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Music Recording - DIY Style

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Ait, so you guys want teh tips on how to record your shizz... We recorded Redeemer on a budget of practically nothing, and we did a looot of it in our own homes. I'll try to explain how we do things, and hopefully it'll help you guys...

Now, this thing won't be so much about how to press the REC button as about what to keep in mind when working.


Let's talk guitars. You love guitars - we know you do. They sound cool, look cool, and make whoever plays them look like he could drill any girl so deep their sweet hot love would register on the richter scale. But recording guitars is somewhat cumbersome if you want to do it like the pros. You get so many possible bottlenecks... Everything matters, your guitar, the pickups on it, passive, active, the amp, the microphone, the A/D-converter on your soundcard, etc...

So our solution? Skip most of it. We use a Line6 GuitarPort for our guitars. This way we're down to two worries... The Guitar, and The Soundcard.

What guitar you use depends on what you want to do. Some pickups are famous for providing good rhythm thrashing, like EMG81 active pickups (which I have on my fender), or maybe if you want really good-sounding leads you'll do well with something else... Sadly I don't know the makes or models of these, but I know that Jonne's Jackson KE2 has a sweet lead-sound, and most more expensive Ibanez will provide this for you as well...

How new and fresh your strings are when recording matters, of course, but you don't necessarily want them to be brand-new. Sometimes less new strings sound better because they aren't as "sharp", but for lead guitar and such, we'd recommend you use very new strings... Many pros would suggest you change strings so often you use new strings for every song you record.

The Line6 GuitarPort has mostly boring presets, so at first glance you might believe it isn't all we make it out to be. But if you're willing to experiment and adjust your presets to fit YOUR guitar (yes, every guitar is different, the presets on the GP are likely to not work well with your particular guitar)... We've got a few presets that work for our guitars, like our "Seventeen" distortion preset, which is best suited for our Jackson guitars. We've got a few variations of that one, some for lead and such, and then we have other presets for other guitar. We have separate presets for each guitar, even though some variations are discrete from guitar to guitar. And of course separate presets for separate purposes.

Record mono guitar tracks. There's no point recording them in stereo.


What about bass? Well, you'll want to line the bass directly into your soundcard (you might need a mic-preamp to get the right volume, but either way, apply no effects in advance)... Record it mono, and well inside the computer you add perhaps Tube effects, Amp Emulation and maybe distortion. We've used Antares Tube, iZoTope Trash and compression on the bass guitars on Redeemer.

Use a bass guitar with active pickups... That means they require batteries. If you're not using new strings, try boiling them in hot water before recording a song... They'll sound almost like new ones. :)


Vocals are tricky. So far, with both bass and guitar, we don't need any special acoustic conditions. But with vocals, you'll want a couple of things to work well around you before you can record...

When we recorded Redeemer, we set up a closet completely covered with dampening plates (not sure that's the english term for those, but padding that eliminates any form of room ambience). The closet felt completely "dull"... When you were in there your voice sounded like you only heard from inside your head, because you didn't get any echo from the walls... We paid something like 200euro for this, so it wasn't that expensive.

The microphone you use for recording is important, of course, but we've used only cheap ones and we've gotten pretty far on that. Shure SM57 is a sure bet to get good quality, though very default "sound" (not that I ever mind... Everything before DXM was done on a SM57). We've also used some TSM mics since then, and we recently bought a mic for like 80euro that we plan to start using now.

Here's our vocal recording "pipeline" ... The microphone goes into a microphone pre-amp (a gadget that provides mic with power - which one you use is important, they come in different qualities and can affect your sound a great deal (I'm told)), which goes into a compressor, and then onward into the soundcard.

The compressor works to level out the sound. Not too much, but as much as you can safely compress the vocals without taking away your options later. This will make the vocals sound better when you record, and also make it easier to sing when you don't have to listen to your own variations in volume when you sing.

You need headphones to monitor the music and your own vocals when recording them, obviously. How you solve this depends on your soundcard I guess, but some soundcards have special "monitor" outputs for headphones. You'll work the listening out, I'm sure. After all, everyone uses headphones at one time or another, right?


It'd be ridiculous for me to go into synth and keyboard recording, really. Line the synth, record the sound. Period. However I could tell you that if you ever get the chance to record real 8bit SID, you'll notice a waveform unlike anything you've ever seen in any other recorded instrument or vocal. :)


Drums is hard to do yourself. Sadly, I'll have to tell you "Don't try." If you want to do stuff yourself for the most part, THIS is the one thing you want to pay someone else to do. The problem isn't really the difficulty, cause you could figure it out obviously, but the fact that you really do NEED a lot of things to make this work. First of all a rather large studio that can fit a drumkit (yes, you need larger than a closet), and preferably with not too low a ceiling because then the cymbals might sound crappy. And you need a whole set of microphones and a soundcard that can record at least 8 channels simultaneously. And you probably don't want to have to be in the same room when you do, cause drums sound a lot.


What about mixing and mastering then? Well, I'm not going to get into mastering, but I can tell you a few simple things that will put you on your path.

Record 2 or 4 rhythm guitars, and pann them all out 100%Right, 100%Left... If you have 4 guitars and not 2, you'll want to use 2 with one "sound" and 2 with another, and then find a balance that sounds phat.

Use mono files as much as you can, and add effects later. Mono files take less space, and stereo files tend to make the projects to clobbered even if you can't hear why... Stereo in every instrument is redundant, in other words, since you'll pan most instruments somehow anyway, introducing your OWN stereo effect into mono files.

It's ok to use multiband compression on groups of instruments, like one on the drumkit, one on the bass, and an ordinary compressor on the guitar group.

You can add more distortion to the guitar group to make them sound even cooler. Even the bass guitar can do good with some distortion. Sometimes, "the bass sound is half the guitar sound".


There, hope it helps... I will try to remember to look in here in the future and answer any questions you might have.

Peace -out-

uuh nice work rob :)

Nice one rob, I know nothing about instruments but that was very nicely written :D

EDIT: sticky?

Awesome stuff. *Saves onto computer for future reference*
One technical question, though. What program was everything edited/cut/pieced together/etc in?

the ru:
And the most important thing; don't get caught in some delusions about what you should or are supposed to do; "if it sounds good, it is good" 8) (can't remember whoever said that :-\). I personally prefer a few rough edges over a too polished recording; don't try to over-perfect it.

Perhaps this (my) discussion should be held in another thread, as it isn't really related to the Machinae recording process.


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