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Recording band rehearsals - multitrack

Discussion in 'Recording' started by tript, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. tript

    tript Guest

    Hello all!

    Ok – I have been surfing the net for about 3 hours now, and am trying to figure out how to get the setup I need for a band I am in. I’m new to all this stuff, so please bear with me.

    Let me first describe what we have:
    2 Guitar, one Bass, and two vocal mics that each go into individual amps that have Line Out ‘s (or ‘Pre-Amp out’).
    1 set of normal drums
    1 new iMac with firewire and Garageband.

    We all practice in the same room (with our amps turned up). We would like to record ourselves, each on individual tracks, into Garageband. I figure we will need record 7 tracks simulatiously - I will have to mic the drums – probably just two (haven’t really research that yet) – and there probably will be some bleeding into the drum tracks. That ok. We do NOT want to just put a mic in the center of the room. Our music is for our own personal use – but we would like the quality to be good so we can both enjoy it and dissect it. We would like to have each instrument recorded separately, and mixed in Garageband (simple mixing – and Gargeband is free and simple). So I figure we will be using firewire.

    We would like to keep the cost down – and after doing some research, I figure I gotta be able to do it for under $400 – not counting the cost of any extra cables. Looking to you guys (and gals) for your experience and advice.

    The solution that caught my eye was the ProSonus Firestudio Project (about $400) – it has 8 inputs, but I think I only need 7 at this point. The first two inputs (called ‘mic – instrument’) on the front of the Firestudio Project seem to be the place where I could plug in the two mics that will be recording the drums – as they will get pre-amped. The other 6 inputs (inputs 3-8) are where I would plug in the line-level outputs from the amps. From what I have been researching, I figure that is correct (but correct me if I am wrong).
    I don’t really care, at least at this point, about all the outputs in the back of the Firestudio Project – except for the firewire output.

    I’m looking for any other options, or if this is my best solution (and if it will work) for under $400.

  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    "I have been surfing the net for about 3 hours now,"
    I've been surfing for about 6 years. Cool to see a fresh face.

    "(with our amps turned up)"
    You're probably going to want the amps down to make better recordings.

    "mic the drums – probably just two (haven’t really research that yet)"
    Two is fine. Four is ideal. I can do one, but I'd prefer three. Or four. But two is acceptable. You want a pair of mics in an overhead position (choose XY or Recorderman). This should get you plenty of everything.

    "and there probably will be some bleeding into the drum tracks."
    Yes, there will be. There will also be bleed into vocal mics of the drums.
  3. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    Do you have any microphones? Because microphones are going to blow your budget.

    I tried the Firestudio Project as an upgrade from my dual Firepods. I have always liked the Fire-line of stuff. The firestudio is a good way to go since you can chain them together (at least 3 now, possibly 4?) and you can mix and match with the firestudio tube for another 8 inputs of tube pre-amplification. So what I like most about the firepod or the firestudio is that they are expandable and they produce pretty good quality recordings in my experience. I have learned that whenever I buy something that is just good enough to get the job done, I regret it 6 months later when I want to do more. Firestudios can solve that problem by being expandable to 16 or 24 inputs easily enough. The other nice thing about the firestudio is that it has a zero-latency mixer built in - you access it through software, but when you're done it writes the values to a chip in the unit itself, and that means no software processing delays. You can do up to 5 stereo outputs from the back - so 5 individual headphone mixes if you want, which you may want some day if not now. Downside: the monitoring does not inlude any effects or EQ, unless you hook up an outboard effects/EQ rack, so all you can really adjust out of the box is relative levels of the various inputs being monitored. Bigger downside, you can't easily monitor more than one firestudio project at the same time. For example, I had all my drums going into one, and everything else going into the second one. It was easy to monitor just my drums (in stereo, with 4 independent headphone mixes), or just everything else (also in stereo with 4 independent mixes), but monitoring everything together is not easy. I ultimately concluded that I would have to get an external mixer with multiple aux sends (4) to do that properly and that means a mixer with 16 inputs (and 24 if you decide on a third firestudio) - if you get one that is decent quality, it won't be cheap (on top of all the cables you will need). So for me, ultimately I decided against it and just got a Mackie Onyx 1640, since it does all of that in one unit without 40 extra cables and y-adapters all over the place. That said, if you're just doing 8 inputs, or if monitoring with no latency is not a big deal, then you're golden. Just thought you should know in case you get the fs project and decide to expand later on. Buy the time I bought two projects to get 16 inputs, an external mixer with effects, and all the cables, it was just as expensive as the Onyx, so I got the Onyx.

