Using Figure-8 Mics to Record Vocals & Acoustic Guitar

August 26th, 2012 Jonny Kaine Posted in Recording No Comments »

If you’re looking to record someone singing and playing and an acoustic guitar at the same time while getting good separation between the vocal & guitar tracks and you’ve got a couple microphones that can be put in a figure 8 recording pattern then try this technique out:

1. Set two mics in a figure 8 recording pattern. Not all mics have this feature; my Shure KSM44 and my CAD M179 are two examples of mics that can be put in this “figure of eight” polar pattern (aka “bidirectional.”)

2. Point one mic at the voice and one at the guitar (obvious enough, right?) Of course you will want to fiddle about with exactly how you position the mics. If you are recording yourself you’ll probably have to do some trial & error, if you are recording someone else put your headphones on and listen (trying to hear what you hear through the headphones rather than what you hear in the space.)

3. The key to this technique (that allows you to get nice separation between the tracks) is to turn the mics sideways (rather than up and down) so that each mic is picking up as little as possible of the other source. Why does this work? It’s hard to explain without drawing a picture and drawing isn’t my strong suit. But if you think about how a figure-8 pattern works a bit I think it becomes clear.

If you experiment by trying it first with the mics standing up straight and then try it the way that I’m suggesting (with the mics sideways) I think you will notice quite a difference.

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Bought E-MU 1616M PCI Audio Interface, ART MPA Gold, & More

April 8th, 2009 Jonny Kaine Posted in Recording No Comments »

I purchased a lot of new gear today online (mostly from GuitarCenter.com)

Here’s a look at what I bought and why I bought it:

E-MU 1616M PCI Audio Interface

I did a lot of research on what audio interface to buy to replace my PreSonus FP (which stopped working with Vista 64.) And after taking everything into consideration I decided this was the best option.

The specs are incredible for the price. It uses the same audio converter chip as the very expensive Pro Tools HD system and it has a 120db signal to noise ratio. You can record at 24bit/192Khz if you want. I read many rave reviews about it’s great sound quality and it’s low latency. I can’t wait to try it out for myself. It’s actually my first PCI audio interface, I’ve always gone the 1394 route before.

The 1616M can be purchased online for about $400 (that’s what I got it for) and according to all of the reviews I read, it’s quality is closer to that of an audio interface that costs well over $1000.

I can also get a card so that I can hook it up with a laptop in the future if I want. If I need more inputs then I can link another unit to this one. So there is a good amount of flexibility too.

If you are considering purchasing this product you need to make sure you have an open PCI slot on your PC (or that there’s something you don’t mind removing.) And yes you need a PC, this audio interface does not work with Apple computers. It does apparently work well with both XP & Vista. Both the 32 bit and 64 bit versions.

You may notice that there’s also a 1616 version without the M that costs about $100 less. That M is important as it stands for mastering quality audio. All of the reviews I’ve read says there’s a substantial difference in audio quality and that the M is definitely worth that extra $100.

Go to GuitarCenter.com to order it online.

Art MPA Gold 2 Mic Preamp

I’ve read a lot of great things about this preamp as far as it being a great sounding piece of tube equipment for the price ($300.) In particular I’ve read that it sounds really great if you replace the the tubes that it comes with so I got a variety of different tubes to try out with it. I’ve never replaced tubes like this before, but it’s apparently very easy to do.

The best tubes are supposed to be the vintage “NOS” tubes (NOS stands for “New Old Stock.”) When I get a chance to try the different tubes I bought (which include some NOS ones along with some much less expensive newer ones) I will definitely post some comparisons on this site for people to check out.

If you’re looking into getting replacement tubes look for the 12AX7A kind. I’m going to include a small listing of 12AX7A NOS tubes below for you to check out.

Buy NOS Replacement Tubes On EBay:

[phpbay]NOS 12AX7A, 3, “”, “”[/phpbay]

Electro-Harmonix 12AY7 Tube Mic Preamp

I read that this is the best tube preamp under $200. Actually I’ve read that it’s the only real tube preamp for under $200 as the other ones are actually “hybrids” but marketed as tube. I’ve read a lot of great things about it, particularly how it sounds on vocals. I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Art Tube MP Studio Mic Preamp

A lot of folks have negative things to say about this but it’s only $30 so I figure I might as well check it out for myself because I’ve heard that it can be quite useful too. I’ll try out some of the different tubes I bought in this as well to see what happens.

Nady Pop Filter

I actually didn’t have a pop filter. I used to have one but I’m not sure where it’s gone to.

