#1
Hey guys, guitar player here from A Distant Calm . Our band just made the switch to using Axe FX for our live and practice sound and now we're looking into recording ourselves with it. We spent the past year working with the best engineers and mixers we had available to us but all that left us a little high and dry... I've learned a lot from seeing how these guys work and with so much independent access now to the recording world we think it is a good time to start recording ourselves for much cheaper.

So we got the Axes, and that's about it... My questions are; what kind of PC/MAC setups are you guys using? What software is best and easiest to use/start out with? What programs should we look into? (drum programs mainly) and what's a good interface for just guitars/vocals?

To be honest all this stuff seems really intimidating for us, but we're all patient and willing to learn. We would just like to be pointed in the right direction! We're a progressive death metal band, we like what bands like After The Burial and Periphery are doing.

All advice and suggestions are appreciated, Thanks!
#2
Reaper is quite easy and pretty cheap if you get the discounted licence (or the trial version which doesnt seem to stop working after 30 days :P). You can load VST's into it such as Ezdrummer. If you want virtual drums, get this and the Drum Kit From Hell plugin. I use it all the time. It would be perfect for your kind of stuff. For guitars, Line 6 products are probably the best. Have a look into them
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#3
Ok firstly just know that any DAW software has a learning curve. Personally I use Protools for my work because it just happened to be the cheapest software that I could get, however I have seen that Logic is probably has the easiest learning curve. Also on that note almost all DAWs have hundreds of tutorials on youtube, don't be afraid to use them. Secondly I would not say that Line 6 is the best for guitar, seeing as you have Axe FX any interface will do. I recommend M-Audio for a fairly cheap one, just make sure it has phantom power and MIDI capability. Lastly make sure you get a good pair of studio monitors. They make such a difference to your mixing capability its not even funny. I would recommend on a budget getting the M-Audio BX5s, they have really good reviews for their price.

One more thing I forgot, its worthwhile getting a second screen for your computer, it is really useful when using both the edit and mix window at the same time. And you should learn how to trigger drum software such as superior drummer with an electric kit, sounds great and is super cheap, thats how Periphery recorded drums on their album. (Theres tutorials on youtube for that)

Anyway happy recording
#4
Also I remembered some other things. Almost in tune, or its close enough is not good enough. Especially in anything proggy, the white stripes might get away with it, but you won't. Periphery often high pass filter their guitars too to help the bass cut through the mix. Remember to record a clean signal too in case you want to re amp. Use a DI box with more than one output so one goes to the Axe FX and one direct to the computer, with that dry guitar tone you can also move it about 7ms forward or backwards, reamp it to a different sound and there you go, a double tracked "phat" guitar sound for half the work. Also when you mix double check the mix on a number of different speakers first, on everyones car speaker, iPod headphones, your monitors, iPod dock. And I'd recommend sending it to a couple of the more knowladgeble members of the UG forum for their opinions too.

Have fun
#5
Know that you could end up spending a lot of money to get the sound you want and a lot of time learning how to use it. The mixing and recording is as much part of the creative process as the song writing. It can sometimes be cheaper and produce a better result to just pay for some studio time.
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#6
Developing the ear for mixing takes some time. It's good that you've already learned a lot from watching the professional engineers work and such. I'd suggest that if you want to get better, to keep working with people like that who already know what they're doing, even if it's just going to sit in on a recording session with another band.

Also, in general for mixing - listen to your mixes in the car, on laptop speakers, stereo systems, etc. Anything you have access to. It helps to make sure your mixes translate well to other systems, since the average listener isn't going to have studio monitors
Write the music you want to hear.
#7
Hey Cory - I forgot to ask you earlier, what computer are you currently using (what are the specs)?

I know you're pretty set on going with a Mac (hopefully I can help you do a Hackintosh build, because you're going to get a lot more bang for your buck, and it'll open up more of your budget for a good interface, monitors, headphones, vocal mic, etc), but if your computer you have now is capable, you might be better off sticking with it until you feel like you really need to upgrade. If you're going to be using the Axe-FX II for your guitar and bass tones, your computer really isn't going to be doing a ton of processing between your drum program and EQs; so getting a top of the line Mac is going to be a waste of money, unless you guys plan on doing a lot of stuff in the box that I'm not thinking of?

Hopefully I'll get a chance to run by your house today to check out the mixing room situation and see if I can figure out a good monitor set to go with your room, cause I know you're mixing on a pretty small room. Normally I'd recommend 7-8" speakers for what you're doing, so you can hear the lowend well enough, but since you've got a lot of stuff in there and it's going to be untreated, that big of a driver is just going to build up lowend and your mixes will likely be extremely inaccurate. You might be better off going with a smaller driver, and a decent set of headphones to dial in bass on.

I should have some extra acoustic treatment left over if you did want to treat your room a bit, but it's only going to help to a certain extent, unless you start moving things around in there for optimal positioning.
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#8
Reaper as a DAW. Includes a ton of high quality basic plugins.

You'll also need an interface. 2 Inputs should do, such as a Apogee Duet, which is a very high quality interface. If you have the Axe 2, it has USB outs, but I don't think the Standard/Ultra do.

