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BenHermanski
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« on: January 07, 2012, 02:20:47 PM »

Hey guys,

I figured among you should be at least 3-4 people who have decent experience with home recording. I'm not talking about equipment, but about how to arrange tracks to make for a decent demo recording.

For example, do I have to record the same guitar track twice in order to create a stereo effect? Or are there other tricks to create a full and warm demo recording?

What are the essentials of home recording apart from hardware?

Any help is appreciated! And, of course, rewarded with donuts: 
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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2012, 04:08:47 AM »

Hi Ben,

I just came across this, and remembered your post.

Check this out:  Evolution of an Acoustic Guitar Recording

http://www.dougyoungguitar.com/WSSDemo

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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2012, 11:11:40 AM »

Thank you very much! Doug Young is always a helpful source. 
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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 08:44:26 PM »

For example, do I have to record the same guitar track twice in order to create a stereo effect? Or are there other tricks to create a full and warm demo recording?

What are the essentials of home recording apart from hardware?

Any help is appreciated! And, of course, rewarded with donuts:  

I kinda like a double tracked guitar, panned left and right it makes for an interesting effect. But you can do the same thing with software by copying your single track and delaying the second copy just the smallest amount, pan them far right and far left and you'll like the result.

I'm far from an expert, but I find that it helps to use some kind of graphic EQ where you can see the live signal distribution across frequencies. This gives you an idea where you might tweak your frequencies a bit to take out any low end muddiness or shrill high end. My understanding is that recording engineers seek to even out the main frequencies of multiple tracks or frequencies to keep from overlapping too much in one part of the sound spectrum. The only other thing I can add is the obvious, don't just use headphones to check how your recordings sound, it's likely your intended audience will be listening on speakers. Took me a while to figure that one out. . .
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2012, 08:44:21 AM »

Thank you, very much JP! 

I will also try to do the "car test" after mastering, to see if it still sounds good on crappy car speakers...

Do you use an external hardware graphic eq, or is there a graphic eq included in your recording software?
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2012, 02:29:08 PM »

I kinda like a double tracked guitar, panned left and right it makes for an interesting effect. But you can do the same thing with software by copying your single track and delaying the second copy just the smallest amount, pan them far right and far left and you'll like the result.

While this is a sort of doubling, it does not have the same effect as an actual twice-played doubled track.  Experiment with this yourself and you will find that a true double-tracked acoustic guitar track is:

1.  Much harder to accomplish as it has a tendency to highlight any differences in playing, clams, etc.
2.  Sounds much more 'organic', rich, full, fill in the positive adjective here ______.

This has been true in my experience at least.

Both strummed as well as fingerpicked acoustic tracks can sound quite delicious and BIG if you actually double-track.  Same is true for vocals.  The couple of mS delay trick sounds more like just that, a trick.

Here's a short 2 minute cover I did of Beck's "The Golden Age", where I tried double-tracking the strummed rhythm guitar.  There's a sort of indescribable expanse to the rhythm tracks that is just not possible using a single track with any kind of processing:

http://rockstarnot.rekkerd.org/songs/newer/rockstar_not%20-%20The%20Golden%20Age%202%20minute%20cover.mp3

You'll note that the mis-steps in strumming between the two tracks is highly evident.  So try this technique with the caution that you must really be able to play the part very very close on the two different tracks.

-Scott
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2012, 04:35:36 PM »

Thank you, very much JP! 

I will also try to do the "car test" after mastering, to see if it still sounds good on crappy car speakers...

Do you use an external hardware graphic eq, or is there a graphic eq included in your recording software?

I have a Mac that came with GarageBand and that has a basic graphic eq. The audio program Logic has a more advanced one.

Dunno what program you use but there are probably free EQ plugin's out there that augment your software if it doesn't have it.

To rockstar_not, I probably shouldn't have implied that doubling by copying a track gives the same effect as two separate takes. The effect of the subtle differences between two separate tracks is pretty interesting. Like your track, btw, nicely done, wish I had your voice.

