Ultimate Guide: Mid to High End Recording

Recording Guide for people with access to higher end equipment. Describes mic placement, compression, gates, ect.

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First is the obvious, recording at a pro level is gonna cost you. hings you should get or keep in mind when buying recording gear. If you are going to be doing this on pc (which im guessing is what you ppl want to hear) then i'll do it for pc lol ;)

Abbreviations

VU - Volume Unit, is the average loudness of a signal. dB - Decibel. A unit for measuring the relative strength of a signal I/O - Input/Output - a device that brings signal into and out of you pc Sample Rate - Sample rate describes how frequently an analog audio signal is sampled as it is converted into a series of numbers Peak (PP or RMS) - Peak is where the wave peaks out. PP or Peak to peak is how far the peaks are in relation to each other. RMS or Root means square is an adverage between peaks Paremetric Eq - is an eq where all the settings can be changed. you can have a notch or shelfing eq for low and high end. and anything like Q (how wide the notch is) can be changed.

Recording Gear

Get your self a hold of a Audio I/O (input/output) device, that has good A/D D/A (audio to digital, digital to audio) converters, some include the Aardvark series, Mbox, Emagic has a few, ect. if your audio i/o only has 2 xlr inputs, i suggest getting a small mixing board. again it cant be the cheap 99 dollar ones. they have alot of noise problems. it may be cheaper but you will hear the difference. If you are using a mixer to plug into you I/O on your pc make sure you levels are at 0VU, so that you keep the signal flowing through you pc at the same volume after the preamp. If you are using a I/O and no mixer then you should be set. their defult is at 0VU

Programs

Protools LE or HD, Nuendo, Cubase (anything that can do some serious recording, sorry cooledit [should also manage to get 24bit 196kHz sample rate as well])

Mics And Mic Placement

Ok, so you have your recording gear and programs, next in the chain is mics. it all depends on what you are going to record. if you are recording a stero drum kit. some suggested mics are; AKG D-112 (kik mic) its placement should be half way out of the kik, inside the drum, pointing up at the beater, you can have it dead on for a more punchier sound. or facing a little off the beater for a more drum sound. its all about what you think sounds good. Shure 57 (Snare Mic) should be placed near the rim of the snare pointing near the center or outside reagion of the snare near the rim. AKG 300B (hi hat) though i dont normally use one (i only have 4 mic inputs lol so i have to limit what i can do) place it facing down on the hi hat. i like the sound when the mic is pointed half on and half off of the hi hat. some ppl point it towards the middle of the hat from the far sides of it. again its what you think sounds good. MD 421 (toms) for toms you want the mic to be like the snare mic. AT 4040, or AKG C-414 (Over heads) ok here is where it gets kinda trickey. there are several way of doing this. you can A. have the mics pointed down over the set. have them level at the same hight. or you could try an XY pattern, have one mic facing 90 degrees to the other mic over the set. it should look like an ^ over the set. the mics cant be too far from each other or it will cause phasing problems. The D-112 can also be used for bass cabs, same with the MD 421. basses can also be DI'ed. place the mic in the center for a brighter tone about an inch away, or point it to the side for a more bassier sound. the SM 57 is normally used for guitars. and you can mic the back of an amp using a D-112 for added fullness. again place the mic an inch or less away from the amp, pointed center for brightness, or pointed towards the edge of the speaker for a darker tone. the AT 4040 or AKG c414 can be used for vox. place a pop sheild over the mics to reduce pops in vocals (d'uh) basically any good condencer mic will do. Not all mic will do what you want them to. if you record a voilin with a SM 57 or acoustic guitar with it. its gonna sound bad. For acoustics, try a stero micing tech. place one condencer mic at the 12th fret and the other one pointed to the body of the guitar. something im starting to do. is placing the 2 mics like that. then seeing how i have an electric acoustic. i take the line cable from my guitar and record directly from that. after you record you can add a chorus effect or something like that to just add fullness.

