fact. Sometimes this is a better way to go, esp when getting several mono sources to "sit" in the panoramic mix properly. It might be "Small room" reverb, or simply ambience, etc. You can also simply 'Aux send" your mono signal to a speaker in a live room and create a stereo return with two mics. (Call this "Pseudo" stereo, if you will.)

    4. One complex instrument (drums, piano, marimba, castanettes, marching band, etc.) and as above; 2 mics stereo, place in the mix as needed, etc.

    5. For a group or ensemble, Mic the room as well as the band. You'll get the good clean sound coming off the DI's and close-mics, but you'll have a basic L-R panoramic image of the band in action (assuming they're set up the way they want to be heard from the front.) You may get bleed this way (which could affect your ability to overdub afterwards), but it's one of the most desirable and "natural" sounding types of stereo.
  11. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Thanks JoeH. I'm glad to know this. It's good to know that it's all dependent upon what you want, and that you can still get really good recordings with a mono source, and don't always need 2 microphones.

    One thing that I still don't understand though - As far as firewire interfaces go (I have a good computer so that method is probably best for me) what is the difference between a mackie with all those fancy knobs, compared to my firepod?

    How important are external preamps + compressors during the recording phase, compared to doing it all digitally?

    Also, what you said about the drums being a complex instrument - perhaps using fruity loops + ezdrummer is part of the reason my songs sound flat?

    Interesting technique with the pseudo-stereo as well! I can't wait till I can eventually get my own house, and set up a proper room for recording. Oh well, only one more semester of college to go!

    Thanks again.
  12. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    To answer one of your questions. A Mackie mixer is a channel router, your firepod is a digital interface. The difference is that your interface actually processes the sound and prepares it for a DAW. Big mixers nowadays are mainly for show, and to use as a midi controller. You are much better off at this stage with your firepod. I wish I got one myself, it will take you far.
  13. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Oh I see, I was reading about that. So essentially those knobs and such are just controlling the workspace? If I turn the pan knob, then it just pans it in the program, correct? It's always a good thing to hear someone say, "Don't worry, you don't need to spend more money!"
  14. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    sarNz: What you just described is a control surface. The Mackie Onyx mixer is both a small format mixer and a firewire interface with good preamps. It is not a control surface. Some digital mixers (not the Onyx) can also double as control surfaces.

    GuitarFreak: Get over the FP10. It is just one of many interfaces and it is not necessarily the right choice for everyone. I'm not saying it's necessarily bad but you're like a one pony show when it comes to recommendations and knowledge. The converters in the Onyx firewire option are equal to your FP10. I prefer the Onyx pre's to many others including many in the Presonus line-enough that I own an 800R whose converters are superior to the FP.

    Now, the Onyx is not the be all end all either. Which is why I have a set of True Precision 8's and a few other things too.
  15. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Haha, thanks Jack, it's good to get a good spanking every once in a while. I do refer many people to either the FB or FP. They work and aren't terribly expensive. I can sense when people have budget on the mind and are just clueless. I tend to jump on these opportunities because it's basically all I know. I do tend to stay out of the topics that are above my head. If you want me to let the vets handle these situations that's fine. I'm just having fun being part of this community. :D
  16. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Thanks for the clarification Jack. Yeah, I imagined there had to be something better about those other interfaces to justify the cost. But it seems that for the price of those True 8's you were talking about, I'll be sticking with this for a while.

    So that being said, if the Firepod is pretty good as far as converters go, would I see benefits to buying a small tube preamp to go before it in the chain? Am I thinking about this totally wrong? Would a compressor be a worthwhile purchase as well?
  17. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    You're fine. I'm just a curmudgeon and old coot in training. All I'm saying is maybe be a little circumspect in your gear comparisons. Offer several solutions rather than the identical one time after time. There's always more than one way to skin a cat.

    You should see how acerbic (blunt) I am on the horn lists...
  18. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    There are better converters but I'd say skill and experience is holding you back more than converters. And the True doesn't have AD or DA converters. It's purely a set of preamps. As to tubes and compressors I'll leave that to the non classical types. I use 'em but not enough to recommend any in particular.
  19. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    I see, thanks then! I really want to get some sort of book or CD set that already has a professionally recorded song, mixed and mastered. Then I want it to give me each track and such so that I can put it together myself and maybe see how it is done. Does such a thing exist?
  20. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member


    I also have a thread over in song/mix detailing my progress. Check it out if you please.


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