I have this instrumental with two tracks panned far right and left, with headphones, it's pretty cool. . .  http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_songInfo.cfm?bandID=1036948&songID=10116357
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2012, 04:57:08 PM »

As Scott pointed out, true double-tracking can sound great (if that's the sound you're after) but is difficult to pull off.  It's much easier to create a true stereo track using a stereo mic setup during recording.  There are several ways to do this - just use Google and you'll find tons of info.  I find X-Y easiest to set up and get right - it gives a nice centered, focused, 3D image.

It is also possible to create a pseudo-stereo track with a single mono mic by using software features.  For simple stuff, I do this in Cubase by recording with one mic into a stereo track (both channels of the track are from the same mic input) and applying a VST effect to do stereo expansion and/or room simulation.  This gives a subtle stereo image which is not true stereo but does add three-dimensionality to the recording which can be further enhanced with other stereo effects if you wish (e.g. chorus).

Simplest of all is to just add a good lush stereo reverb to any of these recording techniques.

When you get to mixing, eq and compression are things you will need to get good at, as well as setting and varying your track levels.

Most important is to have fun!!
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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2012, 05:04:50 PM »

Thanks Gord & Scott!

I kinda lost the fun in the past when trying to double my tracks. I have to practice a lot more to play accurate in recording situations (excitement kicks in and leaves me playing faster than intended), because I know that I can play tight live! I am used to play with drummers, not with click tracks 

However, I will experiment with doubling the tracks, as well as copying one track and fumble a little with it to make it sound the way I want it.

Recording with two mics also sounds like a decent option!
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« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2012, 06:25:23 PM »

I am used to play with drummers, not with click tracks
Yup - I struggle with click tracks too.  I found it helped me quite a bit when I replaced the clicks/beeps with actual drum samples.  I use a snare for the downbeat and a kick for the quarter notes.  However, I expect not all software will let you do this.  It's still not the same as playing live though.  I am thinking about trying Blinker from here - any body have any experience with this or something similar?
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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2012, 11:57:03 PM »

Thanks Gord & Scott!

I kinda lost the fun in the past when trying to double my tracks. I have to practice a lot more to play accurate in recording situations (excitement kicks in and leaves me playing faster than intended), because I know that I can play tight live! I am used to play with drummers, not with click tracks 

However, I will experiment with doubling the tracks, as well as copying one track and fumble a little with it to make it sound the way I want it.

Recording with two mics also sounds like a decent option!

What do you have for mics at present?

Many different options, and a cautionary word that you'll get opinions far and wide as to what kind of microphones to buy.  I believe it's more important to be concerned about the microphone pre-amp being used.  Here's an adage I've heard in the past and I would say from experience that it's true:

You can make a crappy mic sound good with a good mic pre-amp.

You can make a very expensive mic sound crappy with a crappy pre-amp.
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« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2012, 06:38:25 AM »

rockstar_not, none actually. I will try to borrow what I can from fellow musicians... I only recorded directly from my K&K pure western mini in the past. The sound, however, was very usable! The K&K records very well.

Budget is also a problem here. I just don't have the budget to afford more professional gear. On the other hand, if I had more money I would most likely visit a record studio for better recordings. Just trying to get the best out of what I have, to present the audience something to listen to for the times I'm not on stage. 
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« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2012, 02:14:11 PM »

rockstar_not, none actually. I will try to borrow what I can from fellow musicians... I only recorded directly from my K&K pure western mini in the past. The sound, however, was very usable! The K&K records very well.

Budget is also a problem here. I just don't have the budget to afford more professional gear. On the other hand, if I had more money I would most likely visit a record studio for better recordings. Just trying to get the best out of what I have, to present the audience something to listen to for the times I'm not on stage. 

How did you record the K+K, into an audio interface or a standalone recorder?

Most people here will chime in to state that some type of condenser microphone is what you are wanting.  Condenser microphones all require what is known as phantom power, supplied by the pre-amp in the audio interface (if so equipped) or in the standalone recorder, or with a standalone pre-amp.

Lot's of very decent condenser microphones available in the $70-$200 range (not stereo, though there are a few in that range).
Plenty of audio interfaces that supply phantom power to at least two mic inputs in the $150-$300 range (and up from there)
Standalone recorders with phantom power in them to run external mics will run you at minimum about $240 (TASCAM DP-008 is the cheapest one I can find new).

