Ok guys, i get alot of questions here about home studios and gear so i figured for all my family i would put together a tutorial on home recording.
There are many programs that offer the ability to multi-track (play and record more than one recordrd audio file back at a time.) on your home PC. Cakewalk Products, Cubase, ProTools, Audacity, Soundforge, and countless others. ProTools today is the most popular amoung the pros. The reason ProTools is so loved is its learning curve is VERY VERY good. You can have pro sounding recordings in a matter of hours without having to read through piles of manuals. The other reason is its very Software Independant. ProTools uses Cards that plug into your PC or Mac which offer a variety of things depending upon the type of card. Everything from Effects Inputs and Outputs.... the list goes on and on. It doesnt Hog Memory or CPU resources so its a very good choice.
Now i realise most of you dont have a few thousand dollars to spend on a ProTools system, So i have a few alternatives (free and not free) that are much more affordable.
Cakewalk makes VERY AFFORDABLE and Intuitive software for those of us on a budget but are still looking for Professional Quality. Programs like Guitar Tracks Pro
, SONAR Home Studio and SONAR Home Studio XL offer affordable pricing to the home studio market. Running between $200 to $500. Cakewalk is a very affordable and smart choice.
Steinberg's Cubase is a bit more affordable but doesnt offer the ease of use that Cakewalk does. At $149.00 Cubase SX
is a good alternative for those with low end PC's. It doesnt use as many system resources as Cakewalk, but is also a bit more difficult to use and navigate.
Audacity is a FREE Multi tracking program for PC. This is the most user friendly of the bunch but doesnt offer as many features as Sonar or Cubase. Its great for demoing songs but i would not record a full CD with it. The userinterface is SIMPLE and EFFECTIVE. It comes with simple effects like reverb and delay. But thats about it. Your very limited on the editing end with this program. But if your a n00b to recording its an AWSOME 1st step.
While learning to record on your home PC, you are going to hear alot of unfamiliar terms such as DAW, or VST, things like Q and Plugins .... dont worry. Your friend GURU is here to help you out with this.
DAW = Digital Audio Worstation. Once you add some recording software to a standard PC, it becomes a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation, now dont think just cause you got a DAW you can start recording bands. Having a DAW and Knowing how to use one are very different. So keep that in mind
VST = Virtual Studio Technology. It is an interface for integration of virtual effect processors and instruments into the digital audio environment. VST programs can be anything from a simple reverb to a full blows sequencer that runs on MIDI to play back samples.
MIDI = Musical Instrument Digital Interface MIDI is a program language designed to allow multiple electronic devices to communitcate with one another. You can use MIDI to trigger samples, Change effects parameters, Switch channels on your amp, and Sync Audio between programs.
Plugins = Basically the same as VST except this is what the program is actually called. VST is the language these PLUGINS use to communicate with the other programs in your DAW. Plugins also come in RTAS, and DXI formats. Be carefull with the programs you choose not all programs support all Plugins. (cakewalk supports VST and DXI so you have ALOT of options RTAS is usually reserved from ProTools enable Mac's)
Q = Ok how to explain "Q" this is a bit complicated but as you learnmore about audio recording the more you will understand "Q". To put it simply "Q" is the width of a band of equalization. Parametric Equilizers allow you to choose how wide each band of the EQ is. You really have to see a Parametric EQ in action to understand .... Everyone knows what a graphic EQ is. A graphic EQ is a unit with each band (frequency) in a fixed position. That position can only be BOOSTED or SUBTRACTED from the signal. Now imagine being able to change the frequency of those bands, thats what a parametric EQ does. On the Parametric it allows you to adjust the Width of the frequecy you want to tweak. So a HIGH "Q" would be a very very WIDE band covering ALOT of frequencies. A NARROW "Q" would be targeted at possibly 1 specific FREQUENCY.... Get it ... i hope so ....lol
What Do You Need To Get Started
Ok so now that you have a basic knowledge of what Multi Track recording is and some of its terminology lets put it to use. To put it all to use your going to need a few things to get you on your way to Platinum Album status. Heres a list of what your going to need.
