Recording Emergency!!!!

aydee

Platinum Member
Need all techies ( MFB, you there? ) on board for this one urgently:

Me extremely lo tech. But have an urgent need for being in position to record a reasonably pro-quality demo of a drums/guitar bass/ trio, out of my home practice space. No studios for this gig.

What I already have:


*A powerful laptop ( windows pc, can upload, CUBASE/REASON on to it, if I have to )

*Can borrow a MACBOOK PRO ( with Logic Platinum )

* a multi- input AARDVARK sound card ( its a real good one)

What I need:

Mics for a 7 piece drum kit ( which mics, how many, 2 for snare, should they be the same ..etc etc, dont wanna go either super hi end or crappy )

A good mixer ( digital/analog? which one? )

How do the guitar and bass plug into the sound card and yet be recorded 'live' ?

What else might I need :


A crash course or any help with pulling this off would be highly appreciated.
 
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Mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Right. I'm looking at the specs of the sound card to see what you can do with regards to inputs. This might be a long post - you have been warned.

So, you have eight inputs on the Aardvark. No need to get the MacBook if you can put Cubase on there - I'm not great with Cubase, but the basic principles are all the same.

If you're recording a seven-piece kit, you have to ask yourself, how many mics do you need. Obvious question, but the answer may be less than you think. There are a few ways of going about this - but in essence, you want to keep it simple, you confess you're low tech, so a low-tech solution is probably the best. I'll start with the most important mics and work down:

Overheads:

Basically you have two options here. An XY Crossed pair (the mics cross over each other in an 'X' shape) or a Spaced pair. The Spaced pair is more conventional and probably easier to understand and although it's not what I prefer, it's probably easier for you. Basically, you want both mics to be equidistant from the snare (assuming that's the 'sound centre' of your kit - which it is, it's the loudest bit on there!) and high enough to pick up all the cymbals and toms. Now, overheads are the most important mics on the kit. They will pick up everything and be used for everything to some extent (unless you're into 80's extreme gating). Usually three or four feet above the cymbals is a good position for the overheads, you need to give space for the sound to develop.

The old trick is to use a bit of string to determine how far away from the snare each overhead is. There are a few odd techniques in terms of placement - some prefer a mic in front, and a mic in the back, but for simplicities' sake, assume both are in front. What you have to remember is that most condenser microphones (not all, mind) have a cardioid or heart-shaped pickup pattern. Anything off-axis is harder to pick up and you'll get weird things happening, so you want as much of your kit in that zone as you can get - without it being too close to any individual cymbal. It's hard to tell you precisely where to place your overheads without physically being there - but use a bit of thought and remember: Equidistant from snare, a few feet above the kit and fitting as much in without being too close to any individual element.

In terms of mic choice, you'll want a decent-quality condenser. Now, if we're working to a budget I'd recommend the AKG C1000 or Rode NT5. Both are basically exactly equivalent- with some sound differences, but ultimate it's preference. AKG C3000's are good too. The AKG 414 is the more professional option, but also considerably more expensive - they also have switchable patterns, which is nice - but they are more. The choice is yours' but what you need is a good-quality condenser. These microphones will be the bread and butter of your recording, and everything else used for embellishment. Remember that! These will need phantom power, make sure it is switched on at the desk. Furthermore, make sure the gains on each overhead are as even as possible and that the output is basically the same - otherwise it can cause a headache having to balance them at the mixing stage. You want a good signal, in the green, but not in the amber or red. The same goes for all your mics - a good signal, but not an overloaded one.

Bass Drum:

Very simple. A large-diaphragm dynamic microphone placed where you'd imagine it to be placed. That is to say, slightly off-centre and at the bottom; where most drummers have a hole. If you don't, that doesn't matter, the same place is probably the best. Bass drum mic positioning is less critical than overheads, because bass is less directional and therefore less picky!

In terms of mic choice, there are a few: Audix D6, AKG D112, Shure Beta 52A are all basically equivalent. The D6 I've heard the best results from, but it is more aggressively EQ'd than the others. The D112 I've used and it's pretty good (although I prefer the ancestor microphone, the D12 from the 50's!) and I've heard good things about the Shure, but I've never used it.

Snare:

You mention two mics. That is fairly standard practice now. Concentrate on the top mic first - the convention is to have it on the edge of the drum, pointed towards the centre and slightly raised. I've heard of a 'three finger' technique whereby the height of the mic above the rim is three finger widths - that seems reasonable enough. Make sure the tip of the heart shape is pointed at the middle of the snare! Otherwise it'll sound strange.

