Advice on Setting Up a Home Studio

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by maxnorman, Dec 4, 2011.

  1. maxnorman

    maxnorman Member

    Dec 4, 2011
    United States
    Hello All,

    I am a classical clarinetist interested in getting some equipment to record performances of solo and chamber music, as well as to explore the world of looping. Steve Reich, among other composers, has employed looping techniques in pieces for the clarinet (see New York Counterpoint), and I'd like to get the equipment necessary to perform his work and create some of my own. I've also got a MicroKorg synthesizer and an electric guitar that I'd like to add to the mix.

    I currently have a Macbook Pro and Garageband, but am willing to invest--within reason, of course--in whatever software and hardware would be necessary.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    Your options are so broad, much of your decision-making will be made based upon your budget which you have not indicated.

    When I deal with " classical music ", for Reed instruments, my first go to microphone is one of my numerous ribbon microphones. That's because I find that condenser microphones can be too thin sounding unless that is the desired tonality. I particularly love my ribbons on soprano saxophones where I may utilize my old tube Neumann KM 56 SDC on baritone saxophone. AKG 414's on tenor & alto saxophone. No ribbons on flutes close up however as you can't have somebody blowing into a ribbon microphone hoping it might survive. So for that, close up SDC or a ribbon a couple of feet back. This is the art of recording as opposed to the science of recording. That's why it's referred to as " The Recording Arts & sciences ". That title to me is a bit of a non sequitur since the science of recording is quite different from the art of recording. This is what makes it so difficult for a person like yourself on making purchase decisions. And even then, we have to get into the discussion & decision making process of what precisely to plug your preferred microphone choice into? And it is there along with the microphone decision how to balance your choices between Art & Science. So must science also be applicable to art? The analogy here would be equivalent to whether you need to purchase a newer car based upon the possibility that your current car (only two years old) doesn't have built-in " On-Star " like the newer one has? Does that improve the car? Or does that improve the science of the car? And in the end, will it make any difference, of how the car performs?

    The software you have is perfectly wonderful for what you want to already do. As a musician, you must understand about technique. Musical technique goes way beyond theoretical technique. Most every piece of multitrack software today is a have everything, do everything scenario. And most of it is geared mostly towards contemporary, sample loop-based production. Since you're thinking about contemporary music looping techniques, the skies are your limit. That is to say the technique utilized to play your clarinet cannot necessarily be applied to a trumpet. Even though it too is a classical instrument. Trumpets don't sound like clarinets and clarinets don't sound like trumpets. So you wouldn't necessarily record them with the same microphone.

    I've also found through the years, and now within our digital age of recording, I've had to rethink what microphones I'll use. That's because the tonal quality of digital is so vastly different sounding from that old-fashioned warmth of analog capture a.k.a. tape recorders. I might use a ribbon for digital recording where I would use a condenser for analog recording of the same instrument. You have already set the parameters of what your workflow will be since its digital. So in this instance, where people may believe that a condenser microphone will provide you the best recording, it might be best on a theoretical factor not an artistic one. And so, 1930s designed ribbon technology with a 2011 ribbon microphone may provide you with a " classical warmth " for digital recording. Whereas the condenser microphone may provide you with a state of the art sound for rap/hip-hop/heavy metal sounding digital recording. And that may not be a decision made easily overnight for you? Of course the logical answer is, one large LDC, one small SDC, one large diaphragm RE 20 style dynamic & one small diaphragm SM58 dynamic, one long geometry ribbon, one short geometry ribbon and then you'll have what you need. Then there is the issue where folks like us most generally purchase our microphones in pairs instead of one at a time. So a lot of this is based upon budgetary concerns as opposed to what might be considered best.

    When people tell me something newer sounds better than something older, that's of no concern to me. Because better doesn't necessarily mean better. Better to me simply indicates it will sound different from what I may deem to sound better. That is to say, people have not dumped their violins for electric guitars. They may not have dumped their clarinets in favor of a sampler/keyboard with a clarinets sample package loaded. There are some traditions worth preserving and that also applies to sound.

    Garbageband is a perfectly marvelous program where ProTools is just a variation on a theme. However, in the style and process of actually making recordings, frequently more than just a pair of microphone inputs is frequently needed. So in that respect, an interface that offers 8 inputs utilizing FireWire connectivity would be a more versatile choice than a USB device with only 2 inputs. So there is a boatload of those types to choose from also and something I would recommend with a minimum of 8 inputs. Sure, I recorded plenty of orchestral work with a single pair of ribbon or condenser microphones. But frequently in addition to that, I'll place a couple of wider outriggers, a woodwind highlight microphone or two, some string highlighters, a singers solo microphone, a couple of extra ones on the chorus, etc., etc..

    Making a " natural sounding " doesn't necessarily mean that you have methodically done everything naturally. I find that "natural recordings" are frequently produced in unnatural ways. We are sonic capture artists and there is no right or wrong way to dictate art. Theory is theory, practice is practice. What makes you better? Hint: it ain't theory. However the knowledge of theory may improve your practice.

    I'm sure I didn't answer your question, theoretically speaking in practice.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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