Help setting up a home studio

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CoffinAlex
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Help setting up a home studio

Post by CoffinAlex » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:11 pm

Hi everyone. I've been writing songs for some time now but I'm pretty new to recording, I've decided to set up a home studio to record my music but I'm not sure on what to get yet and that's why I'm asking for you help!
I have a very limited budget (I'm still 16, so I can't even get a job to pay for this) so I was thinking of getting a cassette recorder, I know it doesn't have a good sound quality but that warm lo-fi sound is kind of what I'm looking for and it's cheap, here are some examples of how I would like my tracks to sound like:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0jEzYNf7uw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w7c832Ijxs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGJNTBu1MCk

So I'm thinking of maybe getting a Tascam 424 mkII or a 488 mkII.
For microphones I'm leaning towards a Shure SM-57 for vocals, amps and kick and another microphone to use as overhead when recording drums, probably another dynamic if I'm using a 424 or a condenser if I'm using a 488 since it has phantom power.
Will I get a similar sound to I'm looking for with this set-up? What microphones should I get?

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Post by Teacher's Pet » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:46 am

I recommend you start with the 4-track.
A 4-track and 57 will take you far, my son.
As far as the second mic, just use anything you can get your hands on.

You can always get a cheap little external phantom power supply if you need it.

You're the second person to post that Pega Monstro track, I had never heard of them before, good stuff.

Good luck, you're on the right (um) track.

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vvv
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Post by vvv » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:22 am

There'll be as many opinions as posters here, but FWIW, and it's just mine, I'll reco to you what I have to local friends.

Cassette recorders are cool and all & I've had and still have my share but they are lo-fi and now old and prone to breaking down, and tapes are not super easy to get. There are ways to re-create that lo-fi sound when using newer, digital recorders, with a little research, if that's really what you want.

Me, I reco a inexpensive digital recorder. If it's just one-take demo's, I reco you get something like the Zoom H2, but since you seem to want to multi-track, I'd look for a SD card-based system.

FWIW, I use a Zoom R16 frequently to record drums (load into computer and overdub the rest), and it's sturdy, easy, and sounds good, can be had for under US$250 used, has phantom power and effects, including compressors and EQ in the digital realm. I believe there are 4-track and 8-track and 16-track versions from various manufacturers, some that can be found even cheaper. They all seem to interface with computers through USB as well as the data cards; that is good because you can dump or mix your tracks and edit, etc. with cheap or even free software (the Zoom R16 comes with Cakewalk LE, I believe), which increases your options and odds of getting good-sounding results, and allows you to burn CD's (for your parents and other dinosaurs) and post on-line, etc., and you even needn't necessarily buy a soundcard.

Mic-wise, I reco the Shure 58 - pop the ball off and it sounds quite close to a '57, and those are bog-standard mic's, which makes 'em a good learning tool. But there's usually usable and cheaper mic's around - I started using Digital Reference 57 clones on overheads and was happy for a while. After that, while you might get longer term good use out of another 57-type, there's nothing wrong and a lot good with learning about condensors, and there are tons of cheap ones out there that are certainly usable, from MXL, CAD, MCA, etc. I strongly reco you buy used - just pay attention to buyer info if you are on Ebay. (98% or lower, don't risk it, do research prices, pay attention to condition and returns policy, etc.)

Two more tips to get ya started:

1. do try and do some sound treatment, even if that means using pillows and couches and closets and bookshelves and blankets - there's lots of info on line on the hows/whys but the bottom line is you'll maximize your results;

2. do try and use as many mix-monitoring approaches as possible, not just headphones - compare the home stereo, bookshelf stereo, car stereo, I-pod, etc.

Welcome to the world of my favorite waste of effort and time and money! :twisted:
bandcamp; vlayman;
THD; Geronimo Cowboys;
blog.
I mix with olive juice.

CoffinAlex
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Post by CoffinAlex » Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:32 pm

I'm also from Portugal like the band, I saw it and was really happy to know that people from other places are also listening to them. I think you can download their album for free from their label's site if you want to.

I guess I'll buy the 57 and explore it and then get another one that fills my needs.
As for the recorder, is an 8-track mch harder to use than a 4-track and will the 8-track sound like the 4-track when bounced? I've tried using some recording softwares and I find it really hard to get the sound I want out of it, but I'll check that Zoom recorder.