Superior Drummer for drums (or your favorite equivalent. I would stay away from EZDrummer because most of the drum sounds are pre-processed). Unless you want to do mics, in which case, what's your budget?

Izotope Ozone is a great all around high quality plugin. It is intended for mastering, but you can use it on individual channels, the analog EQ is great, so is the compressor. Izotope Nectar is also my goto plugin for mixing vocals.

That really should get you started for a while. Resist the urge to buy the most expensive plugins you can, they won't get you anywhere if you can't use them, if you can't master the free/simple ones, you probably can't use Waves, UAD, whatever, to their maximum potential.

I can't give you all the info you'll need in 1 forum post, this is going to take years of experience. Welcome to audio engineering. I love it, but if you're looking just for an outlet to record your band, and not trying to get into engineering as a whole hobby/career, it might be beneficial to pay a studio. It will likely cost the same amount of money, plus you'll have an experienced engineer handling everything, you won't have to go through 2 years of trial and error.

G'Luck! Also I'm jealous as hell of your Axe FX, I think I'm going to start putting some money aside to buy my own, I've had the itch for one for so long now!
#9
Well... does your band want to get into recording, or does your band simply want a recording done?

See, it is a very easy leap of faith (probably everyone here has done it) to say to yourself, "we can make our own album ourselves for really cheap." The truth is, by the time you get the gear required to make a radio-ready recording, and learn the gear well enough to produce a radio-ready recording, you're in for about 5 grand and 5 years. Consider that you're not generally ready to play guitar well enough for prime time until you have a few years of experience under your belt... recording is the same way.

If you want to learn recording, do so. Be prepared to spend and be prepared to spend a lot of time. (probably at the expense of practicing guitar, writing songs, etc.)

If you just want to get a recording done... go to a project studio and spend a couple hundred dollars for a full day of recording with someone like me who has taken the time to buy the gear and learn how to use it.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

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#10
Interesting point axemanchris! In all honestly all we want is to have a better grasp on our music. We need to have our work visually and audibly available to us so we can take a look at the big picture from every angle. If this leads into a career in engineering, great! If it just gives us a better perspective on our music pre production, great!


We're just ready to be more involved with our sound.
#11
Quote by ACE IT UP
Interesting point axemanchris! In all honestly all we want is to have a better grasp on our music. We need to have our work visually and audibly available to us so we can take a look at the big picture from every angle. If this leads into a career in engineering, great! If it just gives us a better perspective on our music pre production, great!


We're just ready to be more involved with our sound.

It's good to see a band wanting to understand more about things like this, so kudos to you!

Anyway, regardless of whether you get into engineering or not I'll say a few things from an engineer and performer's point of view that should help you in some way I hope:

1) Before you plan on doing a recording, even in the writing process, it's a good idea to have a simple way of recording ideas to see how they actually feel/flow when you're not playing them and you can all analyse them and say what you like and don't like (my band take an ancient cassette recorder/player with an in-built mic and we hit record whenever we get to a new point that we're working on and frequently re-record over it as we build the song up - the sound quality is shocking, but it's enough to quickly get the idea down. Structure of a song, and the small changes can be the difference between a good arrangement and a great one.

2) Learn how to get your instruments to sound good on-stage, i.e before the engineer has even brought the mic levels up. Understand how to EQ your amp properly (for starters, getting your ears to the same height as the speakers and listening from there) and the same goes for the bass and one person should definitely learn how to tune a drum kit properly. Consider it essential pre-gig/studio maintenance, and once you have the drums set up well they will only need minor tweaking occasionally for a few gigs at the most until the skins start to take a beating/temperature changes become extreme.

3) Have an idea about how you want to sound, for recordings (again, record your band crudely and see what you like and don't like), and for live shows the same applies to getting a good onstage sound but you would also do well to get a friend with a camcorder to film you at a gig (or, maybe easier for you but that's also a downside as you have less pressure, in a rehearsal) and watch out for how you move together onstage and what looks good and doesn't - you don't have to choreograph an entire dance routine, but if you were all headbanging at the same rhythm for part of a song, or one guitarist came to the other during a dual solo etc. make a note of it and do it in rehearsal 'til it becomes second nature and you can pull it off live making it look spontaneous. Don't worry about it sounding too pre-meditated, all the top bands do this and have vague stage directions (with bigger bands, they often have things like "don't stand _____ during _____ or pyro will hit you in face" ).
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#12
Cory (ACE IT UP) lives right down the street from me, and I've known him since Kindergarten. I'll be helping guide him towards setting up his own little home studio

All the musicians in his band are extremely talented. At this point, I think they've got a good idea of the sound they're going for; Cory has been taking it upon himself to really delve into the Axe-FX rig they're using live, and the things he's doing with them, I had no idea you could even do. I'm definitely excited to see how their new stuff comes out

If you haven't looked up his band, A Distant Calm, yet - You guys really should. One of the best acts to come out of Arizona in a while, and they've already gotten a chance to play along side some pretty big bands in the genre. The sound they're going for is very heavy, but at the same time, very ambient and spacious. I think they do have some learning to do as far as live sound, and what they want on their recordings, but they're definitely taking steps in the right direction to hone it.

