Seeking home recording tips - The full band in the basement - Jemsite
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-19-2002, 09:01 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Cincinnati, OH USA
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Seeking home recording tips - The full band in the basement

We (Naughty Butterspoon, that is) have reached the point where we really need a decent recording of our songs--partly so we can listen to them and rave about how cool we are, partly so we can pass them off to our friends who keep asking "when are you going to have a CD?", and partly so we have a good demo to give to clubs. Anyway, after deciding we really didn't want to pay mucho dinero to go into the studio to cut a dozen or more tracks, we've decided to embark on a home recording adventure. The plan is to do all the recording in my basement (which isn't incredibly soundproofed) direct to PC.

I don't have tons of studio gear, so I'm trying to make due with what I have and improvise as much as possible--I have a Gateway PC with a Lexicon Core 2 card running Cakewalk Pro Audio 9, a Carvin mixer, a dbx DDP, a BBE 362, an Alesis EQ, (2) ART Tube Channels, Carvin studio monitors, some mics (SM57, SM58, Nady condenser & others), and a couple rack FX units (G-Major, Lexicon MPX500).

Here's the setup so far:

Drums mic'd with Nady DMK7 kit--one mic @ for bass drum, snare, 3 toms + 2 condensers overhead--running into Carvin 16 channel mixer --> dbx DDP dynamic processor (EQ, compression, gating, limiting) --> soundblaster card line in (stereo)

Bass DI from bass amp --> Lexicon Core 2

Guitars (2) mic'd --> ART Tube Channel --> Lexicon Core 2

The thought is that we'd first concentrate on getting a decent sounding drum mix off the Carvin mixer (running stereo to two tracks). Then we record bass and rhythm guitars live along with the drums (but on separate tracks, of course). So for the rhythm part, our goal is to spread out around the basement so the drum mics don't pick up the guitars & vice versa. Then we'll go back and overdub vocals, solos, acoustics, keys, horns, and whatever else we can think of later, do some mixing & cleanup, and master it to CD.

So... has anybody else out there embarked on similar low-budget home recording projects? Any good tips to share? Any major no-no's? *

Thanks in advance! I'm looking forward to having some decent recordings to finally share with y'all.

bduersch is offline  
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-19-2002, 09:19 PM
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Seeking home recording tips

Well, I've recently started recording a Progressive Shred meets Techno/Industrial project, and I am basically just using a Digitech GNX1 into a Behringer 8 Channel Mixer, which then goes to my M-Audio Delta 66 Audio Card. *I run software through CuBase VST 5.0. *Simple enough I must say! *

Your setup sounds pretty nice though. *Lexicon cards are really nice.
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-20-2002, 09:32 AM
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Location: Virginia, USA
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Seeking home recording tips

you can get quite good "practical" isolation in a basement situation, so long as you don't point the guitar cabs right at the drum set - you may have slight bleedthrough discernable when the drummer isn't playing, but when everybody's rocking you won't be able to hear it. *i've played on two guerilla rock / punk records recorded live this way, with vocals tracked live in a homemade booth in the corner - they came out great. *my second band Diesel Chief, a beer swilling hard rock band, needs a demo and we'll probably do it live this way too.

get the basics as good as you possibly can - spend time setting up your drum mix like you say, testing different mic positions on the guitar cabs, etc, to get the basics as good as possible. *medium to good quality mics are important here. *"you can't polish a turd" later in post production if the basics turn out to sound not that great.

and, perhaps a little bit of a downer but something that's been true in my experience - you get better at this kind of stuff every time you do it, so maybe expect the first time to end up as a really raw demo but a learning experience about the recording. *do it again in a month or two on 4 or 5 more songs with what you've learned and it will sound better.

good luck, and have fun with it.
Scott of Actual Time is offline  
post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-20-2002, 11:14 AM Thread Starter
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Seeking home recording tips

Thanks for the tips!

We actually tried to do something similar probably about a year ago--we rented drum mics and spent most of the weekend trying to get a good drum recording, then later went back to overdub the guitars & bass by running them directly. Results were kinda disappointing, only because when we discovered garbage in the drum tracks there were no way we could go back and fix it--I spent way too much time trying to EQ stuff out. Plus, nothing had that really "tight" feel since absolutely everything was overdubbed.

