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Whether you’re in the studio or on the road, try these 30 easy tips and simple shortcuts to streamline your work, save your gear, and focus on making better music
Boost your lead guitar’s ego. Add a slight 900Hz–1.2kHz boost before distortion to articulate leads better; this also adds sustain by making notes in that range distort more readily.
Convert your open-back guitar amp to closed-back in five seconds. To record a closed-back amp sound with an open-back amp, lay the back of the amp on a rug, and point a mic down toward the speaker. (Be careful about ventilation!)
Manage “harmonies” onstage. Using one of those whiz-bang harmony synthesizers on your live vocals? Monitor the dry signal, because monitoring the harmonies is going to mess with your mind. And your pitch.
Loosen the chokehold on master compression. For a lift in dynamics without the “sound” of compression, set low ratios (below 1.5:1) on two compressors, and run them in series.
Give amp sims some sugar. Add a steep, narrow notch post-sim; sweep slowly in the 5–10kHz range and notch out any “fizzy” frequencies. Then, precede with a de-esser to compress the highs before going in. If you still need more sweetness, cut a bit at 2kHz before going into the sim.
QC your CD. Listen to your reference CD all the way through in mono to make sure no strange phase things will come back to haunt you. Check the CD-Text entries for typos. Push Play, then push the Next Song button repeatedly to make sure there’s a track marker for each song.
Put a nervous singer at ease. If you’re doing loop recording, leave plenty of space before and after the punch points so the vocalist doesn’t feel pressured. Oh, and turn the lights down.
Work your computer like Lisbeth Salander. Set up a dual monitor. Master keyboard shortcuts! When you have a lot of tracks in a project, use track icons—the mind parses images faster than text. The same is true for color; use a consistent color protocol for tracks.
Make over your computer USB for $25. If hard drive noise and other artifacts are invading your audio, install a USB port card (not a combo FireWire/USB card) and use that for your audio interface(s) instead of motherboard ports.
Control your gear from afar. Buy a wireless QWERTY keyboard and use your program’s key commands for control—this is great for recording vocals from a vocal booth. For more range, add a USB extender cable to the wireless receiver that connects to your computer.
Save your BIOS butt. When you get a new PC, go into the BIOS during startup and write down all the parameter values. You’ll be glad you did if you ever need to reset, or the battery dies.
Remember the mono test. Start your mix with all instruments panned to center (mono). This will highlight tracks that “step on” each other, as well as phase issues. Get levels and EQ sorted out, then exercise the panpots.
Make one VSTplugins folder to rule them all. Create one VSTplugins folder, install all VSTs there, and set it as the sole VST search path for all programs that use VSTs. When you install a new VST plug-in, install it to that folder—don’t let installers scatter VSTs all over your root drive.
Be better about backup. Establish a regular backup schedule. I nag my Twitter followers the first week of the month.
Try some E-Z multiband processing. Multiband compressors make great crossovers for multiband processing. Duplicate a track to create as many copied tracks as multiband compressor bands, set each band’s compressor for no compression (ratio 1:1), solo a different band for each track, then process each track/ band individually.
Kill computer noise with a faux vocal booth. Option 1: Grab a wireless mic like the Line 6 XD-V70, leave the noisy room, and close the door. Option 2: Bring an SD card-based field recorder (no moving parts!) with XLR ins and +48V phantom power, and a premix of the song on one track. Go someplace quiet, sing to another track, then transfer when done.
Bump up the bass track. Compress it, big-time. Seriously. Granted, too much compression is worse than too little, but bass is different, because playback systems have such nasty bass response. The more even the notes on your bass, the better the odds they’ll make it through to the consumer’s ear—even through (gack!) cheap earbuds.
Extend an Li-Ion battery’s useful life. Storing rechargeable Li-Ion batteries either fully charged or discharged shortens battery life. A 40- 50% charge is good. And when you use gear with rechargeable batteries for the first time, charge them fully before using the gear.
Get better Windows 7 performance with your DAW. In Win7 (not XP), give priority to “Programs” instead of “Background Services.” Go to Start > Control Panel > System > Advanced System Settings > Advanced tab > Settings button > Advanced tab.
Practice safe copy protection. If you use System Restore (Windows) or Time Machine (Mac) to return to a point prior to where a copy-protected program was authorized, you may lose the authorization.
Nuke latency, seven ways. 1) Wear headphones to avoid the delay from speaker to ears. 2) Freeze instrument tracks for less CPU loading. 3) Do a full bypass on processors (e.g., disconnect from CPU) until mixdown. 4) Download the latest audio interface drivers. 5) On laptops, disable internal wireless functionality when doing audio. 6) Use zero-latency monitoring judiciously. 7) Upgrade your CPU.
