HOME RECORDING-EQUIPMENT

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HOME RECORDING-EQUIPMENT

Post  Admin on Sun Mar 23, 2008 1:52 pm

01 Introduction:
This is a guide to the basic equipment you'll need to record your music at home.

This is just an introduction.

02 Portable Multitracks:
When you're recording, you'll usually end up putting down one or two parts at a time and then adding extra instruments or vocals over the top to build the song.

This means that you can get away with using a lot less microphones than you'd need to record every instrument at once, and one person can perform as many different parts as they like.

This process is known as multitracking because each part is recorded on a different 'track' of the recorder.

The simplest and cheapest way to get into home recording is a portable multitrack recorder. Many a musician's career has begun with demos made in their bedrooms on this kind of gadget.

It has everything you need - it'll record several tracks and will have a mixer built in so that you can blend them all together to make a finished recording.

Portable recorders have a number of plus points - the first being that they're portable. You can take them to a rehearsal room or a friend's house and work on a tune there. They're also purpose-built so there's none of the fiddling about with settings and irritating crashes you can get using a computer to record audio.

The down-side is that there may not be a way to upgrade the box you have directly. A simple, cheap multitrack will do you as a starter but once you get a bit more confident you'll probably want more tracks or better mixing facilities. At that point all you can do is sell yours and buy a better one.

03 Cassette Multitracks:

The starting point for home recording is the basic cassette multitracker. They'll normally have a very simple mixer and will usually handle four tracks.

Cassette is a very cheap medium to use but the quality is quite low. The upside is that for 100 or so you can be up and making tunes in your bedroom.

You can record more than four instruments on a cassette machine using a process called bouncing. Once you've filled up three of the tracks, you can mix them together and record that onto the fourth track. Then you keep the fourth track and can re-use the other three for more instruments.

You lose sound quality by bouncing but if you record backing instruments first and bounce them before adding important lead instruments and vocals, you can get away with it.

04 Digital Multitracks:
For a little more money than a cassette machine, you can go digital. That gives you a big leap in sound quality and you don't lose as much when you bounce.

Basic digital multitracks don't offer a lot more than cassette ones. But the top-of-the range models are basically fully-featured recording studios. They'll do 16 or 24 tracks and have all the effects you need to produce high-quality mixes.

Some even have built-in processors which simulate classic guitar amps. You can plug instruments straight in and sound like you're plugged through a top-of-the-range professional amp.

You often see digital machines advertising 'internal tracks.' With a cassette multitracker, if you're not 100% happy with the part you've just recorded, you may have no option but to record it again. With internal or 'virtual' tracks, you can keep the original, have another go and compare the two takes and decide which to keep.

Digital multitracks come in two flavours. Some use an internal hard disk like a computer has. Over time, you'll naturally fill the disk up with tunes, so most come with a CD recorder built in so you can back up old projects to free some space. Others disk-based machines have a plug so that you can connect them to a PC and back up that way.

Other digital machines work on removable media such as flash memory cards. You can use one card per project, and then back them up to a PC when you're done to free up space for the next song.

There is a limit on the amount of data that you can fit on a single disk or card. Most multitracks will quote you this figure as the 'mono track time.' That's the total amount of audio you could record as one long track. You have to divide that time between all the tracks you want to record.

Let's say you're quoted 16 minutes mono track time. If you want to record four instruments, then you can record four minutes of each. If you want eight, then you're down to two minutes.

05 Hardware Sequencers:
Hardware sequencers are stand-alone boxes that will record and edit MIDI information.

It's rare these days to find a box that will do only that - most have some kind of built in sampler or drum sounds.

They can be a little bit quirky to use and can suffer from a lack of upgradeability in the same way as portable multitracks. But as with portable multitracks, they have the advantage of being portable and don't crash so they're very good for live work.

The Akai MPC range of hardware sequencers have a very loyal following and are especially popular with hip hop producers.

06 Computer Workstations:

You can buy whole books on the subject of using a desktop computer for music. It's a tough one because, if you're a new-comer to all this, you won't really know what you want to do until you start. But you can't start until you commit some money to a system.