This time we decided to just buy the mics ourselves for the drums, so we have unlimited time to play with it and get it right. The Nadys were really inexpensive but are actually pretty decent mics, all things considered (we almost spent more on stands and cables). *Plus, we're recording all the rhythm tracks as a band, so it should have a much tighter feel. The first take we did with this new set up was significantly better than last--the guitars & drums were bleeding through each others mics, so next time we get together our first step will be to move the cabs around. We were also getting this weird "echo" effect on the bass drum, which could be a result of the mics bleeding.

So, even though patience isn't one of my virtues, I'm sure we'll be able to get it to work out. Just glad to hear that someone out there's been able to get good results with a similar setup!!

Did you do much soundproofing in the basement, by the way? I've still got a lot of bare (cement) walls & floors. Was thinking about trying to pick up some old curtains at a garage sale or some of those foam mattress pads to use for budget soundproofing.

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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-20-2002, 02:50 PM
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Seeking home recording tips

Carpet remnants are free when they throw them out at carpet stores. They have a big dumpster in back (just for carpet) and they will usually let you take anything you want (saves them a garbage bill) and the carpet works awesome!!

The setup you have sounds like it will work perfect. I use to have one of those Lexicon Core II cards but could not make it work with my system. I sure wish I could have though. When my system was not popping and crackling it had a beautiful sound!! *My buddy hasa system that works with his Lexicon Core II card and he makes some great sounding recordings.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-20-2002, 03:38 PM
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Seeking home recording tips

my buddies who did the recording of the stuff i've been on didn't "soundproof" the basement, but they did build some "gobos" as they call them - they look like mattress box springs but they have heavy wood frames and are covered with cloth and stuffed with padding. *we set one or two of those 4' or so from the drum set and that's pretty much it. *the guitar cabs are close mic'ed and about 15' from the drum set, and the isolation is so good that we don't even bother to point the cabs away anymore.

this is in a large basement though, 30x50 maybe, unfinished. *in a smaller finished room, it'll come out sounding much brighter, and you might want lots of carpet remnants or mover's blankets hung on the walls.

Results were kinda disappointing, only because when we discovered garbage in the drum tracks there were no way we could go back and fix it--I spent way too much time trying to EQ stuff out.
then you've already learned about polishing a turd! * *owning your own mics so you can experiment and learn without a meter running is key.
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-20-2002, 04:36 PM
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Seeking home recording tips

Scott of Actual Time on 3:38 pm on Mar. 20, 2002
then you've already learned about polishing a turd! * *owning your own mics so you can experiment and learn without a meter running is key.
I agree 100%

I built my studio for the main reason that I love to record but got tired of paying all the high prices. Now when someone comes in to record I just dump the money back into the studio (makes it better for my next recording!!)
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-20-2002, 11:41 PM Thread Starter
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Seeking home recording tips

Hmmm... sounds like I might be dumpster-diving for carpet remnants this weekend! *

The Core 2 is a sweet card for the money, but it's a lot of effort to get working right if you have lots of hardware installed in a PC. I haven't had any problems with it since I have a computer dedicated to recording, which has only the hardware (and software) I need to record & cut CD's. I bought my Core 2 a couple years ago. I really like the built-in dbx compression--it's pretty hard to overdrive it. Also, I recently added the MP100 daughterboard, which is essentially the same as the Lexicon MPX100. I'm anxious to give the MP100 a run for its money and see how the FX sound (though I've been using an MPX500 in my studio for a while, so I have an idea of what it should sound like).

The other piece of studio gear I truly love is the Cakewalk/Peavey StudioMix console. It significantly speeds up the mixing process on PC--it's nice to have something with real sliders instead of having to use the mouse for everything.

For a long time I was saving up to buy the Ensoniq Paris system, but when I realized I could come close for significantly less money. Ever since I've been extolling the virtues of the Core 2 & Studiomix.

