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barefootskater
barefootskater Dork
8/8/19 9:55 p.m.

Some time ago I picked up a little tascam pocket studio for taking notes. It has had little use to date, and most of it has been doing audio overdubs for my wife’s video projects. 

Couple weeks ago I finally picked up a couple real mics and a stand, snagged an old irig, a midi keypad, and a drum kit. 

I’m not looking to get professional results or cut a record, just to play with the ideas floating in my head and see if I can turn out some listenable stuff where I play and write everything. 

Tonight was take one. Very rough guitar to a metronome and then I attempted to play drums on that and try to figure out how I want it to sound. I do not play drums. I can hold a shaky 4/4 well enough if I don’t try any flourishes. Trick is this tune is in 3. Anyway, I plan to keep plugging along as time and kids allow, maybe posting some results as I get some stuff moving. 

Anyone else do this? Experiences, tips, stories? I’d love to hear about it. Seems like it might be good motivation to keep me going too. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/9/19 7:28 a.m.

Need a bassist?

Ransom
Ransom PowerDork
8/9/19 7:56 a.m.

irig? What are you recording to at this point?

It's been way too long since I did something like this, but the best success I had was when I still had an iBook and GarageBand. I did a similar approach to what you're talking about, but GarageBand have me prefab drum beats I could use while playing the guitar in, then I went back and replaced them with my own drums. I find playing to a metronome hard...

I've been poking at using Audacity since I've gone Windows, but never found it as easy to use, and never got set up with a similar toolset.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
8/9/19 9:26 a.m.

Start collecting the cardboard egg cartons now...

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
8/9/19 9:29 a.m.

In reply to barefootskater :

I have just enough of a setup to record demo ideas. I use either Logic(on an old, barely functional Mac), or Audacity(on a newer, slightly more functional PC), and have small/cheap 2-channel Presonus USB audio input. I run the DI from my bass head into the Presonus, then it’s connected to either the PC or Mac. I don’t record any vocals or other instruments though, but I do have a usb/midi keyboard that I’ve used to create tracks in the past. 

barefootskater
barefootskater Dork
8/9/19 9:44 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I consider myself a bassist but am always up for playing with anyone or collaborating. If you want I can send you some stuff or you can send me some stuff for some sweet "penpal band" action. Provided you are in no rush.

In reply to Ransom :

iRig is a little gadget that lets you plug a guitar/bass into your phone or tablet and run free emulating software, I'm currently playing around with Amplitube which comes from the same company. It can also act as an interface and plug straight into the computer, and I have had very impressive results using guitar presets in garageband. The original iRig can be had from Mr. Bezos for just a couple bucks.

 

The Tascam unit I'm using is a DP-008EX I scored on CL and has pretty decent built in mics. I also got a cheap AKG and an SM58. Plans are to run bass direct into garageband since I don't have a bass amp to record and everything else through the tascam then into garageband for mixing. With much experimentation along the way.

From the internet:

 

Antihero
Antihero SuperDork
8/9/19 8:08 p.m.

I used to record ideas on a tascam cassette recorder but now days I usually just use a q3 for song ideas.

 

I've never tried to make an actual "real" recording at home though. The amount of money needed to do polished recording is astonishing, or at least it looks that way from every studio I've been in lol.

 

The biggest tips I could give you is without a sound deadened room is to run as much direct as you can, but guitar sounds horrible direct. A lot of people like to mic the hell out if the drum set but if it's a decent set some far mics sound cool, just make sure you are light on the cymbals

barefootskater
barefootskater Dork
8/9/19 9:22 p.m.

In reply to Antihero :

I agree about direct guitar sounding like garbage, and I feel the same about sampled drums. My thinking is that a lot of really great albums were recorded on equipment that would be considered trash today so with a little patience and experimentation I should be able to churn out something decent from my basement on this entry level stuff. My ability and work ethic being the main road blocks right now. 

Curtis
Curtis UltimaDork
8/10/19 8:03 a.m.

I do this at about the same level of proficiency.  I sing (very well) and play guitar (poorly).  My setup is a 2-channel Scarlett interface to my laptop running Audacity.  Audio Technica studio condenser.  So far I have an Alvarez acoustic/electric, a Washburn electric with two hummers and a single, a homemade Cajon (which actually sounds pretty good), and some other random shaky/bangy percussion things.  Nice thing about percussion is that you can usually find random things around the house that sound neat when you hit them.  My first attempt at a track, my bass drum was my fist on the drywall.


My goal is to more or less record demos.  Maybe some day perform them, maybe sell the music to some up-and-coming performer.  I'm just passionate about music and I have songs in my head that need to get put on tracks.


I was really inspired by my BIL who was hired to teach band at a private Christian school that didn't have any money for instruments.  So he made a junkyard band.  He asked the kids to come up with their own instruments if they wanted to.  I gave him an old TH350 transmission case I had and he put some scrap copper tubing on the tail with a tuba mouthpiece.  Terrible as a Tuba, but a really neat unique sound.  Percussion was pot lids, brake drums and discs, a 5-gallon bucket, and an old bass drum head stretched around a mini-trampoline frame.

