Hey, i'm revising this guide because I feel I can give a better insight in to my understanding of things in the recording world. The intention is to give you basic tips based on my experience and to try and steer you away from guides and get training your ear more
SKIP this section if you already know how to get setup and want some advice on making the most of your mixes. Go down to 'Tips'
Recording - The basics
What is required:
Not as much as you might think.
A decision on the scope of the projects you will be doing i.e personal use? Commercial use? Metal music? Electronic Music? Etc
A budget (Again, might not be as much as you might think)
Basing this on a personal or home-built studio (which I find most people on here tend to use their gear for), you will need:
a DAW - Digital audio workstation such as Logic (mac) or dual O.S compatible ones such as Reaper, Cubase, Ableton etc
A way of getting your guitar and/or instrument signals into your computer. For that I recommend:
M-audio fast-track/Line 6 guitarport/toneport -
Bigger/More serious investment with more scope for variability (will handle condenser microphones - which need a power supply) :
Mackie Onyx Sattelite/M-Audio profire 610/Line 6 POD variants (XT,X3 etc)
For projects that will require you to record a lot of audio at once such as drums:
M-Audio profire2626 or any interface with at least 8 XLR inputs. I say 8 just because that's around the conventional drum setup but you may want more or less depending on your expectation.
A computer system with a firewire card installed - Becoming more common these days but best to check you have one before making any pricey acquisitions.
Assuming you have an instrument, set of hands and some riffs that's ALL you need really. However,
most of you will want to program drums and will probably already know about the Toontrack products. There are other products such as Addictive drums and also the Steven Slate drum samples but in terms of getting a MIDI kit to sound as real as possible, it's always been Toontrack for me. I suggest you research drum kit from hell, if you're really new to all of this. Then move onto Superior 2.0 and the Metal foundry expansion packs. The use of these software would require an entirely different tutorial so if Anyone wants one I could maybe write one up after.
Usually, grabbing a copy of a DAW and snagging an interface can be the most difficult, but let me remind you why you are doing this:
To gain a lot more control and freedom over the creativity of your music.
As a hobby.
To gain experience that will allow you to maybe consider a career path.
To help the other more inexperienced musicians out there that need your guidance.
Don't want to get ripped off by some of the awful local studios that charge ridiculous prices?
Save that money - spend it on yourself and DO it yourself!
Now, going about how to use the software and hardware is a different story. Everyone will start at different points. BUT, at least you didn't go crazy buying a LOT of gear you don't know how to use.
So you can focus on the 2 obscure things sitting on your desk (the manual and the mouse).
I suggest looking at tutorials on YouTube for whichever software you picked just to see how to go about some of the features.
Everyone is different, so depending on your DAW choice you will all have different preferences.
I PREFER Cubase over the other DAW's just because I think the piano roll for programming drums is a blessing over the ones in Logic and Reaper. But that's just me.
So what if you've got all of this already setup but it's still a little bit intimidating?
Don't let it be, and don't rely on settings or presets within Cubase or your friends or favourite artists. Use you ears and experiment. It sounds lame but it's the only way you're going to get the sound you are after. Presets can be useful for finding out how 1 element or component of a sound effects it as a whole.
Using these tools and some more free software you can easily emulate the sounds of some of your favourite guitar heads and cabs and get awesome sounds. The concept of emulate the cabinet, comes from a principle taught in electrical engineering called IRT - Impulse response technology. Just remember the word impulse.
What is an impulse?
An impulse is a small .wav file extension that was recorded with a mic infront of a cab in some position which was picked by the dude who was recording it. This small file when recorded, can be combined with an amp simulator to replicate the sound of the cab which was recorded in the first place!
Basically. Impulse file = A Specific Cabinet simuation. Most impulses will tell you the name of the cabinet and the position it was recorded in i.e
Mesa OS - Cap Edge 2 Inches.
People argue the limitations of impulses compared to real cabs but lets steer clear of this just now.
Now, combine the impulse with an amp simulator and you're good to go.
Free Amp sims I recommend are:
Nick Crows 8505
TSE X30 - Favourite out the bunch
Free Tubescreamer emulator:
^ For those of you who like the boost, although you could just as easily plug up your own tubescreamer if you have one and run through that into the desk. Whichever you prefer.
Some of you might experience an issue called 'Latency' with these setups - A time delay for example when you hit a guitar note and it doesn't reproduce through the speakers immediately. Kind of like lag. This can be down to a number of things such as memory usage, the audio buffer size (Search ASIO - Download it if you don't have it and look at adjusting the size), the demands put on the hardware you are using to record with, the limitations of the hardware you are using to record with. Generally I find that latency these days, is eliminated for most people. Personally, I haven't ever had latency issues so if you're running a mid/high-spec setup you should be fine.
How do I load impulses?
Firstly, you need impulses and you need an impulse loader.
I recommend KeFir or Voxengo Boogex...but there are other programs such as Sir.
Setting this up in the Daw:
If you've never loaded a plugin before or gotten as far as creating a new track then I would experiment and consult your DAW manual.