As for underneath - that's a matter of preference and is usually mixed very low, but it can add some depth and definition if done correctly. I haven't got much experience with this, but mount it however you can (using the rim, using a stand) and again, point the centre to the centre of the snare wires. A little more distance might be preferable here, say 2/3 inches down - just to add a bit more depth.

SM57's are probably the simplest choice here. No need to go fancy, although I hear good things about the Audix i5.

That's the simple part. The next bit is where things get interesting.

Now, I have no idea what your room is like. So, I'm going to assume it's reasonably good. If that is the case, then you shouldn't have to worry about reflections from walls, but in terms of kit placement, you want to keep it away from walls and preferably under a high ceiling. If you have any walls that directly face each other, and any right angles for that matter, I would recommend throwing some treatment in. I often find a blanket works. Or an old mattress or anything soft and porous - Auralex foam is ideal (and designed for the purpose). If you haven't got access to any of this, a quick solution to prevent dodgy reflections in the overheads is to drape a blanket or duvet over the back of the capsules and drape it between them, so you've effectively covered the back (NOT THE FRONT) of the capsules with a blanket. The bass drum and snare are less critical, because they'll get more direct signal because of their proximity to the sound sources.

When you get the recording into your computer, obviously assign each microphone a different channel. I tend to work overheads, bass, snare, snare. Some work bass, snare, snare, overheads. Do it as you feel is fit, just make sure it makes some sense to you! Pan each of the overheads left and right, and pan the snare into the correct place of the stereo field. If it's slightly to the left of you, pan it, etc. Bass is usually central (there's an historical reason for this as well as the obvious stereo field reason, but it's just a nice factoid. Basically, bass takes up a bigger groove on vinyl, so having it central made sure it took up as little space as possible. Dull fact, I find it interesting).

EQing is a tricky business and you have to think in terms of SUBTRACTIONS as well as additions. Seeing as your overheads are probably going to be used for everything to some extent, it's necessary that their response is relatively even. Listen to the recordings and if anything is ridiculously wayward, first of all play with the mic placement. Getting a good recording in is the most important thing - trying to fix it with EQ is a work-around and doesn't produce as good a results. EQ is there to shape the sound, not to correct it - unless something has gone drastically wrong and there's nothing you can do to re-record.

Without being in person, it's hard to tell you what to do with the EQ, but generally speaking, a cut around 250Hz helps prevent muddiness, and a slight boost at the top end helps add some sibilance to the sound (and makes it sound a little 'airy' if you like). Seeing as tom toms work over the range of sounds, I'd suggest taking a little out just below the top (15Khz) and keeping the rest relatively flat. Obviously, small alterations can be made to the low-mid and high-mid as you feel fit, but it's very much a case of feel rather than giving you specific instructions. I tend to work on subtractions more than additions, because it gives you a greater scope for contrast. If you're only adding EQ, you're effectively just using half of its available range, right?

What also might help (and this is where things get interesting) is a little compression on the overheads, just to take the edge off the peaks. A low ratio is probably good, say 2:1, but be prepared to just drop the level of the overhead channel slightly, as compression can make it 'louder' overall. I say can. It's often misused to do just this... maybe a little reverb too if the sound you're getting is very dry (ie. you have the blankets over the backs of the mics!).

With the bass drum mic, you'll want a peak in the EQ below 100Hz, a dip at 250Hz (I'll explain this in a minute) and you'll probably want a slight rise around 2.5Khz for the attack of the beater. It's quite simple. When I say drop the 250Hz, there is one good reason for this - most instruments tend to have something happening at 250Hz or thereabouts - guitars do, drums do, bass guitars do, cellos do, pianos do. Just go through the list and think of an instrument that doesn't have 250Hz and you'll struggle. Unless we're talking about hammered dulcimers (micing those up is fun!). So, in short, the 250 can get very crowded. When you get a 'muddy' recording, it's usually around that kind of range that gets over-powered, so if you hear any muddiness, drop the 250ish and see what happens.

A little compression is good on the bass drum too. More compression than the cymbals, say 3:1 or more. Just play with it and see what you like - it helps make it more 'punchy'.

