I would like to try my hand at recording, but am not sure where to start

iGougeriGouger Posts: 283
edited December 1969 in Recording
I've been thinking about this for awhile. Since I have never written a song before, I wanted to try doing so. I find that whenever I plug in and practice, I can usually come up with at least a few decent-sounding riffs, chord progressions, or melodic ideas (or all three if I'm lucky), but I've never strung these together into a proper song; however, I'm starting to have a growing desire to do so.

If it means anything to you guys, I REALLY love this site and I trust you all here on your opinions and impressions about anything guitar or rock related, so I figured here would be the best place to ask and get started.

My main lingering questions boil down to a few things:
1. Is there any reasonably-priced software and gear that I can use to start recording? What are the cheapest ways to do so without taking too steep a compromise in sound quality? I want to be able to record my ideas and put together a few songs; I don't necessarily want them to sound like they were produced by a world-class producer, but I conversely don't want them to sound like complete trash either. This would mainly be a project just for myself and for maybe a few friends and family members.
2. On the subject of sound quality and tone, my only tools at disposal are my Made in Mexico standard Fender Stratocaster, the solid-state Fender amp it came with (yeah, yeah, solid state, I know...  :blush:) and a Dunlop Crybaby From Hell Wah pedal. To my ears, I sound passable when I just plug in and play, but do you think I will end up sounding like trash regardless of which recording software I use? I don't necessarily want a Brian May caliber tone which is out of my league, but conversely I don't want to end up sounding annoying either.
3. If I do get around to ever recording, I'm almost positive that this would be a solo effort, since none of my friends or peers know anything about music. Some of them THINK they do, but they like crap stuff like metalcore and my friends who "play" (I use that word loosely) acoustic guitar don't even know what Hendrix Chords or minor 7th chords are. They can bash out "Free Fallin'" but that's about it. So my third question is this: are there any cost-effective ways to incorporate a drum machine of any sort? Since I'd be doing stuff solo, I could do guitar and bass parts, but no percussion.

Thank you VERY much in advance to anyone here who can offer some advice to me about recording and such. If I ever write a decent song (which may happen, though I don't consider myself to be great by any means), I might post it here to show you that your effort has not been wasted.
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Comments

  • Dr NickDr Nick Posts: 3,556
    First question: what computer(s) do you have access to - including pads?
  • Start by thinking about what your goal is. What do you want to create? Do you just want to record a few songs now and then for fun? Do you just need a rough demo to help get you gigs? Do you want to create a whole CD and do the best job you can? How good do you want the final output to be?


    Are you on a Mac or a PC?
    What are the cheapest ways to do so without taking too steep a compromise in sound quality?
    In the digital era, the the base-level fidelity usually pretty damn good. You have to work really hard at cheaping-out to screw that up.

    You will need to invest in SOME gear to get decent mix results, and I advise against buying gear that you will outgrow in 6 months if you find you really like recording. It's a tough sell for people, but you spend MORE money in the long run if you cheap out early. If you have been thinking about it a long time, and you truly want to do this, I highly recommend you buy gear you can grow into.
    On the subject of sound quality and tone, my only tools at disposal are my Made in Mexico standard Fender Stratocaster, the solid-state Fender amp it came with
    Doesn't matter. Yeah, better gear might produce better sounds if you know what you're doing to capture it.

    But the most important thing -- ALWAYS -- is the song quality and the performance. You have a great song and you play it well on $300 worth of gear, and it WILL sound than better than a crappy song played poorly on $15K of gear.
    If I do get around to ever recording, I'm almost positive that this would be a solo effort, since none of my friends or peers know anything about music.
    That's how I started out. It's very rewarding.  If you can see your way to getting a Mac, you can run the new Logic X which is amazing, and is really tailored for songwriting guitarists, with amp and bass rigs, and a built-in, very intuitive drum machine -- all for $200. And because it's a full featured DAW, you will never out-grow it. The only catch is it's Mac-only. Check this out:



    With a set up like that, all you'd need is and audio interface, some monitors and some headphones. If you want to mic your amp, you start with an SM57.
    I ain't falling for no banana in the tailpipe.
  • iGougeriGouger Posts: 283
    Thanks for the help.