You can also learn about installing these 3rd party plugins via the manual too but Most of the time you just have to navigate to your DAW's folder in Program files on your C drive and then paste it into the 'VSTplugins' folder.
After you have a new MONO guitar track (make sure it's Mono unless you are recorded guitars in stereo for some reason)
Go to your inserts/plugins/fx section which might be on your left in cubase or it might be a button called 'FX' on the channel strip at the bottom in reaper.
Load the plugins in this specific order:
TSS (if you are using it)
TSS, TSE X30, Kefir.
Load the cabinet into kefir by opening kefir up and hitting the 'load' button and then locating the response you want to use. I've uploaded 2 Mesa OS impulses for you to experiment with:
Make sure you adjust the mix level to 100% and adjust the gain accordingly to your signal.
For guitar signals I recommend them to peak around the 0dB marker (basically where the fader sits by default in an empty or new project) in the mixer. That way there's plenty of signal there which can be manipulated. Be considerate on the subject of 'clipping', the distortion created when signals become too high in volume. Try to ensure that the signal is not too 'hot' i.e orange bordering on red. Peaking at the 0dB mark is always a good place because you can always adjust either side with plenty of 'headroom'. Also take care to use your ears and don't rely solely on the meters!
Another Useful Guitar Concept - D.I (Direct input) for Reamping
This technique is widely used amongst audio engineers. Consider a guitar signal that's been recorded and you can hear it in the mix. The E.Q (Equalizer - A tool that allows you to boost or reduce certain frequencies which make up a signal - The E.Q on your amp is an example) was dialled in all wrong and there's no mids, far too much bass and way too much top end. i.e nothing that a plugin equalizer is going to change (you must understand that with guitars, 90% of the tone will come from the way the cab is mic'd/the amp/the guitarists hands). You're going to have to retrack! Or are you?
This is where D.I-ing becomes useful!
The D.I/Reamp concept consists of recording a completely dry,unvoiced/uncharacterized/uncoloured sound from your guitar for 're-amping' use, later on. It's probably become obvious but doing things this way means that you don't have to re-track those same takes 1000's of times with different tone patches until you get one that sits in your mix.
How Do re-amping?
Well there are lots of ways. If you have a Line 6 POD product or variant, usually you can go into it's settings into your device manager or line 6 driver in control panel (preferences if you are on a mac), delve into the settings and look for something the says ' Playback wet tone, record dry signal'.
This is Useful because it allows you to record the guitars using a high gain tone patch but send out the dry signal and record that instead. Nobody wants to record to a completely clean track and I don't recommend it - Unless for purpose. When you've got the dry signal and it's been recorded you will also consume less of your computers resources when you load up the amp sim on the D.I track because it's not having to compute all the audio data while you are recording, therefore it doesn't have to 'lookahead' and the result will be a much more even sound without the bothers of computer jitter.
Another way you could re-amp is by hitting the 'record activate' button on your audio channel inside your DAW. Load an amp sim on seperate track but don't arm/activate the recording on that track. Record along with the rest of the song, you will notice you just played to a 'tone' but recorded the dry signal. Please note, when I say amp sim I mean amp sim only. It will sound horrible but if you load the impulse response with the amp sim and try to record the dry signal you will most likely get latency and it will sound horrible and out of time.
Other ways to re-amp would be to acquire a re-amp box which allows you to do this. I personally, don't have much experience with re-amping but I hope this information will encourage you to do the research required to make it happen!
Don't use a guide. A lot of online 'engineers' fancy themselves as definitive advice guru's and from my experience I learned that a majority of what they had to say was a load of rubbish or actually a more difficult starting point to get slamming mixes than if i'd just worked on it myself.
Tips you might be given: Low-pass your cymbal mic at 12k.
Don't. In my experience cymbals are what adds brightness to your mix. Depending on the context, you might not want your cymbals to sit so far back in the mix and that's generally what this tip does. Don't see this low-pass track as the definitive way to start processing cymbals. Especially with metal, where it seems to be popular to band pass between 1k-12k. Guaranteed if you hi-pass them at 400Hz and don't low pass them you will end up with a more crisp,realistic and natural sound. Which these days, I don't think is appreciated enough. You may like to notch out some resonances in the 4k's to give your vocals some breathing space but again, that's just technical nonsense and you should just fiddle until it sounds like the sound in your head
Low-pass your guitars at 12k/10k
Again, same as above. The guitars aren't prominent in that frequency range..this type works mainly for those of you who will choose to mic your cab but if you're using a software sim it's generally quite a pointless step.
YOU DON'T NEED ANYWHERE NEAR $10,000 LET ALONE $100,000 TO RECORD A GOOD DRUM SOUND!
All is people moaning that they don't have the right gear or enough of it to justify recording drums. If you have an open space which is available use it. In my experience, the reason most people are like 'EWW BUT I DON'T HAVE THE PERFECT ROOM' and avoid recording real drums is because they don't actually understand the fundamental working of a compressor. When you're working..
Holy fucking Christmas Tree colors!
I'm trying to read that, but the font and color changes make it tough.