The snare is a little trickier. Basically it's EQ to preference as to tuning. Subtract what you don't want as opposed to adding all of what you do want. The top mic will probably sound reasonably ok with a bit of compression, maybe some reverb, but not too much! The relationship with the bottom mic is a tricky one and I would say that if you can get the sound you want out of the top mic, use that. A lot of the snare will be in the overheads too, so you'll want to use some of the overheads for the snare - using the snare mics just as embellishment, effectively. The bottom mic is tricky because first of all the sound it produces can be just 'rattly' and secondly, the phase relationship is tricky. Basically, phase is when the same signal reaches two different microphones at different times and when put together, cancel each other out. If you introduce the bottom snare mic into the mix and the snare starts sounding very weird (like a reduction in volume, or choked) invert the phase of the bottom mic. There's usually a button on the desk to do this, or on your interface - or even on Cubase. That should help. Again, slight EQ to preference, cut the 250. If you don't feel you need the bottom snare mic, don't use it. It just adds a little depth.

Now, when you've all got them sounding good individually (solo each one when you're playing around, forgot to mention that) it's now a job to get them sounding good together. By using subtractive EQ, this is more likely to happen straight away. Basically, the overheads are the bread and butter of your mix and the other mics are just embellishments or 'accent' mics to add a bit extra to what's already there. So, usually a little bias in favour of the overheads is in order. Just work to where you feel the sound is nicely balanced and don't be afraid to play around with the EQ on each individual piece if you feel something is too prominent. Remember as well, the louder you mix, the more the bass will be obvious, so work at a sensible level of volume! It might help at this point to group the drums together so that one slider controls the overall level. Also, sending the drums to a buss (a group send) might be a good idea, then you can add compression, reverb, etc to the overall group. Basically - you can start to treat the drums as two channels (stereo) rather than as a collection of individual instruments.

With the bass and guitar, there are various ways of doing it. You can choose to record directly into the desk using a DI (direct input) box or alternatively you can usually plug the guitar right in using a jack and actually increase the gain there to get a good signal level. I've used that method a few times and it works. Most Bass amps have a DI built into them with an XLR output - you could use that and if it's available, do. All this can go directly into the desk. One of my guitar amps actually has a 'line out' on it - if your guitarists' does, use that - it should provide a decent signal and you might not need any extra gain.

Alternatively, you could mic the individual cabinets. This is slightly trickier, because you're likely to get the drums into the sound if you're all playing together and it's probably simpler just to DI it all, even though it doesn't always sound as good as micing. If you are micing the cabinets, a dynamic mic (Shure SM57, etc) placed about 4 inches from the cabinet and slightly off-centre and below the cone is probably the most standard practice.

With regards to mixing the bass and guitar, it's really a matter of playing around until you get what you want. Don't be afraid to really compress the bass and make it work - but also be careful of muddiness - avoiding reverb helps with this. It might also be a good idea to record the band 'live' and then record the guitar and bass tracks over the live drum recording, taking away the original guitar and bass tracks. This is the method usually used when a Click track isn't being used. If you're recording as a band, you as the drummer ought to have the click in his ear, Cubase produces its own click, so it's simply a case of hooking up some headphones to the outputs on the Aardvark (via the mixer probably, just put the click into a separate channel). Remember my advice on subtractive EQing, it works wonders. It might also be preferable

When you're trying to record into Cubase, select the right input for each sound source according to the channel on the mixer. For instance, channel one on the mixer should be plugged into channel one on the interface and this will be selected as 'Input 1' on Cubase. (Or the equivalent). This will help you organise everything properly!

I'm not going to talk about mastering right now, because I could literally could go on all day about mastering, but suffice to say, when it comes to putting your mix to a stereo output, make sure that it doesn't clip. That is to say, the output is too high. Otherwise it gets bothersome and won't sound good. If necessary, reduce the volumes of each of the other instruments until you get it within reasonable parameters.
You didn't mention if you had vocals or not. If you have, tell me and I'll fill you in on the basics there. Seeing as you didn't mention them, I kept them out deliberately to avoid confusion.

Incidentally, can we make this thread a sticky? We get this question every few weeks. And if anyone wishes to correct me, contradict me or whatever, feel free and we'll discuss it.

In terms of mixer choice, I'd suggest something reasonably high-quality. Mackie make some excellent desks. If your sound card has an interface with it (is it this one?)

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/Dec01/articles/aardvarkq10.asp

then a desk isn't necessary and you can go straight into the interface box. Assuming it has preamp controls and a gain structure.