    Now on to bigger issues. The first two inputs on the firestudio project will take a direct signal from the bass itself or the guitar itself (i.e. plug straight into them, bypassing the amp). This can be ok for bass, but I guarantee you will hate it for a guitar. If you have amps with line outs, that's nice, and you can do that for the bass (plug bass into amp, hear it in the room, and then run a cable from the bass amp line out to one of the first two inputs on the project). But I doubt that the sound you get from the guitar amp if try the same approach. I really, really doubt it. That means you have to mic the guitar cabinets. So add two microphones to your list, plus two cables and possibly two stands.

    So one input for bass, and two for microphones on the guitar amps (and those latter two can go into any input on the fs project, not just the first two). Two vocal mics can each go into any input you want, so you've got 3 left. I would suggest: two overhead microphones for some stereo width on the drums overall, and one more microphone on your kick drum. It is possible to record an entire drum kit with two microphones, but whenever I've done it, I've never gotten enough kick drum in the overall drum sound. The overheads will pick up the cymbals, toms, high hat and snare reasonably well (if they're decent overheads), but the kick is way down there, furthest away from the mics up above, and it produces a lot of low frequencies that overheads often aren't tailored to pick up, especially if you use a pair of small diaphragm condensor microphones. The problem could be me and you may be able to get away with 2 mics for the drums, but I prefer at least 4, since I like an extra one on the snare too. You've got 3 inputs left, I'd use them for 3 mics on the drums - kick mic and two overheads.

    So I see the firestudio project as a decent choice for an interface as long as you know about its limitations in the long run, but the main problem being that you're going to need 5 more microphones - one on each guitar cabinet, two overheads, and one on the kick drum. Plus cables and stands. That could be an extra 500$ or more. Depends on your taste in microphones.

    Incidentally, all of the 8 inputs on the front of the firepod have pre-amps in them. It's just that two of them are built to handle line level signals, such as a direct out from your bass amp, or just plugging the bass right into the project. Those two can ALSO take microphone level inputs, so you can use 8 microphones, or 6 mics plus use those two as direct inputs. Before plugging any of the 'line outs' from your amps into the firestudio, I would double check that it's ok. You don't want to fry your new interface.

    One other thing, the firepods (now discontinued, but I think they were revived in a new form as the FP10) are cheaper, and will also do what you want, without the built in zero-latency mixer. So a new FP10 or a used firepod would save you some coin to buy more microphones. Unless there's some other functionality in the FP Project that you need, you might want to consider that option.
  4. tript

    tript Guest

    Codemonkey: thanks for the reply! I didn't think about the bleeding into the vocals, but I think I will be ok with that also. As for the 2 mic setup for the drums - yes, I did some research on the Recorderman setup and will probably use that.
  5. tript

    tript Guest

    Apstrong: First, thanks for the advice! I'll try to address your points one-by-one.
    1) Well, we already have our vocal mics, and some other ones laying around that I was going to use for the drums.
    2) I'm concerned now because of your concern about me using the line outs from the guitar amps. Again, I have no idea how this all works - so bear with me. To be honest, the last thing I want to do is have to buy more mics, and then mic up the guitars. I figured the nice part of this was that we seem to have pretty good amps - and I was hoping to just use the lineout of them to go into the Firestudio Project. (I forget what we are using for the bass, but we have a SWX California Blonde (for both vocal mics), a Fender HotRod Deluxe, and a Fender Cyber Deluxe). Can you talk more about your concerns on using the lineout? I did post this also in another forum, and the only response there was that a spiderweb of all the unbalanced line out cables might might cause a hum.
    3) Thanks for the info about the FP 10. I took a look at Amazon, and if I buy it quickly, I can get a Studio for 417 - while the FP 10 is 400. So if I buy quickly, it seems they are pretty much the same price. Although you are correct - normally the Studio is alot more money. I'll think about that...
  6. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    The Fire Studio Project is a better unit in many ways but the LED's are esp. helpful when recording yourselves because you can tell at a glance if anything is clipping (red lights.)
    You can use the lineouts from your amps BUT NOT SPEAKER OUTS. I have recorded the Fender Cyber Deluxe using line out and it almost sounds as good as well mic'd.
    A lot of people recording using these units prefer bass guitar direct. I use a morley a/b switch (you can also use a DI) sending line A to the amp B to the FSP just make certain if you go this route use one of the first 2 channels as they accept direct in instruments.
    Not sure how your vocal mics are running I thought the Cali Blond only had a single mic input. The best vocal recordings are usually made by sending the mics direct to the FSP and then line out to whatever PA but it will be line level (post preamp) though I guess you might have a lineout on the amp but is there a seperate lineout for each mic.? And if so you might want to send that in the rear line in on the FSP depending on how much boost is added by the preamp in the amp.
  7. rockstardave