12AX7A Tubes
(for my ART MPA Gold 2 and to a lesser extent my ART TUBE MP)

Ruby Tubes ECC83 (new)
JJ / Tesla ECC83 Gold Pin (new)
JAN Sylvania (NOS)
US Made Preowned (NOS)
Mullard 12AX7 (new)

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Bass Guitar: Playing, Recording, Compression, EQ, & Mixing

February 24th, 2009 Jonny Kaine Posted in Mixing, Recording No Comments »

Playing & Recording

I like to record my bass guitar direct in playing with a pick and using my WAVES GTR3 plugin (which is awesome for bass and guitar btw) to fatten up my sound. I play with a pick to get a more even sound. I find that when I play with my thumb, my sound is not as even and it can be more difficult to correct with compression. If you are a good bass player maybe you won’t have this issue (I’m not good.)

Compression

I think compression is often overused these days but the bass guitar is one place where it’s usually needed. Start off with a compression ratio of 4:1 with an attack of 25 ms and a 500 ms release and then tweak things to your liking.

EQ

There’s no set rules on how to EQ your bass but here’s a hint to get you going: Try boosting the 400 Hz, 800 Hz, or 1600 Hz frequency. Notice that I said “or.” That means figuring out which one sounds best, not boosting all three!

If you are getting a “muddy” or a “boomy” sound then try lowering the 120 to 200 Hz region.

Mixing

In the end you have to mix everything together. Set your panning for each instrument and set your levels. What am I getting at? Well the compression and EQ that sounds best on the bass on it’s own may not be what sounds best when everything is playing together. You have to find “space” for each sound in your mix. That may mean further adjusting your compression & EQ.

You may also want to wait to do any compression and EQ until you get to this final point. I’ve often seen this recommended, but it’s something I’ve never been able to do. I usually like to start twiddling with things right from the get go. I think it depends on what kind of music you are trying to create and what your own creative process is like.

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Choosing Your Recording/Mixing Software

December 17th, 2008 Jonny Kaine Posted in Mixing, Recording 1 Comment »

Your recording/mixing software (or “digital audio workstation”) is something you will be constantly working with if you plan on producing music with a computer based system (which is what this site is all about.) Because it’s going to make up the core of your studio, choosing the recording software you’re going to go with is a pretty big decision.

The first thing you should probably consider is what kind of computer you have (or are planning on getting.) Some recording software works only on the Mac or the PC and some software is known to work better with one or the other (such as Pro Tools’ reputation for working better with Mac computers.)

The second thing you should consider is what kind of music you plan on recording/producing and whether or not you will be using MIDI heavily. Some programs such as Cubase are very good for MIDI while others such as Nuendo are not very well suited for MIDI. If you plan on creating music that is entirely (or almost entirely) loop based then Sony’s Acid may be the best choice for you.

The third thing you will definitely be considering is your budget. Some recording/mixing software is far more expensive than others. For example, Nuendo 4 is $1800 at GuitarCenter.com while Cubase 4 is only $600.

The fourth thing you’ll want to consider is your audio interface. If you do not already have one you may be interested in buying an audio interface package which includes reasonably high quality recording software. If you’ve already got your audio interface then you’ll want to make sure that your recording software works well with the interface you own.

Summaries Of The Seven Top Choices For Recording Software:

Pro Tools – Pro Tools works with both the PC & the Mac although it doesn’t yet (as of this writing) work with Windows Vista. The next release of Pro Tools is supposed to be compatible with Vista but even then it will work only with Vista Ultimate. Pro Tools has a reputation for working better with Mac computers, if you are a PC person you may want to consider another option.

If you do not already have an audio interface then you may be interested in one of the Digidesign audio interface packages which come with “light” versions of Pro Tools (you can then upgrade these versions if you become unsatisfied by any limitations.) If you do already have an audio interface then you’ll probably want to choose another option as the Pro Tools software probably will not work (or at least not work well) with your non Digidesign audio interface.

Pro Tools may be considered the “standard” for producing audio but that doesn’t mean it’s the only choice or the best choice for you. You also must make note that the Pro Tools LE versions that come with the cheaper Digidesign audio interfaces are not the same thing as the Pro Tools versions that professional studios use, it’s a “light” version which has quite a few limitations that you may be very irritated by. Other choices such as Cubase & Nuendo do not have these limitations.

Nuendo – This software works well with both PC computers and Mac computers, it also works well with almost any audio interface. The only drawbacks are it’s price (about $1800) and that it’s not particularly strong with MIDI. If you do not use much MIDI (or don’t mind using MIDI through Reason, which can be rewired inside of Nuendo) and you have money to burn then this may be a great choice for you.

Nuendo is excellent for surround sound mixing. If you are interested in mixing in 5.1 (and many other options) then this is a great choice. It also includes a video element so if you are interested in producing music for television, movies, or any other video format then Neundo will get the job done.

