Thursday, July 16, 2009

recording a vocal track and other recording tip's

Recording a vocal track can be one of the biggest challenges for the home record-est, WHY?
The mic you choose and the pre amp. I have covered mics and pre amps, now the pro studio sound sounds better on a vocal track. I will refer to a vocal as the known word VOX from now on, let’s look at why the studio sounds better and what you can do to get a more pro sound on your vocal so listen up this is an important blog-lesson.

You really can record a great vox if you have one of the big 3 mics I mentioned yesterday and I said my fav is the Audio Technica AT202 and the preamp the DPM 2 channel pre amp. This is the key to set up a mic properly.

1. have a pop filter, the goose neck one that clamps on to the mic stand, this is a must, a must did you get that; this will eliminate almost all pops and is a must.

2. You must have an in line compressor this is essential. Depending on your software or multi track you must have a compressor set to a soft knee compression, meaning a low setting as not to add coloration to the signal as heavy compression will do. The ratio is simply 2:1 and many units say soft knee or have a pre set for the vox channel. The compressor must be pre fader and not post or it will do no good, the mic signal must go past the compressor before it is recorded. This is the important step pro studios use to give a smooth vox recording with no spikes, high levels and no lows it keeps the level constant and so natural. Never by pass this pre fader compression or you will have spikes, lows highs etc, so do this at the set up. OK

3.I gave 3 mics that can give pro quality; the studios have 2-4,000+ mics like a Neumann U87 or an AKG 414c, or a ribbon mic. An engineer will have several mics and many pre amps and yes it is true a certain vocalist will sound better with a certain combo of a given pre amp and mic, a good studio pre amp is 4-8, ooo I kid you not and that is how they get that pristine sound, we do not have those toys, but we can work around it and record a great vox track with what we have and if set up correctly.

Many new and old pre amps are tube driven or tube emulated I feel you should stay in the analog realm as long as you can and at the mix down use digital and edit with Pro tools as all studios do.
IF...I repeat if you can afford a little more on a Mic and pre amp you will get better sound this is a fact. Presonus and AKG have mics around 200 to 300 that are out of this world, but I would still use the 150.00 DPM dual preamp it is great. The AT4040 around 250-300.00 was used to record a U2 CD so not a 2,000 mic, need I say more, It's all how you use what you got and continue to try new things to get the sound you are looking for.

With 100.00 AT 2020 and a dpm preamp you can make a radio ready, cd at a pro level. Always record the vox track dry, always, if your system offers it you can feed some re-verb to the singer to enhance the emotion and give a better performance.

4. Record everything DRY no effects this is done at the mix down trust me. One way to give a vox a nice re-verb sound and still make out every word is to, once the vox is recorded copy and paste to another track, use the re-verb or whatever to the copy, pan left or right around 45 degrees and lower the level, put the lead vox with a small amount of re-verb like a studio A or studio B or a small Vocal Plate or better if you have it my fav NY Plate excellent results. The effects on any digital multi track will simply not due aside from the pre fader vox track. Put the wave form in the PC, it is always best if you have multi track software to record each track one at a time so you can add limiters, compression and effects and later mastering effects.

5. Set up a basic mix. do the rhythm track first, this is not a must but the standard in pro audio I have broken that rule many times, but in the start go with the rule as it is effectual. The rhythm track is Drums, or Drum machine, sample drums whatever, next bass guitar, than any rhythm guitar, this is worked on to set the groove and get the level correct, next move on to keyboards and guitars or horns.
Than 3erd do the leads and pads and all fillers. And finally the lead vox track and than the Back up vox and Harmony’s. I have waves plug in that has a great harmony program; all I can say is wow.

6.The normal problems some musicians have during the recording. During the rhythm tracks a click track should be played in the head set to keep time. I have recorded many, many people who simply can not record to a click track for a starter get used to it, as it will help keep time on the rhythm tracks. Later once you are better or a pro you may not need a click track, honestly the best names in the biz still use them so do what works for you, also with a click track the other instruments have a point of reference and will make collaborating  esp. over the web much easier,

7. The guitar player must not do the following...most guitarist are always fiddling with the guitar knobs not good, they must discipline them self after the sound check to leave all instruments at the level the sound check was done this is a biggy I have encountered many problems in this area, play the loudest passage and stay with that and do no changes to any instruments, you can fiddle with all your stomp boxes and knobs at a live gig not a recording, easier said than done, wait and see.