    [quote author=Dinosaur David B link=topic=16738.msg253196#msg253196 date=1410707960]
    Start by thinking about what your goal is. What do you want to create? Do you just want to record a few songs now and then for fun? Do you just need a rough demo to help get you gigs? Do you want to create a whole CD and do the best job you can? How good do you want the final output to be?


    Are you on a Mac or a PC?
    [/quote]

    In terms of goals, I don't really have any desire to get into a band, at least for the time being. It'd be too time consuming and I admittedly don't have any experience in the area so I'd probably be letting people down by my performances. I'd want to just record a few songs now and then for fun, as you put it, and maybe scrap together enough to make a CD. I'd like my final output to be as best as I can make it--again, not the absolute BEST quality possible because that's out of my reach, but not annoying to the point where people would stop listening 20 seconds in because the sound quality is horrendous.

    I'm a diehard Windows user. But you mentioning Logic makes me jealous. It's a great software. There's nothing remotely similar for Windows?  :sad2:

    [quote author=Dinosaur David B link=topic=16738.msg253196#msg253196 date=1410707960]
    Doesn't matter. Yeah, better gear might produce better sounds if you know what you're doing to capture it.

    But the most important thing -- ALWAYS -- is the song quality and the performance. You have a great song and you play it well on $300 worth of gear, and it WILL sound than better than a crappy song played poorly on $15K of gear.
    [/quote]
    That's reassuring.

    [quote author=Dinosaur David B link=topic=16738.msg253196#msg253196 date=1410707960]
    In the digital era, the the base-level fidelity usually pretty damn good. You have to work really hard at cheaping-out to screw that up.

    You will need to invest in SOME gear to get decent mix results, and I advise against buying gear that you will outgrow in 6 months if you find you really like recording. It's a tough sell for people, but you spend MORE money in the long run if you cheap out early. If you have been thinking about it a long time, and you truly want to do this, I highly recommend you buy gear you can grow into.
    [/quote]
    That's also good to know. So in terms of gear, are there any specific things I'll be needing? Not for tone, but for the recording process itself. I read up a little on the recording process and these sites are recommending a DI box to record, or Mic'ing the amplifier itself. What would you recommend? Since I've never tried recording, I don't exactly know which gear would be the best for me to grow into.
  • [quote author=iGouger link=topic=16738.msg253201#msg253201 date=1410717094]
    So in terms of gear, are there any specific things I'll be needing? Not for tone, but for the recording process itself. I read up a little on the recording process and these sites are recommending a DI box to record, or Mic'ing the amplifier itself. What would you recommend? Since I've never tried recording, I don't exactly know which gear would be the best for me to grow into.
    [/quote]
    I suggest to mic the amp. You'll just need a decent USB interface like this:

    image

    and a Shure SM 57 + mic stand and XLR cable.
  • Dinosaur David BDinosaur David B Posts: 17,493
    edited May 2016
    So in terms of gear, are there any specific things I'll be needing? Not for tone, but for the recording process itself.
    What I mean is that there are cheap, mid-pirced and expensive versions of everything associated with recording, and in most cases you get what you pay for.

    You will need an audio interface (AI). The thing that converts your signal to digital and connects to your computer. You can get something for less that $100, but they have shitty audio to digital converters and shitty preamps. So you save money up front, but if you're not happy with the quality you're getting, and have go buy, say, a $300 AI. Then you've spent $400 rather than $300 to find out you get what you pay for. And at that point, you could have paid for a $400 AI and been ahead of the game.

    Given that you're working by yourself, you only need one or two inputs at a time. PreSonus and Focusrite maked decent stuff at the lower end. If you can go Firewire rather than USB, it's a bit faster/better.

    Eventually, if you stick with it, you will need GOOD monitors. Good monitors are expensive, so newbies try and mix on headphones, and it's a mistake. Headphones are a decent auxiliary reference, but if you mix on them exclusively, when you hear your mix in other environments like in a car or on earbuds, it will sound wrong, and you will be remixing a LOT.