I'm still looking for more instruments.  I can sorta play brass, but not well.  I did have a few lessons on Clarinet and Sax, but forget all the fingerings.  My next step is to make some Crotales from old brake drums.  I also want to get some tuned Tibetan singing bowls and maybe a vibraphone.  I also think a midi keyboard is in my future.  Sure would make fleshing out some harmonies kinda neat with a vocoder.  The main thing is that I want to totally GRM things... make instruments that sound neat instead of worrying about traditional instruments.

 

Curtis
Curtis UltimaDork
8/10/19 8:07 a.m.
barefootskater said:

In reply to Antihero :

I agree about direct guitar sounding like garbage, and I feel the same about sampled drums. My thinking is that a lot of really great albums were recorded on equipment that would be considered trash today so with a little patience and experimentation I should be able to churn out something decent from my basement on this entry level stuff. My ability and work ethic being the main road blocks right now. 

Usually with acoustic strings, I'll use both the pickup and a condenser.  The pickup gets the mids and lows from the cavity and the condenser gets the mids and highs from the front

poopshovel again
poopshovel again MegaDork
8/10/19 8:32 a.m.

I bought an irig 2 or 3 years ago and never used it :/

Finally had a day to myself a few weeks ago. Busted it out. Set up my “new to me” ipad and realized it was so old it was incapable of running current ios.

Should have a new(er) ipad in my hands next week! Stoked to finally play around with it.

I mainly just want to get some guitar/bass tracks and a click track down for some songs that are 3/4 of the way written and just recorded as multiple voice memos on my phone. I’ve got 3 drummers interested in working on this “new thing” but nothing to send them, and geographical/work schedule issues aren’t conducive to just “jamming.”

Is Garage Band still kind of the “go-to” for what I’m after?

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
8/10/19 9:06 a.m.

I came in here and realized you guys are not talking about the kind of home recording we do.

Antihero
Antihero SuperDork
8/10/19 9:18 a.m.
barefootskater said:

In reply to Antihero :

I agree about direct guitar sounding like garbage, and I feel the same about sampled drums. My thinking is that a lot of really great albums were recorded on equipment that would be considered trash today so with a little patience and experimentation I should be able to churn out something decent from my basement on this entry level stuff. My ability and work ethic being the main road blocks right now. 

Oh yeah, the technology has moved forward hugely, agreed. I wouldn't necessarily call the old stuff trash but I do get your point.

Your ability will grow with practice with your rig. I'm a huge believer that someone that knows their rig inside and out will be able to do far more than someone that has bought the newest whatever.

If you think about it though, that's the GRM way, and it's why I love it here

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
8/10/19 10:20 a.m.

In reply to poopshovel again :

GarageBand is ok on Mac, but I’ve not tried it on iOS. One drawback it has is you can’t do mixed meter/tempo click tracks, if that maters. On PC I’d just download Audacity for free. It’s not fancy, but it’s easy to use.

barefootskater
barefootskater Dork
8/10/19 10:35 a.m.

In reply to poopshovel again :

I've always been a big fan of garage band, and, in my own humble opinion, always had better results with doing it all myself for free than I have with the $$$$ I've given to "engineers" running fancy equipment/software over the years. For demos there is nothing better.

 

barefootskater
barefootskater Dork
8/10/19 10:28 p.m.

And that’s much better guitars recorded. Now to learn drums, write the parts, figure out how to mic everything... 

barefootskater
barefootskater Dork
9/22/19 6:45 p.m.

More stuff:

Because my tascam only has two inputs and only 8 channels, I can condense at least the drums to one track. Also USB interface. And more practice with a metronome. 

Nugi
Nugi Reader
9/23/19 6:36 a.m.

I have been recording multitrack since I was a kid. I hve fond memories of bouncing tracks on a dual deck stereo in my bedroom,  but I digress.

1. Just do it. Practice makes you good. This is the best tip here.

2. Levels are everything. To low kills dynamics, too high kills dynamics and distorts.  Digital is way way less tolerant of hot levels than analog was. Record as loud as you can without clipping, no matter how loud you set it in the mix later. 

3. Once your flailing dies down, find someone smarter than you to shake it up again, or just start adding stuff to the chain. Consider: On axis, off axis, impedance, grounding, balanced, compression, eq, etc. But keep it simple until you get predictable results. Simple changes can beget huge sounds.

4. Have fun. Record dumb ditties. Getting too serious is a downer and gets you lost in the technical. The technical crap is the alluring tar pit of art. The goal is to be just fluent enough to get out of your own way. You are not gonna make The next 'Darkside of the Moon', but you can get 'mellow gold'. If you have the million dollar idea, this is just to preserve it until the real studio. Fun crap beats dilligent boring. 

5. Nobody can tell if you are playing a $15k martin or a $100 pawn shop beater on tape. Buy what plays well, sounds good, or makes you smile. Gear envy plauges us all, but its nonsense. I got my best acoustic sound yet out of an 8 dollar thrift shop guitar, and my best sounding guitar pedal is a 12 dollar knockoff that sounds better than the expensive one it copies. Buy, sell and give away cheap, functional gear thats not getting its due at every opprotunity. You will meet and enable other artists while enriching your own creation. Those you inspire will often go far, including yourself. 