Now, you could go extra simple if you are willing to sacrifice flexibility and go for one of the portable 2 channel recorders with a built in x-y pair of condenser microphones.  Many of these available in the under $400 range.

If you decide to buy new, I highly recommend www.sweetwater.com  In fact, I recommend calling them and asking to speak with someone to help you decide through all of the options.  The salesman I have used there since 1993 is Michael Eads.  I think it speaks something about the company when there's a 19+ year veteran still working the phones now and then in a world of quick turnover phone jockeys.  He now has at least one or two folks that work with him on consulting on phone calls.  No, I do not work for them, but I was offered a job there about 10 years ago.

Back to your original post:

One thing that home recordists seem to not know about that can really make your recordings sound muddy is to leave too much low frequency content in the recording.  Many of the microphones that will be available to you have a low-cut, or hi-pass switch.  This will effectively eliminate much of the boominess that is an immediate identifier (hey that's a home recording).  Look for a mic with a low-cut or hi-pass switch on it.  Then look for the ability in whatever recorder or software you use to mix with. 

Home recorded acoustic guitar tracks almost always need some low-cut to clarify the sound of the recording.  In the recording / editing software, usually one accomplishes this with a hi-pass filter;  There aren't many adjustments to a high pass filter except the 'cutoff frequency'.  Start at about 80 Hz for the cutoff, then move it ever so slowly up until the sound of the recording gets too thin for your ears.  Then back it back down perhaps 10 Hz.  This can make a muffly sounded track instantly become clear.

Finally, one other way to get a stereo effect, full and lush, is to utilize your K+K simultaneously with a single mic recording.  Put the mic about 12" away from the 12th fret, capsule aimed at the soundhole, high-pass filter it, pan it perhaps 30% to one side; and also simultaneously record the K+K signal, make sure you hi-pass it as well, and pan it 30% the other way.  You can get a big fat acoustic guitar sound that way.

The K+K and other bridge and UST pickups don't do a good job of capturing string noise, but a condenser set where I stated will.  There will be enough differences in the two signals and panned the way I suggest, to create for a wide image in your brain as you listen to them simultaneously.

You will have to play with the levels of the two tracks to get an even sound and not biased to left or right.

Gotta get to work.  PM me if you have more questions.  I have a K+K as well.


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« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2012, 04:55:01 PM »

Just trying to get the best out of what I have, to present the audience something to listen to for the times I'm not on stage. 
Then I wouldn't worry too much about gear right now - the K&K will be perfectly fine for playback at a live venue.  Focus your efforts on developing your recording/mixing/mastering skills.  Once you get to some level of comfort and satisfaction with what you are doing, then it is time to start looking for better gear like good mics and preamp/interface.

What software/hardware are you using to record?  If you have recording software that supports VST plugins, find a stereo expander or room simulator - there are a huge number of free VST plugins available on the net.  KVR Audio is a great site to find VST stuff - try Voxengo Stereo Touch as a stereo simulator with your K&K then add some reverb.
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« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2012, 05:44:10 PM »

Thanks for the many tipps, guys! Will have to take some time at the weekend to give it all a closer reading and may come up with more questions.

As for my recording gear:

Larrivee with K&K pwm

either through an M-Audio 2 channel interface or Peavey PV 8 mixer (have not tried the Peavey, yet, but found that an external mixer gives me more knobs to eq the sound before it is recorded.)

recording software is either Audacity (freeware, but not that bad when it comes to being user friendly - and hey, I am an amateur!) or a demo version of Pro-Tools that came with the interface, but did not satisfy me, yet. No option of extracting a final version as an mp3, for example. Might consider buying Cubase or add-ons to Pro-Tools that give me a full version. Nevertheless, I am an amateur and have the feeling that Audacity is plenty sufficient for my skills, at the moment.