Stero Micing

Stero Micing uses more than one mic to do this. there are many patters MS, XY, Blumlem (sp), AB, ect. to do these you need to have the right mics. Fisrts off MS, you need 1 uni directional condencer mic, and 1 bi polar mic. Aim the cardorid (sp i know, it means the uni directional mic) mic towards the thing you want recorded, you then want to face the bi directional mic perpendicular to the other mic. This is where it gets trickey. if you dont have a split cable for the bi driectional mic. ok when you get to your mixing. put the uni mic center (say track 13) and the bi mic on the left (track 12). then patch the bi mic (track 12) to track 14, then put track 14 out of phase. next lower the fader of track 13 and put the fader of track 12 at unitity. make sure both track 12 and 14 are panned center (for now). Now raise the level of track 14 untill you hear NOTHING. i know its odd. but the signal will cancel it self out. when you hear nothing leave the fader there. DONT TOUCH IT! next take it out of phase and pan channel 12 and 14 left and right. then group the MS pattern so you dont have to touch the faders in the final mix. I went though the XY pattern alredy (see the section above). a blumlem pattern is the same as an XY patter, but you use 2 bi polar mics. AB is easy. you have 2 uni directional mics facing the same way but distance from 3 feet to 10 feet. this us used for mor classical recordings.

Phantom Power

Mics that need phantom power are condencers, they all need it, i think maybe ribbion mics need it to, im not sure. i have never used one lol. Never use phantom power on a tube mic. you will **** it up.

Levels

The main thing in recording is making sure you have a good level to send to tape (in this case you're pc) seeing how it is going to be a digital recording try to hit your higest peak at -15dB, if your sound that you are recording is to dynamic (changes volume too much) then add some compression or Limiting (see later in column)

Pre Recording

before you go off and hit the record button remember that what you record will stay like that. if you **** up and add too much eq befor you record. you cant really take that back. if you dont know what you are doing dont add any eq or compression or effects before tape (the pc) you cannot go back and fix that.

Recording, Tracks and Overdubbing

Well when recording in a pro setting and even semi pro you want to have more than one track for the whole song. normally a recording session goes (each on its own track) Kik, Snare, hi hat, tom1, tom2, tom3, OH left, OH right, Bass, Guitar1, Guitar2, Any other instrument, VOX (last). you want distinct sources so that you can effect them, eq them make them sound great on their own. Overdubbing is when you record something. and say the musician messes up well. it is where you put the Multitrack in overdub mode (is found in all programs as well) and when the musician gets to the part he ****ed up at. you place the machine into record. and over do that part. simple right.

EQ

Ok, eq'ing is very hard. it may sound simple but each instrument and brand has a different tone. and you want to make that tone shine. if you see your self boosting everything. just turn up the level to that track. then eq. some things to keep in mind is instead is making the good louder, why not make what sounds bad lower. here are some EQ tips (dont always follow them, try your own) Kik Drum, Cut around 200 Hz (with a parametric eq, dont cut with a shelfing eq) have a high Q (i think lol, forgot at the moment what ever make the eq curve smaller) then boost around boost 60 or 80 hz by like 3 or 6 dB with a mid Q. Snare: Cut 100 hz, boost high end Hz with a shelfing eq, Overheads, Cut the low end with a shelfing eq or use a high pass filter. Guitars. Cut the mid boost low and high using shelfing eq's....I know im not telling you alot of what to do but you need to find out for yourself on what works.

Compression

Another hard thing to do, is correct compression. things that need compression are Bass, Drums, Vox, Acoustic Guitars, and any other acoustic instruemnt that has no distortion (all distortion is, is overloading the signal then compressing it). Knobs found on a compressior: Ratio (this is related to how many dB is taken off when the signal passes the threshold, like 4:1 means for every 4 dB over the threashold, 1 dB will come out) Threashold (is where the compression begins. so at -20 dB [if you set it to there] the ratio of compression will begin) Attack (this relates to how long it takes for the compression to take effect. precussive insturments need a fast attack, more melodic instruments like vox, try a slower attack) Release (is how long the compressior mantains the compression. for precussive you want a slow release [i think, i forgot for some reason right now lol DAMNIT] and then you have Make up gain (when you compress a signal you are gonna lose some of your level. this just boosts up your level till you have what you started with) You did a wrong compression if you can hear the compressior work! If the signal sounds like a breathing or a heart beat when a note is being holded. Then it is wrong!