    What I recommend -- and I cannot stress this enough -- is getting a pair of powered Avantone Mix Cubes
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MixCubesAct

    These things are an AWESOME secondary monitor because if your mix sounds good on these, it will sound better in other environments. As such, you will learn how to get [i]better mixes faster with a set of these[/i]. It is a learning tool. Why don't people do it? Because A, they don't know about them. B, people either buy real cheap monitors first, or expensive ones that make everything sound good -- which is also not what you want.

    I wish I had done this when I started out. But I didn't.

    And when you do GET better, larger monitors, these are STILL a fantastic tool to have as a secondary reference. You haven't wasted your money. IMO, this is how you invest wisely in gear you will not outgrow.  Get a pair of these to start, and get your expensive "main" monitors later.

    You should eventually get some studio quality headphones. These are the industry standard:
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MDR7506

    Can you get cheaper? Sure.  Should you? You won't outgrow these.

    Get an SM57 and a mic chord. You can go a long way with one of these.

    If you're micing a real amp/cab or recording any other audio via mic (vocals, acoustic guitar etc.) You would do well to get a mic pre to warm up your signal.  Generally, this is an area you eventually want to invest in rather than skimp, but even a $50 ART tube pre
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/TubeMP

    will make a big difference on your mic'd audio. Read this:

    http://www.dinosaurrockguitar.com/node/695

    In fact, read all of the articles here: http://www.dinosaurrockguitar.com/node/472

    Now, back to your platform. Let's say you could get a Mac -- as a xmas or birthday present, or whatever. They come with Garage Band which is a stripped down version of Logic.  If you got logic, you get an amp farm full of guitar and bass amps. And you get a very impressive drum machine all for $200.

    Stay on Windows, and get some other DAW. I think Cakewalk is cheap, but ProTools and all the others cost more than Logic. And you don't get the amp farm, and you'll have to buy something like EZdrummer, which is great, but costs $179. Say you want more than the guitar sound coming out of your amp? You'll have to buy guitar rig or a Pod, or whatever.

    So what have you really saved? Only the cost of the Mac, and you can easily argue that having a dedicated machine for recording is a worthy investment.

    Regardless of what computer you choose, you will need a back up drive. Fortunately, these days you can get a 1 TB USB back up drive for less than $100.  Get one. NOTHING is worse than losing tracks you slaved over in a system crash.



    Post edited by Dinosaur David B on
    I ain't falling for no banana in the tailpipe.
  • HaffnerHaffner Posts: 7,805
    Dave, that is extremely invaluable advice, and I most certainly learned here today. I personally use Cubase 7.5 (and LOVE it, great compositional tool as well as all purpose DAW), but all of Dave's reccomendations are totally cool (and of course Dave is an experienced mixer, engineer, everything else while I'm just a wanna be composer/producer/engineer and mediocre guitar player).

    One thing I went through is the "buy everything attractive" plug-in phase. Most great DAWs like the ones mentioned here come with great stock effects and at least really good vsts. Don't learn the lesson I learned and spend a ton of cash on super duper/gui-attractive software. Just get the DAW and use that, especially in the beginning. If you can come up with great recordings and mixes using the stock stuff, you can fool around with the more expensive plug-ins.

    Hope I helped, I'm just learning engineering myself, so listen to Dave and Srikanth (Eugenic Scum) first please!

  • Mike_HMike_H Posts: 769
    mediocre guitar player
    Biggest lie ever told, Andy you are an awesome guitar player, I love your playing.

    If you were mediocre, where does that leave the rest of us mortals?
  • HaffnerHaffner Posts: 7,805
    [quote author=Mike Hansen link=topic=16738.msg253209#msg253209 date=1410723738]
    mediocre guitar player
    Biggest lie ever told, Andy you are an awesome guitar player, I love your playing.

    If you were mediocre, where does that leave the rest of us mortals?
    [/quote]

    Mike, you made my evening with your nice words, I'm very grateful. I wish I was awesome. To me, guys like Dave and Srikanth are awesome because they practically do it all: play, write, record, engineer...all around monster musicians.
  • iGougeriGouger Posts: 283
    Holy crap, this is a gold mine of recording-related information. Guess I'll have to start saving up money and working on acquiring some of those things Seven Moons & Dinosaur David B. mentioned.

