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What can you tell a beginning recording engineer?


superuser2

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Hello everyone,

 

What wisdom and advice can you give to a kid who will soon be mixing some amateur recordings?

 

I have some basic knowledge of mixing, equalization, microphone types, and the like from a handful of school talent shows. Recently, my choir director was awarded a grant to buy an audio interface and a PC with Cubase (microphones will have to be acquired separately, and I don't know what they'll be yet). He has plans to start a songwriting club and allow any students interested to record. He's agreed to let me engineer some of those recordings.

 

Though I realize this is primarily a theater/live audio forum, it doesn't seem unlikely that someone here has experience in this field. Any tips, books, websites, forums, etc that might help me? Thanks for any suggestions.

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Sound on Sound Magazine is without doubt the best source of recording info, the website has plenty of articles available on all sorts of subjects. They have separate sections for cubase, logic and the other mainstream recording systems.

 

Once you get your kit, you can start to play. The reality is that the software is pretty easy to get started with, but has lots of features you start to use as your skills get better. The real important parts are a decent soundcard or external sound device (there has been some chat on these only just recently) and a decent amp and monitor speakers. A room that has controlled acoustics is useful to, so you can really hear what it sounds like. I assume you are going to record choirs? So a decent stereo pair will be your goal - again, plenty of stuff on that here without going elsewhere. EQ and maybe some tweaked acoustics to cope with a poor recording space, or to add depth to a real one, and you are away.

 

If you have specifics once you get the kit, please ask again.

Paul

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Hi.

 

I use CuBase, Protools, Logic. just a little question so that I could give a couple of tips.

 

1) Will your CuBase be version 4.5 or 5?

2) What interface will you be using (or if not sure what exactly what model, what make will it be?)

 

If you could let me/others know about the hardware you will be using it will be easier to give directed tips, and ideas.

 

CuBase I think for you as a beginner into the recording/mixing/mastering is a good starting point as the software is relatively easy to learn unlike the industry standard's of ProTools and Logic, where you could go on forever with all the features.

 

As a general tip when recording it is essential that your track's don't clip as it can make a hell of a mess of the recording by digital distortion, so multiple sound checks are a good idea, try if possible to not adjust the gain of channels to much when in a recording or you may end up having to to some complicated volume automation when creating the mix.

 

Alex.

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Importantly, make sure the instruments sound good in the first place. For example, relatively new heads on the drums, all tuned correctly etc...

 

As for mics etc... keep things simple. People often seem to think they need to mic every drum individually + a pair of overheads, but really, a simple pair of overheads will suffice.

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I suspect that users of protools and Logic might not agree with Alex. The general consensus is simply that protools and logic are simply different, and the one you work on the most is usually the best. People sometime cross over, but as Cubase tends to now be PC and Logic is Apple (ignoring the clever cross platform people) then you choose whatever you like. There are also plenty of other really good software packages that have their own strengths.

 

Realistically - it doesn't matter that much.

 

The biggest problem is that audio recording software has many different versions at different budget levels. Cubase is available in full (cubase) slightly pruned (studio) and then starter versions such as 'essential' and 'sequel', and the older versions still with some dealer, 'LE' and 'LE4' - pretty tricky choosing the right one.

 

In fact, Cubase 5 is either available/nearly shipping - which is nice as they flogged me Cubase 4 only two weeks ago - oh well.

 

 

Once you have the software, the fun starts - until then, it's planning really.

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I suspect that users of protools and Logic might not agree with Alex. The general consensus is simply that protools and logic are simply different, and the one you work on the most is usually the best.

 

I am a user of both ProTools 8 and Logic, have worked with ProTools in small studio's as-well as high end studio's in London and have training in them both (as-well as CuBase)

 

The software I use at one particular time depends on the mix. Trying to put what I am meaning into words. I would use one program for a certain task as it is better at it such as, I wouldn't use ProTools for making music and for a large amount of midi input and editing I would chose Logic as more software instruments and is stronger in this field, or on a lower level I would use CuBase.

 

ProTools and Logic are known as the "industry standard's" by meaning these are the programs that are found in the professional recording studio's.

CuBase is seen as a more lower level, as it cannot meet the demands of a high quality mix as it just doesn't offer the flexibility and increased work flow and efficiency that Protools and Logic have and the expandability of the Plugin's.

 

In fact, Cubase 5 is either available/nearly shipping - which is nice as they flogged me Cubase 4 only two weeks ago - oh well.

As far as I know it is only just getting onto the market, the upgrade to 5 from studio 4.5 was available at an earlier date at the cost of £95 (might be a bit out on the price)

 

Alex.

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I have to disagree here, but it doesn't matter really. Cubase and Logic users always get a bit polarised, but I'd have to disagree on either of them being better or lower - that's just opinion, based on nothing but personal preference. I have no problem with this at all, but over the years, and I have been a cubase user since converting from being an Atari user - which dates me.

 

Software instruments are far more common on a PC platform, not Apple - although I'd agree that many are pretty poor anyway. If you like apple computers then when Logic dropped PC users the choice got far easier to make. The Cubase people went one way, the Logic users the other.