8. A common problem band's have when recording with baffles and sound isolation booths is it feels sterile and they can not seem to produce that live sound, what do you do, make sure all players can see each other or like U2 record as a full band, it requires more work for the sound man but can be done and seems to be the way many bands are recording to feed off each others energy, so record as a whole band and see.

Make sure to be loose, keep it fun take breaks and do your rocking best as you know you can do. Even if the lead scratch vox comes out a tad bad the singer can go and do an overdub of the vox, this is what most groups do with all the singers in the same area to sing and harmonize together.

8.the lead singer esp. in a live performance, and recording wants Cardioid's mic or a hyper Heypercardioid mic, what this mic does is record only the source in front of the mic and cancels out the stuff all over and to the sides, for a overdub on back vox you will want an omni mic meaning its going to record at all directions think of a round circle it pics it all up, these are the mics used for live recording to pic up the crowd and 2 are used or more as room ambient mics while recording live to pick all the sound up. A figure of 8 is used between toms, cymbals and two singers standing left to right, etc.
 it picks up the left and right and is a great mic for applications for this case. always use condenser pencil mics on drums you can get the at2020 smaller condenser for 50.00 bucks, set 2 Mac’s way up top over the Left and right of the cymbals this is a must I have heard many groups use dynamic Mac’s and well no shimmer and sizzle on the cymbals no matter how much Eq used so get 50.00 overhead condenser Mac’s. A dynamic Mic like a Sm58 is used for live concerts and does not need a 48 volt phantom supply or pre amp a condenser is a fragile mic and requires a pre amp and phantom voltage.
What I like about the at2020 and the BI and m-audio nova these have super high SPL sound pressure levels and are great to mic lit. anything at all, and if your recording a live show use one of these on vox and back vox and not a dynamic OK.

Now to the solo musician that plays synths, samples, Vsti's dxi"s etc the good news not much is needed the mix is simple and the eq is little required ambient music uses almost no compression and tweaking all in all from a recording Engineer stand point that is an easy project. If you add a vox track follow the rules listed above and all will be well.

 I will touch on outboard Digital multi track recorders. Many now have 40 to 80 GB hard drives, drum machines synth chips and pretty good effects. I was doing a mastering Job for a rock band that had a real good digital multi track, the problem it was so digitized and sterile and well a bad mix I turned the job down. Digital is good and bad, if you go 100% digital add some analog emulators like T-Racks or nomad Blue tubes to give some analog warmth it helps, also I would not record a full band with these multi tracks They are to limited, they are great for guitarist and songwriters and all, but doing a finished pro level CD will not happen unless you spend big bucks sorry. I love the units, they have their place, but not for analog instruments, they are fine for ambient and musical CD's but not rock music, that is my opinion and truly compared To even Magix Music maker deluxe or samplitude studio pro 79.00 it is no match at all trust me.

 Use your PC, get some software and hear the difference for your self I turned down dozens of mastering jobs that were recorded on 500-800 dollar digital recorders, now if you know what your doing and are an expert as I am, I am sure I could have made a much better mix, many units are under 300.00 do not trust them hears why.

Most outboard units have a sample rate of 16 bits and 44.1 KHZ true that is CD quality, but one needs a unit that can record at 24 bit and 97 KHZ this matters, I heard a unit that was 18 bit and 48KHZ and it was not bad at all but I could hear the difference, so most software will record in 24 bit or 32 floating bit and 48 KHZ like magix that is OK and many good recordings can be done.

Last, what is the end result of your recording?
1. To sell at gigs almost any 16 by 48KHZ will do but the cost of duplication is over a grand for a half way good product

2. Is it bound for a song publisher, meaning selling your songs, if so, a table top recorder is fine as a publisher wants a demo not a final master

3. A recording to get gigs, anything will do like a CD at 16 bit at 44.1 and remember shop a demo to clubs or churches make it a live recording and so they get what they hear this is important and if you give a CD with all kinds of effects and overdubs you will not sound like that live so do a live recording at a gig or a practice this is music norm, so follow that rule or you will kill your career giving a false recording of a studio cd and not a live cd, it must reflect what you sound like live.  The person listening to the recording wants to know what you sound like playing live.    
4. Are you shopping to an A&R man at a record CO, I did A&R and we want a finished master and packaged retail ready CD and that's that.