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Post by vvv » Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:03 pm

4 or 8 tracks digital is the same; using 8 track cassettes there are a few tricks (try not to use heavy sounds on adjacent tracks, don't put the vocal next to any time code tracks, etc.)

They key thing with digital is to choose your source sounds, your mic's and any outboard stuff, carefully. Also, be very aware of mic placement, room reflections, etc.

Digital is much less "forgiving" than analog, which means you hear things much closer to how they actually sound at the source.

You can do near-infinite adjustment to digital sounds once they are recorded, but almost everyone - me, at least - will tell you to get the sound as close as you can as you record it.

Want lo-fi? Use a lo-fi type mic's (example, older EV's and Shures and AKG's can be good, and cheap - even Radio Shack stuff - check out Chinese ribbons) and pre's (again, old Radio Shack stuff can work, mic thru cassette decks, etc.), filters (boxes, cans, tubes on the front of the mic's, even socks and off-axis placement can help). Play loud enuff to distort, or quiet enuff to have ambient noise - work with it by listening before you "print".

Cool band, that, BTW; see this thread?
bandcamp; vlayman;
THD; Geronimo Cowboys;
blog.
I mix with olive juice.

CoffinAlex
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Post by CoffinAlex » Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:31 pm

vvv wrote:4 or 8 tracks digital is the same; using 8 track cassettes there are a few tricks (try not to use heavy sounds on adjacent tracks, don't put the vocal next to any time code tracks, etc.)

They key thing with digital is to choose your source sounds, your mic's and any outboard stuff, carefully. Also, be very aware of mic placement, room reflections, etc.

Digital is much less "forgiving" than analog, which means you hear things much closer to how they actually sound at the source.

You can do near-infinite adjustment to digital sounds once they are recorded, but almost everyone - me, at least - will tell you to get the sound as close as you can as you record it.

Want lo-fi? Use a lo-fi type mic's (example, older EV's and Shures and AKG's can be good, and cheap - even Radio Shack stuff - check out Chinese ribbons) and pre's (again, old Radio Shack stuff can work, mic thru cassette decks, etc.), filters (boxes, cans, tubes on the front of the mic's, even socks and off-axis placement can help). Play loud enuff to distort, or quiet enuff to have ambient noise - work with it by listening before you "print".

Cool band, that, BTW; see this thread?
Yes, I've seen that thread, I was really surprised when I opened that thread and saw Maria ha. Unfortunately I have never talked to them or I would ask them about their recording gear.
I was thinking that recording drums in my room wouldn't work because of the reflections but I got a good isolated place to record them so I won't have to worry as much. I was thinking of getting an EVso I will definitely consider getting one now, thank you!

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:53 am

Hi,

I would recommend this, similar to what others have posted:

1.- A 4 track tape recorder. Get the best one you can afford.
2.- A reverb unit. One that can have a few different flavors if possible. Nothing wrong with a modern one, like a Lexicon, you can always EQ it to sound darker.
3.- A guitar amplifier with a spring reverb. If you need a vocal with that reverb, run it through the amp and record the results, vocal with reverb.For that you get an impedance matching plug, to go between the amp and the mic.
4.- A Shure SM57 or SM58, plus one condenser, like an Audio Technica (AT) of some flavor or other. Preferably the AT mic has different polar patterns, so you can tailor it better to your recordings.
5.- TONS OF TAPE.
6.- TONS OF PATIENCE.

Cheers
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Post by eh91311 » Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:51 pm

Nope on the cassette 4-track.
Focus on recording to the computer.
Buy a 2in/2out audio recording interface. '
Buy a 2nd hard drive to write the audio files to.
Buy 2 mics, stands, cables. Use the recording software the interface comes with, or buy something like Reaper online: the license fee is worth it. Use free VST effects found online. Mix on home stereo speakers or a decent pair of headphones.
Read as much as you can about recording, mixing. Messageboards, blogs, online articles are good for this.
Record often. Make mistakes and learn from them.