1. A Home PC or Laptop with a LINE IN or MIC Input on the soundcard
2. A Microphone & Stand or Direct Recording Preamp (ie Behringers V-Amp or The Line 6 Pod)
3. Cables & Adapters- Various types to route the signal to the sound card
6. A Cd Burner
With these 7 things you just about got your bases covered as to what you would need to get decent results. Other reccomendations for recording to get good sound quality are.
1. A Mixer or Mic Preamp - To get a good strong signal going into the PC
2. A Good soundcard with the ability to do 24/96khz Audio Recording and playback with Multiple Inputs
3. A Direct Box - Like the Sans Amp PSA-1
4. A Professional Quality Mic like the Samson SM57 or Audix i5 (For $99 you cant beat the i5)
Hooking It All Up
Ok you have the 7 items listed above and now you want to know how to record the sounds. Well theres another step before you do that. You need to know how to hook everything up.
Lets start with the Mic or Direct Recording Preamp (DRP).
If you are using a Microphone run the cable from the Mic to the MIC in on your soundcard, O wait ... its too BIG or the wrong type of connection what do you do ???? Grab your cable, head out to the electronics store and ask the sales associate about getting an adapter to plug it into your PC. Usually its a 1/8" size adapter usually to an XLR connector or If your using a MIC with a standard 1/4" Plug it would be a 1/4" to 1/8" Phone jack... Just ask the salesman and im sure they will know what it it you need.
If you are using a DRP then you will run the 1st cable to your LINE IN on your sound card. If it doesnt fit use the same process as above for the proper connector.
Ok you got your Mic or DRP plugged in, the speakers on your PC are on and the volume turned up, but you cant hear anything coming out of the PC. Why ???
Well if your running any version of Windows it has its own Built in mixer. Its located in Control Panel on your PC. Open up Sound and Volume Controls and Make sure the MIC or LINE mute buttons are unchecked. Once you uncheck the propper one you should hear your Mic or Amp through your PC.
Recording Your First Sounds
Ok your all hooked up and you got sound. Now what.
Well hopefully by now you have already installed you Recording Software. if you havent Do that Now.....i will wait ....... lol
Ok now that its installed go through the help file 1st, or the tutorials. They are really invaluable. and as i tell everone with questions RTFM !!!! READ THE F*CKING MANUAL !!!!!
Now that you have learned the basics of the software you have your ready to record. Below are some reccomendations for how to get good tones so your songs sound great. Keep these in mind when recording.
Record 4 tracks of guitar for your rythm section Pan 2 Hard Left and Hard Right then Pan the other 2 about 80% left and 80% right. This will open up your stereo mix. Panning is VERY important. BEFORE REACHING FOR THE VOLUME KNOB IF YOU CANT HEAR SOMETHING TRY PANNING IT AROUND IN THE MIX!!!
RECORD DRY !!!! NO EFFECTS EXCEPT WHA OR DISTORTION IF APPLICABLE !!!!
IF USING SAMPLES MAKE SURE THEY ARE DRY WITH NO EFFECTS !!!
DONT ADD EFFECTS TO EVERYTHING !!!
USE EQ SPARINGLY. If you are boosting or cutting anything in the EQ more then 2 or 3 db You have a crappy tone going in. Re- Record your parts and change the EQ on your Amp or DRP.
DONT CUT OUT ALL THE MIDS !!!!!! Guitar is a midrange instrument the when you cut the mids YOU ARE CUTTING VOLUME !!!!
LET THE BASS GUITAR DO ITS JOB !!! DO NOT BOOS TTHE LOW END ON YOUR AMP. If anything CUT IT. When you think its right pull it back a little bit more. Once the bass guitar and kick drum are in the mix it will carry your low end.
DONT USE SO MUCH DISTORTION !!!! Since you are recording 4 tracks of guitars, back off on your gain. The combination of the 4 guitars will give you all the gain you need in your mix. You want to be able to hear every note. I find that 65% of the gain i use live is more than sufficient for recording.
PLAY TIGHT !!!! This is very important when Multi Tracking. You have to PLAY TIGHT or your mix wont sound good.
Ok guys theres your tutorial. I want to thank Andy Sneap and everyone at the Andy Sneap UM Forum for their input in helping me to learn how to record. They have been a HUGE help in learning the tricks to getting a good mix and a good sound. Thank you all very much.
Da Fukn Guru