6. The gear I recommend noobs look into: A. Cheap 2ch interface with XLR inputs and a 1/4" unbalanced. B. Quality balanced xlr cable. C. Shure Sm57/58, a matched pair if feeling spendy. 

7. Power is important. If recording Amps, Synths, or other electronics direct, beware floating grounds! I have seen a few fried laptops from incorrect grounding issues on older blgs. Try to keep all the gear plugged together on its own circuit. Carry a plug tester, and consider an isolation box only if you run expensive gear or have noisy power and have cash to spare. A $25 hosa hum eliminator/transformer is usually all you need if you have issues with audio hum. Surge strips are insurance against spikes, and more outlets on a circuit, but do nothing crappy power or line noise. Florucent lights and brushed motors are the enemy, turn them off where possible, move far away where not. Switching power supplies are also often suspect for high pitched noise, as are old crts. 

Hope that helps someone. My experince comes from being in, and recording lots of bands when I was younger. Punk, Techno, Metal, Jazz, and Folk all record about the same. The difference is how it mixes. I still have a decently sized studio, but have been in a funk and spending my time in the garage instead lately. Shoot me any questions, and Ill try my best. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
9/23/19 10:25 a.m.

Huh, I guess Audacity has a lot more capability than I thought it did. I've never tried mixing with it, just quick sound file edits. I'll take a closer look at it.

I'm in a similar boat. I've been picking up weird little electronic instruments of late, and the one thing they have in common is MIDI. So I'm back in the world of sequencers which is a lot more complex than it was back in the mid-90s. My mindset is less about mixing and more about getting a "live" performance up and running. I did get a little Behringer mixer with USB output so I can run everything back into the computer if necessary. Metronome is not a problem with an 808 clone ;)

About the old stuff being junk - that's where a lot of the vintage sound came from, from the distortion and quirks of the junk failing to cleanly process a signal. Like photographers who love certain types of camera and lens systems because of their flaws, musicians are weirdly enthusiastic about stuff that doesn't work right - especially if it's 50 years old.

Not a whole lot of useful stuff to add here, but I'm interested in how this works out and I'll be leeching any information I can out of the discussion.

infinitenexus
infinitenexus Reader
9/23/19 11:50 a.m.

I've been home recording for about a dozen or so years now.  I've released about 30 albums (give or take).  Even went to school for audio engineering.  Nugi has a lot of good advice up there.  One thing I would highly recommend is getting Reaper on your computer.  It's way better than audacity.  It's free, with the option to pay later if you want (I think it's up to $50 now).  I've used Reaper for probably 10 years and I prefer it over ProTools.  And you can throw it on an old crappy laptop and it'll work great.  If you're using a windows computer, get ASIO4ALL to help reduce latency.  It's free.  Now hop onto eBay or Facebook Marketplace and pick up a $50 used audio interface and a pair of decent headphones.  This is more reliable than an old tascam portastudio, sounds infinitely better, is just as easy, and is scalable as far as you want it.  Definitely second the recommendation of getting a Shure SM57.  You can't go wrong with that mic.  It'll record anything and last forever.  

 

For a while I had a little travel setup that was portable and tons of fun.  A small old mini laptop with Reaper and ASIO4ALL, and a small electric guitar that I built that had a short scale and just enough body to bolt hardware to.  The headstock was a little nub.  I just plugged straight into the microphone jack on the laptop (which is not a high quality input but it's good enough to throwing down ideas) and recorded crap, and then listened on headphones.  Hmm, I kinda miss that now that I think about it.  

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
9/23/19 11:55 a.m.

Reaper will also do MIDI sequencing, which is why I installed it over the weekend :)

infinitenexus
infinitenexus Reader
9/23/19 11:56 a.m.

Yes it will!  Reaper does about 99% of what ProTools does, just as well, and for 1/6 the cost.  I love that program.

barefootskater
barefootskater Dork
9/23/19 12:48 p.m.

In reply to infinitenexus :

I'll look into Reaper for sure. Thanks! Also after this mixer an SM57 in next on the list. I have a 58 already and they are for sure more versatile than most folks would have you believe.

infinitenexus
infinitenexus Reader
9/23/19 12:58 p.m.

SM58 and SM57 are essentially the same thing.  The different grills affect the phasing a bit differently, giving them slightly different pickup patterns and frequency responses.  They're pretty interchangeable, especially for home recording.  If all you have right now is a 58 and you're recording one part at a time, you're pretty good.  

Nugi
Nugi Reader
9/23/19 4:58 p.m.

In reply to infinitenexus :

This is correct. The differince other than the pop screen is minimal. The bigger variation is year and country of mfg. While many audiophools like the old usa made, i think they all sound fine. 

Fun fact, the sm57 is the official mic of the POTUS since LBJ.

https://www.shure.com/en-US/performance-production/louder/the-sm57-and-the-president-of-the-united-states-a-webinar

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