The advantage of a computer is that you can build your system up over time, adding or upgrading individual parts as you need them. So start as basic as possible and expand your system once you learn what's missing.

Read as many websites, books and magazines as you can so you know what's on the market. Remember, the only perfect system is the one that does what you want it to. For most people, that means the system that they've got - if they could only find another 500 quid to spend on upgrades!

We've listed some resources to help you get started on the 'More...' page at the end of this guide. There are a few general rules though, and they're outlined on the next couple of pages.

07 The Computer:

Quite simply, the more you want to do, the more processing power you need. For simple sequencing using hardware synths, you can get away with a very basic machine. Some people are still using Atari home computers from the 1980's.

But you're going to be making music based around sequencing, there are loads of porgrams you can buy called soft synths. These use the computer's on-board processing power to emulate sounds from classic synths and other instruments.

Soft synths can take a bit of computer welly to work, so if you want to take advantage, you may need more than just a basic machine.

If you want to record and playback instruments and vocals, then pretty much any PC you can buy these days - even an older secondhand one - will have enough power to do most things you'll need. Most laptops are also powerful enough for music applications - handy for playing live or location recordings

At this point you can get well bogged down in different chip manufacturers, whether more memory or more processor power is best and the age-old Apple vs Microsoft debate. Some things are given: a good, big screen is essential and it's usually cheaper to buy one as part of a package than to upgrade later.

Beyond that, the easiest thing to do is decide how much you can afford, find a couple of pakages that fit your budget and then post a message on a forum or two asking for suggestions as to which to buy. Geeks love that stuff, you'll get loads of replies!

08 Ins, Outs and Software:

Most of the soundcards you get built in to a standard PC are OK for games, but for music recording you'll probably need to buy a better one. There are hundreds of these available in all manner of different configurations.

At this point, you need to get a clear idea of what you're going to be doing with the machine in order to narrow the choice down to the half-a-dozen or so that will suit you.

Mainly it comes down to how many things you're going to be recording at once. If it's just you making the tunes then you might only need one or two inputs. If you have a whole band, you can buy cards with 16 or more inputs so you can record everyone at once if you need to.

The same goes for the number of outputs. If you use an external mixer, then you may want more to give you some flexibility. But if you want, you can mix all of your tracks internally on the computer and then you only need a stereo output to monitor your finished tune.

Mixing with a mouse is pretty tedious, so if you're going to be working entirely on a PC, you may need an external controller. This is a box with a bunch of knobs and faders on the front panel which you can use to control your software more easily.

Software

As with soundcards, there are hundreds of software packages you can buy for home recording and editing. All are slightly different. Have a look at 'How to... Choose music software' for more information.

_________________
"THIS IS SPARTA!"

Well...actually, it's local Live music in Kent and Medway, but you get the idea...
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Re: HOME RECORDING-EQUIPMENT

Post  carryonanon on Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:01 am

kris you haven't put a rough price guide on everything, i think you should so that beginners dont get stung.
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Re: HOME RECORDING-EQUIPMENT

Post  rifimus on Tue Jun 10, 2008 4:38 pm

Anyone with queries about this, I can advise from a been there and done it point of veiw, any questions just whack me a message at:
www.myspace.com/lemonfacestudios
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Re: HOME RECORDING-EQUIPMENT

Post  rifimus on Tue Jun 10, 2008 4:41 pm

also, that peice sound like it was written in the 1980's.

Reel tapes are wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy more expensive than digital these days, and I have never bothered even looking for a multi-track casseste.

Waste of money, if your thinking about a smaller project studio, its best done digitally!

Plus the editing power is so cheap and so good these days.
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Re: HOME RECORDING-EQUIPMENT

Post  Dmanlamius on Tue Jun 10, 2008 5:24 pm

Ok, i'll delete it...

I'll keep an eye out for a more up to date info.
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Re: HOME RECORDING-EQUIPMENT

Post  rifimus on Wed Jun 11, 2008 10:18 am

I wouldnt delete it dude, its not a bad starting point, but anyone interested please feel free to contact me and I'll give as much advice as I can! Smile
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