Nuendo works well with Windows Vista.

Cubase –  It is made by the same company that makes Nuendo (Steinberg.) It also works well with both PCs (including Vista based machines) and Macs. Cubase is an excellent choice if you are MIDI based, although it also works fine for recording audio. It’s far less expensive than Nuendo.

SONAR – Cakewalk makes SONAR which is PC only software. Obviously if you have a Mac you’ll be crossing SONAR off your list of possibilities. It works well with audio & MIDI. It’s capabilities are similar to those of Cubase. In the end it comes down to which program you are most comfortable with, as each program has it’s own quirks but generally the end result (in capabilities & audio quality) will be similar.

Digital Performer – Mac only. This software works well with both MIDI & audio. It’s created by MOTU (Mark Of The Unicorn) which also makes quality audio interfaces. This is a great alternative to Pro Tools for Mac users, but you should note that their audio interfaces do not come with Digital Performer, you’ll have to purchase it seperately.

Logic – Mac only. This is Apple’s recording software. If you are an Apple fanatic you’ll probably be pleased with how it works. It’s reasonably priced and has a lot of great extra features. It works well with audio and MIDI.

Acid – Sony’s Acid is a PC only program. It’s designed primarily for creating loop based music. For Hip-Hop or electronica it may be a good choice but you should probably avoid it unless that’s what you are doing. It is considerably less expensive than the other options as it’s only $300 for the Pro version currently at GuitarCenter.com

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Recording Horns

December 14th, 2008 Jonny Kaine Posted in Recording No Comments »

I have two suggestions on how to best record horns (saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, etc) in your home studio.

The first is to use a large diaphragm condenser microphone which has multiple recording patterns to choose from such as the Shure KSM44 using the figure 8 or omni-directional pattern (not the cardioid.) You should place the mic off to the side of the horn (not right in front of it.)

The second suggestion is to use a ribbon microphone and place it in front of the horn (at about 2 feet away.) This will give you a nice smooth sound on your horns which can often otherwise sound abrasive if recorded badly.

As with recording any other instrument (or voice) you will want to make sure you are getting as high a level as you can without any clipping or distortion (unless of course you are going for some sort of purposeful distortion.) Don’t make the mistake of recording too quietly and then trying to boost the volume later to make up for it, that will not sound as good as recording as loudly as possible and then lowering the volume if necessary.

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Dynamic Mics Vs. Condenser Mics

December 9th, 2008 Jonny Kaine Posted in Recording No Comments »

As I mentioned in my last article, there are two basic types of microphones: Dynamic mics & condenser mics. They are each used for different purposes in the recording studio. You can use this page as a quick reference to know which mic to use when.

What To Record With Dynamic Mics:

  • Electric guitar amps.
  • Bass guitar amps.
  • Any other kind of amplified sound.
  • Drums (bass, toms, & snare.)

What To Record With Condenser Mics:

  • Vocals.
  • Acoustic instruments.
  • Drums (hi-hats, cymbals, & overall drum sound.)

Click Here to buy dynamic mics online.

Click Here to buy condenser mics online.

Click Here to buy drum mic sets online.

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Record Vocals With A Condenser Microphone

December 5th, 2008 Jonny Kaine Posted in Recording No Comments »

When recording vocals, the quality of the microphone that you use is extremely important. It’s impossible to “fix” a badly recorded vocal with studio tricks. There’s really no substitute for the use of a quality microphone.

There are two major types of microphones: condenser mics and dynamic mics. When recording in the studio you should choose a condenser microphone (what to use live is another story to be told by another website!)

Condenser microphones require “phantom power” to work. Any decent audio interface should definitely include a phantom power option. The quality that you get on your recording is also greatly effected by the quality of your microphone preamp and high quality mic preamps can be purchased as well. But the first consideration should be getting the best condenser mic you can afford.

There are two types of condenser mics. Large diaphragm and small diaphragm. You will want to choose a large diaphragm condenser mic for recording vocals as they will give vocals a more “warm” tone.

Interestingly different instruments sound better recorded with different types of microphones (you probably don’t want to hear this as it just means more stuff you need, right?) For example a cello sounds best recorded with a large diaphragm condenser mic and an acoustic guitar sounds best with a small diapragm condenser mic.

There’s a huge range in quality & price within the studio vocal microphone market. There are cheaper models like the Sterling Audio ST51 which currently has a retail price of $200 and then there are far more expensive models like the legendary Neumann U87 which retails for $4,398.

Obviously you get what you can afford. Generally the better the microphone, the more expensive it is.

CLICK HERE to shop for condenser microphones online.

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