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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-21-2002, 05:05 AM
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Seeking home recording tips

Let me try to make a long story short. First of all, I'm NO pro at this. I know a thing or three about recording (took a class at University in recording techniques) but my practical experience is just fooling around with my band. Your setup sounds good... but let me give you some personal experience with rooms.
I used to play at my old drummer's house, in a cement basement with some soundproofing. We would record, and jam, and eh... what can I say? (Just played there again the other day for fun. Sound was for sh!t!) Now I play at my bassist's house, in his garage. The room is (approx) 15x30 ft. or so. We started playing out there, and it was 3 cement walls, 1 cement floor, 1 wood ceiling, and 1 wood garage door. Gak! It was AWFUL! Well, we got our gumption up, and went dumpster diving and found lots of large carpet remnants. We covered ALL the walls, the floor, half the ceiling, and put foam over the garage door. We then liberally set about egg cartons (large square ones. Had to look a LOT for those) and attached them to walls and ceiling. What a difference. We go out, plug in, I turn the mixer on, and it sounds terrific, honest to God. That carpet and egg cartons made SUCH a difference. Everything sounds smooth, loud, and tight. No annoying echoes, feedback, bass buildup (we have some furniture in there, too. It all helps deaden the sound, which translates to a tight, clean overall sound.) We do recordings, and while our setup isn't as nice, recording-wise, as yours, they come out sounding pretty decent! Try to make your basement soundproof and acoustically friendly. You'll love the results.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-24-2002, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
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Seeking home recording tips

Well, we have made a little progress with recording... Although I haven't yet gone dumpster diving for carpet remnants, we did spend some time tweaking the EQ on the drum mics, and have already been able to significantly improve the overall mix. While there is some echo in the basement when all is said and done it actually sounds quite natural on the recording, so I probably won't need to add as much reverb to the drum mix.

We've probably got another week of playing with the drum mix before we're ready to start recording. I'm pumped & ready to rock!

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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-24-2002, 10:58 PM
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Seeking home recording tips

Before applying EQ, Compression and whatever to finalise a mix, play it in your car. That reference will tell you wether to boost or cut said frequency on said instrument. I know it sounds weird but most of the pro's listen to their mixes in their car stereo after mixing on 25 000$ speakers!!! Try it. you will be surprised at what you will/won't hear! Try playing back in a CD player with phones or in someone elses system. We mix lots of cartoons and TV shows at the studio and believe it or not, when we monitor, we switch from very expensive Genelecs to yamaha computer speakers just to see how the overall balance of our mixes are affected by these changes!

Remember that, unless you have $$$$, which you don't and thats why it's called a PROJECT studio, *you are not mixing in a professionnal acoustically built and treated mix room and shouldn't rely simply alone on what you hear from your project studio monitors.

Good luck!

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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-27-2002, 12:30 AM
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Seeking home recording tips

When we record drum parts,I usually play along with the drummer both for a guide track and to get the feel and dynamics right.I record direct to avoid bleedthrough and so he can hear me in the headphones.After the drum parts are recorded,I go back and lay new guitar tracks with miked cabs.We tried the live approach,but bleedthrough was a problem.The key to agood sound with his kit ,besides running a compressor/limiter on his bass drums and snare,was EQ,most notably;not to much bass on the bass drums.The rest of his kit was finding the sweet spot in the mids.Drum recording,what a pain!But better to spend the time to get it right from the start,than agonizing over it later!Our last cd it took several wks to get the drums right.This *cd took only 2dys.Much luck your way!
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-28-2002, 02:00 PM
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Also you may want to experiment with isolating the guitar cabs in addition to shielding the drum mics from bleed over. *And I don't mean just facing them the other way, put them inside something, and stuff it with pillows or whatever after you mic it up...I have heard of folks doing this just to keep volume down and they came out with superior sounding guitar tracks and less bleed-over to the other mics in the room.
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-20-2002, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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Location: Cincinnati, OH USA
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Seeking home recording tips

Just wanted to give everybody a little update on where we stand with the home recording, and pass back a few of our lessons learned so far...

Before we started recording, I was becoming obsessed with getting soundproofing materials to cover the bare cement walls & floors in my basement to reduce echo. Once we started listening to the scratch tracks, however, we discovered that the basement had a natural (though slightly cold) reverb effect that works really well on the drums.

LESSON #1: Do a couple test runs of recording before soundproofing the living crap out of everything. No need to eliminate a decent sounding natural reverb only to have to add it back in later.

After spending several weeks tweaking the setup and missing a couple rehearsals (doh!), we started into recording. First week, I don't think there were any keepers. Second week, maybe one keeper. This week, probably 3-4 keepers. As long as we get a good drum track, it's probably a keeper. If we get a good guitar/bass track as well, then that's a bonus! For the keepers we've got, we may need to patch in a couple notes on the bass and fix a rhythm guitar part here or there, but we're beginning to start laying down vocals and solos on some of those tracks this week. And, of course, harmonized guitar parts.