Compression Cont...

You must never hear the compressior work. lets say you have a slaped bass line. that is very dynamic. Good compression would to have like a -25 dB threashold, 8:1 ratio, fast attack, slow release, then add the make up gain till 0VU. what a compressor does is make soft sounds louder and loud sounds softer so that they all are at a happy medium.

Gates

What a gate does is block off a signal (no sound passes through) till the threashold is passes. you would use this if there is headphone bleed on your vocals, or if you have a hissy amp. you would set the threashold just above the sound you dont want to hear. then when something is played the gate is opened and what you want to hear comes out. watch out with your attack and release on a gate. too fast of attack could mean popping same with the release. also make sure you hold is good for what you are recording. for vox you want a mid attack a long Hold, and a slow release.

Inserts

If you have out board compressior or gates or any dynamic processing units. then you use the directs out of a mixing board to get to them. Inserts use a Y cable so you dont have to worry about patcing the devices back into the board. but on pc you dont need to worry about that. just turn on a compressor or gate

Aux Sends, Returns, and Effects

You must be saying WTF is an AUX send. Will simply put is its another way out of the mixing board, it will send a signal out. for effects, you want to send the signal post fader. For headphones you want a pre fader send. so that what you do on the mixing board will not effect what the talent hears. In Cubase you have Aux Sends. They are sent into the VST effects then back into you channel. Much like a mixing board. same with Pro Tools. They are all real time effects.

Mixing

SO! you got all you tracks sounding good by them selfs. Now its time to mix them all together. what i normally do is Group the drums together. then play with the faders till the drums sound good. I then lower the grouped drums (everything else fader is down (unless you have other groups, like stero guitar tracks or stero vox or something) then I bring in the bass and even it out to the drums. then guitars and other instruments. Finally I bring in the vocals and make them clear over all. You don't want the listener to strain to understand what is being said

Mixing Down

Now you are done with your recording. and it sounds good. but it wont play on anything else now, just your program or mtr, if you we're recording on an mixing board and then to a tape deck or hard disk recorder. your gonna have to take the main outputs of the mixer and fead that into a 2 track recorder. Like a DAT, CDR, Tape Machine, anything like that. but seeing how this is all on pc. you just hit Bounce (for portools) Export Audio (cubase). Then you are done. btw save it it 16 bit, 44,1kHz sample rate. So it will play on any redbook cd. anything lower or higher will not work. Also save it as a .wav (.aiff) and all your files as that. It will take up more room but .mp3 sounds bad when you are doing pro audio. After you mix down in .wav save it to a cd or make that into an mp3. I know its not that much but i hope it helps ppl. If there are any questions let me know, I know that there is another recording guide that was just made. But this one is for ppl that have better gear. or just want to know. All these techniques can be used for lower end gear. So its not all useless.

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    NovaHawk
    Decent article, work on your grammar a bit, but other than that, you understand what you're talking about. My home setup is a Shure SM57 into a Behringer OD802 mixing board into a Delta 44, and I use Sonar3 as the software. Works out great. Another thing to remember, when micing a high gain guitar... TURN THE GAIN DOWN ON YOUR AMP. Your mic is going to pick up the distortion a lot better than your ears will because it's right there next to it. I found that out first off, talk about surprise.
    coolguy
    i didnt understand much of it, but it seemed pretty good, like you knew whate ur talkin about
    Skugg
    wasted guitarst: too long didnt read it sorry
    then what was the point of posting a comment? seems like a waste. o i found it good and informative. gj keep it up
    civildp1
    the last thing I understood was "First is the obvious, recording at a pro level is gonna cost you." write one for stupid people.
    n_punx
    good job. i love this article. u should be writing more for this site
    ensaepit
    Guitarist, don't post if you didn't read it. Sheesh. Great article, easy read and answers just about any question you could have. Nice work.