5. Posting MP3's on the net like,'abaldo
or just
many place to post and sale your music.
Of late I only sell mp3's and that's it, also I teach and produce. But hay it’s a living and I love it. You will not get rich selling Mp3's, but any amount helps and many, many sites are out there even sites to submit songs to play on Internet radio, go for it. A note on posting an MP3's the old standard was mp3 pro that used a CBR encoding and it looses a lot of the fidelity when converted a wave file to a MP3 if you have a converter that will allow it do the VBR constant bit rate, sound much better many places only allow low-fi mp3's meaning 128 baud a high fi is 320 and that is CBR ,at VBR a lower bit rate can and is high fi and you can get away with it, make sure to post when you can hi fi mp3's at the highest VBR rate available or good Ole Mp3 pro at 320 hi-fi esp. if you are selling songs.

Well till next time this is  Danny Louis Abaldo saying happy recording, you can do it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Useing your PC or mac in music Recording

OK, first, in the old days we used almost all hardware recording devices, many still do, anyone can get a multi track digital recorder for under 400.00 great stuff is out there , but the main tool in recording and mastering these days is by via the PC.

You do not need a lot to make a pro recording on any PC. I remember when I had a Dell PC pent 2 with 500MHZ and only 512K for memory, at the time I used Magix Music maker deluxe, and a whole new world opened to me, I produced several CD's just with Magix, see the cheap and great products they offer at
79.00 can get you there new Samplitude studio deluxe a 100% pro recording unit with amazing goodies for all. UPDATE they have discontinued the samplitude studio deluxe, why I do not know, it was great, they now sell for 100.00 the new magix music studio deluxe and it also is easy to use and sounds excellent. If you have 300.00 or so, I would but Acid Pro, many movies studio composers are now using acid pro as one can lay down tracks fast and the specs are great, also radio stations and T.V. stations music directors are using acid pro.Acid pro has many great Loop CD's for sale one of my favorites is Mike Fleet woods drum samples, it can not be beat for rock and pop.

I later upgraded to a dell pent 3 2.5 GHZ and 2 GB memory stick and wow what a difference. I purchased acid pro 6 and Samplitude pro 7 and all of waves plug ins. Samplitude was made and used in pro studios for mastering and audio recording. Waves need no introduction 4,000 bucks, but you can get the same stuff on OEM software sites and it is legal so check them out one good one I use is at. I no longer recommend this site or most OEM sites, all out of
Russia and many are frauds.
The prices are mind blowing and can save you up to 80% off the retail price and yes the courts said it is legal so hay, why not, do you have 4,000 lying around?

Magix has software downloaded for as low as 59.00 I think every budding musician should have that as well as samplitude studio and acid pro version 6 or version 4 all cheap see the price list.

Now the sound card, I have tried many, many sound cards over the years, you want one that has ASIO drivers as ASIO allows you to automate your mix and effects and is essential. You can get a sound card for around 100.00 a pro one like e-mu 4040 great card also many others look around and see. You will need a card with 2 INS and 2 outs and a midi in and out. Prices fall as I write this. They are easy to install.

Next get a midi controller, there are many .I use and you should have what is called a midi keyboard controller some start at 100.00 nothing fancy and many units are now USB powered as well as mics, mixers. You need a controller, the mouse way of recording sucks but can be done.

For 100.00 get a pair of Monitor speakers, called near field monitors these are placed near you at 45 degree angle. A decent set of headphones, my headset cost 40.00, also look on Craig’s List many, many good deals. My monitors called Truths were 40.00 my M-audio condenser mic was 40.00 lists 100.00 my pre amp 30.00 it list 150.00 so look and buy used or barter.

I got my 88 key controller Roland keyboard USB for 60.00 so look, now all together that is not a lot of money and as you learn how to use the stuff soon you will produce pro results just like a pro studio and save a bundle. The price for this stuff alone will pay for it's self in contrast to what a studio would charge.

Learning takes time and you will learn new things and every song will sound better than the last one.
The mastering process is a must and most programs have pre sets, so use them as a staring point.
Example Magix music maker deluxe and samplitude studio deluxe have mastering pre sets in the Multi band compression plug in, use them I still do at times and you can get that loud radio ready sound with ease.

Mastering considered the black art is not as hard as you think, esp. if you’re using all digital, synths drums, pads all digital. Did you know a Vsti and a synth do not require any EQ?
If you are recording guitar, bass, vocals it takes more learning, but use the pre sets and hear the dramatic difference.

Many Boss digital recorders have built in drum machines many amp simulators and some mastering tools built is. I used a Boss and got great results far above demo quality, but once the final mix is done use the sound cards 2 In's and load the wave form into your recording software and there you will master and get your CD and Mp3"s mastered and tweaked.