LESSON #2: If a track doesn't sound like a keeper, don't listen to it for a week. Chances are you'll be less critical then. If you can't figure out what's the matter with it then, most likely nobody that listens to your CD will figure it out either.

So far we haven't had major problems with bleedover. There's some bleed of the drums into the guitars, but that hasn't been a big deal because the guitars (when they kick in) are so loud. Occasionally there's a little cross-bleed between the guitars, which may be more of a problem if we have to scrap any guitar tracks. We tried running the guitars direct, but they sounded like total a$$. Thank God for the SM57!

LESSON #3: There's a reason there are hundreds of types of mics available on the market. The right ones for the job need not be the most expensive: SM57's are great for guitar, and they're relatively cheap (<$100). We use a relatively inexpensive Nady condenser for vocals (also <$100) through an ART tube preamp. Even the Nady drum mics were pretty inexpensive (seven mics for <$200) in the grand scheme of things.

We originally thought we'd go back and double-up the guitar tracks to make the overall sound thicker, but so far, doing so has only made things muddier and less precise sounding. With incredibly huge Mesa distortion, there's no need to double up--it sounds f@#$in' huge without any help.

LESSON #4: There's no substitute for good tone. No amount of EQ or digital effects will ever make a subpar amp sound good on a recording. I've learned this the hard way with time. If you want to have a long-lasting recording of your band and you don't have a decent rig, consider renting or borrowing a better amp for the recording process.

Well, those are the main things that come to mind right now. At least we're beginning to make some significant progress, and hopefully we'll be able to finish the CD in the next month so we can move on to mass production and shameless promotion.

Thanks again to everybody that's provided input/ideas so far! Hope this thread is of use to others out there...

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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-07-2002, 12:30 AM Thread Starter
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Well, it's been a few weeks now, so here's an update on where we are with the recording...

It looks like we're going to record 12 songs. For 11 of them we have drums, bass, rhythm guitars, & solos recorded (for one song we have nothing recorded b/c the power went off in the middle of a recording session). We currently have vocals laid down for about half the songs. So after finishing up the rest of the vocals, we've got mix-down, mastering, and CD production (need to start working on that cover art!). Hopefully all will be done in the next 2-3 weeks. It's taken a while, but the results have been great--it certainly sounds better than any other home recording I've ever heard and it actually sounds better than the last times I paid to go into a studio.

Here's what I'm thinking... since we've all just about burnt ourselves out listening to these songs over & over & over again, it might be time to get some fresh ears to give it a listen. So here's how it works:

1) If you want a demo copy of our CD, e-mail me with your mailing address
2) If you're one of the first five to ten people to e-mail me, I'll send you a CD for no charge (I might post MP3's for everyone else)
3) Listen to the CD at home, at work, in the car, wherever and listen for things that don't sound right
4) Send some significant feedback back to me so I can hopefully do something about it

Helpful feedback would include things like:
- The bass is too loud throughout track 5
- I can't hear the vocals on the bridge on track 3
- Sounds like the clean guitars are clipping on track 9
- The tracks seem to have inconsistent volume levels
- The guitars sound a little thin during the verse on track 12
- What's that funny popping noise in the third chorus on track 4?
- etc.

It doesn't have to be incredibly detailed... just try to pick up on some of the more obvious things we may have missed.

Non-helpful feedback would include things like:
- I don't like your musical style
- I don't like your guitar tone
- I don't like your drummer
- I don't like your bass player
- I don't like your vocals
- You don't sound like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani
- You have too much wah
- You have too much distortion
- You have too many squealies
- etc.

We're not going to change our songs, line-up, or musical style as a result of this adventure--this is just about trying to improve the tonal quality of what's already on the CD.

For the record, our music is a hard rock/funk hybrid... sort of a Living Colour meets Lenny Kravitz meets Collective Soul type-thing. Lots of energy, lots of distortion, and lots of wah. If that's not your thing, then it's probably not best to request a copy of the CD!

So anyway, if you have some time to help us out, you'll get a free copy of our CD and can jam out to some of our tunes! Let me know if you're interested!

bduersch is offline  

audio delta , bass amp , bass drum , drum tracks , joe satriani , lexicon mpx , sound forge , sounding guitar , steve vai , string bass , tube preamp

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