    rockstardave Active Member

    oh hey, as for the drums...

    you can get away with 2 mics - one for kickdrum, one for overheads. you lose stereo imaging, but who cares in a small situation like this. you'll be happier to have a punchier drumkit sound (because of the kick drum mic) than if you went with 2 overheads for a stereo sound. without a dedicated kickdrum mic your entire rhythm section will be weak.. i promise.

  8. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    If jg says you can use the lineouts from your amps, that's good enough for me. I'm not a guitar guy, so I get nervous about connecting outputs on guitar amps to inputs on interfaces when I don't know anything about the amps in question. But remember that the first two inputs on the Firestudio are the only ones that take line level input, and you have two guitar cabs and one bass, which makes three things that need direct inputs according to your plan. One too many. Something there is going to need a microphone, unless you get a DI box for the third one. Try all three and use a mic on the one that sounds worst as a direct in.

    If you really want to, you can get away with a single microphone on drums, or two as rockstardave suggests, but hey, you've got 3 inputs free to use for drums (if you have the mics to do it), so why not? I'd still do two overheads and a kick mic, but that's just me.
  9. BDM

    BDM Active Member

    forget garageband. while it can be a handy program (quick movie soundtrack fun), the software that comes with interfaces is much more flexible. and usually a guitar amp modeler is included, so you CAN go DI for guitar and get some, IMHO, great sounds. and the drum mics will pick up the guitar amp in the room, which can add some cool things, or some bad things, depending on the room, mic placement, amp placement, drum placement, placement placement placement... basement placement?
    i think if the two vocals are decently isolated, guitar and bass are DI'd, and you experiment with mic placement/isolation to get a cool drum sound and (nice) bleed, all free of phasing problems, you have a lot of options and flexibility to mix.
  10. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Odds on getting what BDM described: low.

    Your best bet is to put heavy things in the corners, *don't* use blankets on the walls - and muffle the kick drum a little more - I suspect you already do if you play in a room together. Bringing the volumes down will make interactions with the room (reflections) less pronounced, and will help tame bleed. Perhaps.

    I get decent vocal isolation with our live band - but the singers practically eat the mics, it's not an ideal recording solution, I'm a total hack sound engineer, and the gear is like budget hookers - does the job but not very well.
    (For the record, I don't think there's any budget hookers in our church but I wouldn't care if there were)
    (No, not like that).
  11. tript

    tript Guest

    Again, thanks for all the advice and info!! I've been trying to do much of the reseach myself, but I'm again I new to all this. My 'band' is just really 5 guys in their 40's, trying to play some old standards and having fun. We have never done any recording before, so all of this is new to us. We've only had 5 rehearsals so far, but we are working hard at this so we sound good (again, this is just a fun project for us - we will never put out a CD).
    Anyway, to try to respond to everyone:
    JG49: I like the idea that we can tell if anything is clipping - so maybe the Project is the way to go. When you say 'DI' - I assume you mean just plugging the instument directly into the Project, correct? It sounds like you are saying that for the bass, you basically split the line out of the bass into two line (in your case, using an A/B switch) - and one goes into the amp (so we can hear it) and one goes into the Project (input 1 or 2) to record. Sounds simple enough - but why would I even bother doing that? (I'm not trying to be a jerk here, just asking). Is the quality better with 'DI' than using the line level out from the amp?
    As for the Cali Blonde - it has a lot of inputs, and I plug my mic into the 'balanced mic input' (because I am using a 'balanced mic' and plug the other mic (which just has the standard 1/4" phone plug) into the Aux In. That way, two people can sing and both come out of the Blonde. It also has tons of outputs on the back. That being said, my concern is the outputs from the Blonde. According to the manual, it says (when referring to the Line Out Ch-1 Jack, which is similar to the Line Out Ch-2 jack that I will be using): "Inserting a cord into this jack DISCONNECTS the signal from the internal power amp, therefore the Master Volume,
    Reverb and internal speaker system are disabled. "
    It sounds like they are saying that if I try to get the output, nothing will play out of the amp! Well, that ain't gonna work for me. Here is a link to the California Blonde owner's manual - if someone could take a look at it and 'translate' all the jargon they use and see if it would fit what I would like to do, please take a stab at it!! http://www.swrsound.com/support/manuals/pdfs/caliblonde_om.PDF