CoffinAlex
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Post by CoffinAlex » Fri Jul 11, 2014 5:15 pm

Nick Sevilla wrote:Hi,

I would recommend this, similar to what others have posted:

1.- A 4 track tape recorder. Get the best one you can afford.
2.- A reverb unit. One that can have a few different flavors if possible. Nothing wrong with a modern one, like a Lexicon, you can always EQ it to sound darker.
3.- A guitar amplifier with a spring reverb. If you need a vocal with that reverb, run it through the amp and record the results, vocal with reverb.For that you get an impedance matching plug, to go between the amp and the mic.
4.- A Shure SM57 or SM58, plus one condenser, like an Audio Technica (AT) of some flavor or other. Preferably the AT mic has different polar patterns, so you can tailor it better to your recordings.
5.- TONS OF TAPE.
6.- TONS OF PATIENCE.

Cheers
that's what I'm going for and then start building around it, but some things I can't afford right now, I'll have to wait until I can get a part-time job so I can make my own money. Once I get started recording (which will definitely be this summer) I'll probably keep buying gear whenever I can

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Post by numberthirty » Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:21 pm

While I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, this is what I(knowing what I know now) would consider -

If you buy a cassette four track, do you want anyone but you to hear the songs?

If the answer is yes, you'll have to work out how to get them onto some sort of stereo format.

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floid
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Post by floid » Sat Jul 12, 2014 3:58 am

numberthirty wrote:While I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, this is what I(knowing what I know now) would consider -

If you buy a cassette four track, do you want anyone but you to hear the songs?

If the answer is yes, you'll have to work out how to get them onto some sort of stereo format.
+1
this was prolly the biggest hurdle i came up against early on. this was in the late late 90s when cassettes were still being sold at the record store but were the antithesis of hip. had a guy who'd hacked his soundcard to take audio in, the resulting tape transfers were terrible.

when i switched to a digital s.i.b. in 2000 or so, i found that i STILL needed an intermediary to get to c.d. had to get a computer and echo layla, figure out how the hell to use them. so much easier these days.
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Re: Help setting up a home studio

Post by kslight » Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:47 am

CoffinAlex wrote: I have a very limited budget (I'm still 16, so I can't even get a job to pay for this)
Do they not allow you to work at 16 in Portugal (just curious)?




Anyway, IMHO if you equate recording to cassettes as fun and like the sound (I do still record a lot like this for a certain projects), by all means you should pick up a 4 or 8 tracker. Telling you NOT to do so is like telling a new guitar player not to kick on the distortion when they want to have fun?I say?have fun, especially at your age. If you can afford a 688 or 488 (688 does not have phantom power, but not a deal breaker in my opinion) and can find one in decent shape in Portugal, then I would recommend picking it up. Eventually when you've got enough mics you'll be able to haul this to a band's practice space and record a full band?or just simply experiment with what you can do within 8 tracks. Its just a lot more practical than the 4 track. But if all you can get is a 4 track, then that's fine for your personal use.

Then you want tapes, obviously!

You're going to need some cords, perhaps buy a soldering iron, some bulk cable, and connectors, and learn to make your own?

Microphones?whatever decent mics you can find cheap?I'd recommend buying used to save some bucks. Shure SM57/58, Audix i5, etc?all fairly practical and useful for most instruments.

And you'll need mic stands, headphones, and eventually a pair of monitors.

When you're ready to dump your masterpieces into the computer, you'll also need a sound card with as many inputs as your chosen recorder has outputs.

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floid
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Post by floid » Sat Jul 12, 2014 8:40 am

the first crappy drum sounds you get to tape and apply crazy eq to, compared to the first crappy sounds you get to a digital box and apply crazy effect presets to, will induce far less cringes when you listen back a few years down the line.
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CoffinAlex
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Post by CoffinAlex » Sat Jul 26, 2014 3:26 am

Thank you everyone for your answers, it has helped me a lot. Just one more thing, I've noticed it is harder to get a 424 mkII than a mkIII, what's the difference between them and should I wait and get a mkII?

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Post by creaturesleeper » Sun Jul 27, 2014 6:24 pm

I still use an old AMR 4 track from 1987... It still is rock solid and tapes arent hard to find...use anything you can...I have a decent computer and Otari reel to reel...but the four track gets plenty of use...nay sayers otherwise...

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