Samplitude has a great amp simulator, I use amplitude, buy OEM cheap and use a good pre amp your vocals will only sound as good as the preamp. I tried a good priced pre amp that I now use everyday and in my opinion it is the best with a price of 150.00 it is called M-Audio DMP3 2-Channel Mic Pre/Direct Box
a great cheap pre amp are these two- note they are under 40.00 the first one is one in and one out 29.00 the best ,the next is the same, just with 2 ins so the choice is yours
Behringer TUBE ULTRAGAIN MIC100 Preamp 29.00
Behringer MIC200 Tube ULTRAGAIN Preamp 39.00 both 5 star rating from many musicians.

So a good pre amp is a must the DMP is by far a mind blowing unit that produces a pro pre amp sound. Some small mixers have Xenyx pro mic pre amps and should not be over looked if your wanting a great little mixer with pro pre amps they are as follows and note most radio stations and T.V stations use these same mixers so why not you. I have one and use it everyday I have the USB one, but if your card has a 2 in 2 out your all set. And can get a cheaper mixer that is not USB, but standard Left-right inputs.

Behringer XENYX 802 Mixer this is the classic unit with highly up graded Pe amps 60.00 has 8 INS and 2 XLR's for mic line. If you need another mixer bigger get the top notch unit by the same CO.
Behringer XENYX 1202 79.00 gets you 4 XLR mic ins with 12 inputs and built in FX that are pretty darn good not a lot of money and big enough to record a combo or band the one I use and is out of this world is as follows.

Behringer XENYX 1204 129.00 4 XLR’s ins 12 channel 2 aux sends and is USB no effects but I have many effects, another one a Little more has the FX if you need that this board is great for a home studio, or a live gig and live recording of a full band for what this unit offers and its quiet sound you simply can not go wrong.

I mention Mac’s the best of the best is with no doubt the Audio tecnicka at 2020 the second best is the studio projects B1 an amazing mic and finally the M-audio Nova all 100.00 I am only listing the equipment that will get you pro results for little cash, remember I got an M-audio mic for 40.00 so look but the number one mic according to all the pro audio mags is by far the at2020 they even have a new one for 130.00 that is USB no 48 volt phantom power or pre amp needed. So that is a good starter list, now let’s look at how to keep your PC up and running after all the PC is your main brain and your recorder.

1. Disable all screen savers trust me this is a must.

2. Clean your PC inside and out, esp. the internal fan it collects a lot of dust and can cause your PC to run loud this is a must and an easy fix.

3. Make sure if you have an internal crap sound card and you do, all PC's have them, go to control panel double click the sound card like sound max and click disable and make sure your better sound card is enabled even a sound audigy is a great pro sound card so do that first.

4. Get a utility that will clean your unwanted stuff like the it is called the AFT cleaner it can free up over 1 GB of crap and will optimize your system go to this site and down load the unit and other good PC utilities at a needed site with many, many helps to keep your PC running smooth. Please visit this important site.

5. This site is a great place to learn everything from a-z and they offer a great book it is located at the top hit it and follow step by step also many articles and forums the best site bar none on recording esp. for the new record EST.

if that is the only site you go to visit daily and learn all the free stuff they offer a must so do so now and add to favorites.

6. Read all you can about PC's and Mack's there are to may to list do your home work.

7. If your PC freezes and they all do, start by rebooting the PC and 99% of the time that will do the job.

8. Have a good anti virus like Avast and mal ware (A squared free) a must also a great unit is (commando) INTERNET security and fire wall all free and these are all must

9. Save your work every 5 min I kid not, I lost hours of writing songs because I forgot to do a save , many recording software have an automatic save, so enable that.

10 A must a serge protector in case of an electric power surge. Get one with the on off switch.

11. Keep your HD formatted via accessories done once a week, run the anti virus and mal ware at least 3 times a week.

12. Add as much memory as your board can handle look up the board specs and see how much it can handle. Note my PC board says it takes 4 GB but it only reads and uses 3.2 GB so go figure, you should have a minimum of 1 GB and 2 is better if you are going to do video 4 GB is a must.

13 Clean your CD- DVD drive, many people do not and can cause problems any store has CD -DVD cleaners so use it and save un-needed hassle.

I am so glad I decided to learn the PC in and out, read all the A+ books, and the essential text book called Upgrading and repairing your PC by QUE publishing. These books and the many visits to Geeks to go will save you time, and keep your recording studio up and running.