Christ, I just did a word count and that was nearly 3,000. That's an actual essay you got there. A badly-written essay!
 
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Mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Epic post. I vote for a sticky on this one. Limbering up for those uni papers eh?

It's funny. Everything I just mentioned is probably second-year stuff...

I hope my Uni papers are better written, of course, but it's nice to know I can do this in about half an hour...
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Happy recipient of epic post will gladly accept. It is a crash course. literally.

MFB, I'll need to study you post a bit before I respond, but thank you very much.

Here are some visual references , if it helps.
with cym top view.jpg

3rd fl. dr 1.jpg

The drums are not in a corner , and the room is heavily carpeted.. but nothing on the walls.

Yes, the sound card has the interface you linked, so no need for anything there, I suppose.

Great dope on the mics. I've got a few drummer friends with strong opinions so I've no got some ammo to debate them with.

Yeah, I think this will be a great sticky from drummers transitioning to a recorded set up. good idea.
 
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Mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Well the mics I've suggested are basic ones. Good quality, basic microphones - the Mapex ProM of microphones if you will. I hope it all works out OK, but yeah, I would need to digest that post still. I can't believe it got that long.

Briefly.

That wall behind you is going to need some treatment. It's big and flat and those are the two things that aren't ideal in this kind of situation. Get hold of some Auralex Foam if you can (it's not cheap though). A good trick I've seen is people making a frame and fitting the foam in the frame (out of wood) and then hanging the frames from picture rails. Makes it much easier to move them around and also means you can take them down afterwards. You're going to have to put some bass traps in the corners. Duvets are good, blankets are good. If it'll absorb sound, it's good. See if you can get a sofa or couch into that room as well - these actually make for great treatment and give you somewhere nice to sit in the process.

It also looks like my tip with the duvet over the back of the microphone capsules is going to have to be done, too. If you do have some foam, you can actually make a kind of shield out of it bu cutting a mic-sized hole in the foam and putting it over the back of the mic, like a shield, perpendicular to the capsule - if that makes sense. There's a lot of reflections in that room and I bet it sounds huge, but given the size and flatness of those walls, I would suggest some treatment. Placement is fairly simple - basically if you have a covered piece of wall, put an uncovered piece next to it. It's not too critical where you place the treatment as long as it's there.
 
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razorx

Platinum Member
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Damn thats ten pages when you copy and paste it into word and double space it.
 

caddywumpus

Archnemesis of Larryace
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Right. I'm looking at the specs of the sound card to .......(two days later)........did a word count and that was nearly 3,000. That's an actual essay you got there. A badly-written essay!

Great stuff MFB! I've got nothing to add except I highly recommend the i5 for the snare top mic. I always forget to recommend the string trick for overheads, but I'm glad you mentioned it...
 
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Mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Well... I've said it before and I'll say it again, I want this as a sticky. We get basic recording questions all the time and this pretty much covers most of what can be asked with regards to basic drum recording. To be honest, there's no reason to get much more complicated than this - I like to keep it simple. That's the great thing about recording, the basic principles NEVER change. It's a case of working out what your polar patterns are, what each instrument will produce frequency-wise (and for those of you out there who don't know, every instrument produces more than one, except pure sine-waves!) and working out the balance.

There's nothing even vaguely complicated about recording when you grasp those basic principles, there's no dogma, there's no esoteric principles, it's just basic and simple science with a bit of common sense.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
You haven't met me, yet ;-)

touche, MFB. The grand plan is in now in motion. Your epic post is being studied in minute detail by little geeky creatures, as we speak. They have promised me a response by Friday which I'll share on this thread. We will be in touch.

p.s. - will post a pic of the other side of the room maybe tommorow: more carpets and couches against the opposite wall..
 
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Mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Cool. I'm all up for suggestions and debate about recording - there are lots of different techniques that all go towards the same result so people 'in the know' tend to disagree for silly reasons. There are as many different ways as there are people, even if the basic principles are the same - but I don't think there'll be any major holes in what I've said - it's all simple stuff.

A picture of the other side of the room would be good, and some idea of perspective, too.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Is there a way to fix the typo in the thread title??!! Its driving me insane.

Here is a view of the rest of the room. It has a foyer and an alcove as you can see. The access to rest of the apartment is blocked by a heavy curtain. The couch is make -shift ( two mattresses with a bedcover and pillows )


oppsite room.jpg

room left alcove.jpg

alcove right.jpg

I hope you get the geography of the room & this makes some sense.


