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Knives!
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
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!

General tips:

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.

Guitars:

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:

SoloC
Nick Crows 8505
TSE X30 - Favourite out the bunch

Free Tubescreamer emulator:

BTE TSS

^ 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)

Amp sim

Impulse loader

i.e

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:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/970663/s-preshigh.wav

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/970663/2off-pres5.wav

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!

Tips

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..
 

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Holy fucking Christmas Tree colors! :lol:

I'm trying to read that, but the font and color changes make it tough.
 

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Knives!
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I will edit it. It was mainly for emphasis haha. Sorry Drew

Edit:

Drew Could you edit it a bit for me? I'm useless with BB and coding and all that Jazz. This was my first time writing something like this. Thanks bro.
 

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Creeping in your sheets
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Cool! might be good to include Re-amping to it...good way to cut down on actual studio time...Also might be good to state that you have to essentially reamp with those free amp sims...I've noticed that it really confuses noobs...
 

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Too many xmas colors, It's hard to read.

Also, much of it is too specific ie: get this specific device to do this, use this to program drums etc. maybe i'm just being a negative cock. Its in general a good guide for total noobs wanting to get started, i think a little more generality and less opinion would make it a better read perhaps?

i dunno. hah. good on you for getting it started though. I'm sure it will help some people out.
 

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Edited out the worst of the markup language, though you might want to give that a pass and work on paragraph structure and whatnot.

One specific comment I disagree with - I WOULD worry about clipping while recording direct guitars. A lot. It's a lot easier to record with a good amount of clean headroom and then normalize to 0dB than it is to clip on input and then try to get your peaks back. And that's even assuming 0dB is really the ideal range for the amp sim, which is something I'd want to experiment with - maybe it sounds more natural at say -6dB. THAT is the part I'd want to "trust my ears" on.
 

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:agreed:

I received a project to mix where the DI tracks were clipped. I was unable to reamp them, and had to use the guitar tones provided. :noway:
 

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Knives!
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
One specific comment I disagree with - I WOULD worry about clipping while recording direct guitars. A lot. It's a lot easier to record with a good amount of clean headroom and then normalize to 0dB than it is to clip on input and then try to get your peaks back. And that's even assuming 0dB is really the ideal range for the amp sim, which is something I'd want to experiment with - maybe it sounds more natural at say -6dB. THAT is the part I'd want to "trust my ears" on.
Hmm upon trying normalization I just found that it added too much noise to my signal and was just a compromise for not getting the levels right in the first place. That's just what I thought.

You guys are totally correct about the d.i's the only thing is I've never had problems with guitars clipping as I tend to have them loud during tracking and shove them down when mixing. But for lots of reamping then yeah, i'll add that in. Will try to do a bit more tonight. Shall I just continually add to the first topic or do them in seperate posts?
 

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Knives!
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Re-amping added by request, any other guys feel free to fill the void. Any more requests appreciated but i'm just going to pile on later with what I think should go next :)
 

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Never use normalization.
:lol: Ok, scratch that suggestion.

Why, just because it brings up the noise floor along with the source signal? Would you use some sort of an upwards expander in its place, if you were trying to boost a DI signal before running it out to reamp, or would you just toss a boost or adjust the send or something?

Not that I ever reamp, but there's probably a right way and a wrong way to do this, and you of all people probably know the reason behind it. :D
 

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Turn up the fader if you need more signal. Or apply a gain plugin.

There are several good articles and posts out there on why not to use normalization, here's just one: Normalize function - Gearslutz.com
Thanks Matt!

This struck me as the most thorough response, so I thought I'd copy it along and save people some clicking:

Lagerfeldt said:
Absolutely, there is (an argument against it).

Here's the short version:

First there's no reason to normalize (in 99% of all cases) as it's a completely unnecessary procedure that will only bring levels closer to 0 dBFS without any quality improvements. Noise floor is also raised and gain staging at this point is written directly to the file (i.e. 24 bits or lower) as opposed to later gaining in a e.g. limiter at 32 bit float or usually higher, so you will add an additional layer of dithering or add possible quantizing errors.

Delivering a file for mastering or other processing close to or peaking at 0 dBFS can also cause distortion or clipping internally (input stage), and most certainly force makeup attenuation to avoid output clipping, even when only cutting due to the phase changes. So peak at -3 dBFS or -6 dBFS is a better aim for maximum quality.

So there is no reason for normalizing in 99% of all cases. The only point where I find normalizing justified is when comping vocals and some individual takes need pre compressor gaining (even then you could use threshold automation instead), or when dealing with massive amounts of files for low quality mediums, and normalizing instead of RMS limiting is somehow necessary.
 

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Knives!
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wow didn't realise this thread had been flagged as something of any importance. I'll maybe try to edit and expand this for people!
 

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Thanks for the info. I just got my software and interface and tonight we are going to put it all together after work and have a few goes at it and this did clear up a few questions I had.
 
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