Normally, I would suggest just going into a studio and getting the recordings done there, especially for bands who just want to produce an EP and are fairly inexperienced in recording; but Cory really wants to learn how to do it, at least decently enough to release some decent quality stuff, and is really enthusiastic about learning more. Since they don't plan on recording live drums right now (and I don't blame him, their drummer, Kyle's, set is HUGE and would be an absolutely nightmare for someone inexperienced to mix). Cory's planning on using the Axe-FX II I got him this past week to record drums through its built in interface. This will allow him to cut down on processing power needed by his computer to run any amp sims, because he can inject their exact live sound into the computer on high quality tracks, and if he needs to change anything, he can send the DI track he records along from the audio coming from the Axe, back through it to reamp anything. The only thing he'll really need to buy as far as interfaces go, is something small to record vocals through (the Axe can do it, but it's not really meant for it), and some monitors.

They recorded their EP at Blue Light Audio with Cory Spotts (Greeley Estates, Job For A Cowboy, The Maine, Bless the Fall, etc.) and it was mixed by Chris "Zeuss" Harris at Planet-Z Recordings (All that Remains, Born of Osiris, Hatebreed, Shadows Fall, Unearth, Whitechapel). It came out great, but it wasn't cheap to say the least The budget Cory has right now (~$3000), is much less than what it would cost them to do another record at a studio, plus it allows them to lay down ideas and play around with song structure until it's how they like it

Cory, the one thing I think you're missing out on if you intend to go with Logic as your DAW, is that, if you plan on using your DAW in a mobile setup for live use like we discussed yesterday or whatever, you can only install Logic on a Mac, so you'll have to buy a Mac laptop if none of the other guys in the band have one, which isn't going to be cheap. Something like Cubase or Pro Tools will work cross-platform on Windows and Mac.
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Quote by jj1565
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#13
Derek... sometimes I feel like you're stalking me... but that's alright with me!

Yeah, I'm leaning towards a macbook pro now, just so we can get an early start on programing backing tracks, midi controls and software mixers for live use. I'm also really considering using the Axe II as our main interface and if we decide to put a micpre infront of the axe for live vocal effects then I may end up just recording it that way as well.

This stuff is so overwhelmingly complex, yet simple at the same time haha! I have to thank you all for the input because it just makes things that much easier to figure out!

Right now what I really need are suggestions on beginner Studio Monitors and Rack Mount mic-pres that can used in a live and studio application.
#14
Quote by ACE IT UP
Derek... sometimes I feel like you're stalking me... but that's alright with me!

Yeah, I'm leaning towards a macbook pro now, just so we can get an early start on programing backing tracks, midi controls and software mixers for live use. I'm also really considering using the Axe II as our main interface and if we decide to put a micpre infront of the axe for live vocal effects then I may end up just recording it that way as well.

This stuff is so overwhelmingly complex, yet simple at the same time haha! I have to thank you all for the input because it just makes things that much easier to figure out!

Right now what I really need are suggestions on beginner Studio Monitors and Rack Mount mic-pres that can used in a live and studio application.

If you do go down the Mac route, I use Logic Pro (though it is considerably more than Reaper, and if Derek is gonna be helping it may be best to use the same as him so you can easily share projects etc.) and Logic integrates with OS X really nicely, and is quite a quick DAW to 'learn' (as someone mentioned earlier).

I would also add that if you get a Mac, the Apogee Duet 2 is easily the best two-input interface on the market and I would say that it would be more than enough if you're not gonna mic up a full drum kit. The new one is pretty expensive, but if you do get a Macbook Pro they have FireWire so you could find a used/clearance original Duet for a lot less that doesn't look as fancy but I've been using one ever since I got a Mac in 2008 and anything that needs up to two inputs I track with the Duet because it sounds so rich and clear.

I would probably suggest you take a clean DI with the thru output going into the Axe-FX and the Axe in live mode through a cab, and mic that up. Then you can combine the clean DI through a software (or hardware) reamp with the mic'd sound and you can really do a lot to get the tone you want that way. I'd track the bass through the bassist's rig, with the same clean DI/thru set-up as with guitars, as getting a clean DI of the bass is very useful for copying tracks and doing various things Derek will tell you about (like parallel compression and adding distortion tracks very low in the mix to gel with the guitars). I do find that I like a 'live' bass track too though, as there's something about the low end that I find comes through a lot hotter with a powerful bass rig mic'd up.


As for studio monitors, many of us here would probably agree on the KRK Rokit series as being the cheapest anyone should go - any cheaper than that and you're not getting much of an upgrade in quality and flat EQ over a set of computer or hi-fi speakers. If you can, stretch to the Rokit RP6's or 8's as the 5's are good but the low end isn't as defined or low, and despite their ported design they don't go down as far as you'd probably like to hear if you have downtuned guitars/bass.
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Feb 18, 2012,