If you’re an aspiring musician, or perhaps in a band that’s trying to make some demos- you’ll understand the difficulties of recording. Vocals and Acoustic Guitar can be simple, but once you start throwing in Amps and Drums then it all starts to get a little complicated.
I personally have experience in Studio Recording as well as Amateur Recording; so I’m going to give you some basic tips on making cheap recordings from the comfort of your own home. I’m going to be keeping this very basic, so don’t expect an article about Mixing Desks and Polar Patterns! This is recording for the common man/woman.
-Laptop or Computer (High Specs are preferable)
-2x USB Microphones (Blue Snowball Mics recommended)
-Interface (Boss Micro B-R recommended)
-Instruments/ Amps/ Jack-leads etc
These days, the cheapest way to record is digitally- i.e. via a computer. Recording onto a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the easiest option, and you can get some very basic DAWs for free. Industry-standard DAWs such as Cubase, Pro Tools and Logic cost a lot of money; however there are free options that work on both Mac and PC, such as Audacity, which can be download from it’s official website at http://www.audacity.sourceforge.net. I can’t go in to detail about how to record with audacity, but the program is very simple and easy to pick up- I promise. It’s very much a plug-in and play kinda thing.
The best way to Record Acoustic Guitar is by using 2 Microphones pointed at 2 different sections of the Guitar. Using 2 Mics give a fuller picture of the Guitar’s sound- this is because an Acoustic gives duller and brighter tones depending on the part of the Soundhole/Fretboard etc that is resonating.
A common practice used in studios that you could emulate at home is to point 1 mic at the Guitar’s soundhole, and another at the fretboard- around the 12th fret. These mic’s give a nice stereo image of the Guitar’s tones.
Vocals (commonly referred to as: “Vox” when recording) are most simply captured by a single microphone. The difference with Vocals is that you should ALWAYS use a pop shield. A pop-shield is the black circular fabric that you often see people singing into in a studio. A Pop Shield is there to filter out the “popping” noises (known as “plosives”) that the human voice naturally produces on certain sounds (most noticeably words beggining with: “p”). The fabric filters out these harsh noises that often cause the recording to “clip” (suddenly spike very loud).
If you can’t afford or find a real Pop-Shield, you can stretch an old sock over a clothes-hanger and it will have the same DIY effect!
AMP & MIC
If you’re really into the tones that your Amp produces- then the simple Amp and Mic technique could be right for you. Simply point your mic at your amp as you play, keep it a few inches away depending on your volume. Pointing the mic towards the edge of the speaker-cone with give more trebley tones where pointing it towards the centre of the speaker-cones will pick up more bass and mid frequencies.
The alternative method (and in my opinion the easier method) is to use a Digital Audio Interface such as the Boss Micro B-R. Interfaces such as this allow you to plug your Guitar in via a Jack-Lead and play via a bunch of pre-sets. This is the cleanest cheap way to get crisp electric Guitar recording- and you can listen to your playing through headphones as you record.
Recording Bass is near-identical to recording Electric Guitar. You can use the Amp & Mic method or you can use an interface for crisp recording. Many entry-level studios also use Direct Injection (D.I) Boxes to record Bass- these are similar to the aforementioned Audio Interfaces.
Drums are a difficult one for sure. Drums are simply not easy or cheap to record by any means. These are your 3 best options for cheap recording.
METHOD 1- MICS
Ideally to record a Drumkit you need quite a few Microphones with a variety of Pickup Patterns. With just a couple of Mic’s your best option would be to use mic stands to hang them over the kit on either side as they point downwards. In post you can then pan each mic to Left and Right, this will give you a basic stereo field of your Drumkit.
METHOD 2- PROGRAMMING
For the computer-savvy amongst us- it can be a good idea to program your drums in. You may use a MIDI keyboard to key your drums in or you may draw in each note individually in your DAW- if it has drum plug-ins included. There are lots of Synth drum programs and plug-ins available out there. Occasionally for free!
METHOD 3- ELECTRONIC DRUM KIT
If you or your drummer happen to own a decent electronic drumkit, this can be an easier option for recording as the sounds are pre-programmed and crisp. These drumkits can often record straight into DAWs or Audio Interfaces easily. The disadvantage of course is that they often sound fake and unrealistic- but sometimes it can be a necessary sacrifice for the sake of money!
So there we have it! These are the very basics of Amateur Recording. I wish you good luck on your sketchy demos and the likes!