    I can't thank you enough for the info.  :notworthy:
  • yngwie666yngwie666 Posts: 6,551
    If you're one Windows and on a budget, you can use Reaper as a recording platform for free (small fee).
    What I would do, if you're familiar with tabs is to use guitar pro to write your song structure, then export the bass/drums tracks as midi. Then import the bass/drums into your recording software and use some plugin like EzDrummer to make it sound realistic and record the guitar parts with a SM57 mic on your amp. It seems difficult but it's easier to edit tabs (including drums) in Guitar Pro as you can see the different tracks in tab format.
  • iGougeriGouger Posts: 283
    [quote author=yngwie666 link=topic=16738.msg253215#msg253215 date=1410725696]
    If you're one Windows and on a budget, you can use Reaper as a recording platform for free (small fee).
    What I would do, if you're familiar with tabs is to use guitar pro to write your song structure, then export the bass/drums tracks as midi. Then import the bass/drums into your recording software and use some plugin like EzDrummer to make it sound realistic and record the guitar parts with a SM57 mic on your amp.
    [/quote]
    That sounds like an interesting prospect. I've worked in creating .midi files in the past, so this might be the most familiar platform for me.

    Also, I should mention that I do have some Audio Technica headphones. How well do those rate up compared to some of the other brands, such as the Sony MDR-7506 Headphones that Dinosaur David B listed?
  • HaffnerHaffner Posts: 7,805
    [quote author=iGouger link=topic=16738.msg253216#msg253216 date=1410725952]
    [quote author=yngwie666 link=topic=16738.msg253215#msg253215 date=1410725696]
    If you're one Windows and on a budget, you can use Reaper as a recording platform for free (small fee).
    What I would do, if you're familiar with tabs is to use guitar pro to write your song structure, then export the bass/drums tracks as midi. Then import the bass/drums into your recording software and use some plugin like EzDrummer to make it sound realistic and record the guitar parts with a SM57 mic on your amp.
    [/quote]
    That sounds like an interesting prospect. I've worked in creating .midi files in the past, so this might be the most familiar platform for me.

    Also, I should mention that I do have some Audio Technica headphones. How well do those rate up compared to some of the other brands, such as the Sony MDR-7506 Headphones that Dinosaur David B listed?
    [/quote]

    Audio Technica makes good headphones. I must say though, I've had my Sony MDR-V900HD headphones for many years and to this day they sound freaking spectacular. As Dave said, the MDRs are a great investment, period.
  • [quote author=yngwie666 link=topic=16738.msg253215#msg253215 date=1410725696]
    What I would do, if you're familiar with tabs is to use guitar pro to write your song structure, then export the bass/drums tracks as midi. Then import the bass/drums into your recording software and use some plugin like EzDrummer to make it sound realistic and record the guitar parts with a SM57 mic on your amp.
    [/quote]
    I second the recommendation. That's what I'm doing too.  Guitar Pro is a wonderful piece of software (if only I could have had something like that when I started playing !)

    http://www.guitar-pro.com/en/index.php

    http://www.toontrack.com/product-category/ezdrummerline/
  • The new EZdrummer 2 I think is also slanted toward songwriting, and is structured to let you create specific song forms, and select the beat variations for each part.
    I ain't falling for no banana in the tailpipe.
  • HaffnerHaffner Posts: 7,805
    [quote author=Dinosaur David B link=topic=16738.msg253225#msg253225 date=1410734093]
    The new EZdrummer 2 I think is also slanted toward songwriting, and is structured to let you create specific song forms, and select the beat variations for each part.
    [/quote]

    Toontracks is terrific, I have EZ Drummer, Superior, Metal Foundry, Extreme. Once you have the base plug-in there's a wide selection of (often inexpensive) expansions, so another great investment there.

    I got super tired of dealing with drummers, from now on I might just deal with human percussionists on a pay to play basis.
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