 

When I was Principal Examiner for A level Music technology, we had this discussion each year when drawing examiners together, and the conclusions was that both were as easy as each other, and it really made no difference. As far as I can see, nothing has changed.

 

This bit

as it cannot meet the demands of a high quality mix as it just doesn't offer the flexibility and increased work flow and efficiency that Protools and Logic have and the expandability of the Plugin's.

 

As pro tools has only one serious competitor in the studio market - Nuendo, I'm bemused by the missing flexibility and increased workflow - and the expandability bit?

 

Care to explain?

 

This is just the audio version of the everlasting Adobe/FCP/Avid discussion video people have all the time.

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Software instruments are far more common on a PC platform, not Apple - although I'd agree that many are pretty poor anyway.

You might do this already in some form, but I as a way of getting around this buy MusicTech magazine (or the internet) and use the one shot samples that they offer on the DVD and loading them onto the corresponding keys in my sequencer to create the desired sounds.

 

As pro tools has only one serious competitor in the studio market - Nuendo, I'm bemused by the missing flexibility and increased workflow - and the expandability bit?

Care to explain?

What I am meaning my that was the integration of leading hardware company's making software versions of their products for the developing digital recording market. As in the packages that are made of these different plugins. this develops further when you get to the ProTools HD level.

 

This is just the audio version of the everlasting Adobe/FCP/Avid discussion video people have all the time.

Haha it is.

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CuBase will undoutably achieve what you want it to do, as will Nuendo, Audition, and various other software packages.

 

However, I've always been of the opinion that if your going to take the time to learn a new peice of software (or hardware) you might as well learn the industry standard - for which reason I would invest my time and money in ProTools for the recording projects the OP originally asked about, or in Logic if creating the music within the software is a more pressing requirment.

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Well, before even getting into specifics of software and such, there are a few things I tend to tell people starting out:

 

1. Your final mix is only as good as the quality of your original tracks. Make these as good as possible and the job is halfway done. This means using decent microphones chosen to be appropriate for the material you're recording. However, just as important, it means being critical about things like mic positioning (a change of inches can make a big difference), the tuning of instruments and so on. Finally, it means sorting out all those little niggles that happen in home studios--don't tolerate buzzes, clicks, hums etc. , planning to fix them with noise reduction or EQ later. Get it right first time. Finally, a home studio is also a home so probably won't have perfect acoustics...do some experimenting and find the corner by the curtains and bookshelves (or whatever) that sounds best.

 

2. Teach yourself about gain structure and set up your recordings to get the best S/N you can without ever getting into clipping. Digital clipping is nasty. Don't forget when setting up your gain that 0dBFS on a digital workstation is probably equivalent to something like +18 or +22 on an analogue mixer.

 

3. Invest in monitoring you can trust and learn how recordings/mixes done on those monitors will sound on other systems like a car stereo, your MP3 player, etc etc. Similarly, pay a lot of attention to the monitor mix you're giving the musician(s) in their earphones. Hearing the right things at the right levels can make a big difference to the quality of the performance.

 

As has been said, the SOS Faqs and tutorials are a great way to learn stuff like this. Have fun and once you get the basics right you'll probably have more specifc questions about the details.

 

Bob

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By far the best source of learning recording techniques is learning from your own experience. There's no 'right way' of using microphones - some of the most unique sounds have been created with strange micing techniques (read in to some of the old Bowie records for example).

 

Also remember, there's a term used in the industry: put sh*t in - get sh*t out. Your end result can only be as good as the sound going in to Logic (my choice) or Cubase/ProTools.

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Excellent everyone, thanks for the wonderful responses.

 

Our choir room has decent acoustics (it sounds good to my untrained ear while we're singing in it, at least) and we have three small "practice rooms" which are soundproofed and have carpeted floors and walls - I'm thinking we can put the voices/instruments in those and the workstation/audio interface in another. How do studios typically handle communication in an isolated setup like that? Intercoms or just fancy mic/monitor routing?

 

I have my own pair of Ultimate Ears super.fi 5s that I'll be using; my teacher has custom monitors. Unfortunately the school doesn't have anything but cheap computer speakers and headphones (though some musically inclined students have expensive headphones for their iPods).

 

Thanks for the guidance on gain structure and Sound on Sound. I will also make sure we do the best we can to get the best sound possible to the computer (I tend to obsess anyway...).

 

One specific question instrument question - I understand mic'ing the amp with an SM57 is common for electric guitars. What about acoustics? Do I DI the pickup? Or point a mic at the sound hole?

 

How does routing work in Cubase? Do I get a list of outputs and levels for each channel similar to an analog board, or how does that work?

 

Thanks everyone for your help.

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What about acoustics? Do I DI the pickup? Or point a mic at the sound hole?

I'll take the easy question please :

 

If the Acoustic has a decent pickup you can simply DI straight in to it.

 

If it lacks a pickup or has one but its rubbish, get yourself the best pencil condenser you've got (I like the Sennheiser MKH40 for this purpose) and point in diagonally toward the sound hole at a distance of about 6 inches. You should get you a nice warm sound but play about with mics and positions for best results.

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