As a mic, I only have an AKG P3 mic available, that I use as a live backup. Since this is a primarily a dynamic vocal mic, I wouldn't know how good it records my guitar.
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« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2012, 06:21:51 PM »

Audacity is quite decent and supports VST plugins (if you also install the VST enabler).  You might want to check out Reaper.  I've not tried it but it looks very promising.  It's only $60 and there is an unlimited/uncrippled trial available.  I'd recommend that you record via the M-Audio and not through the Peavey - not that there's anything wrong with the Peavey - it's just that in general with a DAW you want to do your eq-ing in software after the track is recorded so that you don't limit yourself with what you have recorded.  The P3 might be quite good - give it a try.  It could be a good compliment to the K&K for getting a stereo recording.  If you need to make MP3s from WAV files, you can use LAME which is free - it's quality is extremely high and easy.
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Gord

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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2012, 10:26:43 PM »

Thanks for the many tipps, guys! Will have to take some time at the weekend to give it all a closer reading and may come up with more questions.

As for my recording gear:

Larrivee with K&K pwm

either through an M-Audio 2 channel interface or Peavey PV 8 mixer (have not tried the Peavey, yet, but found that an external mixer gives me more knobs to eq the sound before it is recorded.)

recording software is either Audacity (freeware, but not that bad when it comes to being user friendly - and hey, I am an amateur!) or a demo version of Pro-Tools that came with the interface, but did not satisfy me, yet. No option of extracting a final version as an mp3, for example. Might consider buying Cubase or add-ons to Pro-Tools that give me a full version. Nevertheless, I am an amateur and have the feeling that Audacity is plenty sufficient for my skills, at the moment.

As a mic, I only have an AKG P3 mic available, that I use as a live backup. Since this is a primarily a dynamic vocal mic, I wouldn't know how good it records my guitar.

First of all, you don't need your DAW software to save to .mp3.  There are plenty of other freeware ways to go about that.  For example, wavsqueezer is a nice one; has a version of the LAME codec bundled with it, etc.

Please let us know what M-Audio interface you have.  This is pretty important, as it might have all the pre-amp stuff needed.

IMO, Audacity is a hassle to use in comparison to Pro-Tools, even the relatively limited version you have.  Primarily, if you want to get into any multi-tracking, there is no latency handling with Audacity.  You will fiddle around with trying to line up timing of subsequently recorded tracks for the same song till the cows come home.

What else do you feel is missing from the version of ProTools that you have right now?  Regarding EQ of the signal before recording - it's probably the K+K that's giving you fits; without the right impedance matching to the K+K, you'll probably have way too much low end in the signal - I do with mine and you'll find countless threads here at this forum to back up that if you are looking for it.

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« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2012, 07:10:07 AM »

I think my version of Pro-Tools will not let me save files in any other format than .ptf (which is their own) - is there also a way to format these to .wav or .mp3?
In comparison to Audacity, Pro-Tools has many features that I cannot yet use properly, because I wouldn't know where to find them. Moreover, Pro-Tools comes only in English, and since I am not a native speaker, it is sometimes had for me to understand all the technical terms. Audacity comes in my mother tongue, German.

Scott, it is an M-Audio Fast Track MK II - not very expensive, line input, mic input, headphone out and one knob for each channel's gain and overall output gain. It has switchable phantom power, though, as well as USB output (the same one that printers have) and cinch output.

And you are right about the latency with Audacity. If I don't record a mono track of the two inputs together, there's always something to fix with the vocal track being not in time with the guitar track. Guess I have to give Pro-Tools another try at the weekend!
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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2012, 04:01:48 PM »

Seriously - check out Reaper.

I don't know Pro Tools nor whether or not you have a crippled version, but I think most DAW software generates WAV files not through a "Save as" kind of feature but as an export or mix down/master type of feature.  Same thing for MP3, but that will probably be disabled unless you buy a license to enable the feature.

The Fast Track will be perfectly fine for recording from both the mic and the K&K as it has dedicated mic and high-impedance (1M-ohm) guitar inputs which you can use simultaneously for either a stereo recording or separate mono tracks.  You shouldn't need anything between the K&K and the Fast Track guitar input according to their specs.
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2012, 06:59:57 PM »

Ben, PM sent.
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