The geeks have returned after ferreting info and are recommending the following ( all Greek to me ) :

1 AKG 112 ( Bass drum )

4 AKG C-518M ( thin design/clip - ons ( Toms )

Its cardioid polar pattern rejects overspill from nearby instruments. A continuously adjustable vise-type clamp makes it easy to fix the microphone securely on the top hoop of most drums or percussion instruments. An external shock mount provides high mechanical-noise rejection. A special snap-on stabilizer knee will keep the gooseneck bent at a defined angle. The C 518 M features an integrated, switchable bass cut for adjusting the microphone’s frequency response to your instrument’s sound
.

2 SHURE SM-57mics ( Snare drum )
1 AKG C-1000 ( Hi hats )
2 AKG C-1000s ( Overheads )


1
SOUNDCRAFT- FX16 ii mixer ( 48 volts, individual phantom power )

Soundcraft FX16ii, EFX and MFX Mixers Soundcraft has extended its versatile, multipurpose mixer range by recently introducing three new models: the FX16ii, EFX (pictured) and MFX. Each new model features 32 Lexicon(r) 24-bit digital effects, a user settings store function, three parameter controls and tap tempo. The FX 16ii boasts 26 inputs, 16 direct outputs, four stereo returns and a rotating connector pod that allows cables to connect behind the rack to save space. The Soundcraft EFX is the smallest console in range, available in eight- and 12-channel versions. With the Soundcraft GB30 mic preamp and one aux and one FX send on each channel, the EFX suits a variety of applications. Finally, the MFX is a Soundcraft MPM with the added Lexicon effects built in. It comes equipped with two group busses, two aux sends, one FX send on each channel and two stereo input channels. Three frame sizes are offered: eight, 12 and 20 inputs. The MFX is a helpful solution when performing in small venues. All consoles in the Soundcraft FX range can be rack-mounted using optional kits.

MIXSPI0FOL006SPIFX16ii.jpg

howz that sound? overkill? underkill? I notice a few synergies with MFB's reccos.



.................
 
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Latin Groover

Pioneer Member
Re: You can change the thread title in a post.

You can change the thread title in a post, try to edit your first post?

Plus i wanted to subscribe. Great info Duncan.
 
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Mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
Re: Recording Emergeny!!!!

Well the thing is, for what you're doing I don't think you need tom mics, basically. Now a lot of people will probably disagree with me, but it's just another set of microphones taking up channels and complicating things when actually you can get a very good result from the overheads alone. The mixing and EQing isn't too tricky, but the muddiness can be a problem with toms and to be honest I've never really been happy with the results when I've individually mic'ed. The problem is also one of synergy and having individual mics tends to make them stand out a bit too much rather than blend. It might also be too many channels anyway if you want to mix live and have a direct feed into the soundcard without submixing.

Pretty much the same thing goes for the hi-hat mic. These guys are demonstrating the opposite school of thought to me and whilst separate mics for every instrument gives you more control, I don't think it's necessary and can over-complicate things. I just don't really see the inherent advantages when it's weighed up - but then again, I am quite old-school even though I'm only twenty! So all told, it's pretty much overkill with the mics as far as I'm concerned, particularly bearing in mind you admit to having little or no experience with recording. I mean, if I have things entirely my way, I like the idea of just using overheads! And that certainly is back-to-basics but with a bit of experiment, a lot can be had from a very simply setup and to be honest, having all of these mics just makes things awkward from my point of view. I've never been entirely happy with the sound of individual mics on toms particularly.

That said, it's a perfectly reasonable suggestion and one which other people have a lot of success with - I just don't think it's necessary which is what this is all about.

The mixer's great. Possibly overkill, but a high-quality mixer (Soundcrafts are GREAT) can only be a good thing if you need it. If you can't afford that, look at some of the mid-range Mackie mixers, they're good too.

The bass drum mic is ok. I'm not too fond of the D112 personally, but that is just a preference - it's a good mic, just one I've never been excited by. I prefer the Audix, but again, the D112 has been the standard for a long time.

As for the room, those flat walls need some breaking up, as will the right angles. The ceiling height is good though - like I said, hang some blankets if you can or get hold of some Auralex foam. Those mattresses are a really good idea in the corners, or up against the walls near the corners to trap some bass. A trick I use is to clap my hands loudly in the middle of the space. If I hear any wayward echoes, I just experiment with blankets until those go away - for instance:
 

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