Document your sessions—painlessly. 1) Dedicate an audio track to narrating all the details about the session. 2) Take pictures of settings of your outboard gear, string the pix together in iMovie or Windows Movie Maker (a free component of Windows Live Essentials), render the video, and store it in your DAW’s video track. 3) Save all your MIDI device data as Sys Ex within your project. 4) Some DAWs let you write really long track names—instant documentation! 5) Aim for having everything you need contained in one project; if there’s a notepad function, write the lyrics in there.
Help your ribbon mic live long and prosper. Although newer ribbon mics aren’t quite as picky as older models, it’s good practice to store them vertically so that the element is straight up and down.
Forrest: You might consider an audio interface from Presonus. I have 2 and they are quite good. Check out the Presonus AudioBox 22DSL, or the 44DSL. I would not get the AudioBox USB because it doesn't record at higher resolutions (which you may prefer at some point). These interfaces also allow you to record multiple channels at the same time (say a mic for you vocal and a mic for your guitar). I use 4 channels when I record guitar/vocals: a mic for vocals, 2 mics for the guitar, and I take the direct out from the guitar just in case.
New solo guitar EP, Timeless Moments, is on itunes and amazon for purchase here are the links! I hope you enjoy guys! I would love it if you could rate and review as well. Thanks!
amazon http://www.amazon.com/Timeless-Moments-EP/dp/B0078JS8VE/ref=sr_1_5?... all recorded at home
Thanks for all the great suggestions!
What is the technical term for the kind of "interface" I need? Is it simply "audio interface" or something more specific?
Also, something that feels unnatural to me is layering the sound. That is, playing the guitar in first, then adding the vocal, etc. I understand the need to hear what it sounds like going in (like with stage monitors). Is that something you just get over, or do some of you record more than just one voice or track at at time?
I use an iMac for recording with Garageband. Just getting started and haven't learned how to clean up the sound dynamics (I feel like I need a sound engineer).
I use an Allen & Heath ZED FX10 as a mixer. I also just got a Roland GR55 synthesizer for my Godin Multiac. Lots of gear to figure out but lots of fun. Some initial practice recordings here: http://intelexe.com
Since Forrest had said "My budget is limited.", I was trying to go with what may already be available to him, ( did I mentiom that I like "no extra costs" ) Sometimes a little imagination and creative wiring will pay off.
Hi Forrest, I don't use a mac but use an E-Mu 0404 usb for interfacing with the pc. (I make up for the lower pc speed by using a DSP card)
For an inteface, compare max sample rates, good quality 24bit or better a/d converters, with monitoring facilities. I still however use a mixer (Folio F1) before this as it warms up the sound, allows you to have a little bit of gain on the mixer and a little bit of gain on the interface equals less background noise than loads of gain on the interface alone. Also with the interface, you tend to get just 2 balanced ins or so , whereas with my desk I have loads. I can put 3 mics on my acoustic guitar rather than be limited to 2.
I use an iMac for recording (used it for recent album). Like Arlie said, you'll need an interface to connect any audio stuff to the Mac ie to convert audio to digital. There's quite a few on the market - I suggest you google 'em and look at magazine reviews - Sound on Sound mag does a lot of reviews.
I use an Edirol UA25EX, which is spot on - but I think they've been taken over by another company - 'Cakewalk' possibly. I'd advise you to get a good one because the interface is the first stage in getting the sound from your instruments and mic into your Mac/Garage Band setup so it's crucial to how your recordings will end up sounding.
I'm using LogicExpress - which is the next step up from Garage Band and wasn't too expensive at all for what it does. Never used Garage band but it looks straightforward to use.
The Edirol interface I use also has an audio output which I feed into a pair of decent monitor speakers which are much much better quality than the Mac internal speakers.
To sum up - I'd say get a decent audio interface and a decent pair of active monitor speakers (or separate amplifier and speakers).
Oh, and one other thing... you do need a good spec fast Mac with plenty of RAM so everything runs smoothly - digital recording does ask a lot from the computer.
Cheers and good luck!
There a some rather inexpensive interfaces out there with XLR inputs.
I'm not familiar with Macs, do they have a stereo "line in"? and do you have the PA mixer from your gigging days? If you answered yes to the 2nd Q, does it have a "Line out"?
Perhaps you can see where I am going with this line of questions.
I used to have a Tascam 424 connected to my PC in this fashion
monitor out to PC line in
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