    Rockstardave: Thanks - I guess I will probably test it out both ways, then see which sounds better for our purposes.

    Apstrong: I think you might be mistaken. Looking at the doc on the Firestudio Project, it seems to me that the first two inputs are for 'instruments' and the last 6 are for 'line'. From the Firestudio Project manual: '(In other words, don’t plug a line level source into the combo jacks of channel 1 or 2.)'. So that mean, and correct me if I am wrong, I *could* set up something like this: Mic'd drums to iput 1 and 2, guitar 1 (using 'line out' from amp) to input 3, guitar 2 (using 'line out' from amp) to input 4, bass (using 'line out' from amp) to input 5, vocal 1 (from 'Balanced XLR Line Out' on California Blonde) to input 6, vocal 2 (from 'Line out Ch-2 Jack' on California Blonde) to input 7. Again, I do have some concerns about the California Blonde, but I guess I could always use another amp for vocal 2 if I had to...

    BDM and Codemonkey: I gotta admit, the hooker thing caught my eye.....haha!
    Anyway, the drummer already has a blanket in the kick drum, but I don't think we will make any changes to the room. And we will probably have to tone down a bit as I would like to keep the bleeding to a minimum, but I'm not going to go crazy to make it happen. We'll see how it comes out, and then work from there.

    Again, thanks to everyone for their advice. This is a daunting task for me, and I just want to get good results with the most ease and not spend thousand of dollars or have 100's of cables running around, or wear headphone or whatever. I have to say, though, that I am pretty amazed at what can be done and all the different gear out there - from what I've been reading on the boards, someone with a couple of grand (well, maybe a bit more than that) can create music that sounds like it was done in a recording studio.
  12. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    Sorry, you're right, the first two inputs on the FS can handle instruments like guitar and bass plugged directly into them without a DI box.

    Someone suggested previously, and this is the way I would do it, to have your vocals go straight to the firestudio first, and then use the line outs on the back of the FS to go to your vocal amp so you can hear them in the room. Record the vocals dry and apply whatever effects/processing you want to whatever degree you want during the mixing stage. If you go to the amp first, you're recordng the sound of the amp with any effects that are built in there (if any), and you will have less flexibility during mixing. You can't make pre-existing reverb go away. Of course, the sound of the vox coming through the amp might be perfect as is, in which case you could completely ignore me. Won't hurt to try it both ways once you get the interface and see which you prefer (if you're right about the CB disabling the internal speaker when you use the line out, then this is your only option it seems to me). Me, I'd do the same with the bass - try it both ways and see which is better, since you can plug the bass directly into input 1 or 2. And I might even try that with the guitars because I'm a sucker for punishment.

    Anyway, bottom line is that it looks to me like the FS will do what you need, and once you get it you have a number of options for routing signals that you can experiment with to get the best sound.

    The FP10 and Firepods will show clipping, but they only have a single red led to indicate that for each channel. The firestudio has 3 or 4 led's per channel so they will show input levels up to and including clipping - they just give you more info, which is always useful. But the price is virtually the same, you say, so I wouldn't bother with them. The Studio is definitely a better unit overall.
  13. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    I did glance at the Cali's manual before my previous post, you are definitely going to want to go direct to FPS then to the vocal amp.
    Direct input and a DI (box) are two different things. Look up Direct Injection box on google.
    The same reasoning behind going directly in with the microphones applies to the bass, most bass players like to boost their tone settings above what sounds good in recordings.

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